May 17, 2022

Your Insta caption is a critically important part of an effective Instagram post. 

Captivating captions add context to your images and videos. They also increase your reach, invite followers to engage, drive conversations and conversions, and invite new audience members to your online space.

While it’s true that your post creatives tell a story, adding good Insta captions to each post broadens your audience’s perspective. They give you a chance to expand your message.

If you want to make doubly sure your audience understands your intended meaning—and takes the actions you want them to take—then an effective Instagram caption is a must. 

What Is An Instagram Caption? 

Your Instagram caption consists of the copy, emojis, account tags, and hashtags that appear alongside or beneath your posts on the platform. 

Instagram caption example

You can strategically use your Insta caption in a variety of ways. 

  • Tell your followers an expanded story about an image or video you’ve posted
  • Inspire your audience’s curiosity about an upcoming event, launch, or announcement
  • Make your followers laugh with witty commentary that pairs well with your image or video
  • Direct your followers to their next step, like clicking the link in your bio
  • Ask your audience leading questions, directing them to comment on your post
  • Teaching your followers a valuable piece of information they can put into action right away

Good Insta captions can make a dramatic difference in your overall performance, reach, and engagement on Instagram. Now, let’s take a look at where and how you should be using them. 

Which Post Types Need Instagram Captions? 

Every type of post on Instagram needs captions. That means your profile posts, Reels, Stories, and uploaded videos all need to have a solid caption that adds context to your content. 

Depending on which type of post you’re creating, your caption will appear in a few different places. For posts on your feed, your Insta caption will appear either below (mobile app) or beside (desktop) your image or video.

For Reels, IGTV, and uploaded videos, your caption will appear in the bottom left corner of the screen (you can expand longer captions by tapping them to read more). 

When it comes to Stories, you’ll post your captions on the Story itself. 

Instagram offers content creators a ton of creative freedom when it comes to Story captions. You can use emojis, stickers, animations, and interactive bells and whistles to keep things interesting and engaging. 

What Your #InstaCaptions Should Accomplish

Your Insta captions should accomplish multiple goals—often several at the same time. Let’s take a look at the most important ones.

Capture User Attention

First, it’s crucial for your captions to catch user interest right off the bat. Strong captions are attention-grabbing enough from the first line of copy that your followers will stick around to read more. The goal is to keep them reading your post, then moving on to the next step—whether that’s following you, visiting your profile, or clicking out to an external link. 

Tell Users What to Do Next

Your caption will also need to tell users what action they need to complete. You’ll also need to tell them how to take action, if relevant. For example, if you want them to visit your website, you’ll need them to navigate to your profile. Then, they’ll need to click the appropriate link in your bio. 

Add Context to Your Posts 

Your captions can also add important context to your posts. For example, a beautiful photograph of a horse grazing in a pasture at sunrise adds a nice touch to your profile. But what’s the story behind that image, and how does it tie into your brand? Is there a specific kind of emotion you want to inspire in your audience? A strong caption can help to evoke it.

Add More Value Beyond The Initial Post

Good Insta captions add more value that goes beyond what you share in the initial post. Maybe your post image or video contains useful information, such as a mini tutorial. Your caption can expand on the brief how-to information contained in your media. 

Direct Users To Further Resources 

If you want to tell your users where they can find more resources related to your post, the caption is a great place to do that. Maybe you have more information on your Instagram profile, your website, or another social media platform. Make it easy for them to find your online presence beyond Instagram. 

Build Relationships And Drive Engagement 

So much of effective social media marketing comes down to building relationships with your audience. This, in turn, drives engagement. One of the most effective ways to build those relationships is through good Insta captions. 

Use your captions to prompt followers to leave comments on posts and videos. Be sure to monitor your engagement so you can jump in and reply, too. 

Inform Users About Your Product, Offering, Or Service 

You can use your Insta caption to inform your audience members about your product, service, or offering. For example, pair an image of your product with a snappy caption that quickly and effectively informs your followers about what it is and who it’s for. Then, tell them exactly where they can find it. 

Instagram Caption Writing: The Basics 

Writing an Insta caption is fairly straightforward, although you can vary your caption style quite a bit. First, let’s start with the basics.

Your Instagram captions can be up to 2200 characters long. There’s quite a bit of room to work with, especially when you want to tell a longer story with your caption. 

Keep in mind that these captions are truncated on the platform at 125 characters. The rest of the caption will be collapsed behind a More link. To read the full caption, users will need to tap or click on that link to expand. 

Because longer captions get truncated, be sure to put the main idea at the very beginning of your post so it doesn’t get lost. You want your users to know at a glance what your post is about so they don’t scroll past and miss it altogether. 

Including Hashtags In Your Insta Caption

Instagram allows users to include up to 30 hashtags in the caption. Whether or not you want to max out that number is entirely up to you. However, it gives creators quite a bit of wiggle room to use a high or low number of hashtags. 

Hashtags are especially effective for increasing your brand’s reach on Instagram. Users can select certain hashtags to follow. If you use a hashtag they’re following, they can discover you simply because they follow the tag. 

Conduct hashtag research on the platform itself or by using a third-party tool, such as Later. Then, make a list of relevant hashtags to mix and match for your posts. Create your own branded hashtags to throw in, too, and encourage your followers to use them. (Make sure they’re not already in use, of course!)

5 Instagram Caption Ideas & Writing Styles 

Congrats—now you understand what an Insta caption is, how to use it, and the basics of creating one. Let’s look at some Instagram caption ideas and writing styles for your next posts.

One Word Instagram Captions 

One word Instagram captions can be especially impactful when used well. In some cases, the simplicity of minimalist copy wins out over long-form captions. Using emojis sparingly can have a similar effect. 

Take a look at this Instagram post by author Tahereh Mafi. The image features her husband, fellow author Ransom Riggs, and the caption is a simple heart emoji. While it’s not even a one word Instagram caption, the singular emoji tells viewers everything they need to know. 

Storytelling-Focused Instagram Captions 

A long-form Insta caption can have a storytelling focus. This can work well for brands that want to connect with followers on an emotional level. 

In the following example, Mafi shares her thoughts on motherhood and balancing work and time. She uses long-form copy to expound on her thoughts, sharing a slice of her personal life with her readers in the process. 

On the other hand, storytelling-focused Instagram captions can add context to a post. For example, the below post featuring speaker and consultant Amber Hurdle might not make sense to someone casually scrolling through her Instagram feed. 

However, by taking a look at the caption she included with the post, we notice right away that she’s adding more information for the viewer. In this case, she’s giving a shout-out to a valued business colleague. 

Hashtag-Centric Instagram Captions 

Some Instagram captions are fueled by minimal copy and maximum hashtags—and that’s okay! Sometimes, all you need to include is a line or two of copy, and maybe a leading question. Then, include hashtags to round the caption out. 

Funny Instagram Captions 

A funny Insta caption is worth its weight in gold. 

There’s a reason the term “doom scrolling” exists. If you want your Instagram profile to be a pleasant place for followers to land, consider including a brand-appropriate level of humor in your posts and captions. 

Take a look at how effortlessly Eat24 pulls it off: 

Emotional Appeal Instagram Captions 

A solid Insta caption with emotional appeal can help you connect with your followers in a meaningful way. Is there some feeling you want to convey about your brand? Can you bring them relief, joy, or introspection? 

Oftentimes, good Insta captions allow brands to go deeper with their audiences. Notice how stylist Christina Boenker speaks directly to followers who feel overwhelmed, stressed, and burned out in the following post. 

If you can offer your followers relief, understanding, or even entertainment with your online presence, your Instagram caption is a great place to do that. 

6 Instagram Caption Best Practices 

When it comes to creating the best Insta caption possible, there are some best practices you’ll need to follow. Let’s take a look at those. 

Mix It Up

Don’t lean on using just one kind of Insta caption when you post. Instead, mix it up. Use a variety of post styles to keep things interesting. 

The same goes for hashtags. Vary the number of hashtags you use in your caption (or whether you use them at all). Additionally, mix up which hashtags you choose to include. Using a variety of brand-appropriate hashtags can help you broaden your reach.

Study Your Analytics 

Keep an eye on your Instagram Insights to see what kinds of content your audience likes. When you know which captions perform best, you can replicate that style. On the other hand, if certain types of captions aren’t performing well on your Instagram, you can reduce, eliminate, or adjust your strategy for those. 

Start Strong 

Your caption should have a strong start that hooks your followers right away. Because your copy will be cut off after the first line or so, you’ll need to make sure you’re communicating what your followers need to know right away. 

If you’re running a sale, consider putting “SALE” or “XX% OFF” at the very beginning of your caption. Similarly, if you’re running a contest or giveaway, include attention-grabbing copy like “GIVEAWAY” first. 

Preview Your Captions First 

Whenever possible, preview your captions before scheduling or posting them. Doing so will give you an at-a-glance view of what your caption is going to look like in the feed. When you schedule your Instagram posts through Meta Business Suite or a third-party tool, you’ll be able to preview them before you push them out. 

Explain Why Users Should Care 

Are you asking your Instagram followers to take a specific action? Use your captions to tell them why they should care, and what to do next. Make your copy as clear, concise, and straightforward as possible. 

Use Automated Tools With Caution 

Thinking about using an Instagram captions generator to help you create captions? Proceed with caution. There are quite a few artificial intelligence (AI) copy tools out there, but don’t lean on these as your primary creative driver.

Using automated tools could negatively impact your brand voice and consistency across platforms. If your unique voice is missing from your carpet, it will be more difficult to create genuine connections with your followers. 

Instead, use automated tools to help you generate Instagram caption ideas. Then, tweak them and add your own creative flair. 

Final Thoughts 

Including a good Insta caption each time you post to Instagram can boost engagement on your posts, expand your reach, and ultimately help your brand grow on the platform. 

If you want to know more about how to strategically leverage Instagram for your brand, check out SMC’s Instagram marketing short course. We can help you level up your brand’s presence on the platform—including creating stronger captions—in a short period of time. Check it out here

About the author 

Jonathon Tanner

Jonathon Tanner is the Co-CEO of Social Media College, Australia's leading educator and trainer for social media.

He co-authored the Diploma of Social Media Marketing, the world's first and only Australian Government recognised course in social media marketing, delivered by 25 leading colleges and TAFEs across Australia, and articulating into several Bachelor programs at Australian Universities.

His deep expertise in social media spans content marketing, social media strategy, 15 different social media networks, paid social advertising, personal branding, email marketing, and social media conversion.

Jonathon has also co-founded several other businesses, as well as spending 12 years as a management consultant specialising in mergers & acquisitions for private equity firms, growth strategy, and operational improvement.

Jonathon holds a combined Bachelor of Laws (Honours) and Bachelor of Commerce from the University of Sydney.

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