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How to Write a Strong Social Media Caption

Want to know the secret sauce of social media? It’s effective caption writing. Sure, the visual is super important. But a good photo or video can’t always stand on its own. Let me try to explain this—captions are the jelly to peanut butter. Peanut butter is great on its own, but you know what’s better than a peanut butter sandwich? A peanut butter and jelly sandwich.

Why do captions matter?

When done right, a good caption can tell your brand story, add context to the image or video you’re posting and convert your audience into customers. Not only does it tell them about your brand, but it creates an emotional connection and builds trust. This all inspires and prompts them to take action. Another great use of captions is to increase your engagement. A strong caption will encourage them to comment and talk back to you.

What are some tips to upgrade my caption writing skills?

“But Dana, I’m not a writer. I hate writing and I’m bad at it.” That’s okay, you don’t have to be a great writer to instantly up your caption game. Here are some tips to keep in mind when writing.

Stay on topic: Try to keep the caption relevant to the visual you are posting. Remember that social media is essentially show and tell. Can you think of how awkward it would have been if you brought your pet bunny to show and tell, but when you got up in front of the classroom, you started talking about your summer family vacation? Yep, weird and so unrelated. Think of caption writing the same way. Now this doesn’t mean you have to literally narrate what’s going on in the post image or video. Just try to keep it in the family.

Know your audience: Always ask yourself, “Who am I speaking to?” Will they understand what you’re trying to say? Are emojis appropriate to add here? Do I need to add more context to the post?

Speak in your voice: If your business or brand’s personality is fun and peppy, keep that energy in your captions. Maybe add an exclamation mark here or there and use bold adjectives. But if your brand is more laid back, don’t overdo the exclamation marks and take a more relaxed approach. A good way to figure out your brand voice is to ask yourself, “What feeling do I want my audience to get when they interact with me?”

Consider length: Don’t feel pressured to write a super long caption. If you can, keep it short and concise. However, if you’re adding value with a long-form caption then go for it. When writing a longer caption, just make sure to break it up into paragraphs or “bullet points” so it’s easier to read. I like to write my longer captions in my “notes” app on my iPhone. Then I’ll copy and paste from there.

Key words: Place the most important words at the beginning of the caption. The first few words are what’s going to grab someone’s attention and get them to pause and read. Hook them in and give them a reason to keep reading.

Take your time: Don’t rush the process, it’s okay to think it through. Write it down somewhere, read it out loud, ask a friend what they think and rewrite it if you need to. And always, I mean ALWAYS, spell check and proofread.

Use hashtags: Generally speaking, it’s best to use a few hashtags in the caption itself. I prefer to use my main hashtag in the caption. Then, I’ll add all the other hashtags in a separate comment after I’ve posted.

Make it actionable: Remember this rule—if it’s captionable then it’s actionable. Try to get your audience to take action. You can do this by adding what we call a “call to action.” A call to action in marketing is basically the part where you tell your audience what to do. This can include a question or a prompt like “Click the link in our bio for more information,” “Share with a friend if you found this helpful or even, “Tag a friend in the comments.”

Avoid links on Instagram: If you haven’t noticed this year, Instagram does not hyperlink within captions. So it makes no sense to include a link in there. Instead, add the link in your bio, and prompt them to visit the link in bio. If you need to link multiple items in your bio, check out free bio link tools like Linktree or Milkshake where you can create a page that hosts multiple links. If you’re on other platforms like Facebook or LinkedIn, you can include a link in the caption.

Do you have ideas I can get started with?

You may have read these tips and are still wondering how to kickstart the writing process. So, below are some ideas to get your creative juices flowing:

  • Tell a story about your brand like how you got started or your values

  • Ask your audience for feedback or “getting to know you” type of questions

  • Describe a mood or feeling that goes with the image or video

  • Share a fun fact, data or statistic related to your business

  • Use quotes that are related to what you’re posting about—make sure to always give credit

  • Use popular song lyrics that go with what you’re posting

  • Repurpose a testimonial or review from a happy customer or client

If you’ve made it through the end of this blog post, let me leave you with this: take a deep breath and relax your shoulders. Don’t be too hard on yourself and give it a shot. The more you practice the better you’ll get at it.

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