Contrary to what you might think, Instagram isn’t all about lavish imagery. Sure, stunning photography is about 80% of what counts, but let’s focus in the image captions, or the other 20%.
Your profile isn’t the first thing that people will likely see when they’re on Instagram. More often than not, people will see your images show up in their feed or in the search, so essentially people are just seeing individual images rather than your whole profile.
It’s especially important to get all the parts of an Instagram post right to earn better engagement and increase your followers. You don’t really know up front, how many people will see your post (although you can do the estimations), and you had better believe that if your photo doesn’t catch their eye, you’re going to get lost in the sea of other photos.
Assuming that you’ve got your imagery right, it’s time to take on the caption.
Most people that stop on an image, will scan the caption as well. In the feed, you get 140 characters including spaces before Instagram truncates and shows the user the “More” link to read the rest.
Start With A Call To Action
A great image can encourage people to hit the like button, which is OK, but what you really want are comments and user discussions.
Starting your post with a Call To Action (CTA) like a Burning Question that fits in the 140 character limit can help increase the comments drastically.
It never hurts to ask for engagement. People don’t generally leave comments if there isn’t a reason to leave one, and that caption before the “Show More” is the place to do it.
Overall, you have a 2,200 character limit per post, and you can use up to 33 hashtags (included in the character limit), but people will make the choice to engage or not based on that initial caption in the feed.
Writing a great call to action isn’t too hard, but you need to put some thought into it.
1. What is the goal you’re trying to accomplish?
You have a few options here, but some of the most popular CTAs are to ask the viewer to check the link in the bio (remember that this is the only clickable link), ask for a response, and finally, ask for feedback on a topic/product/service.
Have a clear idea of what you want the user to do if they see the post. The effort must go into guiding the user to take the desired action, or it’s a pointless post.
2. Use Actionable Language
Use language that includes actionable words that really encourage people to react to the post and engage by double tapping (heart), or leaving a comment.
3. Run a Giveaway, Contest or a Challenge
Reviewing the Instagram terms, you are allowed to promote contests and giveaways. Sure, it may mean giving something away, but you can ask people to repost the story or tag friends in a comment. This can boost engagement in ways normal CTAs don’t really do, and if you’re giving something really cool away, you might find that your posts just explode with interaction.
If you choose to go this route, make sure people know about it when they’re scanning the caption. Start off with “GIVEAWAY!”, “CONTEST”, or “WIN THIS” as the first part of the caption so it shows in the feed before the “show more”.
Also, use the hashtags #giveaway #contest or #win (and anything else that indicates that you’re running a contest). A lot of Instagram users will search by hashtag for giveaways (even some bots do this) and may repost your post assuming that they need to do that to enter.
4. Ask The Audience to Tag You
If you’re featuring products or services, ask your audience to post about their experience while tagging you or using a specific hashtag so you can find their posts. It’s better to use a custom hashtag if you want to repost your audience’s posts because if they use the hashtag, it’s considered implied consent that they want you to repost without you having to ask them for permission explicitly. They have to actually type in the hashtag, and that’s an act of consent.
Make sure you repost their posts too, just as you’re asking them to do. Featuring your audience encourages them to try and get featured by posting and tagging you.
If you have a few thousand followers or more, you’ll also help the person you’re featuring because more than likely, other members of your audience will follow them too.
It’s always good to think of it as an “I’ll scratch your back if you scratch mine” situation.
To Sum It Up
Put time and effort into your captions. Don’t just write them without a plan.
It might take as much thought and effort as you put into getting that awesome picture that everyone’s gonna love, but in the end, an actionable call to action, inspiring content and an ask for engagement can be the difference between you and your competition.