Here’s a real question for you: how many times have you gotten to the caption screen of your Instagram post and just stared at it blankly for like 30 minutes? You’re not alone.
And when you get to that point, it’s so easy to just type in quick text or an emoji to keep you moving. Let me be the one to tell you that isn’t going to get you the engagement you want.
I’m guessing you’re already frustrated with your engagement and that’s why you’re here. So, we’re going to talk about how to write a caption that helps engage your audience.
Don’t Sleep on Your Captions
Too many content creators, influencers, and small businesses are sleeping on their captions. Yes, Instagram is a visual platform, even more so with the introduction of reels, stories, and IGTV.
BUT that doesn’t mean that Instagram captions are not important. If you’re throwing captions away, you’re losing engagement, connection, and community building opportunities.
Why Instagram Captions are Important
First off, particularly on your main static photo content, captions are the way your audience gets to know the meaning behind your content. This is a chance for you to convey your message and truly serve the value that your audience needs.
If you miss this opportunity, you’re failing to establish that personal connection with your audience, which means they’re less likely to engage.
Secondly, even on Reels, IGTV and Other video content, captions serve a purpose. Most of us view content on silent because we’re watching them in public places or during meetings (when we’re not technically supposed to be watching).
In fact, it’s more like 92% of people watch content on silent. You can learn more here.
While you may have text on screen, your caption can relay the key messaging behind your video content.
Well written captions build credibility and social proof. If your goal is to be seen as an expert in your niche or field (that includes as an influencer), being able to communicate your message in a way that shares that expertise is critical!
And a peach emoji doesn’t actually prove that to your audience.
This is especially important in the early stages of building your platform and your content creation. Building credibility and trust keeps your audience engaged and helps you grow.
How To Write Engaging Captions
Ok, so you get why it’s important, right? I’m going to assume you’re saying yes right now.
And you’re promising me that you’re not just going to throw away captions with emojis anymore, right? Again, I’m picturing you saying yes.
So let's dive into 5 caption writing tips that I use for every Instagram post that WILL get you better engagement.
Preplan Your Captions
Preplanning your captions is a major time saver and makes the overall process of delivering value much easier.
You want to avoid staring at a blank caption screen the day of your post? Write that post ahead of time. Heck, write that post before you shoot your content.
Pre-writing gives you the chance to get your ideas out and then refine them before the day of the post. Allow yourself to get words onto paper (or screen) and then come back and edit to get to your final product.
My process typically involves planning out the caption topic at minimum before creating the accompanying visual content for the post. I allow myself to just freely write (even if it’s bad) to get my thoughts out, then I return to the caption to edit and make it cohesive.
This kind of organization is more than half the battle of getting your audience to engage with your content. Spending the time to do this helps make certain they’re going to understand it.
Write a Caption that Adds Value
Just like your visual content, your caption should be on brand and connect to your overall message.
This also means that your caption should be delivering value to your target audience. Whether it’s recommendations, tips, or entertainment, the takeaway for your audience needs to be clear.
So approach your captions like an audience member and ask yourself what you would take away from what you just wrote.
Extra Writing Tip: Reread your caption from the point of view of your audience and make sure someone who’s not an expert would understand. Remember, if you're educating, chances are your target is not someone who already knows what you’re talking about.
The major key to consider here is to tailor your captions for your target audience specifically. You’re not writing something for EVERYONE to love, you’re writing something for the specific people who need that from you.
Find the Right Length for You and Your Audience
There isn’t a specific advantage to writing a longer caption vs. a shorter one. Your main goal is to find what works best for your audience.
That involves some testing on your end.
I do want to point out that longer captions are trending. According to Later and Fohr, the average caption length in 2021 will average just over 400 characters (about 60-70 words).
Why? BECAUSE THIS IS HOW YOU CONTINUE TO CONNECT WITH YOUR AUDIENCE AND BUILD YOUR BRAND.
We just talked about it. Tell me you’re still with me!
Here’s what to think about:
What message do you need to get across to your audience? Each time you write a caption, it’s not about a certain length to say it, it’s about saying exactly what you need to say.
A good rule of thumb is to get your message out in as many words as it takes but as few words as possible. AKA, you don’t need to ramble to get length, but you do need to get your point across.
Longer captions do also play a role in time spent on your content. BUT, that doesn’t mean you should be writing lengthy nonsense because your audience will catch on.
Give them enough length to develop your point and for them to care about it.
Treat your Captions like a Mini Blog Post
That means you need the makings of a blog post: A hook, the meat or message, and a call to action.
A hook is meant to capture your audience’s attention. Think of it as a headline. BUT NOT CLICKBAIT.
You can ask a question or say something provocative to capture attention but never to mislead. Misleading kills your trust and consequently your engagement.
The meat and message comes from your preplanning. This is where you actually deliver on the value you promised. Solve your readers’ problem.
Leave them with a call to action.This probably deserves its own section, but a call to action (CTA) is so critical and most often not included.
Ask your audience for the engagement you’re craving. Tell them to like and save your post, leave a comment, respond to a question, message you for something more, or even send them to another platform.
If engagement is your goal, then ask your audience for it. It works. People are more likely to engage when they are empowered with the responsibility or left curious to do so.
You can check out more on the psychology of CTAs from Neil Patel’s blog on it.
Make your Captions Readable
Most folks in your audiences aren’t going to crawl through a brick of text. It’s physically hard to pay attention to that kind of formatting on a small screen.
So, just like in blog posts, add line breaks in your caption. You can do this natively in the Instagram app now by just double tapping the “return” key. Just don’t add a space after the end of your previous line.
Voila! Instantly more readable.
Try to keep your paragraphs down to a maximum of a couple sentences between line breaks.
You can also create drama and anticipation with line breaks.
Because the line breaks vary the structure and add emphasis to single words or shorter phrases. See what I just did there? A single word or text can really grab attention.
Sentence structure and formatting is another aspect of caption writing you can test. See what resonates best with your audience.
Make your Captions Dynamic
I have three strategies for making your caption read and look more dynamic.
1. Use active language and avoid passive language. That boils down to being confident in your writing.
Make the subject of your sentences the winner instead of the receiver. For example: I recommend these shoes vs. these shoes are ones that I recommend.
Active language builds authority and credibility, one of our main goals. I want to engage with someone who knows what they’re talking about, don’t you?
2. Use emojis. If you just asked yourself why I’m now telling you to use emojis when I bashed them in the first place, hold on a second.
Of course I’m not telling you to write a full emoji sentence. But they can break up your text and add emphasis to particular spots in your caption. This helps your caption again become more readable.
3. Vary what your text looks like. Use ALL CAPS to emphasize important points or vary your fonts for the same effect. Doing this helps your caption stand out and encourages more of it to be read.
Oh yeah, that’s right I’m hitting you with the bonus!
A few weeks ago, Instagram released an update that made keywords searchable. That means that someone searching for menswear or home decor can find your post just as a result of the keywords you used.
This also means that hashtags aren’t the only key phrases categorizing your posts. It also gives you even more reason to preplan your captions to include relevant keywords so your posts are discoverable.
Your goal with your caption is to tell a story and deliver value to supplement the visual you’ve posted. If you’re not doing that, you’re missing out on a big opportunity to connect and engage with your audience.
More users are looking to connect with influencers and brands in real ways, and this is how you do it.
Let me know if these tips work for you and make sure to follow me here for more influencer marketing, social media, and style tips!