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How to Write Social Media Captions That Engage

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You’ve taken the perfect picture and are certain that your Instagram audience is going to love it. It may be tempting to quickly write up a caption so you can get that incredible photo up, but hold on. Your social media captions are a hugely important part of your Instagram posting strategy. Read on to find out why captions matter so much, how to create captions that will engage, and specific strategies that will help you get the most out of your captions.

Engagement: The Most Difficult Part of a Social Media Marketing Strategy

It’s relatively easy to create content to post on Instagram. You might think that you’re creating videos, photos, and more that are connecting with your audience – but are they really?

Audience engagement gives you real-time feedback about how your followers are receiving your posts, but it’s important for another reason, too. Instagram’s algorithm filters the posts that it shows to users based on three criteria: The recency of the post, how close the user is to the person who shared the post, and how likely the user is to care about the post. This last factor is based on the user’s engagement with similar content. The more you get users to engage with your posts, the more likely they are to see the content you post in the future.

Instagram Captions: A Powerful Tool to Engage With Your Followers

Since Instagram is a largely visual social media platform, your captions give you a chance to engage with your followers. Whether you’re telling a story, providing valuable information, or calling on your audience to take action in response to a post, you should put just as much thought into creating your captions as you do into creating each photo or video.

Done well, Instagram captions can make your posts more meaningful to your audience, and you can even use them to start a dialogue. A great caption can create a strong connection with your followers, and the effort you put into writing your captions will only complement the effort you put into creating your photos and videos.

What Is an Instagram Caption?

Instagram captions are the text that appear to the right of your images. You can include up to 2,200 characters. Instagram allows you to include emoji in your caption, as well as up to 30 hashtags.

But, just because you can use up to 30 hashtags and lots of text doesn’t mean that you should. The tips below will help you learn how to craft an effective and engaging caption.

What Makes a Great Instagram Caption?

A great Instagram caption speaks right to your audience. It is easy to read, easy to understand, and attention-grabbing. Captions can do many things, such as advertise a contest or provide some context behind the image you’re sharing. But most importantly, they need to establish a connection with your audience.

Instagram Caption Tips: Learn How to Hook and Engage With Your Audience

Writing good Instagram captions? It’s hard. It takes practice and work, and a bit of skill. Even if you’ve never written a caption before, though, it’s something that you can learn to do. The following tips will help you to create captions that hook and engage with your audience.

Know Who Your Instagram Audience Is

According to Statista, as of June of 2018, there were nearly 1 billion monthly active users on Instagram. Not only does that make Instagram one of the most popular social networks in the world, but it also means that your ideal audience is almost certainly active on Instagram.

The good news? You don’t have to engage with every single Instagram user out there. Instead, your marketing will be far more effective if you can identify the particular audience that you’re trying to reach.

Consider questions like:

  • Who is my audience?
  • Where do they live?
  • What do they do for work?
  • How old are they?
  • What do they do in their free time?

The more that you understand your audience, the better you can tailor your captions to appeal to them.

Identify Your Brand Voice for Instagram

Before you start writing captions, think about your brand voice. Generally, your brand voice on Instagram should echo your voice on your website. Whether you’re lighthearted and witty or straightforward and serious, it’s important to identify your voice and then stay consistent to it in all of your content.

Present Your Intention with Your Captions

Captions help your followers to understand the purpose behind your content. In many cases, your captions can frame your content with a story, a simple quote, or a statement meant to evoke an emotional reaction from your followers.

Captions can do more than that, though. If you’re posting a product that you want your audience to get excited about, a caption highlighting its benefits and showing your audience how to find it will help them to understand the purpose behind your post.

Encourage Conversation

Starting a conversation with your followers won’t just generate engagement, but can give you a valuable chance to learn more about your audience. By asking your audience questions, you can encourage them to comment. Petco does this well in the below post.

petco instagramSource: Instagram

Instagram Caption Length

While your captions can be up to 2,200 characters, don’t feel that you need to use all of that space every time. Instagram’s caption space is pretty generous, but often shorter captions are more eye-catching and friendlier to anyone who’s just scanning through posts. If you’re telling a story or relaying contest entry directions, though, the generous caption length can come in handy.

Your caption doesn’t have to be long to be effective. As this super-short caption by Patagonia demonstrates, just a few words can sometimes have more impact than entire sentences.

patagonia instagramSource: Instagram

The Most Important Words Go at the Beginning of the Caption

Grab your audience’s attention by putting the most important words at the beginning of the caption. This will encourage followers to read further.

Hashtags: Use Them Wisely in Your Instagram Captions

You can use hashtags to help your posts reach new Instagram users, but don’t go overboard with the hashtags, either. You can add up to 30 hashtags in your caption, but this can overwhelm the caption and appear spammy.

Instead, select a few hashtags that truly add value to your post. Add your hashtags to the end of your caption, never to the beginning. Placing them at the end makes it easier to read the caption, and looks less spammy. Try to restrain yourself to between 5 and 10 hashtags per post, and consider posting most of them as a comment in response to the post. This will keep your caption cleaner.

An alternative way to use hashtags is to ask your followers to post their own content using a branded hashtag that you’ve created. You’ll include that hashtag in your post, and as your followers post their own content using that same hashtag, you can see it and engage with them. It’s a nice way to start a conversation while allowing followers to share a bit of their lives with you.

Asking a Question in Your Instagram Caption Encourages Engagement

Perhaps the best way to write Instagram captions that engage? Ask your audience a question in the caption. People love to talk about themselves, and a question gives your audience a quick and easy way to engage with your post. Questions help to generate comments, and you can even ask your followers for information that would be valuable to your business, such as their thoughts on a new product, which design they like the most, or what price point they’d be willing to pay for a service.

Call to Action (CTA) Can Be a Great Part of Your Instagram Caption

Don’t overlook the importance of a great call to action (CTA). Your CTA can be any sort of action that you want your audience to take, such as clicking on the link to your site, tagging a friend, liking the post, or leaving a comment.

Your CTA should be clear, easy for your followers to perform, and use actionable words, like “share,” “visit,” “check out,” or “stop.” These words are more likely to prompt action than more passive phrases.

Zulily uses a CTA well in the post below. The directions are easy to understand and the action is simple for the viewer to perform.

zulily instagramSource: Instagram

Use Your Instagram Caption to Add High-Quality Value to Your Followers

You can use captions in countless ways, but regardless of how you use your caption, you should be sure that your caption provides your followers with high-quality value.

Your caption can:

  • Pack a powerful emotional punch that your audience connects with
  • Inspire your audience with a story
  • Give your followers valuable information, such as how-to instructions
  • Develop your brand voice
  • Share exciting news about a giveaway

And so, so much more.

Tell a Story Through Your Captions

Telling a story can add depth to any post, and stories are a powerful way to build your brand and better connect with your audience. Stories can inspire, establish a personal connection with, and entertain your audience. And when your audience connects well to a post? They’re more likely to both remember it and to share it with their friends.

Here’s a great story that GoPro shared through a caption.

gopro instagramSource: Instagram


Shout-outs can help to grow your audience, since you and another Instagram page would generally arrange to post a shout-out for each other. In a shout-out, you would tag another business in your caption, encouraging your followers to follow or check out their account. Essentially, you’re driving traffic to that business’ Instagram page, and they’ll do the same for you in return.

When your businesses have similar audiences, encouraging your followers to follow the other business in your caption can help them to gain new followers. Both businesses should be able to grow their audiences through this strategy.  

Emoji: The New Social Media Language

Emojis can add personality and a bit of eye-grabbing color to your captions. You can use them strategically to draw attention to the most important parts of your caption, like your call to action. Just don’t go overboard – you want your caption to still be easy to read, so don’t overwhelm it with emojis.

Use the Instagram Caption as a Part of Your Social Media Marketing Strategy to Boost Your Following

When you use your Instagram captions effectively so that your followers engage with your content, you can boost your Instagram following as a result. When followers engage with your content, Instagram’s algorithm is more likely to show them more of your future posts. Creating engaging captions is a worthwhile investment in the future visibility of your posts, making your entire social media marketing strategy more effective.

But engaging captions help to build your following in another important way. When you ask followers to share your content you can increase its reach, exposing it to new Instagram users. Those users may be inspired to follow your page, share your content, and begin the cycle all over again.

Just crafting engaging captions won’t make your marketing strategy a success, though. You’ll need great content, too, and these 13 content ideas can help you to get started. When you offer your followers quality content, engaging captions, and a cohesive marketing strategy, you can grow your following and build your business, all through social media.


As you can see, engaging captions are essential to any great social media marketing strategy. They aren’t too difficult to create, but you will need to invest some time into considering how you’re representing your brand on Instagram, what types of captions may best connect with your audience, and which strategies you want to explore in your captions. Get started growing your Instagram following today and see what engaging captions can do for you.

What part of creating Instagram captions do you struggle with the most?

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