Let’s Talk About Instagram Captions

You’ve captured that perfect shot. You’ve edited to perfection. You’ve added your logo, effects, and so on. Time to post it, right?

Wrong!

While it’s true that Instagram is primarily about the pictures (I mean, it’s even in the name), that doesn’t mean that you can afford to phone it in on the caption. Attention-grabbing captions put a stop to the endless scrolling and compel users to spend more time on your post. They come for the visuals, but they stay for the captions.

So to stop the scroll, here are 6 tips for writing engaging captions for your Instagram posts:

1. Capture Attention in Your First Line

On Instagram, 125 characters is the visible limit for captions. Piquing interest in the first line increases the chances that your viewers will click to “See More” and spend more time viewing your post, which will positively affect your ranking within the Instagram algorithm. Your first couple lines are a particularly valuable piece of real estate, so make sure not to waste it.

Jamie Oliver uses his first line to address a common problem and suggest a solution…if you’re willing to read on.

There are many different ways to go about this, and you can pick and choose based on what would appeal most to your audience. Asking an interesting question is a popular tactic. Other users opt for a declarative approach and start off with some eye-catching stats or a controversial (but not too controversial) statement. If you’re running a promotion, front-loading your post with juicy details on the discount or giveaway information is always a good option.

2. Adapt Your Brand Voice to Appeal to Your IG Audience

Broadly speaking, what kind of people make up your IG audience? (And yes, we’re asking for you to generalize here, but there’s a reason for it.) What words would you use to describe them? Typically, Instagram has a more laid-back attitude than, for instance, LinkedIn. The audience also tends to skew younger and more predominantly female.

Considering the demographics of Instagram and your existing audience persona at large (including everyone who interacts with your brand both online and in the real world), how would you describe your IG followers? Are they younger than the average age of your customers? In what industries do they work? What other brands and activities are they interested in?

Come for the visuals; stay for the captions. #MichaelsWilder #Instagram Click To Tweet

These questions will give you the foundation you need to adapt your brand voice for the Instagram platform. Maybe you need to make your language more casual. Maybe you need to adjust your cultural references for a younger audience. Maybe you need to emphasis certain themes or selling points of your brand more heavily.

It’s all about figuring out who you’re talking to and how best to appeal to their interests.

3. Tell a Story

While not all posts need a long, drawn out explanation, telling a story can drive more engagement with your post. Encouraging engagement, particularly saves, is another great way to improve your posts’ ranking.

Think about how you can tie a particular idea to the image you want to post. What is a consistent theme of your brand? Is there a story you can tell that will help your audience think about this theme in a new way? How does that story relate with the image you’ve shared?

A picture may say a thousand words, but words have the power to convey a far more complex and potentially resonant message. After all, Instagram gives you up to 2,200 characters for a reason.

4. Drive Engagement with a Call-to-Action

Ah, the classic call-to-action. This piece of the caption equation is absolutely essential to not only driving engagement on Instagram but also influencing your audience to engage with your brand as a whole. While you unfortunately can’t include links to outside sites in your caption, you can direct viewers to check your bio for a link to your website, which otherwise, most casual IG users are not going to do unless told and given a reason to.

Sephora gamifies its post by asking followers to solve a “Where’s Waldo”-style puzzle.

As for driving engagement on IG, you can use the timeless “Double tap if you agree!” to increase your number of likes. You could also ask followers to tag a friend or require them to comment in order to be entered into a giveaway. Whatever you do, make sure to make your call-to-action stand out from the rest of the text by playing with spacing, using a custom font, or writing your CTA in all caps.

5. Say It with Emojis

Have you ever noticed that even the more “serious” brands on Instagram use emojis?

It’s because every social platform has a unique language and aesthetic. Using emojis is a standard way of communicating on Instagram. Leaving them out could mean failing to adapt your message to your audience. As they say, “When in Rome!”

Here are a few ways that you can start incorporating emojis into your captions:

  • Beginning: Add emojis to the first line of your caption to grab the viewer’s attention with a pop of color.
  • Middle: Inject personality by replacing some words with emojis.
  • End: Insert an emoji right before your call-to-action to draw the viewer’s eye.

The cute dog alone is enough to stop scrollers, but a pop of color in the description (courtesy of the smile emoji) entices users to read the caption as well.

6. Use Hashtags…Wisely

Believe it or not, there is actually a wrong way to tag your Instagram posts. Not all tags are created equal, and the wrong ones used in the wrong way could prevent your content from being discovered. It could even get you penalized by the Instagram algorithm. We’ve written about this issue more comprehensively in this article, but the main takeaway is to be deliberate about which hashtags you choose to use. Don’t use hashtags that are too popular, or your post will get buried. Don’t use ones that are too niche, or no one will ever search for it.


Every time you make a change to you marketing strategy—including changes to your social media strategy—make sure to track your results over time. Keep a record of your posts’ engagement and feedback from your followers, and double down on what works!

Mike Speer Administrator
Chief Marketing Officer Michaels WIlder

Opinions are my own and not the views of my employer.

Chief Marketing Officer at Michaels Wilder and an entrepreneur since before the average person knew what that even meant, Mike has helped countless businesses build effective sales and marketing strategies. His philosophy is, “If you’re not thinking 10 years ahead, you’re already behind.” Mike’s content has appeared in Forbes Magazine, Inc. and Apple News. He has also been featured numerous times as a “Top 10 Writer” worldwide on the Q&A content site, Quora.

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Mike Speer Administrator
Chief Marketing Officer Michaels WIlder

Opinions are my own and not the views of my employer.

Chief Marketing Officer at Michaels Wilder and an entrepreneur since before the average person knew what that even meant, Mike has helped countless businesses build effective sales and marketing strategies. His philosophy is, “If you’re not thinking 10 years ahead, you’re already behind.” Mike’s content has appeared in Forbes Magazine, Inc. and Apple News. He has also been featured numerous times as a “Top 10 Writer” worldwide on the Q&A content site, Quora.

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