A great Instagram caption will add context, show off your brand’s personality, entertain the audience, and prompt your followers to take action. Captions can be up to 2,200 characters in length, include emojis, and up to 30 hashtags.
Of course that doesn’t mean your captions should be hashtag-ridden essays with lots of distracting emojis. As with any piece of good web copy, your Instagram caption should be attention-grabbing and easy to read. It should also speak to the content and your audience.
12 tips for crafting the perfect Instagram caption
1. Know your audience
We recommend building audience personas. These archetypes outline basic details about your target customers, their goals, and their pain points.
Once you know who you’re speaking to, you can answer questions such as:
- Will my audience understand this reference?
- Are emojis and netspeak appropriate to use here? ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
- Do I need to add more context to this photo?
Answer those, and you’re well on your way to satisfying tip number two.
2. Identify your brand voice
If you haven’t identified your brand voice as part of a broader social media marketing plan, ask yourself: what are the qualities and values I want my brand to embody? Make a list and use it to shape your voice. You might also try jotting down a few adjectives that describe your brand and use those to refine the voice.
You might also try jotting down a few adjectives that describe your business and use those to refine the voice. “Bold,” “curious,” and “authoritative” might make sense for a travel brand, for example.
In general, Instagram users don’t expect a formal or serious tone. Of course it depends on the industry and audience, but you should strive to keep things light, use humor where appropriate, and show your personality.
The social media marketing team at Oreo do a great job of this, combining humor and whimsy to tell the brand’s story.
3. Consider length
Remember that most people scroll through their Instagram feeds at a brisk pace. If there’s any doubt as to how long your caption should be, keep it brief. Give context where you need to, but if the post speaks for itself, let it.
4. Place the most important words at the beginning of your caption
Captions are cut off in users’ feeds after a few lines of text, so you need to convey your key point or call to action right away. Put any @mentions and hashtags (more on those later) at the end.
Also, leading with the most important words is simply good writing practice. Hook the reader in and give her a reason to tap more.
5. Edit and rewrite
Take your time and don’t be afraid to go through several drafts, especially if your captions are more than a few lines long. Great copy—whether it be humorous or inspirational—always comes on the rewrite.
Make sure every word supports the content and message you’re trying to convey. Cut out words that are clearly unnecessary to keep it as concise as possible.
6. Use hashtags, but use them wisely
Instagram posts with at least one hashtag average 12.6 percent more engagement than those with no hashtags, according to a study by Simply Measured. So use them when they are relevant to your post and target audience—but don’t use so many that they crowd your copy and make it difficult to read.
As we explain in The Complete Instagram Hashtag Guide for Business, if you don’t want to clutter your captions, there are two ways to “hide” your hashtags:
- Separate your hashtags from the rest of your caption by burying them beneath periods and line breaks. Once you’ve finished composing your caption, tap the 123 key. Select return and then enter a period, dash, or asterisk. Repeat those steps at least five times. Because Instagram caps off captions after three lines, the hashtags won’t be viewable to users unless they tap the more option.
- Don’t put hashtags in your captions at all. Instead, include them in the comment section below your post. Once other people leave a few comments, the hashtags won’t be viewable unless the option to See all is selected.
7. Pose a question
One of the easiest ways to get more comments on your photo is by using the caption to pose a question to your followers.
It could be a yes or no question, a skill-testing question, or an open-ended question.
You could also use the caption to solicit your audience for tips or recommendations.
8. Give a shout-out with an @mention
Does your post feature another Instagram user? Include their handle in the caption so your followers can check out their profile too. By mentioning another user in the caption, you’ll likely compel that user—and possibly some of his followers—to also engage with your content.
9. Encourage engagement with a call to action
Want to drive engagement? Ask for it by inviting people to leave a comment, tag their friends, or weigh in with an opinion.
Of course the content of the post will have to be compelling for them to want to do that—so be sure to put your best foot forward before you put your hand out. It will reflect poorly on your brand if you try to solicit engagement but receive only silence in return.
Alternatively you could make your call to action too good to refuse. Ask your followers to enter a contest to win a prize.
10. Don’t be afraid to use emoji
Are emoji appropriate to use within an Instagram caption? 💯
The adorable animated icons can help draw the reader’s eye in and are a great way to add a bit of personality to your caption.
Emoji can also stand in for entire words, keeping your copy short and fun.
11. Try using quotes
Not the clichéd inspirational variety, but ones that are specific to the post. Maybe it’s a quote from the person who captured the photo.
12. Schedule your Instagram posts for optimal engagement
Once you’ve crafted the perfect caption to go along with your picture-perfect post, it’s time to publish that bad boy. Or is it?
Depending on your audience and region, there might be more optimal times to post on Instagram. As we preach in our guide The Best Time to Post on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, consider your target audience and what parts of the day they would most likely be scrolling through their feeds.
What time are they waking up for a first-thing-in-the-morning browse? When do they break for lunch? And when would they be passing time on their commutes home?
look at some of the most effective caption types and how brands use them to engage their audiences.
Now that you’ve mastered the caption, you’re ready to start driving engagement on Instagram.