In this issue
  1. How does the Instagram algorithm work in 2020? 21 min read
  2. 16 best practices to grow your Instagram in 2020 20 min read
  3. How to organically grow your Instagram: 5 proven ways to attract followers 17 min read
  4. How to increase your Instagram engagement (in under 1 hour per week) 16 min read
  5. How to craft a five-star Instagram strategy (in 8 easy steps) 25 min read
  6. How to get the most out of your Instagram bio 20 min read
  7. How to write engagement-driving Instagram captions 17 min read
  8. The creator’s guide to Instagram image sizes 23 min read
  9. Instagram hashtags: How, when, where, & why to use them 14 min read
  10. How to find the best time to post on Instagram 11 min read
  11. The complete guide to Instagram Stories for creators 26 min read
  12. Instagram metrics: How to use Instagram Insights to grow your audience fast 19 min read

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Issue #27

How to write engagement-driving Instagram captions

Social Media
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In 2020, the Instagram algorithm will reward engagement more than anything else. The more engagement a post gets, the higher it will appear in your followers’ feeds.

This means that engagement should be your goal for most of your Instagram posts if you want to grow your account, gain higher visibility, and build an online community around your brand.

And although Instagram started as a visual platform, it’s no longer about the images alone.

A great image can grab someone’s attention as they scroll. But there must be something else to cause them to stop long enough to comment, share, or save your post. (In other words: Engage.)

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That something else? Your caption.

In this article, I’m explaining how to write Instagram captions to drive engagement.

How to write engagement-driving Instagram captions
11 steps to improve your Instagram captions

As you work to improve the Instagram captions you write, here are 11 easy-to-deploy steps that’ll make the entire process easier. Follow these tips and you’ll be on the path to creating engagement-driving posts.

Provide value in your Instagram captions

The most effective way to drive engagement with your captions is simple: Write good Instagram captions full of value.

Create content that’s so valuable that people can’t help but want to engage with it. This could mean sharing actionable how-tos, provocative insights, original inspiration, and more. As long as you’re creating content that your audience loves, you’re adding value.

For instance, small business bookkeeper Arielle Gelosi shared a powerful insight in a recent caption:

 

View this post on Instagram

 

3 money habits of successful business owners!!⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ 💰 They ROUTINELY keep track of their numbers!⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ Letting the paperwork, receipts, and transactions pile up and only doing them at the last minute is CRAZY and setting yourself up to get irritated AF. Set aside time each week or month to go through it all.⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ 💰 They check their financial reports before making investments.⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ Having the numbers side of your business in check allows you to assess them when you’re thinking about making a large investment. You won’t have to worry about if the money will work out because you’ll already know!⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ 💰 They run and assess their P&L (profit and loss) reports!⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ P&L reports allow you to understand your net income, expenses, and see where you have the ability to cut back or give more!⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ Basically, knowing your numbers keeps you confident and allows you to make better decisions for your business! 🙌🏻⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ Not a fan of all the numbers shit? 💩 No worries, I totally understand. Let me take your monthly bookkeeping off your plate and give you allll the benefits with none of the headache. Send me a DM and let’s chat! 😘⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ .⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ .⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ .⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ .⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ .⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ . ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ #smallbusinessadvice⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ #smallbusinesscoach⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ #howtobuildabusiness⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ #theleaguewomen⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ #freelancetofreedom⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ #femalefounded⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ #fempreneurs⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ #thebossbabesociete⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ #womenwithaplan⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ #womenwithaplan⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ #lessworkmorelife⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ #girlbossesunite⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ #femaleentrepreneurlife⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ #socialcurator⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ #bossbabelife⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ #bossewoman⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ #girlbossmagic⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ #paystobebrave⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ #bossbabestatus⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ #ladystartups⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ #womennetworking⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ #freedombasedbusiness⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ #femaleceos⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ #womenentrepreneursunite⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ #girlbossesunite⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ #buildalifeyoulove⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ #bossbabesociete⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ #freelancetofreedom⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ #grindandbegrateful⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ #losangelescreatives

A post shared by Quickbooks Manager| Bookkeeper (@ariellegelosi) on

You can use your Instagram captions to provide value to your followers. Image via Arielle Gelosi’s Instagram.

Aim for about 150 characters

Recent research by Sprout Social revealed that Instagram posts with the most engagement have captions between 138-150 characters. Good Instagram captions are those that are short and sweet because they are easiest for followers to read.

Longer captions can also drive engagement, and the engagement might be more meaningful. But, it’s less likely that every follower who sees it will read the whole thing, leading to lower engagement levels overall.

Coffee mug brand Compliments N’ Coffee has found success with short, inspirational captions like this one:

 

View this post on Instagram

 

When you focus on the good, the good gets better. ☕️💓

A post shared by Compliments ‘N Coffee (@complimentsncoffee) on

Captions between 138-150 characters tend to get the highest engagement rates. Image via Compliments N’ Coffee’s Instagram.

Focus on the first 140 characters

In the main feed, you only see 140 characters of the caption before you have to click “more” to view the rest. However, one study found that Instagram caption lengths are trending up, doubling between 2016 and 2019.

So how do you get followers to read your longer captions?

Make sure the first 140 characters are enticing.

Don’t bury the most important information at the end of your caption. Instead, lead with the main idea, and ensure that people will want to find out more about it.

For example, take a look at this enticing start to a caption by writer and speaker Austin Channing Brown:

Use the first 140 characters to entice followers to click “more.” Image via Austin Channing Brown’s Instagram.

Tell a story

Research has shown that humans remember things 22 times more when they’re shared with us within a story.

Try using more stories in your Instagram captions to keep readers engrossed all the way to the end and help them remember your point long after they’ve moved on.

For inspiration, check out this long caption that’s a delight to read despite its length, by writer Liz Pabon:

Telling a story in your captions helps people remember your point. Images via Liz Pabon’s Instagram.
Telling a story in your captions helps people remember your point. Images via Liz Pabon’s Instagram.

Ask for engagement

Good Instagram captions give followers instructions on how to engage. These instructions could be in the form of a question to answer in the comments, a suggestion to save or share the post, or a prompt to tag a friend.

Sometimes the barrier to engagement is not knowing what to do with a post you enjoyed. Asking for a specific form of engagement takes away the stress of that decision and makes followers more likely to engage.

Clothing brand Lev Apparel did this well in one of their recent posts, asking their followers to answer a question in the comments:

Ask your followers to do something after they read your caption, like answer a question in the comments. Image via Lev Apparel’s Instagram.

Make your Instagram captions easy to read

Instagram doesn’t allow for much customization in captions. You can’t use bolded text, italics, or different font sizes to break up the text. As a result, it’s easy to end up with a block of small, uniform text that’s challenging to read.

If people can’t easily read your caption, they probably won’t. (And they won’t engage, either.)

That’s why you should get creative and use tricks to break up your captions into skimmable paragraphs. Use a mix of line breaks, emojis, punctuation, and all caps to create makeshift headings and layouts.

Attorney Taylor Tieman recently used these tactics to make her long caption easy to read:

 

View this post on Instagram

 

How many times have you hit “repost” this past week? 🔄⠀ ⠀ Reposting valuable content, information, & opinions are necessary right now to continue much-needed discourse. ⠀ ⠀ But I also want to make sure you’re reposting properly. 💪🏼 ⠀ ⠀ If done incorrectly, it could be copyright infringement (which carries a penalty of a minimum of $750+). ⠀ ⠀ 〰️ 〰️ 〰️⠀ ⠀ ❌ Here’s what NOT to do ❌⠀ ⠀ • Never screenshot & repost. This leaves you extremely vulnerable for copyright infringement. The exceptions to the rule are few and far between. [This is where I’d ask you to please refrain from making legal judgment calls without an attorney to assist you].⠀ ⠀ • “Tagging” the original owner or adding a quick credit (@ + their handle) is not enough. [If anything, you’ve only just alerted that person that you have stolen their content without permission].⠀ ⠀ ✅ Here’s what you CAN do ✅⠀ ⠀ ✔️ Ask permission from the original creator /writer/photographer, etc. If you don't know who that is, don't risk it! (if you need a quick script, DM me.)⠀ ⠀ ✔️Utilize the IG “share” functions: ⠀ ⠀ • Post to story ⠀ • Send to DM to message.⠀ ⠀ These are completely fine since we’ve all agreed to IG’s terms. ⠀ ⠀ ✔️ Speaking of terms, take time to brush up on IG's terms of use. (swipe to see how to access).⠀ ⠀ Questions? DM me! 💌⠀ ⠀ *Disclaimer: This post is strictly for general informational purposes only and is not intended to constitute legal advice.

A post shared by Business & Trademark Attorney (@taylormtieman_esq) on

Use line breaks, emojis, and all caps to break captions into easy-to-read chunks. Image via Taylor Tieman’s Instagram.

Use creative writing skills

Most of us understand that our images should be interesting and well-done to capture attention on Instagram. The same is true for your captions. Just as you would use photography or design skills to create an eye-catching image, you should use creative writing skills to create a caption that’s fun to read.

Use imagery, adjectives, and storytelling to bring your ideas to life. Hint: Try to be as specific as possible to avoid cliches or vagueness.

For inspiration for how to write Instagram captions creatively, check out a recent caption by copywriter Laura Belgray (also known as Talking Shrimp). She uses hyper-specific analogies, a personal story, and interesting adjectives to create word pictures for her followers:

 

View this post on Instagram

 

Confession: in the late 90s, I had a beeper. My boyfriend got it for me so I could contact him without tipping off his wife. ⠀⁠⠀ ⠀⁠⠀ Oh, that's two confessions. ⠀⁠⠀ ⠀⁠⠀ Well anyway. it was the 90s. Do you want a business that feels stuck in that decade? Like it's wearing shoulder pads — or a blousy man shirt tucked into high-waisted khakis for Casual Friday – and waiting for the dial-up modem to kick in?⠀⁠⠀ No? ⠀⁠⠀ ⠀⁠⠀ Then make your copy conversational. ⠀⁠⠀ ⠀⁠⠀ Conversational is the new professional. ⠀⁠⠀ ⁠⠀ Want to sound more human in your business writing? More “you”?⁠⠀ ⠀⁠⠀ 👉Get your butt in The Copy Cure!👈⠀⁠⠀ ⠀⁠⠀ If sounding natural and personable is a struggle for you, you're not alone! ⁠⠀ ⁠⠀ @marieforleo and I have helped thousands of students to cure themselves of the tragic stiffness (and other afflictions) that keeps their copy from hitting the emotional mark—⁠⠀ ⁠⠀ —and we won't rest till we've guided you to swiftly, painlessly remove the giant stick from your writing voice's you-know-what-hole. ⁠⠀ ⁠⠀ Link in bio or go right to thecopycure.com/join-us⁠⠀ ⠀⁠⠀ ⠀

A post shared by Laura Belgray (@talkingshrimpnyc) on

Use creative writing skills to create captions that are fun to read. Image via Talking Shrimp’s Instagram.

Define your Instagram caption style

Just as you create a consistent aesthetic for your Instagram grid, you should aim to create a consistent “style” for your captions. This helps your brand feel cohesive and be recognizable in your followers’ feeds, leading to higher engagement.

You can define your caption style by deciding on a consistent post structure and common elements. Start by asking yourself:

  • Will you use emojis? How often? Which ones?
  • Will you use dashes, periods, or ellipses to make line breaks?
  • Will you use all caps or asterisks for emphasis?
  • How will you start and end each caption?

Social media strategist Hone Your Social always structures her captions the same way to maintain a recognizable brand:

 

View this post on Instagram

 

• R E M I N D E R • ⠀ ⠀ Why is it that we continue to strive for perfection when it can never be achieved? 😳 ⠀ ⠀ We can often be really unkind to ourselves so lately, to boost my own moral, I've taken to writing down my successes and wins on paper. 🖊 There is something really therapeutic about the physical act of writing and when you couple this with positivity, it can really get you out of whatever rut you've fallen into. Do your best, be kind to yourself, and remember, perfection doesn't exist. ⠀ .⠀ .⠀ .⠀ .⠀ .⠀ #honeyoursocial #knowyourpurpose #youngentrepreneurs #millennialmindset #setgoalsnotlimits #betruetoyou #goaldigging #passionatelife #goaldiggermovement #gottastartsomewhere #findyourfire #chaseyourpassion #goalslayer #purposedrivenwoman #lifewithpurpose #inspireddaily #pursueyourdreams #millennialsuccess #authenticself #crushinggoals #goaldriven #goalsgoalsgoals #passionforlife #purposedrivenlife #twentysomethings #millenialentrepreneur #goalgetters #liveyourtruth #followyourdream⠀

A post shared by Corinne 🌎 Instagram Expert (@hone.your.social) on

Style your captions to create a consistent look. Image via HoneYour Social’s Instagram.

Include hashtags the right way

Hashtags help your post be seen by more people, which leads to higher engagement. But make sure you’re using hashtags correctly.

  • Here are a few quick tips to keep in mind:
  • Use hashtags that your ideal followers are using
  • Use both popular hashtags and niche hashtags
  • Make sure your hashtags are relevant to your content
  • Use local hashtags if applicable
  • Separate hashtags from your main caption

For example, candle brand Remedy Candle Co. used a variety of hashtags on a recent post, ranging from local hashtags to broader hashtags:

Include hashtags in your captions to reach more people and increase engagement. Image via Remedy Candle Co.’s Instagram.

Mention other users in your Instagram captions

If it’s relevant to your post, mention other users in your captions to extend your post’s reach to their audience.

When you mention someone else, they receive a notification and are likely to view your post and share it. All those extra views are likely to lead to more engagement.

But, be wise: Don’t mention another account in your caption unless the caption has something to do with them. Otherwise, it’ll look like spam.

For example, Amazon consulting firm Stanczak Retail Consulting tagged a contributor to their blog in a post:

 

View this post on Instagram

 

I had the honor of having @juliareneeconsulting guest host the most recent post on my blog for product-based business owners. She talks about 7 SEO Tips for product-based businesses to get your products ranking. Check it out via the 🔗 to the Blog in my bio. . . I've talked to several clients and business owners that are using this time to focus on their online business. This article will help you make sure your website's product pages are working for you to grow your business! . . Check out the Blog for this quick must-read – 🔗 in bio! Scroll down to learn a little bit more about @juliareneeconsulting. . . 👩🏼‍💻Julia is an SEO Consultant Pinterest Strategist for creative small businesses. Her goal is to make SEO and Pinterest strategies approachable and easy to implement for all small businesses so they can reach their ideal clients organically. . . 📸 Cred: @petalandglass ❤️ . . . . . . #solopreneurs #smallcreativebusiness #phillysmallbusiness #phillybusinesswomen #phillyseo #smallbizphilly #seoconsultant #femalebusinessowner #femalebusiness #girlbosses #phillyentrepreneurs #seoconsulting #seotips #seocontent #seotip #seotipoftheday #searchenginemarketing #searchengineoptimization #seooptimization #seomarketing #savvybusinessowners #creativepreneurs #smallbusinesswomen #smallbusinessowners #creativeentrepeneur #marketingtips #smallbiztips #seoguide #seoebook #digitalproducts

A post shared by Amazon Strategy & Optimization (@stanczak.retail.consulting) on

When relevant, tag other users in your captions to increase your reach and engagement. Image via Stanczak Retail Consulting’s Instagram.

Get personal in your Instagram captions

When brands share personal content about the people and decisions behind the brand on Instagram, it humanizes them. Followers will be able to relate, making them more likely to engage with your account.

Also, this type of content can prompt followers to share a related story about themselves in turn, deepening the level of conversation happening on your post.

Take inspiration from a recent post by Vision Quest Shoes, where the founder shared a selfie and her “why” for starting the brand:

 

View this post on Instagram

 

Hey there, I’m Ce Ce Chin and @visionquestshoes is my lovechild. I have been practicing yoga for almost all of my adult life (most of it in New York). Since moving to Southern California a few years ago, I’ve added more exploratory methods to my spiritual journey, including labyrinth walking, sound baths and flotation tank meditation. I designed the Vision Quest shoes to be the support system that guides me through this journey, and most importantly, keeps me in the spirit. Or at least reminds me. I’m learning the value of engaging both the natural and spiritual in everyday life. And I found comfort in being mindful of my everyday steps. Essentially I wanted to create a shoe that spoke to this idea of walking mindfully through your life. 🙏🚶🏻‍♀️🧘🏻‍♀️🌀 . #cecechin #selfie #visionquestshoes #lovechild #yoga #spiritual #spiritualpractice #labyrinth #labyrinthwalking #soundbaths #meditation #floatationtank #support #supportsystem #journey #natural #spiritual #engagement #mindful #comfort #walking #mindfully.

A post shared by Vision Quest Shoes (@visionquestshoes) on

Share a personal story in your caption to humanize your brand and engage followers. Image via Vision Quest Shoes’ Instagram.

Captions are crucial for driving engagement

Images will capture initial interest and get people to stop scrolling and pay attention. But only for a moment. It’s up to your caption to keep them reading and prompt them to engage in a meaningful way with your post.

These engagements propel your content to the tops of your followers’ feeds. Ultimately, this makes them more likely to become part of your community, buy your product or service, or reach out to collaborate.

The bottom line: Your captions play just as important a role in your Instagram success as your images do. Especially when it comes to driving engagement.

Hopefully, this article has given you a great starting place to learn how to write Instagram captions that drive engagement.

Want to take your followers beyond Instagram?

Instagram is a great source of visibility for your brand. But, you have little control over how your followers see your content.

Convert your Instagram followers into email subscribers to reach them on your own terms. But building a free landing page in ConvertKit you can make sure you can promote your latest offers, products, and services to your followers

Connect with your audience

Share what you love to connect with your followers and grow your business with a free ConvertKit account.

Kaleigh Moore

Kaleigh Moore is a freelance writer who works closely with SaaS companies and marketing teams for content creation.

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