ByJune 28, 2017 2 Comments

Are you overlooking one of the most important aspects of your Instagram presence?

Here’s the deal: if you think “anything goes” in terms of your caption copy on Instagram, it’s time to have a heart-to-heart. Although your captions may not seem like a big deal at a glance, they represent a make-or-break piece of engagement between you and your followers.

Think about it. The importance of a well-crafted Instagram caption is threefold:

  • Captions essentially represent your calls-to-action, directing your followers on how they should react to your posts
  • Your captions provide an opportunity to show off your personality: with so many fellow Instagrammers fighting for the attention of your followers, you need to be the one that stands out
  • Without the right hashtags within your captions, you decrease the likelihood of being discovered by new followers

If you think you have room to improve your caption game, you’re probably right. In fact, we’re going to walk you through seven strategies to spruce up your captions and improve your level of follower engagement. Regardless of what your feed is trying to achieve, any combination of these tips can help you out.

Now, let’s drive right in!

1. Hone in On Your Hashtags

Plain and simple, Instagram captions featuring hashtags drive more engagement than those without them. Besides, it only takes a few seconds to include a few hashtags in a post.

Choosing the best hashtag for your posts doesn’t have to be rocket science, either. Businesses have a choice between branded and non-branded hashtags, or a combination of both.

For example, big-name brands such as TopShop usually rely on branded hashtags such as their #TopshopStyle tag to show off their latest fashion pieces from followers:

However, it’s often a smart move to go after non-branded hashtags as well. General hashtags (think: “watches,” “SEO” or “Chicago”) help make your posts searchable to followers and non-followers alike. Thoughtful hashtags represent an easy strategy for getting Instagram followers and increasingly the likelihood of your posts getting in front of fresh eyes.

There is no “magic number” of hashtags to include in a single post: use your best judgment and avoid trying to spam needless tags in your captions. Check out how Beardbrand implements a variety of relevant hashtags into their posts:

Once you’ve honed in on hashtags that start showing some traction, make a point to keep using them throughout your Instagram content campaigns.

2. Show Your Followers Some Love

User-generated content is the bread and butter of today’s Instagrammers, especially considering that UGC generates 6.9x higher engagement than brand content. If you have followers that are happy with your product and are willing to sing your praises, you should craft captions that likewise show them some love.

Even massive brands such as Starbucks take the time to Regram their followers. Make sure to tag your followers’ accounts accordingly and consider asking permission before using their content as part of your campaign. Here’s how Starbucks gives credit where credit it due for its UGC:

Remember that hashtags and UGC go hand in hand. Through branded hashtags, it’s especially easy to discover customer photos without digging for them. Check out how CoverGirl encourages their satisfied buyers to spread the word for the chance to be featured in their feed:

In terms of caption copy for UGC, most businesses simply say “thanks” or provide a snappy one-liner to couple with their customer photos. Either way, create a sense of appreciation for followers showing off your products and encourage them to do the same.

3. Take Advantage of Tagging

Your captions should not only reward and show love to your current followers, but also work to bring new followers into your feed.

As a result, “tag a friend” posts represent a playful way to encourage your current followers to introduce friends and non-followers to your business. Oftentimes, tag-a-friend posts are coupled with a topical hashtag and provide followers a chance to give someone a shoutout.

Here’s a great example from which takes advantage of the “#BestFriendsDay” hashtag, asking followers to tag their besties:

Although tag-a-friend posts aren’t something businesses should use every day, they represent a fun, organic way to engage your followers.

4. Don’t Be Afraid to Ask

As the old saying goes, if you want something sometimes it’s best to just ask for it.

Whether you’re strapped for caption ideas or feel that your followers have grown a bit cold, consider crafting captions that pose questions to them. This keeps you from coming off as overly-promotional and can help you learn a thing or two about your customers.

If nothing else, question-based captions serve as an opportunity to encourage “likes” and comments on posts that otherwise might not receive much love. Look at this example from Southwest Airlines which poses a playful trivia-style question to their followers:

Businesses shouldn’t ignore the importance of learning more about their followers in pursuit of personal connection, either. On Iconosquare’s Instagram page, they often ask their followers for their feedback and experiences, making a point to listen to each and every response:

Asking something of your followers doesn’t require a long-winded questionnaire or paragraph to be effective, either. Sometimes a simple “How are you doing?” is more than enough.

5. A Sense of Humor Never Hurts

Personality goes a long way for businesses looking to define a brand identity on Instagram.

Rather than consistently take a “suit and tie” or professional approach to your content, consider the benefits of injecting some humor into your feed. Your followers are more than likely bored with spammy, salesy content. Giving them something to laugh at not only helps you stand out from the crowd but also better defines your brand.

Although you don’t need to constantly play a comedian on Instagram, light-hearted posts every now and then are always a nice touch for followers. Check out this silly post from Warby Parker as a prime example:

6. Tell Your Story

“A picture’s worth a thousand words” rings true on Instagram. Every business and their respective photos have stories to tell, don’t they?

Storytelling captions allow businesses to get “real” with their followers, such as the following example from Canva pulled from their campaign telling their users’ personal stories:

Like humorous captions, storytelling posts likely aren’t something most businesses are going to implement on a regular basis. They’re perhaps most effective when they “interrupt” your regular content. When met with a chunk of text that’s out of the ordinary, followers are much more likely to take notice.

That’s not to say that some brands don’t thrive exclusively on storytelling captions, though. Humans of New York is a great example of how stories can tug at the heartstrings of your followers:

As long as your stories have a positive message at their core and are somehow related to your business, you’re good to go.

7. Sometimes Less is More

Sometimes it’s okay to let your pictures speak for themselves.

Minimalist captions represent the opposite of storytelling posts, using as few words as possible to highlight a bold or striking image. There’s no secret to crafting minimalist posts, and much like storytelling posts they’re usually used sparingly. Here’s a simple yet effective example from H&M:

Minimalist captions offer yet another stylistic choice for those looking to make an impression on their followers. Check out how Forever 21 uses a three-word caption to pack a punch:

Don’t feel “creative” enough to craft such a caption yourself? No problem. Anything from one-liners to famous quotes and song lyrics is totally fair game if you’re in need of inspiration.

What Types of Captions Are Your Favorite?

As you can see, there’s no shortage of options for businesses on Instagram when it comes to crafting captions. From mainstays such as hashtags and UGC to creative options like storytelling, businesses have plenty to work with to help their posts stand out.

What types of captions on Instagram resonate the most with you personally? Let us know in the comments below!

Jonathan Chan

Author Jonathan Chan

Jonathan is a Content Crafter and Marketer at Foundr Magazine. He has a serious passion for anything to do with entrepreneurship and the startup world.

More posts by Jonathan Chan
  • Susie Baker

    I have read a number of places that you shouldn’t put hashtags in the original post, but add them as a comment below the post. One of two in the original maybe, but not a bunch. Would like to know your feedback. thanks

    • Emily Lydon

      Hi Susie! There are only two reasons we’d say to avoid putting your hashtags in a comment. After a bit of testing, we’ve found that it makes it harder for 3rd party apps like Iconosquare to track your hashtag usage. Also, it appears that lots of Instagrammers like to check out the hashtags other accounts are using, and hiding them in a comment makes that more difficult for them. Otherwise, it does not affect the referencing of your post within Instagram. It’s just a question of choice!

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