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How to Write Instagram Captions That Are Actually Engaging

Instagram might be a photo platform but your words still matter. Learn how to write Instagram captions with these 8 handy tips and powerful examples.

January 31, 2023
How to Write Instagram Captions That Are Actually Engaging
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How to Write Instagram Captions That Are Actually Engaging

Instagram is best known for eye-catching imagery. But while the photos are the hook, it’s the captions that keep people coming back for more. 

After an image draws a user in, you have the opportunity to spark engagement and encourage interaction with a well-written Instagram caption

In fact, compelling captions are pretty much mandatory today if you want Instagram’s algorithm to pick up your posts. The more engagement (that is, likes, comments, and shares) you have on your posts, the more likely Instagram is to serve them to followers and potential customers.

On top of this, the best Instagram captions help showcase your brand personality, which creates deeper connections with the right customers. 

What makes a strong Instagram caption? 

It can be tempting to scribble down a few words to accompany your latest post without much thought. But taking the time to create something that really resonates with your followers will have a much bigger impact.

There are three main elements of a strong Instagram caption that generates likes, shares, and comments: 

  1. Brand personality: do you stand out against your competitors? How do you want followers to feel when they come across a post from your brand?  
  2. Compelling story: are you hooking followers with an engaging story that makes them want to learn more? 
  3. Consistent brand voice: will your followers immediately recognize a post from you when it shows up on their Instagram feed?

Paying attention to these three elements and making sure you tackle them in your Instagram captions will ensure you’re creating compelling snippets of content every time you post. 

What is the ideal Instagram caption length?

No doubt, you’ve seen both short Instagram captions of just a couple of words and longer captions with several paragraphs of text.

So, where’s the sweet spot for this social media platform? Well, it will depend on your followers and what your posts are about. If an image is doing all the talking, you can sometimes get away with writing just a word or two to accompany it, but the captions that drive the most engagement are often longer than this. And, as engagement increases, it: 

  • Shows your content is hitting the mark with your audience
  • Helps the discoverability of your content and is more likely to get your posts shown on the Explore page
  • Pushes your posts up your users’ feeds 
  • Increases brand awareness and trust 

That said, aim for 70 to 100 words to begin with. Over time, you can experiment with slightly fewer and slightly more words to see what performs best with your audience.

How to write a good Instagram caption

Ready to start writing? Don’t stare at a blank page. Instead, use this step-by-step guide to writing compelling captions for every single Instagram post

1. Set goals 

Before you even put pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard), start by assigning goals to your individual posts as well as your overall Instagram strategy and brand marketing strategy. Make sure your goals are realistic and SMART:

  • Specific
  • Measurable
  • Achievable
  • Realistic
  • Time-bound 

This will make it much easier to track the results of your efforts and to see what’s working and what’s not. Here are some sample goals for inspiration: 

  • Increase brand visibility on Instagram (increase post reach by X% by X date))
  • Attract X new followers each month
  • Drive traffic to your website (increase Instagram traffic by X% by X date)
  • Sell X number of your new product 
  • Collect user-generated content (increase UGC library by X posts each month) 

When you know exactly what you want to achieve with your Instagram posts, your captions will have focus. And you can measure whether you’re succeeding or not (and, if not, tweak your approach until it gets better). 

2. Make the first sentence count 

Many Instagram users will read the first line of your caption (because it’s the only bit that can be seen without expanding) and keep scrolling if it doesn’t pique their interest. Make it compelling, either by asking a question, tapping into reader curiosity, or giving scrollers the information they need to read on. 

hubspot instagram

One of HubSpot’s posts, which racked up more than 1,700 likes and 30+ comments, is a great example. It starts off with a personal question that prompts readers to: 

  1. Think about their answer, which gets them mentally engaged and stops them from scrolling
  2. See if their mental response lines up with the data shown in the image

Both generate curiosity about the rest of the data HubSpot uncovered. This strategic caption likely drove a nice amount of traffic to the link in bio. 

Like with any piece of marketing, remember to lead with the hook. It’s worth spending a bit more time coming up with a decent first sentence because, if you get it wrong, the rest of your caption isn’t going to matter. It’s a bit like writing an email, where the subject line will determine whether a recipient will click through and read the rest. 

3. Use hashtags 

Hashtags help users find relevant content that interests them. If you want to expand your reach, Instagram hashtags are the way to do it. They are essentially keywords that tell Instagram what your content is about so it’ll show up in relevant feeds and on the right people’s Explore pages. 

Take some time to research relevant hashtags in your industry. In particular, look for ones that are well-populated with 1,000 or more posts. The more specific you can get the better, but don’t rule out more generic hashtags too to give your hashtag portfolio depth. 

Most brands push hashtags to the bottom of the caption and group them after a few line breaks, but feel free to sprinkle them throughout your caption in the right places to give it dimension.

Need help with hashtags? Try our Instagram Hashtag Generator.

4. Include a call to action

Instagram doesn’t have in-built buttons or links within each post, which means you can’t properly direct users to your website or another platform (hence why you’ll see a lot of “link in bio” dotted around). This doesn’t mean you can’t include a call-to-action (CTA) in your captions. In fact, you definitely should if you want your Instagram followers to take a specific action. 

Revert back to the goal of your Instagram marketing strategy and each individual post to come up with a relevant CTA that encourages action. For example, if you want to increase traffic to your site, drop a CTA like “visit our site to claim your X% discount.” Or if you want to increase brand visibility, use one like “tag a friend you’d like to enjoy this with”. 

atlassian instagram

Atlassian did a good job of this with in one of its post captions. Rather than just saying “head to the link in our bio,” it gave its followers a reason to do that. This teaches a good lesson. If you can, link your calls-to-action with a benefit people will get from following through.

5. Write like you speak

Instagram is first and foremost a social media channel, which means that people go on it to interact with other humans. To connect with followers, it’s important to be as authentic as possible with your captions. 

The more you can write like you speak, the easier it is for your followers to relate to you and trust you. There’s a simple activity you can do if you’re struggling to get this right. Try a talk-to-text tool and simply say what you want to say out loud and transcribe it. You can then edit out all the natural speech elements and turn it into a written piece. 

6. Tell a story

Storytelling has long been a way for humans to connect with other humans, and it should be no different for social media marketing. People are still looking to forge deeper connections with the brands they buy from, and using traditional storytelling methods can hook followers and keep them engaged. 

How do you tell a story? The most important thing is to inspire your followers to use all their senses and make them feel something. Use sensory words and inject your captions with personal anecdotes and experiences to make it personal. Describe the touch, taste, sound, sight, emotions, and feelings that you want followers to get from your post and share your thoughts and feelings at the same time. 

microsoft culture instagram

Microsoft is one brand that does a good job of storytelling. For example, this post about Anna Miller on the Microsoft in Culture account uses Anna’s own words and descriptive words to show the misconceptions people have about her and highlight her passion for coding. The story, although short, is magnetic and encourages people to visit the link in bio for more information. 

7. Don’t be afraid to get creative

Instagram is a tool for reaching new prospects, but that doesn’t mean you have to be strategic and formulaic all the time. Remember, it is a social platform at the end of the day. If you want to stand out from competitors, you must get creative. This can look different for different brands. For example, you might sprinkle emojis throughout your captions, or you might try starting with a CTA, or you might try writing a poem or using a quote as your caption.

It’s worth playing around with different concepts to see what resonates the most with your target audience. 

8. Measure and tweak

Like with any marketing campaign or strategy, test and tweak your results. Track the results of your efforts by digging into your Instagram analytics to determine what kind of posts (and, more importantly, what kind of captions) get the most engagement.

Do your followers respond well to very clear CTAs? Do they engage more with a caption that starts with a question? What happens if you use emojis? 

Experimenting is everything when it comes to getting your social strategy right. Test out different tips and best practices as what works for one brand might not work for you and vice versa.

8 examples of brands with engaging Instagram captions to inspire your next post

1. Colour Pop Cosmetics

British beauty brand Colour Pop Cosmetics is a stickler for using emojis in its captions. It pairs this with light and fun language that resonates with its young audience. 

Colour Pop Cosmetics Instagram caption

2. Drunk Elephant

Drunk Elephant encourages its followers to engage and get involved by asking them a question to elicit a response. 

Drunk Elephant Instagram caption

3. Haus 

Drinks brand Haus uses its Instagram captions as a place to microblog. For this particular post, it has shared a Q&A session with an influencer. 

Haus Instagram caption

4. Survey Monkey

Survey Monkey uses a triple threat approach in its Instagram captions. It leverages hashtags, includes a question to spark engagement, and incorporates a CTA that directs followers to their website. 

Survey Monkey Instagram caption

5. Slack

Slack is a B2B brand that has a lot of fun with its copy on every platform - and Instagram is no different. It uses emojis as bullet points to inject a bit of casual personality into its captions. 

Slack Instagram caption

6. Elise Darma 

Influencer Elise Darma is renowned for her lengthy Instagram account captions. Each one tells a unique mini-story and is full of emojis, personality, and compelling storytelling techniques. 

Elisa Darma Instagram caption

7. A potentially polarizing take from Hotjar

True hot take or not, most people—especially with the rise of remote work—are fairly opinionated about meetings. So, this caption and quote from Hotjar’s CEO could have easily ruffled some feathers among the “let’s all hop on a quick call” crew. 

hotjar instagram

8. An FAQ-inspired caption from Chris Do

One of Chris Do’s posts, which got more than 5,000 likes and over 200 comments, is a good example of leveraging FAQs. The topic of setting rates for services is naturally interesting to the audience. And Chris made it even more engaging by giving examples to make people think and drive the point home. 

Plus, this caption is practical, finishing off with an exercise (not pictured) that people can do to see firsthand how the concept Chris shared applies. 

Use Jasper to help write engaging Instagram captions

Struggling to bulk write Instagram captions? Make your life easier with Jasper’s Instagram caption generator. Thanks to the Photo Post Captions template, you can generate multiple versions of a caption in minutes and simply copy and paste it into your Instagram account. 

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Meet the author

Austin Distel
Marketing @ Jasper

Austin Distel is the Sr. Director of Marketing at Jasper, your AI creative assistant. He's also an Airbnb superhost in Austin, Texas. You can follow Austin's adventures around the internet and the world at distel.com.

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