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How to Write Instagram Captions in 4 Easy Steps

Want to learn how to write Instagram captions? Welcome! 

In this article, you'll discover 4 easy steps to writing a great caption that gets the Instagram algorithm working for you. Not against you. Let's get started...!

Why Learn How to Write Instagram Captions?

Ok, first things first - Instagram is an image-first platform. This means the most important thing is an attention-grabbing image. But! Good Instagram captions are next most important. Why? Because they encourage people to:

  • Click the 'more' button to see the full caption 
  • Spend time reading your post
  • Like, comment on and share your post

The Instagram algorithm is paying close attention to these factors to figure out whether your post is good. This is because Instagram wants to promote the best posts to its users. Why? To give them the best experience.

Instagram wildlife post 1

When Instagram notices clicks, time and engagements on your post, it thinks your post is good and promotes it. In turn, this promotion means your post gets seen by more people. 

This exposure can lead to more clicks, read time and engagements. Which leads to more promotion by Instagram... and on and on in a magic circle, until - if you've really hit the money - your post goes viral!

So, the question is: How do you write Instagram captions that encourage clicks, read time and engagements?

When Instagram notices clicks, time and engagements on your post, it thinks your post is good and promotes it. In turn, this promotion means your post gets seen by more people.

— Dr Fay Edwards

Four Steps to Good Instagram Captions

To get started, your Instagram captions should have the following 4 parts:

  1. Hook - a captivating first line to get people clicking 'more'
  2. Body - engaging text to keep people reading for longer
  3. Call to action - a clear message telling the reader what to do next
  4. Hashtags - to categorise your post & allow the right people to find it

A good Instagram caption that has all 4 elements looks like this:

Instagram caption with all 4 elements

To learn how to write Instagram captions with all 4 parts, let's take each in turn.

1. Create a Compelling Hook in Your Instagram Caption's First Line

First, the hook. Beneath every Instagram image, you'll find its accompanying caption. But you only see the first 125 characters. If you want to see the full caption, you have to click 'more.'

Instagram caption read more button comp

So, your first job with an Instagram caption is to write a first line that makes people hit 'more.' We'll call this your 'hook.'

How do you write a good hook? You have lots of options! Here are some ideas:

  • Give a shocking statistic
  • Ask a question
  • Tell your reader they're doing something wrong
  • Start with a fun fact
  • Tell them what they'll learn in the post (and make it good!)

For example, this is an Instagram post I created for UK non-profit Less Plastic:

Less Plastic Instagram caption with shocking fact hook comp

The hook, '80% of people tested had microplastics in their blood,' is a shocking statistic that makes people want to click 'more.' 

This post reached 51k people and had over 3600 engagements. So too, a third of engagements were from non-followers - a metric to watch if you're trying to grow your account.

Writing a good hook is definitely a tactic I'm yet to see widely used on Instagram. Stand out with a handful of words that invite curiosity.

— Rebecca Broad, Social Media Specialist

As social media specialist, Rebecca Broad says, 'Writing a good hook is definitely a tactic I'm yet to see widely used on Instagram, so it's one to use to stay ahead of the game. Stand out to prospective followers and current fans with a handful of words that invite curiosity.' 

Couldn't agree more!

2. Write Long, Engaging Body Text to Keep People Reading

Once you've got people to click 'more,' your next challenge is to keep them reading. Remember, the longer people linger on your post, the better Instagram thinks it is. 

Now, consider this: You have a great hook. Everyone's clicking 'more.' But then there's only one more sentence. How long will the reader hang around? As long as it takes to read that sentence. 

Is this good for you? Not as good as it could be!

Wildlife Trusts Summer Solstice Instagram Post 1

This Wildlife Trusts post performed worst out of their recent posts. With little body text, there's nothing to keep people reading. Imagine how different it might be if we were given information about the beautiful butterfly pictured.

So, your ideal scenario is that 'more' reveals a long, engaging caption. Why? Because long captions take longer to read. And the longer people stay, the better Instagram thinks your post is.

Since captions can be a maximum of 2200 characters, your aim should be - at least sometimes! - to write 2200 characters of pure gold.

How? Tell a story. Ask questions. Write in manageable chunks. Enliven it with emojis. Make every sentence count. And, most importantly, add value for your reader.

Sussex Wildlife Trust Instagram Post wtih value add caption 1

This is a great example of value-add body text. Readers can now easily tell the difference between a male and female May bug! What's especially nice is that the caption prompts you to revisit the photo to see whether the pictured bug is male or female. 

3. Add a Call to Action to Tell Your Reader What to Do Next

Next up, your post needs a call to action. That is, it needs to tell your reader what to do. But why?

We humans are funny creatures. We can sit captivated by a great Instagram post for what seems like minutes... then cruise by without so much as a 'like.'

But when that great post also tells us what to do, we're much more likely to act.

And when we take action on Instagram, guess what? Instagram notices. It says 'wow, this post is getting a lot of likes... comments... shares... it must be really great!' So what does Instagram do? You already know. It promotes it! And we get? The good ol' M.C.

The upshot? Make it easy for your reader. Tell them what to do.

What should they do? Here are some ideas:

Instagram caption calls to action examples

One final thing to say is that calls to action don't have to be at the end. They can be very effective as part of your hook. 

Here's an example of an upfront call to action, done brilliantly:

Instagram purple hearts caption upfront call to action 1

'DROP purple hearts if you're in love with this amazing view' is a fabulous upfront call to action. 

It's a fun way of saying, "hey, if you like this, comment." The added detail of the comment being purple heart emojis is fun and unambiguous - the reader doesn't have to think! 

4. Choose Hashtags that Help People Find Your Instagram Post

Finally, the last piece of the puzzle: hashtags.

I find it surprising how many Instagram accounts fail to hashtag their posts properly - or at all. What a missed opportunity! 

These days, people can follow and search Instagram hashtags. This helps them discover relevant posts from accounts they don't follow. 

So popping the right hashtags in your post is a great way to get your content in front of interested followers and non-followers.

Of course, interested people are more likely to engage with your post. And more engagement means? Promotion. Which means? Engagement. Which means...?! M.A.G.I.C. C.I.R.C.L.E.

Advice varies from source to source, but according to the Instagram creators account, you should aim for just 3-5 relevant hashtags per post:

Instagram creators account hashtag advice 1

If you're not sure which hashtags to include, an easy way to get started is to copy popular accounts with a similar target audience.

For example, say you're a local wildlife trust. You could looks at hashtags used by accounts like British Wildlife Centre for hashtag ideas. 

This would give you hashtags like #britishwildlife (671k posts), #britishmammals (10.9k posts) and #animalattractions (100 posts). You can then watch whether these hashtags perform for you and change tack accordingly.

Use These Instagram Caption Writing Tips in Your Next Post

So there you have it! That's how to write Instagram captions in 4 easy steps. Why not use these tips when writing your next post and see how it performs?

For more top tips, follow me on Instagram.