Yes, Instagram is mainly a visual medium. But your words matter, too.
To learn how to write great Instagram captions, you first need to understand the importance of the caption. Treat your Instagram caption like what it is: prime real estate. IG captions are important because they give your images context, communicate your brand’s personality, and prompt followers to take action.
Here are our top tips for how to write great Instagram captions, including how you can use Copy.ai’s AI-powered Instagram Captions tool to do it quickly. These steps will elevate your caption-writing game and, in turn, boost your brand awareness, engagement, and reach.
1. Target your audience with a consistent brand voice
Instagram is known for its lighthearted, playful, and personable tone. With that said, your caption should blend your brand voice with Instagram’s tone in a way that feels authentic and consistent. Otherwise, you’ll just confuse your followers and potentially turn them off.
Followers: 17.8 million
Starbucks’ Instagram understands how to write great Instagram captions for its audience of 17 million-plus coffee-loving followers. It pairs gorgeous images of its coffee drinks set against beautiful, fun backdrops with short, punchy captions that are equally on brand.
In comparison, check out this post from National Geographic:
Followers: 182 million
Dating back to 1888, National Geographic is a mission-based organization that teaches its readers about science, nature, and culture with spectacular photography and fact-based storytelling. While Natgeo’s IG images are showstoppers, its captions—like this one about whale sharks—educate and inform its followers.
2. Keep captions short and front-load important information
There’s no hard and fast rule about how long your Instagram captions should be. Considering you’re competing against 170 million IG accounts in the U.S. alone, we say keep it short. That is unless you have an explicit reason to use the full 2,200-character count, or it’s relevant to your brand.
Feeling stumped? Get ideas for short captions from social experts like the folks at Hootsuite, which demonstrates the power of brevity in this post.
Whatever the length of your caption, make sure your most noteworthy information comes first—or “above the fold,” as they say. Why? Because Instagram captions only display the first 125 characters—or roughly three lines of text. After that, followers have to click “more” to view the rest.
JetBlue has a loyal customer base of travel-savvy folks looking for deals. Naturally, in the caption above, the budget airline puts its special savings offer front and center.
Take a look at another example:
Followers: 8.3 million
They may not pitch a specific product or service, but the folks at Architectural Digest are definitely selling a lifestyle. In the caption above, they make sure to include the names of its featured celebrities above the fold—enticing followers to click more. (Had they buried Ashton Kutcher and Mila Kunis’ names later in the caption, the post would be far less engaging.)
3. Include calls-to-action to encourage engagement
We can’t teach you how to write great Instagram captions without discussing the all-important call-to-action (CTA). Your CTA tells your readers what they should do after they read your post. A strong CTA in a caption can boost sales, drive website traffic, and even increase conversions.
Strong CTAs focus on benefit/value, use active (not passive) language, and create a sense of urgency. Here are some examples:
- Buy/order now, click on, shop
- Sign up, register, subscribe to
- Order today to get 20% off, Start a free trial, Only 5 left in stock!
On Instagram, your CTA could also direct readers to engage with the post. While engagement is an important part of the ever-evolving Instagram algorithm, it also offers opportunities to interact with and learn more about your audience and what they like (and them about you).
Here are some ways to use CTAs to encourage engagement:
- Ask your followers a question, such as their favorite product or thoughts on a trending topic.
- Tell followers to tag their friends, which will, in turn, get more eyes on your post and increase its likes and shares. Likes and shares are “valuable currency,” says Sprout Social because of the importance the Instagram algorithm places on engagement.
- Direct followers to your link in bio, which encourages them to navigate to your profile. The bio is the only place where Instagram allows you to include a clickable link to an external site, such as your company website, a new product, or a blog.
Followers: 8.3 million
In keeping with its brand, eco-friendly apparel company tentree features product shots as well as lush nature shots and landscapes. The accompanying captions often include CTAs in the form of a question or directive to tag friends—great tactics for increasing engagement and reach.
4. Use hashtags and “@ mention” to expand reach
Take advantage of hashtags and @ mentions in your captions. These functions allow you to tap into a wider network by indexing your post to be discoverable to audiences that wouldn’t have otherwise found it.
Instagram allows up to 30 hashtags on a post, but how many should you use? As a rule of thumb, we recommend limiting yourself to hashtags that are relevant and will increase your market reach (i.e., don’t just throw them in because you can). Social media experts say a good starting number is one to three hashtags per post.
Should your social strategy call for it, go ahead and add more. But avoid crowding your copy with too many hashtags (or @ mentions), which clutters valuable real estate and is a turnoff to readers. Instead, consider grouping all your hashtags together at the end of your post.
Followers: 2.8 million
In the above caption, the online marketplace Etsy groups its hashtags into a separate post immediately following the main caption (i.e., #etsy, #quilting, #handmade). That way, its well-crafted caption (and its CTA) remains focused on the most important thing: the featured Etsy artist/products.
5. Write your captions in batches
With so much to consider when crafting each caption, one of our top tips is to write your Instagram captions in batches. Generating captions in bulk is more efficient than the frustrating task of crafting a single, perfect caption on the fly—only to do it all over again the next day (or hour). With batch writing, you can get (and stay) in the caption-writing zone, better plan upcoming posts and see how they may interplay, and keep a running list of ideas.
If you feel stuck at any point, no sweat. Copy.ai’s Instagram Captions tool is here to help. In the app’s Playground dashboard, just describe what your post is about, hit “Create,” and our AI-powered copywriting tools will pump out dozens of ideas within seconds.
Let’s try generating an IG caption for a (fictional) post about a skincare product discount:
As you can see in the above example, the Instagram Caption tools generated a list of rough ideas with catchy phrases, possible CTAs, and even hashtag suggestions. Choose ones you like, make more, edit and tweak, etc. Our tool has no limit on the number of times you can generate more copy options.
6. Divide longer captions into shorter text blocks
There may be times when you want to take advantage of the 2,200-character allowance and write a long-form caption. Perhaps you want to tell a brand story, give deeper context to an image, or (if you’re a food blogger) include a recipe. When creating a longer caption, be sure to break up the text with line (and other visual) breaks so that it’s easier to digest.
In the example below, Lululemon tells the story behind the image in detail while wisely breaking the caption text into short, aesthetically pleasing paragraphs that are engaging and easy to read.
Followers: 2.8 million
Before you go all-in, try testing some longer posts and see what kind of engagement they get (or lack thereof) with your audience. If you have a business profile, use Instagram insights to look for trends across your content’s performance.
7. Use emojis (wisely)
These days, emojis aren’t just for sharing with friends. Studies have shown that using emojis on Instagram leads to higher rates of engagement across the board, including for companies and brands. Strategically placed emojis can elevate your IG caption in a variety of ways, such as capturing followers’ attention, adding personality and humanizing your brand, breaking up long blocks of text (as discussed above), or acting as bookends.
With over 24 million followers, M.A.C. Cosmetics excels in the Instagram game, regularly spicing up its posts with fun, vibrant emojis that are on-point with its products and youthful female demographic.
A few additional tips on emojis:
- Avoid random emojis, which can be confusing and distracting for followers. Choose emojis that are appropriate for your Instagram post, your brand, and your target audience demographics.
- Think of emojis like punctuation marks, such as exclamation points and question marks. They are visual accents to help convey emotion/tone and add emphasis to text.
Use Copy.ai to elevate your Instagram captions—and have fun writing them!
Writing Instagram captions takes some practice, but the steps we’ve outlined will help ensure your captions work toward your ultimate goal: increasing engagement and reach while still representing your brand. And with Copy.ai’s Instagram Captions generator tool, we do the brainstorming for you and generate dozens of caption options for you in seconds. Get started today for free!