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A picture is worth a thousand words, right? Well, not necessarily. Although Instagram is an image-first social media platform, it isn’t all about the visuals. Even great images and videos that have been edited to perfection can fall short of expectations if the caption of your post doesn’t give a voice to that visual content. Nailing your Instagram caption not only showcases your brand’s personality – those few lines of text also add context to your post, show off the human side of your business, give you the ability to engage with your followers and, of course, make your content all the more delightful and shareable. If you’re a slouch in the Instagram captions department – or you ever get stuck writing them – here are our top 4 tips to write better Instagram captions that work hard to bring your images and videos to life.

  1. Keep the most important words at the beginning

Even though the maximum character count for an Instagram caption is 2 200 characters, the social media platform is optimised for a mobile viewing experience. This means that only the first 125 characters of a caption show up in a follower’s feed – after three to four lines of text, users have to click ‘more’ to see 100% of it. So, don’t bury the lead! Front-load the important stuff and entice followers to engage by putting the attention-grabbing information right up front, and leaving any extraneous information, @mentions and hashtags at the end. Remember: you’re competing for follower attention with every other account that they follow, so you want to catch their interest quickly with a bold intro.

  1. Use hashtags wisely… and sparingly

Using hashtags that are relevant to your post and target audience will increase engagement. Now that Instagram users can follow a specific hashtag, they can increase reach and attract new followers, too. But that doesn’t mean you should use ton of searchable hashtags to reach as many people as possible – this looks spammy as well as clutters your caption and makes it difficult to read. Plus, posts with large numbers of hashtags tend to receive less engagement than posts with a few relevant ones. Limit your hashtags to 3 to 4 popular and specialised hashtags – that are either relevant to the post, to your brand or both – and group them in one ‘paragraph’ at the end of your caption to make it more user-friendly.

Here are 10 popular hashtags, along with the total number of postings, to try:

  • #travelgram (123.3 million)
  • #goodmorning (117.1 million)
  • #streetphotography (78.43 million)
  • #foodstagram (69.98 million)
  • #naturelovers (65.67 million)
  • #entrepreneur (64.40 million)
  • #outfitoftheday (52.83 million)
  • #sundayfunday (50.80 million)
  • #momlife (50.18 million)
  • #positivevibes (48.72 million)
  1. Include a call to action

All 4 of our tips for making your Instagram captions work harder are designed to increase the reach and engagement of your posts. But if you really want Instagram users to take action, don’t be afraid to say so. Explicitly tell them to do so by using some sort of call to action or, in other words, action verbs that prompt people to do something instead of just scrolling by. For example, if you want people to visit your website, direct them to the link in your bio. If your post is shoppable, encourage users to check out the featured products. Other action-based ideas include ‘tag us in your photos’, ‘like if you agree’, ‘comment with your favourite…’, ‘share your story in the comments’ or ‘double-tap if you find this funny’.

  1. Don’t forget emojis!

The cartoon-like emoticons available to smartphone users known as emojis have been used in marketing strategies since at least 2015. Today, over 50% of Instagram accounts – including the more ‘serious’ brands – use emojis in their posts to add some personality. Interestingly enough, studies have shown that Instagram posts with emojis have higher rates of engagements compared to posts without emojis. There are many different ways to use emojis in your captions to grab interest and personalise your brand – at the beginning of a post to catch people’s eye, in the middle of sentences to replace words or at the end of a post as a punchline. Just make sure they’re directly relevant to your post and brand.

Try our top 4 tips above in your Instagram captions, either separately or in combination, and record the results monthly. Once you find a style that works best for your business’s unique Instagram, you can tailor your content – and your captions – to engage with current followers and attract new ones.