By Neil Patel
Staying active on social media is absolutely necessary if you want your business to be successful.
This statement holds true for small, local mom-and-pop stores as well as national chains and global ecommerce sites.
Even if you’re not selling a tangible product and just run a blog or something similar, you need to have a social media presence.
But having social media profiles and properly managing them are two different things.
Did you know about 80% of social media browsing takes place on mobile devices?
That’s one of the reasons why you need to focus on your Instagram strategy.
Plus, look at the rapid growth it’s had over the last several years:
The popularity of this platform can’t be ignored.
Businesses are recognizing this trend and acting accordingly.
In fact, over 70% of companies in the United States had an Instagram profile in 2017.
That number has skyrocketed from 48.8% in 2016.
If you are one of these businesses, I’m sure you’re taking advantage of everything Instagram has to offer.
You post photos daily.
You’re always adding videos to your story.
You may even go live once in a while too.
But how are these actions engaging your followers?
Taking and posting the perfect picture can grab someone’s attention, but your captions will give them a sense of direction.
It’s important you write actionable Instagram captions.
If you need help writing your captions, you’ve come to the right place.
I’ll tell you everything you need to know about writing captions that drive engagement.
Let everyone know where you are with location tags
I’ll start by telling you something that does not need to be in your caption.
When it comes to the location of the photos, do tell your followers where the photo was taken.
But here’s the catch: you don’t need to put that in your caption.
That’s a waste of valuable space.
I see people make this mistake all the time.
Instead, tag the location of the photo.
Here’s an example.
Rather than saying, “Here we are at the United Center,” the Jordan brand geo-tags the location of the photo instead.
Now they can put other information in their caption.
They used this post to promote a new product launch.
But that message could have been lost in the shuffle if they wrote their location in the caption.
Another reason why you should tag the location is because it will appear with all the other photos and videos tagged at that location.
The posts with the most likes and comments will show up as “Top Posts” on that location’s page.
It’s a great way for people who might not follow you to see your posts as well.
If the Jordan brand included their location in a caption, it wouldn’t be exposed to such a wide audience.
Plus, location tagging drives engagement, which is our ultimate goal.
Keep your location out of the caption, and tag it instead.
That’s a much better engagement strategy.
Don’t write the first thing that comes to your mind
You took 20 different pictures of the same subject from different angles and with different lighting.
Then you spent time finding the best one, adding a filter or two, changing the exposure, brightness, and saturation, and playing around with all the other editing tools.
But then you write your caption in 10 seconds because you want to post it right away.
That’s a mistake.
You should take just as long, if not longer, to write your Instagram caption for that photo.
Think about all the other written content you’re putting out on the Internet, like your blog, for example.
You write a draft and then you edit it.
Maybe you edit it a second or even a third time before adding the post to your website.
Apply that same concept to your Instagram captions.
Write drafts—and several of them.
Take your time. The photo isn’t going anywhere and neither are your followers.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying you should take all week or a month to write these couple of lines of text.
But you need to put some thought into it. Concentrate on your captions as much as you focus on taking the photo and editing it.
Writing drafts can also help you make sure you don’t have spelling errors or make any other blunders.
While Instagram allows you to edit your caption after it’s posted, by the time you realize there is a mistake, thousands of followers could have already seen it.
Those are careless mistakes.
You don’t want people to think you don’t care.
Put the most important information first
If you’re writing a longer caption, don’t be clever trying to ease into it with a creative introduction.
Instead, lead with your most important message.
Instagram allows you to have 2200 characters in your caption, but that doesn’t mean your followers will see it all. Well, at least not right away.
Longer captions get cut off.
The example above shows the caption before and after the user hits “more.”
And this caption isn’t even that long.
While in general, I think shorter captions are more effective, I don’t want to discourage you from writing longer ones.
Just make sure your most important content isn’t at the end.
Not everyone will click on the “more” button to see the whole thing.
Keep in mind, users are just scrolling down their newsfeeds glancing at photos.
They probably don’t care enough about your caption to read the whole thing.
So at least try to hook them in with the first couple of lines to give them a reason to keep reading.
Find ways to encourage comments
You want each post to have lots of engagement.
One of the ways to do this is by getting people to comment on your pictures.
Users can talk in the comments with each other or reply directly to you.
Another way to get more comments is by replying to users and driving a discussion.
For this method to be successful, however, you have to get people talking in the first place.
End your caption with a question to invite comments from your followers.
If you don’t ask them something, they may not have a reason to write anything.
Another way to get comments is by encouraging your followers to tag their friends in photos.
Here’s an example from MVMT Watches:
This post received nearly 900 comments in less than five days.
Clearly, this is an effective strategy.
Drive traffic to your website
If you have an ecommerce store, the ultimate goal of your Instagram page should be to get more sales from your followers.
To get people to make a purchase, you have to get them to your website first since purchases can’t be made directly from the Instagram platform.
You should also be tracking where your website traffic is coming from.
Create a unique URL with a tracking code to see the number of referrals from your Instagram page.
That will help you gauge how successful this strategy is.
It’s always important to measure results, so establish a benchmark to improve upon.
Add that unique link to your Instagram bio.
Then, you can use your caption to refer your followers to the link.
Here’s an example from H&M to show you what I’m talking about:
This photo shows some specific clothing items they’re selling.
If people are interested in buying one of these items, they can click on a link in the bio that brings them directly to the item.
That way they don’t have to key in the website URL first and then search for the item.
It’s too many steps that can turn them away and reduce the chances of a sale.
Here’s what that link looks like in the H&M bio:
This makes it really easy for customers to shop, leading to more sales.
Run a contest
Nothing gets people excited like the opportunity to get something free.
You can use contests as a way to promote your brand on Instagram.
This strategy will definitely drive engagement if you can write a great caption.
First, let’s review the three different types of giveaways:
When the participants have to do something that requires some sort of effort or skill to win a prize, it’s considered a contest. The winner is determined by judges or a vote.
If you’re selecting a winner at random, it’s called a sweepstakes.
A lottery would mean that people would have to buy a raffle ticket or something like that to enter.
But I wouldn’t recommend doing this, especially because certain state and federal laws prohibit these types of giveaways.
Your best bet is running a contest. That’s one of my favorite ways to keep your followers engaged.
Their effort will determine whether they win or not.
Here’s a great example of a strong caption promoting a contest run by Starbucks:
It’s a successful campaign strategy because it encourages user-generated content.
Here’s how it works.
Starbucks invites their customers to design a cup.
Then the customers have to post a picture of their cups on Instagram with the hashtag #WhiteCupContest.
Think about your brand and your current contest.
If you own a coffee shop, there are only so many pictures of coffee and pastries you can post.
Your followers will get bored with that real quick.
That’s why your captions have to be engaging.
Try running a contest the next time you post a picture on Instagram.
Here’s a contest example from Mint:
You can use this caption as a template for your own contest, using your own information: name, hashtag, prize, and deadline.
We’ve discussed hashtags a few times already, but they are important enough to mention on their own.
You want to include hashtags in your captions.
For the same reason, we tagged location.
Your post will appear on a page with all the other images with the same hashtag.
You’ll expose your brand to a wider audience.
I’d recommend putting hashtags at the end of your caption.
As we saw earlier, long captions can get cut off.
But your hashtag doesn’t have to be visible to be effective.
It will group your picture with all the other posts with that hashtag.
If you’re not sure which hashtag to use, start typing and Instagram will suggest the most popular ones.
Pick the one with the most posts.
This will give you the greatest user engagement.
While you want to include hashtags, use them sparingly.
Going overboard with them could look like spam, and it’s not appealing to your followers.
Make sure your hashtags are relevant.
Don’t just use trending hashtags as a way to get exposure if they have nothing to do with your post or brand.
Again, this will make people think you’re spamming them, which is counterproductive to your engagement strategy.
Don’t overlook the importance of writing a good Instagram caption.
You spend lots of time selecting and editing a photo. Make sure you’re putting just as much effort into the caption.
Write several drafts before deciding on the best.
While you want to let users know where you are, that doesn’t mean it should be part of your caption. It’s a waste of space. Use location tagging instead.
Long captions will get cut off, so write the most important information at the beginning.
Encourage user comments by asking a question or telling your followers to tag their friends.
Drive traffic to your website through a link in your bio. Mention the link in your captions.
This will help you get more sales if you have an ecommerce site.
Promote a contest or giveaway in your captions too.
Add hashtags as well, but use them sparingly.
If you follow these tips, you’ll get more engagement on all your Instagram posts.
Which caption strategy has been the most successful for your company’s Instagram profile?