A Guide to Good Instagram Captions for Influencers and Brands

Good Instagram captions can take content to the next level. Instagram is a highly visual platform, yes. But without context, content can sometimes lose meaning or have its meaning misconstrued.

Captions can help influencers express their opinion and personal thoughts, or help brands get their promotional messages out there. They’re also useful for specifying details about products or providing information about an experience. Finally, captions are a good place to encourage engagement with your audience.

Therefore, knowing how to write good Instagram captions can help both brands and Instagram influencers. Keep reading to learn all about captions and get some tips and resources for crafting good ones.

Good Instagram captions, according to Instagram

Instagram limits captions to 2,200 characters, which is roughly double of the introduction to this blog post. Also, if your caption is long, Instagram will truncate it and users will have to click …more to keep reading.

Moreover, the platform only allows a maximum of 30 hashtags per post. That means you have to strategize which hashtags to use for each post. To learn more about this, visit our post about how to use hashtags and the top hashtags from 2020.

Finally, captions must follow the Instagram Community Guidelines. Instagram states: “We may remove entire posts if either the imagery or associated captions violate our guidelines.” So even if the visual content of a post is offensive, it could get flagged for an inappropriate caption.

Which Instagram formats allow captions?

The following formats allow users to add captions when publishing content:

  • Posts (photo and video) allow for pure captions that appear beneath the visual content
  • Reels lets you add captions, but when users want to view them, they’ll appear as a sort of screen over the video
  • IGTV works the same way as Reels, although the caption is accessed at the top, not the bottom
  • Stories allow captions, but require you to write the text directly over/alongside the story content
A screenshot showing examples of captions as they appear on Instagram posts, Reels and IGTV
An example of how Instagram captions appear on mobile for posts, Reels and IGTV.

IGLive doesn’t allow captions. But seeing as it’s video format, captions aren’t absolutely necessary, as the content creator can provide context orally in the video.

As a note: if you’re viewing Instagram on desktop, captions will always come up in full alongside the content, whether a post, Reel, etc.

How to write good Instagram captions

Good Instagram captions really depend on what and how you want to communicate. It’s important, whether you’re a brand or an influencer, to establish your own personal brand. Define your visual and linguistic identity, or, your brand’s voice

This will be unique for each brand and influencer. That being said, these are some tips that can apply regardless of how you define your personal brand.

Fact-check and proof-read

If you’re going to post factual-type information, make sure it’s true. You may think that fact-checking is just for reporters covering the news. But if you’re publishing content online, it applies to you too, at least if you want to manage your reputation. 

Nothing can hurt your credibility more than publishing false or inaccurate info. So do the extra bit of legwork and verify before posting. If information is very specific or statistical, you may want to even briefly cite your source.

Moreover, proofread everything! Sometimes we make mistakes because we’re distracted, our brain blanks out for a moment, or our fingers slip! So take a moment to review your copy and make sure everything is exactly how you want it.

Write correctly for your target audience

In English class or journalism school, you learn that you should always use correct grammar and spelling when writing. For sure, good grammar and spelling helps you communicate clearly. But it’s also important to understand your target audience, and how you can best communicate with them. Ask yourself:

  • What register should I use – formal or informal?
  • Which person should I write in?
  • What’s my tone – optimistic, friendly, informative, etc.?
  • Will slang help or hinder my communication with them?
  • Can emojis add value to my message?

For some target audiences, you may want to use more formal writing with 100% perfect grammar and spelling. For others, more informal, casual and even slangy captions might better get your message across. 

A screenshot of the @colourpopcosmetics Instagram, showing how they use informal tone and emojis to craft good Instagram captions for their audience.
Most of @colourpopcosmetics’ audience is between the ages of 18-35 (source: Heepsy). The brand uses a casual tone and attention-grabbing emojis and punctuation to communicate with these millennials and Gen-Zers.

Identifying and reaching the target audience is one of the top challenges for marketers, according to a 2020 survey. Your captions can be an asset when fighting that battle. So do your research and craft your captions accordingly.

Good Instagram captions provide context

Captions allow you to say what the visual content can’t. It’s an opportunity to provide context, which richens how your followers experience your content.

One way to add context is to identify people and places that appear in your photos (and videos, if not stated in the video itself). For example, a photo of your favorite houseplant is more meaningful with some helpful information alongside it: the name of the plant, how much sun it needs, when to water, etc. Or, a recipe post may inspire more emotion if you explain how you cooked it for and enjoyed it with a friend who has certain dietary restrictions.

An example of good Instagram captions, where an influencer posts a picture of a plant and provides context about its care in the caption.
Instead of just a pretty plant picture, @shelleys.indoor.jungle also provides context about this specific plant and its care.

Another way to add context, and this is useful for influencers collaborating with brands, is to explain your experience with a product. How long have you had it? What’s your opinion? Have you tested it out in different ways or environments? Honest feedback is paramount to getting your followers interested.

Good Instagram captions use good spacing

If you want to write longer captions, please don’t leave everything as one paragraph. This is the default way that Instagram formats captions, and it’s not very user-friendly. To avoid this, try the following.

An Instagram post showing a lot of text without line breaks. Good Instagram captions break up text to make it easier to read.
A caption this long would be easier to read with some line breaks.

First, don’t write your captions directly on Instagram. Write them on your Notes app, in an email, wherever, but not on Instagram. This way you can get around the platform’s auto-formatting.

Next, create line breaks somehow other than just hitting Enter. A common way to do this is with punctuation, or even emojis, which act as spacers between lines of text. Or, you could add invisible line breaks. Finally, if you use a content management tool that’s integrated with Instagram, you should be able to properly format your captions directly within that app.

Properly disclose any brand-influencer collaborations

The US, the UK and many other countries maintain guidelines for proper advertising, and these implicate influencer collaborations. Instagram has the paid partnership feature, but captions also serve to disclose collaborations.

When noting a collaboration, make sure to use clear language so there’s no doubt. A few examples of how to do this are:

  • I’m teaming up with {brand} to…
  • This product was a gift from {brand}.
  • As a {brand} ambassador…
  • In collaboration with {brand}
An example of an Instagram post with good disclosure, which is important for good Instagram captions.
@curevesonabudget13 uses the #ambassador hashtag toward the top of her caption to show her affiliation with @fabletics.

Promote engagement and motivate action

Finally, use captions to interact with your followers! Ask them questions that allow them to somehow participate in your content. What’s their favorite way to wear a scarf? Do they prefer the product in silver or gold? What are their tips for traveling around Indonesia? What do they want to see next on your feed?

A screenshot of a post in which the influencer asks direct questions to their audience, which can make for good Instagram captions.
@whereisangiee often connects with her followers through the use of direct questions.

Inviting followers to comment has a direct and positive effect on your engagement rate. Further, it instills a sense of community around your profile. If followers feel included and heard, they’re more likely to stick around.

You can also incorporate calls-to-action (CTAs) in your captions, to motivate your followers to complete some particular desired action. Maybe you want them to visit your blog, use a coupon code, or click a link at the top of your profile. 

@diyplaybook’s CTA is to encourage followers to buy Maytag appliances with a unique discount code.

Some tools for creating good Instagram captions

There’s no shortage of tools to help you write good Instagram captions. Here are a few that may be useful, in case you don’t know them already.

    • Grammarly: This Chrome extension/desktop app looks for any way to improve your writing. The free version checks grammar, spelling, punctuation and conciseness. But the premium version goes beyond that, and can even detect your tone and make suggestions to help you express a certain emotion.
    • Word Reference: Although many languages appear on Instagram, content creators sometimes want to write in one that isn’t their mother tongue. Google Translate can be useful in a quick jam, but it’s not always accurate. In order to get a more exact translation, try out WordReference.
    • Instagram Line Break Generator: This no-frills tool is another way to add spacing to your longer captions. Just write your caption in the generator, copy, and paste it into Instagram!
    • For Display Purposes Only: FDPO is a hashtag generator and analysis tool. Type in a hashtag, and the program will show you all the hashtags related to it. You can see this analysis in list or chart format, and it could help you discover better, less general hashtags to get your content noticed by the right people. FDPO also has a map feature, which lets you see popular hashtags by location.

Conclusion

Creating good Instagram captions isn’t difficult if you’re well-prepared. Know your target audience and define a strategy for how you’ll communicate with them. Then, use your captions to share information, engage your audience, or promote your call-to-action. And don’t forget that there are plenty of resources if you need a bit of help!

Kate works on the Marketing team at Heepsy as a content writer. When she's not online you can find her traveling or trying out a new recipe.
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