How to Write Engaging Captions on Instagram
One of the questions I often get asked as a personal brand consultant is how to write engaging captions on Instagram or any platform for that matter. After all, the caption is half the presentation. A great caption has the ability to make a dull image into an exciting one, or vice versa. A poor caption can weigh down a great image if it is confusing or irrelevant. Captions are important, but they definitely don’t have to be hard.
What you don’t want to have is “caption fright.” (I totally just made that up!) In other words, never forfeit posting content out of fear that you don’t have the right words to use for your caption. Remember, personal branding is the long game. It’s all about consistency. The key to winning on Instagram, or any other social platform, is sharing content regularly. Your audience needs to know they can trust you, so you’ve got to show up. But once you have a regular and consistent content schedule in place, you can up your game with great captions.
Today, I am going to break down 3 of the most popular captions and how you can write them. (We’ll be primarily focusing on Instagram for this post, but the same principals can be applied elsewhere).
The Witty Caption
Okay, witty captions are often the hardest to come up with (unless your @erinjasper.) This is the type of caption that everyone wants to come up with but is always the hardest to craft. Here’s my word of advice, don’t force it. If you have something funny to say, it will usually come to you easily. Otherwise, don’t spend hours trying to craft the perfect, intelligently funny caption to ever grace the ‘gram.’ It’s not worth the fuss, and chances are it will feel forced.
However, if you do come up with something good, witty captions can be the most entertaining; they add a touch of personality to your brand and tend to be the most engaging.
How to write witty captions: Think of the first thing that comes to your mind when you look at the photo and work from there. Choose the most obvious detail to comment on, even if the detail is unconventional. It helps to think of relationships, ask questions, and twist the common assumption. Perhaps someone said something funny RIGHT as the photo was being taken, that’s a good thing to capture! Or, use your imagination to think of something they might’ve said if you want to get creative.
Keep in mind that your photo will do a majority of the heavy lifting for you, so witty/humorous captions should be short--keep it to one or maybe two lines.
In all honesty, witty captions are not my strong suit. So, I tend to shy away from them unless something really just comes to me. It’s important to know your strengths! I’ve accepted that I’m not great with writing funny captions on the fly… my style is more sweet and personal; introspective and informative. Be sure to ask yourself the same kind of question, what is your style?
The Informative Caption
Writing a caption that informs your audience is another great way to captivate their attention. In order to really pull this off, you have to make a conscious effort to listen.
Sometimes, we get in the habit of writing for ourselves. We often write or speak about things that are just convenient for us to share. While it’s true that an easy blend of personal experiences and anecdotes are important to implement into your personal brand, I would encourage you to think about the people you’re trying to serve before you sit down to write your next caption, film a tutorial, or record your next podcast.
If you are trying to write an informative caption...inform your audience - not yourself!
How to write an informative caption:
The trick to writing informative captions is simple: just care. If you care about the people you seek to serve, you will win. Who’s listening? What does he or she need to hear today? How can you help your audience?
Think about the last time that someone asked you a question about your area of expertise; now write about that topic. Place yourself in your audience’s shoes. How can you provide a solution to their problems?
For example, here is an informative caption that I curated for one of the Instagram account’s that I manage. It addresses how the audience may be feeling, provides a quick and easy solution to this problem, and there’s a call to action at the very end. Posing a question back on to your followers is a great way to get the conversation going and get more engagement on your photos.
The Personal Caption
Truth be told, this is one of my favorite captions to write. I enjoy getting personal, I value vulnerability if it’s shared in an appropriate context. If you are comfortable with vulnerability, it can be one of the most powerful tools while building your community.
When you have the courage to share your story and open up to your audience, people can relate to you on an entirely deeper level. It spurs conversation, opens doors, and fosters relationships. However, keep in mind that vulnerability should never feel forced. If you don’t feel comfortable sharing personal details, don’t do it. There is a fine line between sharing openly and honestly, and sharing “too much information.” Avoid having your audience respond with “TMI!”.
How to write personal captions: The best way to write personal captions is to recall certain experiences or stories that have stood out to you. Storytelling can be the most effective way to share key ideas and messages. It’s a powerful tool that marketers have used for hundreds of years, and you can, too!
Remember, there should always be a purpose or underlying theme in your story. A story without meaning won’t play as well as if you convey something of real value. What’s the takeaway?
While writing longer-form captions, I recommend writing them in the notes section of your phone or computer. It’s easier to format the text when you aren’t constricted by Instagram’s interface.
By clicking enter you can make indentations in your caption which makes it look cleaner and easier to read and digest.
Captions, just like any piece of content marketing, will get easier over time. A few months ago I made a promise to myself that I would do all of my writing the first thing in the morning. Creating content before the sun comes up has made all the difference for me and my brand. Having this routine keeps me accountable and ensures that my posts go out consistently. If you can carve out a special time of the day to devote to writing thoughtful captions and messages it will make your writing all the more valuable and engaging.
Remember that the best way to build your brand, or simply just your Instagram presence, is to share value. Over and over again. When you make a commitment to share your expertise and personality consistently, your audience will reciprocate. You’ll get the engagement you’ve always wanted, and people will start to consider you a thought leader or expert in your space.