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Social Media Ninjitsu | The Secrets Behind Writing Great Captions For Instagram
Verbs generate more shares on Instagram than nouns and adjectives
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social media algorithm

The Secrets Behind Writing Great Captions for Instagram

How important is the caption on a Instagram post?

Is Instagram all about the visuals? The short answer is yes. The long asnwer is no.

Anyone will agree that Instagram, like Pinterest and Flickr, is a dominantly visual medium, much more so than Facebook or Twitter. Chances are – even if you have great copy in your post caption, if the image is bad, your post most likely will suffer, and the caption may make little difference at all.

You still need great copy, Instagram or no.

Now let’s suppose you do have an eye-catching, eye-popping image to use for your post. You already have the hashtags you need to use all figured out. That leaves the copy. Don’t think now that you have the perfect image, that the caption won’t really matter. It does, truly, and certainly deserves to be thought about, talked about, and have much thought put into in order to give your post the maximum reach and impression you’re looking for.

Here’s what to include:

Give a command or make a call-to-action.

We found that verbs generate more shares on Twitter than nouns and adjectives — the same is true for Instagram.

Include verbs in the headline. Immediate examples that spring to mind at “Learn”, “Download”, “Discover” – completely action-oriented single words.

Now compare it to something like “Find out more”, “Check it out”, “Take a look at…”, “Notice this and see”.

The key here is using action verbs to prompt people to do something, instead of just passively scrolling by.

Things you could say:

“Double-tap if you find this (funny|cute|etc)”

“Click the link in the bio to learn more”

“Tag your friends who might like this”

Direct people to your bio:

Remember that Instagram posts don’t allow any clickable links in any single post, only at the top of the profile page, and only 1 link at that. So choose carefully what link it’s going to be.

To optimize your profile, it’s highly recommended that you update the URL frequently, depending on your latest content, or a video page.

Be Consistent in Your “Voice” and “Tone”

Consider that instead of them reading the caption to your post, you are actually talking to your audience with the exact same text word for word. Do you sound conversational? Or dry, academic, jargon-heavy? On Instagram, the more informal, conversational tone works best as a general rule.

The best tone is that which shows the side of your brand that is more authentic, human, and personable. Be careful to moderate any jargon-heavy sentences.

When in doubt, keep it short and sweet

Is short and sweet always best for Instagram? After all, it is a visual channel right more so than even Facebook? It’s easy to forget that Instagram allows up to 2,200 characters. That actually is a lot of writing volume for any post. That’s enough text for a short blog article.

As tempting as it can be to think that a catchy image is all it takes to clinch your audience, sometimes, great copy makes all the difference.  Consider the one below. The copy is an excerpt from a story from our newspaper, an editorial piece not necessarily intended for an Instagram or Facebook post, as it was for our website. The article got so many positive feedback so we posted a chunk of it as “the copy”.  All except about 6 of the 40 comments about the post was not regarding the image, but the writing, and how it resonated with them.

"The Stigma of Being Mentally Ill and Unemployed" A few weeks ago, I called the local food pantry to set up an appointment to receive my pantry bag. The woman working there had to ask me a series of questions, including what my name was, how many people lived in my household, and if I was employed. I answered each question and when it came to answer the question about my employment, I answered “no.” There was silence on the other end of the phone, and I immediately felt the need to explain myself. I explained that I was a single mother and also a full-time college student, and that I am not able to manage both along with a job. The woman from the food pantry responded curtly that she was once a single mother in college, and she held a job and succeeded, so I could too. She then listed a few local businesses who were hiring, suggesting that I apply as soon as possible. What I did not tell her in my explanation is that I am unemployed due to my mental illness. I left this out because of the stigma that surrounds mental illness and the stigma that surrounds the unemployed, and because I was ashamed to fit both kinds of stigma. In reality, I should not have felt the need to explain my unemployment to this woman, but because of the stigma, I felt obligated to. The issue here is how the woman at the food pantry made me feel; like I had to explain my unemployment, and how I felt ashamed to reveal my mental illness as the reason why I am unemployed. Society has conditioned people like me; people with mental illness who are unemployed, to feel ashamed, when in reality, we have nothing to be ashamed of. READ MORE >> . . . Art titled: Regret by Carl Heitman . Article by Madelyn Heslet #NoRegret #ImNotAshamed #unemployment #stigma #mentalillness #mentalhealth #endthestigma #LosAngeles #LAart #LosAngelesArt #bipolardisorder #depression #supportmentalhealth #stigmafree #stigmafighters

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That doesn’t mean either that your posts should be text-heavy like this. It must be looked at on a case-by-case basis.

Have It Ready

It can take time to write (and quite often end up having to re-write) the captions in advance.

Rather than coming up with something on the spot, which can be super difficult, you can prep all your Instagram captions a few days or weeks before your post goes out.


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  3. June 29, 2017, 8:19 pm

    […] There are two important components of every great Instagram post, and that is the picture and the copy in the caption. Master both, and you are way ahead of the curve.  I wrote another piece on how to write great captions for Instagram here. […]

  4. May 3, 2018, 2:11 am

    […] We often hear that it’s nice to keep things short and sweet. Here’s something you may not expect: Lengthier captions will keep your audience viewing your posts longer. You’re allowed to use up to 2200 characters in a post, so use them wisely. Optimize your captions. […]


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