Instagram has quickly formed into one of the most optimal social media networks for businesses to illustrate their story through photos. With several filters and photo editing tools at their disposal, brands are spending a lot of time and money to bring out their inner Ansel Adams. Even though Instagram is all about images and video, many marketers completely overlook their Instagram captions.

Coming up with fresh and creative Instagram caption ideas is no easy task. Much like the time you spend making each photo and video look its best, you shouldn’t forgo spending enough time to write the best caption to match the image.

Keeping Users’ Attention Is No Walk in the Park

With more than 400 million monthly users sifting through dozens of images each day, you have real potential to engage audiences with your brand. In fact, Instagram is one of the few social networks where users are completely engrossed with your ad because each image takes up the entire screen of a smartphone.

At the same time, do you know if you’re keeping the attention of each person who zooms through his or her Instagram feed? This is important because the average user spends roughly 21 minutes on the app each day.

That’s a lot of scrolling per person. While your images have to be engaging to make viewers spend time on your post, your Instagram caption might be the sole reason to conversion.

Images certainly say a lot about your brand, but we all know how critical it is to incorporate great content in your advertisements. On Instagram, you can use up to 2,200 characters, which equates to about 400 words. This is truly a valuable space to use to give users a little further explanation after they first see your content.

It’s All About Context

You might be thinking “OK, I get it, Instagram is the place to be, but how do I engage users with my Instagram captions?” A lot of people spend a good chunk of time thinking about the perfect Instagram caption before hitting the publish button. Luckily, there are some great steps to follow to bring out your inner poet when writing your caption.

Even the best images out there on Instagram could benefit from a little context. Without the hashtag “DisneyAndVans,” you have no clue why the dalmatian is used in this photo. That’s why your text space is crucial. You have to provide some context to your images to drive home your brand. But this isn’t an easy feat. For starters, links do not work within Instagram captions and can only be used in Instagram bios. This means your content has to do a lot of heavy lifting to get users to your website, store or bio page.

Do You Know Your Audience?

Instagram is certainly known for its younger-generation following, but marketers are discovering just how far they can reach with rise of ads on the social platform. A 2014 BI Intelligence report explained that one of the first ever advertisements on Instagram from Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream reached out to 9.8 million users in the US in eight days.

Additionally, the key demographic was 18 to 35 year olds. For more information on Instagram demographics, head over to our social media demographics post. Depending on your product, users might want to see a day in the life of a worker or get a behind the scenes look at how your product is made.

The great thing about Instagram is you can add a helpful caption or explanation to give context into your day-to-day operations. When it comes to your Instagram caption, you have to walk a fine line with engaging your audience. You need to ask questions like:

  • Will my audience like emojis?
  • Are hashtags useful with my campaign?
  • Do my followers enjoy in-depth context?
  • Am I clearly explaining things with just a few words
  • Do my captions incite a conversation or response?
  • Would my followers easily pick up pop culture references

More likely than not, you’ll have a pretty good idea of the answers by measuring the level of engagement from your audience data. Using a social media management tool like Sprout Social can give you in-depth analytics for your Instagram to show you things like number of comments and likes, engagement by date and top influencers.

Find out what posts are having an impact with Sprout Social

Sprout’s robust analytics and monitoring features make it easy to figure out exactly what your audience is responding to.

Use our message tagging features to create groups based on campaigns, caption styles or even to group video and photo posts separately. With tag reporting, along with our other in-depth reports, you can ID trends in what’s grabbing attention.

Try out these features yourself with a free trial today, or schedule a demo to get an in-depth tour.

Put Time Into Each Post

Users often feel pressured to post their photos to Instagram moments after they take it, but as a business, timing is essential. The last thing you want to do is rush your Instagram marketing because users will see right through it in your caption.

Hastily posted photos are more prone to be irrelevant and your captions are likelier to include errors or be off topic from your brand. You want to make sure your captions get just as much love and care as your Facebook posts and Tweets. Just because Instagram is a photo-sharing network doesn’t mean you can speed up the caption writing process.

Take a step back and think about what the caption will do for the specific photo and your overall brand. Spending a little extra time on your caption will help ensure the right words are used.

Keep It Short & Sweet

Most users don’t want to read a novel to understand the picture or your product. Remember, users are likely spending a few seconds on each picture before scrolling to the next. This means your text has to have value.

Even though you have space for roughly 400 words in your Instagram caption, you should rarely if ever get to the level. In fact, a report from Jeff Bullas found Facebook posts received 66% higher traffic when using 80 characters or less and 86% higher engagement with 40 character posts.

Brevity can be your best friend when you’re thinking of Instagram caption ideas. Your image or video should be telling the story while your caption is providing context. Finding a middle ground between showing and telling with your Instagram posts could be the key to converting users.

Get Creative

While being short and sweet is effective, don’t let conciseness override your creativity. A good tip is to never state the obvious in your Instagram caption. When your image is extremely easy to understand, don’t just use your caption as an explanation, but a way to make the picture or video more engaging.

Formality tends to not translate so well on Instagram, which is why you have to be open, conversational and creative with each caption. Some businesses like to stat facts about the company in the caption, but that doesn’t mean you have to be cut and dry with your text.

Look for your creative writers who can get the point across without boring your viewers. Your caption and photo go hand in hand, so why limit the creativity in your text?

Show Off Your Awesome Staff

More likely than not, you have some pretty talented people working around you. Even though Instagram pictures of your staff are not really promoting your brand, it does help humanize your company.

On top of that, your Instagram captions can work wonders with staff pictures. In this example, the restaurant Longman & Eagle draws a good amount of engagement by showing a picture of its full staff. However, the image is not what necessarily makes the post great, but instead, the context of the caption, which shows Longman received a Michelin Guide Star for the sixth straight year.

You’re not just giving a shout out to your company, but also showing the praise and awards with your brand. Without a well-crafted caption, your staff recognition photos could be easily skipped in users’ feeds.

Limit Your Hashtags & Emojis

It’s best to keep your Instagram captions simple and refrain from using multiple hashtags or emojis. Most social media marketers will recommend using a max of two hashtags per post. When you start to hashtag every word in your caption, your post can seem like spam.

Your hashtags should be relevant to your post and have a purpose. The whole point of a hashtag is to drive engagement, but with numerous hashtags per post, you lose the initial conversation with your followers.

The same goes with emojis. Earlier this year, Instagram allowed users to hashtag emojis, which opened several doors for reaching audiences. On the other hand, you want to avoid using coded messages with numerous emojis. Remember, if readers can’t understand or digest your post within a few short seconds, they’ll move on.

To get a better idea of how to use emojis in your Instagram captions, check out our emoji marketing guide.

Ask Questions

Your Instagram captions are meant to engage users who are scrolling through their feed. The best way to engage your followers is to ask questions that will prompt an answer.

Questions are a great way to get real feedback from users so you know what your customers think. Asking questions shows your audience you trust their opinion and you’re willing to listen. The conversation should always be a two-way street, so make sure you’re willing to put in the time to respond to your answers.

If your image is successful at telling your audience the what of the story, your caption should clearly explain the how, when and why.

Use Helpful Quotes

Everyone loves a good quote. And for your brand, using the perfect quote can certainly drive engagement. However, you have to be careful with using cliché inspirational quotes that don’t provide anything to your brand.

Instead, using a quote that directly relates to your company can also help humanize your Instagram feed. In this example, Intel uses a great image of a DJ, but what’s the context? Once we read the caption, we get the idea that a well-known DJ respects the technology that goes into his trade.

Again, it’s all about being creative with your brand voice and the voice of others in your Instagram caption.

Provide Details

Captions can always be simple and to the point, but what if you’re campaigning for a new product and want to educate your audience? For example, if you’re a coffee shop wanting to promote your newest flavor or style of beans, you might not be able to get the point across with a picture of coffee or the new beans.

While your picture might look beautiful and enthralling, your Instagram caption is what will actually help sell the product. With your caption, you need to give details such as the price, where it came from (what manufacturer), where and when customers can get the product and why users should buy it.

You don’t have to provide a huge marketing write-up on the product, but with quick details, you can help sell your product more efficiently when your customers have fewer questions. Building awareness for your brand is essential for your Instagram marketing strategy and that certainly does not exclude your captions.

Putting the time and effort into each Instagram caption will certainly show better results than making things up on the fly. Let us know in the comments how you draft your captions or what you’ve seen work!