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How to Write Instagram Captions [And Optimize Them]

Instagram is most often associated with high quality imagery but Instagram captions play an important role in engagement and should not be discounted.

Since its inception, Instagram has been leveraged for its visual focus. It has since gone on to diversify its visuals into video marketing, adding Instagram Story and Instagram Live video.

But the caption accompanying a photo isn’t meant to be an add-on—it has its place in the app and can be utilized to improve conversions and reach business goals.

In this article, we will discuss why Instagram captions matter and how you can write an optimized caption that will boost engagement.  

Do Instagram Captions Matter?

The short answer is ‘yes’. But why?

A marketing manager who focuses only on posting attractive imagery on Instagram is missing an important trick—giving the photograph context and meaning.

Now, not all photographs need captions—mega-influencers and celebrities have seen high engagement with posts that don’t include captions.

But will that tactic work for businesses? It depends on the number of followers you have and the subject of the post.

Top celebrities and influencers have millions of followers—when even a small percentage interact with their post, it has the potential to earn hundreds of thousands of likes.

Plus, their posts don’t need as much context—a selfie or a movie poster is enough to set the Instagram crowd wild.

The same cannot be said for businesses that have a product or service to sell. They need to add context to the imagery they post.

Pictures on their own can only say so much—why should the person in a picture matter to the user? What value is the product shown giving the people looking at it?

Context is everything when it comes to Instagram captions and by writing them well, you can significantly boost the engagement of your posts.

Here’s a quick rule of thumb to remember, according to influencer and marketer Alex Tooby: You can grow your Instagram following by writing captions that “evoke a feeling, educate, or provide some sort of value to your audience”.

With that said, let’s look at the best practices for writing Instagram captions.

Length of Instagram Captions

Lush Instagram
Source: Lush

The general consensus for writing Instagram captions is to keep them short. People’s attention spans have decreased in recent years—they aren’t interested in reading long captions.

Another reason for keeping captions short is that Instagram is meant to showcase beautiful images.

If your caption isn’t adding value to the user’s viewing experience, there is no point in writing a large amount of text.

But sometimes a small paragraph or one-liner isn’t enough to convey the message or story of your picture. Should you still keep the caption short?

No. If you have more to say, then you should say it—but keep it within Instagram’s 2200 character limit. 

If the caption is too short to tell the story, then it isn’t doing its job. You might as well not include it.

On the other hand, if your message can be shared in a few short sentences, there is no need to drag it out.

When writing captions for your posts, ensure that you are telling your story to the best of your ability, whether it takes one line or all 2200 characters.

Structuring Instagram Captions

Picture this—an Instagram user scrolls through their feed, looking at the beautiful images. Something catches their eye so they glance at the caption to learn more.

That glance is all you have for ensuring your message reaches the user, enough for them to like your post and consider buying your product or service.

When structuring your Instagram captions, put the most important part of your message at the beginning. You can tell the story in subsequent sentences, but your hook should be right in front.

Another popular way to get Instagram Likes is by adding a question in your caption. Questions are geared towards evoking a response and are a good tool to use to keep audiences engaged.

Use Emojis

Askyvi Instagram
Source: AskYvi

People use emojis everywhere—in texts, social media, and even on company emails. Emojis share sentiments that text can’t convey.

Emojis are also universal—everyone understands the meaning of an emoji, even if they don’t understand the language of the post.

A number of digital marketing tools can also analyze the usefulness of emojis in posts, so you can understand what works best for your posts.

Choose emojis that are relevant to your message and sprinkle them throughout your caption—but it is best not to over-use them or your caption will become unreadable.

Opt to use the emoji next to the specific word it is relating to or at the beginning or end of each sentence. This way, the emojis act as punctuations and help with readability.

Hashtags in Instagram Captions

Hubspot Instagram
Source: Hubspot

Using hashtags in every post is a surefire way of getting more Instagram followers. Instagram has a limit of 30 hashtags per post, and some marketers suggest using all of them.

While limiting the number of hashtags in a post will help your post look neater, if you want to increase engagement, the more hashtags you use the better.

This does not mean that you only use the top trending hashtags of the day in the hopes of being discovered—your hashtags need to be super relevant to your content.

Another point to note is avoiding hashtags within the caption itself—always include hashtags at the end of your post, with a distinct line break between the caption and the hashtags.

You should also add hashtags in comments and on your Instagram Stories, but keep in mind that the Instagram Story size will limit how many hashtags you can use.

The sky’s the limit with regards to hashtag use but you need to see what works for you—some users may find too many hashtags spammy, while others won’t bother with it.

Test out a few versions of your posts to see how engagement is affected and incorporate the number of hashtags that produce the best results.

Insert a Call to Action

Gardenista Instagram
Source: Gardenista

An essential aspect of social media optimization is adding a call to action to your messaging. You should be asking people to do something with the content you are sharing.

Instagram still only allows one link for user accounts—on their bio—though you can add swipe-up links to Instagram Stories, IGTV, and on shoppable posts.

Your call to action in Instagram captions should be asking people to click on the link in your bio—so you can increase conversions or web traffic. 

But there are other calls to action you can include, such as the following:

  • Share something in the comments
  • Repost your content
  • Tag friends in the comments
  • Answer a question in the comments
  • Follow another account
  • Use your hashtag to enter a giveaway
  • Join you for an Instagram Takeover
  • Visit your store on a particular day

Adding a call to action will give your followers impetus to engage with you and your account.

Proofread Instagram Captions 

This should be obvious but proofreading is a must when it comes to writing quality Instagram captions. It’s one of the marketing skills that is a requirement to do the job.

The internet is suffused with bad writing but users are not going to forgive a corporate account for making that same mistake.

A badly written caption filled with grammatical errors and typos will be unreadable and hurt the reputation of your company.

Though marketers have to create content in a limited amount of time, proofreading the content before posting will save everyone a great deal of trouble.

Double-check your caption, the hashtags you have used, and the accounts you have tagged to ensure they are error-free.

Create Engaging Instagram Captions

Instagram is known for its beautiful images but that shouldn’t be the sole focus of an Instagram marketing campaign.

A well-written caption can tell the story behind the photograph and boost engagement for your posts.

Write Instagram captions that are as long or as short as you need them to be—don’t limit it to a prescribed length that others are adopting.

Keep the most important part of your message at the very front so your followers don’t miss it.

Use emojis and as many hashtags as possible to increase readability and your chances of being discovered.

Always insert a call to action so your followers know what to do with your content. And proofread your post before uploading.

With these steps in mind, you can create optimized Instagram captions that will lead to more followers and conversions.

Be a video marketing thought leader. Share with your network.

Ronita Mohan is a content marketer at Venngage, the online infographic and design platform. Ronita is interested in a variety of topics related to digital marketing, visual content, and online engagement, which she enjoys researching and writing about.

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