How to Write "Thumb-Stopping" Instagram Captions

8 min read

With roughly 1 billion monthly users, Instagram has slowly become one of the largest social media networks worldwide. 

Since Instagram is an image-first social platform, it relies on rich media (photos and videos) to connect and engage users. 

So, if your photos and videos aren't up to scratch, you may have a hard time finding success.  But even great photos and quality videos can fall short of expectations if you're slouch in the Instagram captions department. 

A good caption can show off your brand's personality and compel users to take action. 

But how do you create compelling captions for your Instagram posts? Keep reading to learn how to create thump-stopping Instagram captions.

1. Consider Caption Length

Like other marketing content, you should prioritize quality over quantity in your Instagram caption copy. Sure, there is no rule that dictates how long your Instagram caption should be. 

But, considering you're competing against 157 million Instagram accounts in the US alone, we say keep it short and snappy. 

Why? Because Instagram captions are truncated at 125 characters. 

Instagram will only display the first 125 characters — or roughly three lines of text. So, unless you have an explicit reason to use the full 2,200 characters, we recommend you keep it short and sweet, Starbucks style (see screenshot below).

If, for some reason, you must include all characters, be sure to frontload your captions with the most important content and leave hashtags and other extraneous information for the end.

2. Meld Your Brand Voice with Instagram's Lighthearted Tone

Instagram users don't expect a formal or serious tone. 

While serious, jargon-heavy copy might work on LinkedIn, for example, that same copy won't resonate on Instagram. The best, most engaging Instagram posts tend to have a fun tone, showing the most authentic side of a brand. 

That's why it's critical to adapt your brand voice for Instagram's more lighthearted tone. 

Additionally, your Instagram posts should mirror your brand personality. Experts recommend you use a more informal tone in your captions. This helps to make your posts look and feel personable — which is great for increasing engagement.

3. Include a Call to Action (CTA), Occasionally

Engagement is great, and likes and comments are a good indicator of how your posts are performing. But you're not marketing on Instagram to rank up likes — you ultimately want your followers to take actions, like:

  • Visit your website?
  • Shop for a specific product?
  • Create UGC around your products or brand?
  • Enter a contest or giveaway?

A call to action (CTA) can help with that. But to get your followers to take that desired action, your CTA should:

  • Explain what action you want users to take
  • Explain why it's worth their time and effort
  • Give instructions for the desired action

A good CTA can compel your followers to engage with your brand. Interestingly, Hootsuite ran an experiment on Instagram captions and found that posts that included the phrase "link in bio" outperformed other posts. 

Here’s how HubSpot does it:

4. Keep It Simple

Instagram is all about interacting with your audience in a fun and meaningful way. 

That said, you'll want to remove anything that breeds complexity — or anything that can confuse your audience. Simply put, keep your posts short, simple, and sweet. 

Some of the best Instagram captions are short punchlines, and they always drive results. Examples of brief captions include:

  • Happy #Thanksgiving! What are you thankful for?
  • We've moved! Check our new office!
  • Merry Christmas

The trick is to keep the text simple and let the visuals do the talking.

5. Include Eye-Catching Emojis

Sprinkle in emojis to spice up your captions with extra flavor. 

When added to your captions, relevant emojis placed at the end of sentences can serve as "bookends" and aesthetically break up long strings of a copy. 

Plus, emojis can also add personality to your copy. 

You can insert them at the beginning of your caption to catch your followers' attention with a bit of color or at the end of your copy. The right emojis allow the reader to get the context of the copy, even before reading the caption or playing the video.

6. Add Pop Culture References

One of the best ways to add a little sparkle to an Instagram caption is by adding pop culture references or cliches. Top brands and influencers use them all the time, and they work. 

Taco Bell, for instance, has been using pop culture references to market its products, and it always works. The thing with pop culture references is that they add personality to your posts. 

You could reference a movie, actor, song, or TV show in your caption, then twist it in a way that will reflect your brand. Captions like “I got a Sweet Tooth” or "What's more confusing than this season of the Bachelorette? #HOLIDAY SHOPPING IN 2021" will undoubtedly compel your followers to like or comment in a fun way.

That said, including pop culture references or sneaking cliches into your captions can make your content feel fresh, fun, and relatable.

7. Optimize for Best Engagement 

Since you can't share links in most of your Instagram content, you'll need to find other ways to engage your followers and get them to take action. 

Instagram only gives you one hyperlink in your bio. So, if you're looking to get your audience to take action, you'll want to direct them to your bio. 

Alternatively, you could use tools like Link in bio to direct your viewers from your captions to a clickable landing page. This way, for every post on your feed, you can link to specific product pages on your website, making it easy for people to shop the products they find on your posts. 

Another engagement boosting tactic you could use is to ask questions. Asking a question in your captions is a surefire way to spark engagement with your posts. You could then draw on customer queries and experiences to improve your Instagram marketing strategy. 

8. Cross-Promote Your Other Social Channels

Instagram is one of the many social networks available today, and you can use captions to cross-promote other social channels. This way, your followers will know where else they can find you on social media — so your Instagram followers can become your Facebook fans, Twitter followers, or Snapchat audience.

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