If you aren’t familiar with Instagram, you might think that the key to capturing your followers’ attention are the images you post.
Photo-shopped to perfection, bright eye-popping titles arranged in an intricate puzzle-like theme.
Yes, you are right, visuals (imagery, videos) play an important role in stopping someone casually scrolling through their Instagram feed. But what makes your audience leave a comment on your post is the way you write your Instagram caption.
So, how do you craft the most engaging Instagram caption? What triggers people to leave a comment, share, or save your post? And what is the best length for a caption?
In this post, I’m going to show you how to write captions that can compete with the likes of top brands like Starbucks, ABH, and influencers like Jenna Kutcher and Victoria Lipovetsky.
But before we jump into the tips, let’s talk about the Instagram algorithm.
What is Instagram engagement?
Engagement is an important performance indicator marketers use to determine whether an Instagram account is successful.
Why? Because the Instagram algorithm prioritizes engagement. The number of people who see your content depends on the number of people that engage with your post.
More engagement, more chances for your future posts to be discovered by new people.
The engagement rate is calculated by looking at your total post interactions and dividing that by your total number of followers.
Multiply that figure by 100% to get a percentage. For example, if your post has 41 likes, 12 comments, 1 share, and 6 saves and you have 1000 followers, your engagement rate is 6%.
The quickest way to get your engagement rate is to use an Instagram statistics app, as they automatically calculate each post’s engagement rate for you.
Engagement rate (ER) formula:
ER = Total post interactions / total no. of followers * 100%
Total post interactions: likes, comments, shares, saves
Average: 1% to 3%
High: 3% – 6%
Very High: > 6%
Why Instagram captions are important?
- Captions complete your post. Images alone couldn’t express your brand personality. Your captions complement the visuals and help you tell your story in a unique voice.
- Captions open new doors for engagement with your audience. You can ask questions, get to know your audience, describe your product features, or share personal stories.
- Captions help grow your engagement rate. Better engagement, a higher chance for your future posts to be seen by more people.
Now that you understand the importance of captions in boosting engagement, we can dive into the caption writing tips.
How to write engaging Instagram captions
1. Grab attention with the first line
Write the most important information in your first line, before it gets truncated.
Put your keywords here and use this space to build a desire for people to click on the “…” to read more.
A well-written headline should not only catch people’s attention but also convince them to read your caption.
Here are some examples:
In this post from @anastasiabeverlyhills, she keeps the first line simple and gets straight to the point. By summarising the “essence” of the post they let their followers know exactly what to expect – a blue and yellow eyeshadow look tutorial. Simple and effective.
In this post from @thesocialbungalow, she teases the audience with the first line. By using words like “my Instagram secret” she sparks curiosity and one will only learn the secret after reading the full text.
2. Use emotion to connect with your followers
Now that you’ve got your reader’s attention, you need to connect with them in an emotional way. Studies have shown that people engage with social posts that are relatable. A great way is to use storytelling.
Jenna Kutcher is notorious for using emotional stories to connect with her audience. She writes her captions as she would speak to a friend, using a lot of “I” and “mine”, “our” that make her readers feel as if they’re part of her story.
Stories of transformation, overcoming challenges, and growing are some of her most engaging captions out there. Simply put, emotional captions are engaging because our brain reacts better to stories than to facts.
3. Ask questions to encourage engagement
Asking your audience questions or directing them to leave a comment is one of the fun ways to get more people to interact with your Instagram posts.
Fashion influencer @valerialipvetsky asks her followers to choose their favorite outfit from a list of 1- 6 images. This is a very easy and effective tactic to get more comments: people are more likely to type a single number or an emoji “1” instead of leaving a long comment.
If you want to get to know your audience better, you can ask for a personalized answer. Hubspot builds engagement in this post by including the “we want to know from you” phrase. This makes it more personal and people feel their opinion counts.
Some other ideas:
- Ask for feedback on your product/service
- Simple “yes or no” / “a or b” polls
- Choose your favorite option 1, 2, 3 or 4
- Get your customer to share their opinion
- Tag a friend challenge
- Ask your followers to guess a fact about yourself/your business
- Leave a comment for a chance to get featured
4. Include relevant hashtags for 12.6% more engagement
Your caption would not be complete without a set of relevant hashtags.
According to research, posts with at least 1 hashtag get 12.6% more engagement.
If you aren’t sure what hashtags to use, use the Instagram search tool, and type your industry. From there, you’ll see several recommended hashtags. Pick those that fit with your branding and voice.
Another way is to use a word or hashtag generator tool to get ideas, which you can then put into the Instagram search tool to find even more.
5. Steal a writing technique from the pros
Want to know how to write Instagram captions like a marketing pro?
You can use the Attention-Interest-Desire-Action (AIDA) formula as a guide. Why is this effective? Because it has a simple structure that has been proven to work on social media.
Let’s look at a post from @vanessalau.co.
Attention: Vanessa starts her post with a question that grabs her followers’ attention “why sales calls are unsuccessful”. If you were a coach you’d probably have this issue as well.
Interest: Next, she builds interest by touching on the negative impacts arising from this issue. For example, if your calls are unsuccessful, you’ll also have to deal with a, b, and c effects. A bit of drama in this section should create a climax for the next step.
Desire: This is where you come in with your solution that can solve the problems highlighted in your previous section. Vanessa introduces her BGA program as the ultimate solution. You could also show social proof, before and after transformations or any unique features of your product.
Action: Finally, end your caption with a call-to-action. This is very important because you need to direct your reader to take the next step (action). You can ask your followers to click on the link in your bio (like Vanessa did in this post), leave a comment, buy a product, or join your Facebook group.
6. Don’t forget your call-to-action (CTA)
It’s not enough to have a caption that is so well written and oozes of value if you forget to end it with an engagement CTA.
You’d think that if someone likes your content they’ll naturally leave a comment. Sometimes, your followers need a little “push”. Other times, they don’t know if you want them to leave a comment.
So, to avoid having a person guess whether you’re open to receive a comment, ask your followers directly to either leave a comment, share, tag, or save your post for later.
@bossbabe.inc shared this checklist-style post that is informative and people would want to save it and come back to it later.
Tip: Ask your followers to save or share your post! The number of saves and shares adds up to your engagement too.
7. Longer or shorter captions?
Did you know that Instagram allows you to use up to 2,200 characters? That’s roughly about 200 words.
But will writing longer captions get you more engagement? The answer lies in the algorithm. Longer captions, take more time to read, and thus, people spend more time on your post. And the longer time you get people to spend on your post, the better your post performs.
It’s no wonder that since 2019 brands started writing longer captions, using full sentences instead of short quotes.
In this post from @happiest_baby they make full use of the character limit to share a mini-blog post.
Some even continued their caption in the comments.
But how do you know when to stop?
According to a study by Later.com and Fohr, the longer the caption the better the engagement rate. Captions between 500 – 1000 characters had the highest engagement. That’s about 65 – 75 words.
8. Format your Instagram captions with line breaks
Instagram is a visual platform and writing a solid block of unformatted text isn’t exactly aesthetically pleasing not to mention it makes reading a headache.
Use line breaks and emojis to format your captions into individual paragraphs that are easy to read. Writing your hashtags in the first comment will also make your caption look neat and less spammy.
When it comes to Instagram, no matter how much you struggle to beat Instagram’s latest algorithm, remember that one important metric always stays the same: engagement.
The more engagement you have, the better potential for you and your brand to grow. Use the tips we shared in this post to write captions that attract your followers and convince them to interact with your post.
Guest author: Alle Ceambur is a Content Marketing Specialist and Lead Writer on Share My Insights blog. She’s passionate about helping start-ups and loves sharing her best social media marketing tips in her articles. Her desire to travel the world pushed her to resign her job in a top consulting firm, and become an entrepreneur. She’s currently living and exploring South-East Asia while running her Instagram consulting business remotely.