How To

6 ways to level up your Instagram captions

Grace Sweeney


Sure, Instagram’s bread and butter is its focus on pretty pictures. It has been the case since 2010 when the app still had a reverse chronological timeline, well before Facebook entered the mix.

Instagram post

Initially, Instagram was designed as a platform for pics and pics alone. However, the founders quickly realized that something was missing… Enter the likes, comments, and yes, captions.

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Compelling captions do a lot for a post. They tell people what your photo is all about, prompt them to take action, and make sharing worthwhile.

Still, it’s hard to come up with the perfect combination of funny and thoughtful. How do you be descriptive but not too long? How many emoji should you use? What about hashtags? How many is too many?

Don’t make yourself crazy over captions. Here are some ways to drum up that coveted follower engagement without driving yourself nuts:

6 ways to level up your Instagram captions

1. Consider who you’re writing to… and why

Thinking before posting

First things first. Let’s talk goals.

Who are your followers? How old are they? If you add a reference will they get it?

Instagram has an inherently lighthearted tone. Think about it, you’ve got your pink walls and latte art, inspirational quotes, sunsets, and self-care. On a general level, you’ll likely see the best results from keeping things light.

Beyond understanding the platform, you do want to be in touch with the audience. Ask yourself what kind of language do they use?

2. Lead with the best stuff

Cool Instagram post

This is the Instagram equivalent of “above the fold.” Captions are cut off after a few lines of text. So, if you want to attract interest, you need to front load the information so that people might happen upon it while scanning through their feed.

Sure, you have 2,200 characters to say your peace. However, if you’re looking to max out your space you’ll want to treat the first part of your caption like a headline. After that, you can then dive into the rest for those care to click.

A note about caption length: The common wisdom is that shorter tends to be better, but it kind of depends on your profile personality. Some users approach their Instagram account as if it were a mini-blog while others go for brevity. They relish that expertly-selected emoji or slick one-liner. It’s all about finding what’s best for you.

3. Ask a question, make a call for action

Call to action

If you are a brand or you just work for one, you know better than to leave a social media post without listing a “next step” for your reader. The next step, otherwise known as your “call-to-action” or CTA for short invites readers to go, “Hey, I will click over to that website” or “check out that shop.”

Again, this brings us back to this idea of setting a goal. Think about what you want your post to accomplish — comments, likes, engagement, or website visits.

If you’re a typical user that just wants more engagement, try asking a question to get more people to comment. It doesn’t need to be complicated. You can ask people what they think about a new look or invite them to comment on a personal experience.

4. Formatting matters here

Yes, formatting counts when it comes to crafting the perfect post. Spaced out sentences are much easier to read than a big old wall of text. That’s blogging 101. However, you might not realize that avoiding the old text wall translates to social, too.

See this post from The Instagram Expert’s account

View this post on Instagram

– WHAT A DIFFERENCE 365 DAYS CAN MAKE IN YOUR BUSINESS (GO AHEAD, DREAM A LITTLE BIT) ⏡⏡ Meet @shannonleestrategy she has been a small business owner, like many of you, for the past 20 yrs. Shannon had been using online marketing for a while but she told me she felt like she was running on 1 cylinder when she wanted so badly to be at full throttle. Can you relate? – Because she knew she was missing something in her business, she joined Marie Forleo’s B-School last year. Shannon wanted to understand the FOUNDATION of what it takes to build a business online today using modern marketing. – After she took her leap into B-School and invested in her business she’s done some pretty tough work and she’s seen impressive results in her biz. ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ Including… ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ – How to tell stories on social and in her emails that emotionally connected to her ideal clients – She learned how to focus on always leading with giving value to her clients – She rebranded in a way that aligns with her marketing message – She started on Instagram with 300 followers and after going thru B-School and incorporating what she learned from my Instagram tactics in Ready Set Gram she now how 1,044 highly targeted followers -Since B-School & our in person B-School retreat in Boston, Shannon has… ✔️Gained confidence ✔️Made a mindset shift ✔️:Got Laser focused in her niche ✔️Has clear content that attracts her paying customer ✔️Has grown her email list from 0 to 200 ✔️Launched a website that converts to clients. Resulting in 1K views and several leads a week for her strategy and coaching business – She works less hours because of her systems in place and uses automation to work smarter. Her business has increased 800% giving her thousands and thousands of dollars a month to her household. Annnnnd this only took 1 year! 365 days! – Imagine where you could be one year from now if you invested in your business from someone Who has the step-by-step process to do what you need it?

A post shared by Sue B. Zimmerman IG Educator (@theinstagramexpert) on

It’s crazy long, but she’s done a nice job making this approachable through the power of white space.

5. Include some emoji

Thinking Emoji

Well-crafted emoji captions are a real treat, and they’re more versatile than you think. These days even more serious brands are getting in on the action.

You can use emojis in a few different ways. For example, you can use them at the beginning of a post to catch people’s eye.

Or, make like Starbucks and tie your emoji back to the focal point in your photo.

Another idea is to use the “eyes” or the “finger pointing” emoji to draw the eye toward your link or CTA. It’s a nice visual trick for breaking up space, and it serves a practical purpose.

6. Hashtags

Hashtags exist as a means for classifying photos, but they also help you cast a wider net. They help you reach people who might never come into contact with your page. This Hootsuite report breaks down the stats:

Hashtag analytics

For best results, the goal is to keep your hashtags relevant first. The purpose is to help other users find content that corresponds with their interests. Essentially, save the jokes, memes, and emoji for the body of the caption.

7. Keep captions consistent

Finally, consistency is the backbone of branding whether you’re trying to build a business or turn yourself into an influencer.

In either case, people will remember your account when you deliver a high-end experience day in and day out.

Wrapping up

Instagram can be a great tool for building your own brand or your business’s brand. With these tips, you can turn the ordinary into the extraordinary.

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