Oh, the elusive perfect Instagram caption.
Have you ever sat with a photo loaded and edited on Instagram and didn’t post for hours because you couldn’t come up with a caption you liked?
In case you, or people you know, ever go through this, here are four steps for writing an outstanding Instagram caption:
1. Keep it short: Short means short: three or four lines of text, about 200 characters. That way it won’t get truncated before you convey the essential information.
Still, long captions have their place. Accounts such as NatGeo and Nike Running post long captions that tell a story. Just make sure the story is interesting, and that you’re consistent about length. If you post long captions on every post, your followers will expect them. If you try to throw one in in a sea of short captions, your followers might not engage as readily.
2. Avoid hashtags: Industry practice is to avoid hashtags in captions, unless they’re integral to a campaign or part of the caption itself. Instead, you want to add hashtags (14 to 20 of them) to the first comment on the post. To ensure they aren’t distracting to the reader, write it in your texting or notes app, and copy it over to the Instagram comment so that it truncates after the first ellipsis.
Here’s what that looks like:
#inkhouse #dogsofinkhouse #inkhousewoo #pr #socialmedia #agencylife #boston #waltham #sf #sanfrancisco #pragency #prssa #BOStoSFO #prlife
3. Don’t include a link: You can’t click a link in a caption, and no one is going to copy and paste it into the web browser in a smartphone.
You have two options if you want to drive traffic to a website: Either put the link in the bio of your account for a 24- to 48-hour period after you post and reference it in the caption, or use Instagram ads to have a “learn more” button appear under your promoted post.
4. Have personality: This is the hardest thing to do, as well as the most important, and unfortunately there’s no magic bullet for online voice. If you’re trying to bring more personality to your caption, here are a few quick ideas:
- Look at other Instagram accounts for inspiration.
- Write a caption, and then ask yourself what you can take out of it.
- Think about which emojis might be relevant, and include them in the caption or as hashtags.
- Consider slang terms or pun phrases that you could change to be relevant.
- Use alliteration to take your caption from average to awesome.
Truly, there’s no such thing as a perfect Instagram caption. Each brand’s audience is different, and what works for one won’t necessarily work for another. Test different things, spot trends in performance, and modify to engender more success.
A version of this article originally appeared on the Inkhouse PR blog.