How to Write Instagram Captions: Using Words in a Visual World
With over 300 million active monthly users, Instagram has earned a top spot in popular social media applications. It promotes community, encouraging users to use hashtags and participate in “InstaMeets” that allow them to “connect, explore, and celebrate their creativity.”
This theme of united authenticity makes Instagram a powerful marketing tool. Brands that learn to present themselves in a personable, intimate way have seen an exponential growth in followers and interaction. Smart fashion retailers learn to take advantage of this free advertising platform, using it to build their brand and connect with customers. By posting photos that promote a brand image, rather than sell a product, a retailer can create a compelling Instagram account that encourages followers to connect with them on an emotional level.
We’ve addressed the importance of Instagram marketing on the blog before, discussing how to capture and share the perfect moments, now it’s time to talk about social media copywriting and captioning your images.
You’ve heard that a picture’s worth a thousand words, but add the right caption and your post is gold. After the visual captures consumers’ attention, captions can be used to sell products, promote the brand image, and engage followers. Without words, your photo is no more than an attention grab.
A lot of retailers devote resources to sourcing beautiful images, but ignore captions. An Instagram account without complementary captions will soon be lost in the sea of images that bombard users. Here are a few reasons why your brand should include quality captions on your posts.
- Captions set your posts apart. Let’s be real for a minute. Every brand is posting photos of their morning coffee or the flowers in their office, and that’s okay! Just be sure to stand out from the crowd with a killer caption that makes your followers think.
- Captions encourage interaction. An intriguing question or call to action invites followers to communicate with you. This relationship builds brand loyalty, eventually having a positive effect on your bottom line.
- Captions communicate the personality of your brand. Your Instagram followers are a captive audience. While you have their attention, take every opportunity to promote your brand image.
Here are five tips to tailoring the perfect caption that will create a loyal following for your brand.
- Do your research
Writing the perfect caption won’t come easy unless you put in some work beforehand. Take the time to do your research and get to know your brand, your customer, and your competition. This research is key to any marketing endeavors. Understanding the demographics of your target audience will inform every marketing decision, making it critical to have a firm grasp on the information. Once you’re familiar with the background information, you can proceed to the next step in creating captions.
- Find your voice and embrace it
Instagram is a platform for building your brand image. You’ve heard this before. You also need to know that matching your filters and photo subjects just isn’t enough to create a reputable reputation online–Your words should be consistent as well. When you’re replying to comments and captioning photos, considering the following elements:
- Diction: Will the words you choose work to set the right tone for your brand? Consistency is king when it comes to diction. Choose words that match the image you want to promote and words that are appropriate for the platform.
NET-A-PORTER’s Instagram account employs polished diction that mirrors the brand’s classic style.
- Length: Will your phrases be short and snappy, or drawn out and poetic? When you stick with a similar length, your followers know what to expect. This familiarity makes them more apt to interact with your content.
The Michael Kors Instagram account is an example of short and snappy captions.
- Tone: Will you caption photos in formal, full sentences, or rely on emojis to get the point across? Knowing your brand and knowing your customer will help you settle on an appropriate tone.
Nastygal’s account is an example of consistently casual captions. They employ alliteration to establish a playful vibe.
- Pronouns: Will you use “I” or “we”? Before writing your first caption, you need to decide how to present the account. Using “I” cultivates a personal vibe, while “we” feels more official.
The Chloe’ account uses “our” and “us” to communicate that the account represents the company as a whole.
- Choose your hashtags carefully
Hashtags are a tool, not a toy. They are designed to unite the Instagram community, connecting users with content that matches their unique interests. They are an invaluable resource with unlimited marketing potential, if employed correctly. That being said, they are not always aesthetically pleasing. Since there is no ‘right’ way to incorporate hashtags, be sure to remain consistent to preserve the style of your account.
Here are a few suggestions for positioning your hashtags in your post so they don’t distract from your content.
- Add hashtags in the comment section.
- Use the same number of hashtags on every post.
- Use capital letters to differentiate between words in a hashtag. (e.g. #FallFashion)
- Use hashtags in your caption when they fit naturally. (e.g. Shop the hottest #handbags here!)
- Remember, grammar and spelling matter
Just because Instagram is an informal means of communication doesn’t mean that you can throw out everything you know about grammar and spelling. A proper use of the English language goes a long way in increasing the reputation of your brand. Present a professional face to your followers by proofing before you post.
Adding paragraph spacing is another way to present a polished image. While Instagram does not enable users to add spaces, you can write your captions in another app (such as notes) and copy and paste them into the caption section. This step is a must if you choose to employ long copy captions.
- Include a call to action
You’ve captured a beautiful moment and built an emotional connection with a compelling caption, now your followers are wondering what’s next! Don’t forget to use your account to promote your brand and push your products. Take advantage of the connection you’ve established in one of the following ways:
- Include a link in your bio to purchase products you’ve featured in an image.
- Refer followers to your website or blog for the full story
- Encourage viewers to tag friends in the comment section
- Introduce a contest or provide incentive for your followers to interact with you.
- Invite comments by including questions in your caption.
When a follower interacts with a post, they’re more likely to build an emotional attachment to your brand or company, driving sales.
Following these five social media copywriting tips will put you on the right track to crafting great captions. If you get creative and remain true to your brand, your captions are sure to be a success!
The dos and don’ts of caption creation
- Use quotes when convenient
- Keep it conversational
- Be consistent
- State the obvious (Your followers already know what’s in the photo!)
- Use captions solely to sell your products
- Rely heavily on puns
What are your dos and don’ts of caption crafting? I’d love to read about your secrets in the comment section!
Katie Barton, Fashion Copywriter
Katie oversees all Fashion Copywriting projects at ILFR. She obtained her Bachelor of Arts in Journalism from The Master’s College in Los Angeles, California, where she discovered her passion for creative expression. Working as a fashion copywriter allows her to combine her love of the written word and knowledge of the fashion industry to create quality content.