These days, it feels like the entire world is on Instagram. But what started as a photo-sharing app with a few filters has evolved into so much more. Yes, the pictures are still important—but what you write underneath is just as crucial. So what does it take to write good Instagram captions?

We’ll walk you through why captions are so important, as well as some of our top tips for how to write great Instagram captions, whether you’re posting for yourself or a business (and we can’t forget those all important captions for selfies!).

Why Are Instagram Captions Important?

When you’re learning how to write good captions for Instagram, it may be tempting to focus all of your attention on the picture and either leave the writing as an afterthought. 

Sure, the visual may be what pulls a user in, but it’s the caption that keeps your followers engaged and sets you apart from everyone else. As Instagram expert and Skillshare instructor Deanna Dunn advises, “Captions are where you can share your message and foster human connection. You want them to stop for your picture and stay for the caption.” It’s the perfect place to let your voice shine and enjoy a two-way dialogue with the people who are engaging with you. 

But what exactly is engagement? It’s the action that users are taking on the posts that you create, which could be leaving a comment, liking or sharing a post, or saving it as part of a collection. Understanding what engagement is will help you as you learn how to write good captions on Instagram because, ultimately, that’s what the algorithm depends on. 

Figuring out how to write good Instagram captions can seem daunting when you’re trying to work with a complicated algorithm, but it doesn’t have to be. Following some of the basic rules that work for all online content, like writing a clear message and having a strong call-to-action (CTA), can take your Instagram account from being a fun channel to chat with followers to a platform that starts to become a source of income.

Essentials For Writing Great Instagram Captions

Tip 1: Know Your Audience

Skillshare instructor Danielle Coke shows how you can make longer captions work for you and your audience.
Skillshare instructor Danielle Coke shows how you can make longer captions work for you and your audience.

You have up to 2,200 characters available for every caption, but you don’t have to fill that entire space. Taking the time to work out what’s right for your brand and audience is key before you start thinking about how to write Instagram captions. 

Does your audience like long, informative posts, or short sentences with a few emojis? Generally, most Instagram users prefer shorter captions, but using the caption area as a microblog is becoming more popular. Skillshare instructor Danielle Coke says that longer captions work well for her audience, and that each caption “encourages someone to take a specific action, or helps them to reflect on a takeaway”’ Her audience has come to expect this type of written content alongside her illustrations.

If you’re not sure what will work best, test a few options over the next few months. Just remember to keep your tone and voice consistent throughout.

Learn From the Pros

Instagram Illustration: Make Shareable Art for Social Change.

Tip 2: Have a Great Opening Sentence

If you’ve written more than three or four lines, Instagram will automatically add a “read more” link to expand your caption. Knowing roughly where your content will cut off is one of the key pieces to learning how to write good captions on Instagram as this can make or break your engagement if your followers aren’t interested enough to read beyond the first line.

There are a number of ways to entice them, such as increasing intrigue with something like, “I have a confession to make…”, generating some friendly controversy with a line like, “Unpopular opinion…”, or asking for action with a request like, “Raise your hand if…” 

Using an emoji somewhere in the first sentence can also be attention-grabbing, thanks to the change in color and shape compared to written text. They also show your personality, which works just as well for brand accounts as personal ones.

Tip 3: Ask Questions

Drawing your followers into an ongoing conversation is one of the best approaches when writing Instagram captions. 

Try asking a question to encourage people to leave a comment or to share something about their own life, such as “How’s the weather where you are today?” or “Did you watch this show? Share your thoughts in the comments!”

Giveaways and contests are also a good way to encourage this kind of user engagement. Have followers tag a friend in the comments or require a certain question to be answered in order to enter. (Just be sure of any legal requirements in your state or country before running a giveaway.) 

Tip 4: Research Topical Hashtags

Floor Giebels walks through an example post to demonstrate how to use thematic hashtags effectively in her Skillshare course.
Floor Giebels walks through an example post to demonstrate how to use thematic hashtags effectively in her Skillshare course.

Hashtags are an ideal way for you to reach new audiences with your captions for Insta. They are now both searchable and saveable for Instagram users, meaning anyone can follow a particular hashtag like they would with an account. 

When you’re looking for hashtags to use, you’ll quickly see that some have hundreds of thousands of posts, while others have far less. Try to use a mix of both high profile tags to reach a bigger audience along with those that may only have between 1,000 and 10,000 posts. These are usually more topic-specific and can put your post in front of niche users. 

To keep captions looking cleaner, many users will post their hashtags as the first comment rather than in the caption itself or include several line breaks between the end of the caption content and the start of the hashtags. If you decide to keep everything within the caption itself, keep in mind that the hashtags will count toward your character limit. Also remember that current Instagram rules allow for up to 30 hashtags in a post—and that’s total, between the caption and the comments section

Tip 5: Break It Up

If you find that good Instagram captions for your audience are longer than normal, break up the caption into multiple paragraphs. You can now do this from within the app, but planning tools and third-party apps can also be useful. 

Sites like Captioner.me let you write out your caption and add line breaks, then copy and paste it into Instagram. It keeps all of the coding accurate so all of your breaks stay in the right place, which isn’t always the case when you’re typing directly into the app. Social media scheduling tools like Hootsuite and Buffer also have this option. 

You can break up your text in a number of different ways—empty line breaks, dashes, or even a set of emojis. Whatever you choose to use, a key part of knowing how to write good Instagram captions is being able to see things as your reader would. Double-check the formatting on the post itself on both mobile and desktop to ensure what your followers are seeing looks right.

Tip 6: Include a Call to Action

A call to action (CTA) is an instruction for your audience to do something. As Skillshare instructor Ohn Mar Win notes, using a call to action “is something that will hopefully drive up engagement between you and your followers and inspire them to comment more on your post.” 

It can be as simple as “contact us today”, “send us a question”, or “download my new ebook,” but when you’re writing Instagram captions, being aware of some of the platform’s limitations is very important.

You’ve probably seen the most common call to action plenty of times: link in bio. Instagram only allows you to have one clickable link in your profile bio. Because this link space is so limited, it’s even more important for you to encourage users to move from your post to your profile. 

There are plenty of different CTAs that you can test out, though! Encourage followers to share your content to their stories (which can help you gain additional exposure to new audiences) or tag a friend in the comments. 

6 Accounts to Follow for Caption Inspiration

You’re ready to start working on your first captions for Insta, but you’re still feeling a little stuck. 

Take a look at some of these accounts for ideas on where to start, from heartwarming storytelling and encouraging quotes, to humor and dreamy travel inspiration.

1. Humans of New York (@humansofny)

Image via   Instagram       Humans of New York is a great example of how long-form content can still work well on a visual platform like Instagram.
Image via Instagram Humans of New York is a great example of how long-form content can still work well on a visual platform like Instagram.

Humans of New York posts long-form stories from real people around the world, usually about a particularly notable time in their life. Followers have raised millions of dollars for good causes thanks to the account’s emotional and unforgettable content.

2. Innocent (@innocent

Image via   Instagram       Innocent combines humor and shareable content to drive engagement.
Image via Instagram Innocent combines humor and shareable content to drive engagement.

UK-based drinks brand Innocent is known globally for their hilarious social media captions (their team has even won awards for it!). They’re a perfect example of how to write great Instagram captions because they know exactly how to get their audience sharing and commenting on their posts.

3. Eric Jones (@dudethatcookz)

Image via   Instagram       Eric Jones uses eye-catching food photography and direct calls-to-action to boost engagement.
Image via Instagram Eric Jones uses eye-catching food photography and direct calls-to-action to boost engagement.

We all know that food is the way to most people’s hearts, but Eric Jones takes this to a new level on Instagram. His account is full of delicious creations, photographed to perfection to encourage comments from his hungry followers. He’s a great example of making the most of captions. The above post uses a niche hashtag (#NationalCroissantDay) and includes a call to action (“head to the link in our bio”). 

4. Jamie Varon (@jamievaron

Image via   https://www.instagram.com/jamievaron/       Jamie Varon uses a mix of popular and niche hashtags to help her written content appear to people who aren’t existing followers.
Image via https://www.instagram.com/jamievaron/ Jamie Varon uses a mix of popular and niche hashtags to help her written content appear to people who aren’t existing followers.

Writer Jamie Varon has found a loyal audience on Instagram thanks to her meaningful, self-reflective posts. Her account is a great example of how written content can still perform well on a visually focused platform and she makes use of a range of hashtags to get her posts in front of new audiences.

5. Cecilia Blomdahl (@sejsejlija)

Image via   Instagram       Cecilia’s mix of captivating imagery, emojis, and questions helps her increase user engagement by appearing friendly and interested in her followers' lives.
Image via Instagram Cecilia’s mix of captivating imagery, emojis, and questions helps her increase user engagement by appearing friendly and interested in her followers’ lives.

With polar bears and reindeer as her neighbors, Cecilia Blomdahl lives in a winter wonderland all year round. She shares her life from Svalbard, an island near the North Pole, and encourages her followers to share their own travel dreams while promoting her own stunning home.

6. Ghenet Pinderhughes Randall (@ghenetactually)

Image via   Instagram       Ghenet knows how to turn a selfie into a two-way conversation with her followers. Her warm posts help her to come across as approachable, encouraging users to share their own stories.
Image via Instagram Ghenet knows how to turn a selfie into a two-way conversation with her followers. Her warm posts help her to come across as approachable, encouraging users to share their own stories.

Looking for some inspiration for when you’re thinking of captions for selfies? Ghenet posts beautiful imagery and thoughtful blog-style text that makes you feel like you’re a close friend catching up on life.

There you have it—some tips and some examples to set you on the path to top-notch captions. We hope you feel inspired as you start experimenting with how to write Instagram captions that work for your brand and audience!

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