People love a good story. It intrigues them, excites them, and makes them hungry for more. Your stories are a true representation of who you are, and the more you share them, the more people will warm to you, be interested in what you have to say, and most importantly, engage with you.
Beautiful visuals, especially on Instagram, are so very important. But a bloody good caption can generate a lot more engagement because it personalizes you. It shows your audience that there is a real person, with a real point of view, a real personality, and a real sense of humour behind that smartphone!
So how do you develop a unique writing style that shows off who you are, and translate that into Instagram captions that will increase engagement? Let me break it down for you!
Find your voice
Who are you and what do you represent? When establishing your voice, the first thing to do is reflect on YOU. Who are you? What are your values? What is your point of view on life? Treat yourself as if you were a brand (because like it or not, having an Instagram account is essentially about nurturing your personal brand). Write down a few key words to describe who you are and what is important to you. Then look at your feed. Do the images you share represent that? So should your writing.
Develop a writing style that is uniquely you
Authenticity rules the roost on the ‘gram (and actually most of social media), so I always recommend that your writing style be more conversational than formal in most instances. People engage more when they feel like they know you, so try and write like you talk. This will be much easier to do once you establish what you’re about (see step 1!). If you want to explore this further, there is an article on developing conversational tone in the reading below.
Make your captions relevant to your image
Always find a link between the image you’re posting and the story you tell in your caption. There should always be a reason behind whatever you post, and it should support your point of view. A disconnection between the two will create a disconnection with your audience.
Start with the most important thing you want to say
As most of you know, Instagram will hide any parts of your caption beyond the first three lines, so make sure you draw people in with your first sentence and entice them to click for more. Once they commit to the time of clicking on and reading your entire caption, they are waaaaaaay more likely to like and comment your photo.
The long and short of it
Ahhh, the age-old question – are short captions or long captions more appropriate for Instagram? Actually, it depends on what you want to say. There are a lot of examples of people who do both really well. If you want an example of highly engaging long-form captioning, check out the beautiful @tifforelie – her images are incredible, but her exquisite, heartfelt storytelling is something else. You have up to 2.200 charaters to use, but if in doubt always keep it brief. Just make sure you keep it punchy!
Entertain the troops!
First and foremost, Instagram is an entertainment channel. So consider what ‘genre’ of entertainment your voice might represent. Is it Romance? Family-friendly? Drama? Comedy? These are all valid, but inject some entertainment into your Insta-life through your captions. When people are entertained, they’ll come back for more.
What about my f&#king language
Hehe!! Lots of people wonder about whether swearing effects engagement on social media in a detrimental manner. If you were a high profile brand, I would definitely advise against dropping bombs in your captions, but as individuals finding your unique voice and telling your story…well, if you swear like a drunk sailor in your day to day life, why would you be any different on social media? Remember, your main goal is to be authentic. Just keep it sparse, don’t direct hate at anyone, and make sure you’re adhering to Instagram’s community guidelines – you can check those here. And if you find that the majority of your followers don’t like it, then stop doing it (and find other colourful adjectives to use!).
Don’t stress about your spelling
As a communication professional and university English graduate, there’s a part of me that is dying inside as I say this, but your spelling and grammar is the least of your worries when it comes to captioning on Instagram. Of course you’ll always get the odd one who CAN’T WAIT to correct your mistaken use of there, their or they’re, but for the most part your followers follow you because they LIKE you and they don’t give a rat’s patootie about your casual typos! As far as I’m concerned it adds to your authentic voice, and when you’re authentic, people engage. Simple.
So that’s some basic starting points for helping you increase engagement on Instagram by refining your voice and upping your caption game! I look forward to following all your unique stories!
Karli (@karli_baysidecreative) xx
These articles are more marketing / brand focused, but if you consider yourself as a ‘brand’ the same principles apply!
Instagram Captions that Drive Engagement: https://blog.hootsuite.com/instagram-captions-drive-engagement/
Finding Your Social Media Voice & Tone:
These are great, quick reads that will help you if you are keen to develop your writing further.
Finding Your Writer’s Voice: http://simplewriting.org/writers-voice/
Tips for Writing in a Conversational Tone: http://www.printwand.com/blog/15-tips-for-writing-in-a-conversational-tone