When it comes to using Instagram to market your brand, your follower count isn’t the be-all-end-all. Engagement is equally essential, if not more so. While having a high list of followers will get your content in front of more people, having better engagement gets those people to convert.
Your Instagram captions are an opportunity to connect with customers and build brand trust and awareness. Here are some practical tips for crafting powerful Instagram captions to boost your engagement.
Clarify Your Brand Voice
Your brand voice is the core of boosting engagement on Instagram. Your voice is how you speak to your audience, from the nature of your content to the tone of voice. The key to clarifying your brand voice is drilling deep into who your ideal customer is, what they want, and what they need.
Your brand voice should be in congruence with your ideal customer or community member. The Harvard Business Review, for example, uses their Instagram to share key takeaways from articles to drive traffic to the full blog post. The tone they use reflects their ideal reader: professional, educated, career-oriented, etc. They balance this tone with the casual, digestible nature of Instagram for a brand-centric approach that encourages engagement.
Take some time to explore how your brand resonates with your audience and use that to shape your captions.
Source: Harvard Business Review
Optimize the First Three Lines
To keep the feed looking clean and aesthetically pleasing, Instagram will minimize your captions to show only the first few lines. To make an impact, brands should front-load their captions to get the pertinent details out first.
Keep in mind, this formatting doesn’t necessitate putting the key details of your post in the first three lines; it means including a hook or eye-catching statement that causes viewers to stop scrolling. The idea is to get your audience to expand the caption and keep reading.
The Creative’s CFO posts useful content for businesses and entrepreneurs that showcase the brand’s value while engaging viewers. Every caption starts with one attention-grabbing sentence that resonates with their target audience. These hooks always highlight a common problem that The Creative’s CFO can solve with a few well-crafted words. Upon expanding the caption, readers will get the details about the issue and how to solve it.
Develop a hook for each post that gives scrollers an enticing teaser that draws them in.
Source: The Creative’s CFO
Start with a Question
One effective strategy for creating a hook is to start with a question rather than a statement. As mentioned above, a catchy statement can help draw viewers into your content and boost engagement. However, asking a question takes that to the next level by encouraging comments and conversation.
Instagram engagement is measured by people interacting with your content. If they stop scrolling and focus on your post for three seconds, it’s measured as engagement by the algorithm. However, comments are weighted as extremely important in ranking content.
Asking a simple question puts the spotlight on the reader and gives them a chance to speak their mind. Brands can then respond and ask follow-up questions or add a quick response to yield even more comments. This strategy boosts engagement with the Instagram algorithm while also developing a rapport with customers that boosts engagement with the brand.
Headspace, a mindfulness meditation app, uses questions in many of their Instagram posts to boost engagement. For example, “What does gratitude mean to you?” This question resonates with their ideal customers who are learning to develop their mindfulness and ask these questions internally. The responses boost engagement, extend the reach, and create a deeper connection with the brand.
Use a Line Breaker
The importance of using white space in the text cannot be understated— especially when it comes to copy. Unfortunately, Instagram doesn’t allow for line breaks in the native post creator. While there are a few workarounds within the app— adding periods and spaces, for example— brands can keep their copy looking clean by using a line breaker.
Using a scheduling platform like Buffer or Hootsuite will provide richer text editing, giving brands the option to add line breaks and schedule their posts from one central platform. Conversely, free tools like Insta-Space convert text to incorporate coded line breaks that translate when you copy the content into Instagram’s native post creator.
Girls Who Powerlift uses this strategy to repurpose blog posts into engaging Instagram captions. By adding line breaks, they create an easy-to-digest stream of paragraphs rather than posting an overwhelming block of text. This strategy encourages engagement by making it more appealing for a scroller to stop and stay awhile.
Source: Girls Who Powerlift
Create Long-Form Captions
As mentioned before, the amount of time spent on a post impacts overall engagement— this is why long-form posts have become increasingly popular. As mentioned before, a “view” is registered when someone pauses on your content for at least three seconds— this is the starting point of engagement.
Three seconds may not seem like much. However, when someone is actively scrolling through the feed, it’s a long pause. Every marketer should be encouraged to scroll through and pause on a post for a count of three-Mississippi to fully comprehend what that means.
Brands like The Creative’s CFO and Girls Who Powerlift mentioned above use this strategy to boost their engagement. Adding long-form captions creates an opportunity to dive into a subject and educate your audience while boosting engagement.
However, let’s not discount the effectiveness of a few brief captions as well. Rebellia Clothing has had ample success in keeping some posts short and sweet, relying instead on the imagery and appeal of the products they feature.
Add some long-form content to your Instagram captions and use insights to determine how it impacts your reach and engagement in comparison to short-form.
Source: Rebellia Clothing
Emojis are a great way to break up text blocks, clarify your tone, and add a pop of color that attracts readers as they scroll by. Consider the fact that emoticons were invented to add emotion to text, as it can be challenging to communicate with no visual or audio cues. Various studies are exploring the use of emojis in the text concerning context and tone. The key takeaway is that emojis can clarify the tone behind the text with visual cues.
Cheekbone Beauty frequently uses emojis in its Instagram posts to tie the captions into the brand and set the words’ emotional tone. They use the lip and sparkle emojis as line breaks while staying consistent with their brand.
Source: Cheekbone Beauty
Add a CTA
If there’s one thing skilled salespeople know, it’s the importance of closing. In most cases, this means asking for the sale. In the social media world, this translates to adding a strong call-to-action (CTA).
A CTA tells customers what they should do next after viewing your content. There is a variety of CTAs that you can include in your captions to boost engagement. As mentioned before, asking a question is a great way to boost engagement. Adding a CTA that says, “tell us in the comments,” lights a fire under the reader and encourages them to act.
On Instagram, a CTA may direct viewers to comment, follow your page, head to your stories or posts, save the content for later consumption, or direct them to a transaction. Walton Wood Farms adds a strong CTA in every product post by directing readers to their sales page in a firm yet inviting manner. The result is a clear CTA without crossing the line into sounding like a pushy sales ploy.
Source: Walton Wood Farm
Create Savable Content
When someone saves your content, it registers as a weighted form of engagement. For a while, Instagram considered getting rid of likes and replacing them with saves. This feature gives brands an opportunity to not only boost engagement but have their content revisited time and time again.
To create savable content, brands should consider sharing valuable information that their viewers won’t want to forget. This could be anything from an upcoming product drop to a delicious recipe. Again, using a strong CTA can ensure your reader knows exactly what you expect from them.
4 Girls Strength, a non-profit society focusing on strength sports, accomplishes this task by sharing relevant tips for new athletes. Followers are asked to save the content for later to view as needed leading up to competitions.
Source: 4 Girls Strength
Be Personal and Authentic
Instagram has become a storytelling platform. In a world of sponsored posts and questionable endorsements, consumers value authenticity and personable content from brands— it adds a human element to technology.
Use your captions to talk about real-world issues and the brand’s journey over time. Brands with a strong figurehead can capitalize on this approach by tying in personal stories with the overall brand. This marketing strategy can include anything from vulnerability posts to team selfies with fun captions (read more on Facetune).
Girls Gone Strong is a brand co-founded by a professional coach and speaker Molly Galbraith. The brand often ties in personal stories and insights from Galbraith to resonate with the audience. A recent post outlining a new book launch spoke briefly about the book itself before diving into a personal narrative. As a result, more followers felt an emotional connection to the post beyond feeling sold to.
Consider how your brand can add authenticity and transparency in posts by highlighting employees, discussing the thought process behind new products, and creating a human connection.
Source: Girls Gone Strong
Personalize Your Captions
Personalization is a huge trend in digital marketing over the past few years and will continue to be a priority in the future. The overarching goal of personalization is to use data to cater your offerings to various customer segments. However, it looks a bit different in Instagram captions.
Personalize your captions by crafting them as though you’re speaking to an individual. Use active speech and create a connection that will feel as though a post was created specifically for an individual reader. You won’t hit the mark for everyone, every time. However, if you can spark that connection with a select few on each post, you’ll boost engagement with your brand.
The Self Love Nutritionist brand, owned by Kaitlyn Allen MS, MEd, MS, RD, thrives on this type of caption. This content resonates with followers and encourages them to engage with the brand both on Instagram and via the monetized podcast.
Tag Users and Brands
Tagging users and brands in your posts will help encourage sharing to extend your reach and boost engagement. This strategy is also an effective way to attract new customers to your sales funnel and build your engaged following over time.
Followers will often tag brands in their posts, resulting in user-generated content (UGC) that brands can repurpose. However, engaging other brands and users can work in reverse as well.
Sea Witch Botanicals is a natural scented products company producing everything from lip balm to incense. This brand will often share content from similar non-competing small businesses that they partner with to cross-promote and feature each other’s products. By doing so, they increase their shareability and reach, increasing their engagement as a result.
Source: Sea Witch Botanicals
Learn From Your Insights
One of the hardest lessons for brands to learn is that there’s no clear formula for Instagram success. Strategies that work for one business may not work for another. You may try long-form captions and determine that your customers respond better to short-form.
The best way to improve your captions over time is to try different strategies and see what works best. Set aside time to learn more about your insights and what the various metrics mean. Use these learnings to shape your future content until you find what works for you. Try implementing one strategy at a time to define which aspects of your posts are performing well.
Keep in mind that the trends and algorithms are always changing. Stay up-to-date on the Instagram algorithm and trends to ensure your brand is ahead of the curve. With a strategic approach that uses data-driven decisions to outline the path ahead, you’ll be able to create compelling captions that boost your engagement.
Some other articles you might enjoy:
- A Guide to Instagram Shopping for Brands: How to Sell More Products
- 5 Ways to Knock Your Brand’s Social Media Out of the Park in 2021
- 10 Most Effective Ways to Negotiate with Influencers