A Marketer’s Guide to Instagram Captions

The Marketer's Rulebook For Creating Good Instagram Captions

What Is An Instagram Caption?

An Instagram caption is the accompanying text that is presented below an Instagram post. When uploading an image or video, users are given the option to append it with a brief string of text. Instagram captions can be humorous or serious, short or long, and everything in-between, helping contextualize the upload for followers.


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Let's talk about HIIT! 🏃‍♂️🏋️‍♂️💦 • High Intensity Interval Training is exactly what it sounds like and is a great way to burn a lot of calories in a short amount of time. • Two supplements I recommend when performing a HIIT workout are: • @xtend HydraSport BCAA's For staying hydrated and promoting muscle recovery during your workout. • @cellucor CLK A stimulant free fat loss supplement that will increase your fat loss, metabolism, and help suppress your appetite. • Check out the link in my bio to get 10% off the CLK HydraSport and your entire first order from @iHerb • If you have any more questions feel free to comment or DM me and don't forget there's no such thing as not enough time to workout! 👍 #iHerb #iHerbsports #xtend #cellucor #sponsored #hiit #hiitworkout #promovideo #workoutvideo #workoutvideos #hiittraining #workoutroutine #gymvideos #trainingday

A post shared by Nick Ralich (@nickralich) on

Crafting a good Instagram caption is a critical part of uploading a new piece of content, particularly for cultivating and engaging with your audience—key to any Instagram influencer marketing strategy.

Components Of An Instagram Caption

As many of us are familiar, modern-day keyboards give us the opportunity to add more than just syntax. Between text, symbols, and small digital images, Instagram captions have a few different components:

  • Character Limit - 2,200 characters are allowed—roughly 360 words—meaning Instagrammers can include a few choice words, pour their hearts out with a longer narrative, or simply leave no caption at all.
  • Hashtags - Instagram caps the number of hashtags at 30. Users can use hashtags to quickly tag for searchability, identify the activity, and add context to the image. Additionally, sponsorship disclosure hashtags are fundamental for brands wishing to remain on the right side of ethical advertising.
  • Emojis - Users can use emojis to express emotion and color their visual upload with personality that the written language by itself may not cover. Emojis are often used by users attempting to project a certain playfulness in their posts.

8 Most Important Instagram Caption Trends

Below, we invite you to explore the eight most important Instagram caption trends that can be effective in generating positive results in Instagram influencer marketing.

1. Long-Form Narrative Instagram Captions

Long-form captions have become an increasingly popular trend on Instagram. Previously, influencers would have used a conventional blog to iterate their thoughts, but many are now using Instagram as the blogging platform of choice.

Aside from blog posts, long-form captions are useful for other types of content:

  • Year-In-Review & Reflections - Those who are summing up or reflecting on extended periods of time find that long-form captions provide them the perfect way to express themselves without the need for brevity.
  • Diary Entries - Similar to a written diary, long-form narrative Instagram captions allow users to document their daily lives and tell a story to their audience. This format performs extremely well among audiences with a proclivity to connect with and learn about influencers, organizations, and brands.
  • Sponsored Post Reviews - In order to promote a brand, influencers will sometimes add either a narrative or an explanation about the product’s benefits in a more comprehensive way. When a brand or its products can’t be summed up or given context adequately in a short caption, long-form narratives do the trick.
Examples Of Long-Form Narrative Instagram Captions

Elise Young Sets New Year’s Resolutions


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Fitness pros, first timers, 365 days a year gym goers, once a month-ers. Whatever place you stand during this first week of the New Year, stand there proud. 👊 - We must remove the language of the “gym is overcrowded, it will only last a week” and change the narrative to how amazing that so many are getting after becoming a better version of self. Sit on the waitlist of your favorite class that you got into last week and realize that those seats are being filled by people who are resetting and making strides. Double tap the posts of those who you don’t usually see posting a workout photo instead of scrolling by. Cheer on the lifestyle changes for these next 30 days. Be a support system for those who need it most. - I all too often hear the negative talk about “I can’t wait until rush is over.” But the thing is, there will always be room for everyone. We can all make it. As a unit. Share space. Share strength. Share your bike. Share your favorite recipe. Share the best way to open those annoying ass lockers. Share your secret sauce to staying consistent. Share your favorite machine. SHARE MOTIVATION. - Let’s be mindful of our language this time of year and not forget who may be listening. Lead by example. Encourage those taking the first step in a long time. Encourage those coming back for the 7th class in a week. There is plenty of room for everyone at the top. Let’s encourage the rise. - And hey, this could have been you last year, 5 years ago, or yesterday. So, at whatever stage you are, let’s do it as a unit. Let’s do it together. I got you. 👊 *leave a 💪 in the comments if you are with me. ❤️ #strength #goals

A post shared by Elise Young (@elisesbodyshop) on

Young’s caption perfectly embodies a long-form Instagram caption. Uploaded just after New Year’s, her thoughtful caption serves to encourage fitness and motivation among her followers. She discusses positive attitudes towards fitness and the importance of supporting others in their goals, ending her post with a strong CTA that asks her followers to post a flexed muscle emoji in the comments if they are also onboard. In turn, her post received 4,793 likes and 187 comments—about 120+ more than her average post receives.

Chelsea Kauai Weaves Brand Promotion Into Personal Story


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Admiring last light over the serene Blyde River Canyon during my road trip through Mpumalanga, South Africa with @jacques_crafford . This was my third trip back to South Africa this year and if I learned anything on these last few times it’s that in a very short span of time the weather changes dramatically and the landscapes - even more so :) Some mornings it was just a few degrees above freezing with moody fog quietly cocooning the hills. A few hours later the blazing sun meant I went swimming under a 200 ft waterfall. One intense thunder storm, my first ride in a bush plane, and some really glorious clifftop sunrises later and I’m left constantly thinking “This is soo not what I thought South Africa looked like”. So much diversity! I think that’s what keeps me coming back both here, and to the outdoors in general. - If you’re looking for new outdoor gear for yourself or as a gift, I’ve partnered with @backcountry to offer 15% off everything in your first order! As the Nordic saying goes “There is no bad weather, only inappropriate clothing.” :P Just use code CHELSEA15 at checkout. There’s also free two day shipping on any order over $50! I’m not a huge gift person, but I do believe in investing in things that enable you to chase your best moments :) #GOATworthy #sponsored

A post shared by Chelsea Y.✨🌊 Hawaii + Travel (@chelseakauai) on

Chelsea Kauai’s sponsored ad with Backcountry is another prime example of a long-form narrative Instagram caption in which she tells a story to personally connect with the sponsoring brand. Her lengthy caption captures her travel experience accompanied by a recommendation for Backcountry products. The personal touch adds a flavor of trust, meaning her call to use the discount code will be more effective with her audience.

While Chelsea doesn’t ask her audience to comment or leave their thoughts, her post generated 541 comments and 38,757 likes for an engagement rate of 5.4%. Despite the engagement rate being lower than her organic posts, the endorsement was positively received—something also made possible through Backcountry's long-term influencer partnership with Chelsea.

2. Emoji Instagram Captions

Emojis liven Instagram captions by adding emotion and levity. As digital icons that can be used in place of or in addition to text, emojis bring simplicity to Instagram captions. In many ways, emojis benefit from being a language of their own. A single emoji can convey emotion for a photo or video upload and contextualizes it in less time that it takes to read a sentence.

Emojis can also be used to indicate a hidden meaning to fans, serving as an easter egg for astute followers who can deduce the meaning. Emojis used in this way can be a useful tool for building anticipation among followers for an upcoming announcement.

Examples Of Emoji Instagram Captions

Caitlin Turner Channels Her Inner Emoji Energy


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This week has been an intense (and stressful 😬) one for me, and it seems like everyone I know is feeling it. If you’re feeling it too, hang in there! 💗 Monday felt like two days instead of one. Then yesterday was the kind of Tuesday that felt like it should be a Thursday, and today is the kind of Wednesday that feels like it should be a Friday. 🤷🏼‍♀️ I’m reminding myself that, depending on my reaction, the most challenging days often reveal themselves to have been the most rewarding in retrospect... but I have to make it to the other side in order to gain that perspective. 💪🏼 Does today feel like a Wednesday to you? 🤔 . Hanging in there with @acrowithjon, wearing my fave top from @aloyoga 😍

A post shared by Caitlin Turner (@gypsetgoddess) on

Turner makes extensive use of emojis throughout her Instagram caption to lighten the tone of her post, peppering them in-between the longer descriptive text. Almost all of the comments from followers also use emojis, demonstrating her ability to tap into what resonates with her audience most.

Jeanne Damas Emotes Abroad


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A post shared by Jeanne (@jeannedamas) on

Damas’ post exemplifies the simplicity of emojis when used correctly. She uses no words, encouraging fans to interpret the meaning themselves. In this example she appears to be enjoying the sun in Portugal—in other posts, emoji meanings may be more subtle or cryptic.

3. Direct Engagement Instagram Captions

Audience interaction is one of the most important ways for an influencer to produce ongoing engagement, maintain follower loyalty, grow their fanbase, and drive conversions for brands. Influencers often use two main forms of direct engagement Instagram captions including:

  • Questions - Influencers will pose questions for followers to answer in the comments.
  • CTAs - Influencers will tell followers to do something that requires them to either “like,” follow, tag, sign up, add commentary, or more.

There are several techniques for driving direct audience engagement, including prompting fans to tag friends (i.e., “tag someone who…”), encouraging followers to add their own opinions or thoughts (i.e., “caption this”), or simply answering a question (i.e., “what’s on your wishlist?”) within the comment section.

Within the comments, users vie for attention or attempt to attain “likes” on their comments in order to propel their own accounts. While the action may seem self-serving, this creates a positive cycle of follower engagement by nurturing audience relationships, reaching new eyeballs, and driving meaningful user actions such as contest signups or even purchase decisions.

Examples Of Direct Engagement Instagram Captions

Shay Mitchell Challenges Her Followers


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5 points if you can spot what doesn’t belong in these photos... 🖐🏽

A post shared by Shay Mitchell (@shaymitchell) on

Mitchell’s post is a classic example of using Instagram caption inquiries to directly interact with her audience. She gives a short, simple challenge to her followers—a question about her appearance in this case—and garners nearly 4,000 more comments than she does on her average Instagram post.

Marianna Hewitt Gets To Know Her Audience


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Hiii 👋🏼 what city are you from? I’m in Los Angeles ☀️

A post shared by Marianna Hewitt (@marianna_hewitt) on

Some captions, like the one featured in this post, can be completely unrelated to the image attached to it. Hewitt simply asks where her followers are from. Here, it has little relation to the content, as it’s more important for her to engage her audience and show interest in them rather than focus on the actual image. As a result, her post generates roughly 200 more comments than her other feed posts.

Ana Free Asks Followers To Share Routines


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#ad Every year, Winter + LA desert climate have my skin sooo dry 🌵 Enter @rawsugarliving to save my skin season 🙌🏻 Lightweight and fresh feeling with Organic Aloe + Green Tea + Cucumber scent (these gently heal, soothe and soften the skin). The ColdPress Technology used means this nourishing + hydrating cream retains all the nutrients of the fruit locked in. 🌱 Vegan, cruelty-free and free of sulphates, dyes and parabens 💫 PLUS for every product you buy #rawsugar donate a bar of soap to a family in need. I admire brands + companies supporting causes through their products, it makes using them that much more positive + enjoyable ✨ Look for the bamboo tops at @target. What do you use on your skin when it’s feeling dry? // O Inverno e o clima de LA fazem com que a minha pele esteja seca! A gama Ultra Nourishing da @rawsugarliving é a resposta perfeita. Estou a adorar os cremes e o gel de duche 🚿💫 Deixa-me a pele hidratada e mimada 🥰 O que usam para combater a pele seca? —— #rawlovin #skincare #hydration #cream #skincareroutine #skincaretips #skin #blogger #lifestyleblogger #familyblogger #mommyblogger #discoverunder100k #cleanbeauty #cleanskincare

A post shared by Ana Free (@anafreeworld) on

Ana Free chooses to interact with her fans by creating a topic of discussion relevant to the brand she’s endorsing. Since the product relates to her skincare routine, she interacts with her fans by asking what methods they use for skincare, encouraging them to comment with their thoughts. This is a simple and effective way to get followers talking about a brand in a sponsored post.

4. Personal Story Instagram Captions

Personal stories are often employed by influencers to develop more meaningful connections with their followers. These can be long or short, and often concern a personal development in their lives. Sometimes, they show a contrast between real life and how they are perceived on social media.

With sponsored Instagram posts, the product endorsement is typically interwoven into the story they are telling, allowing their honesty and vulnerability to elicit a more relatable response from their audience. Giving followers insight into the more personal side of the influencer’s character is the primary goal, creating transparency and trust.

Examples Of Personal Story Instagram Captions

Humans Of New York Samples Raw Stories


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“I’m not sure if you’ve heard about the accident at South By Southwest a few years back. A car plowed into a crowd of pedestrians. Four people died. Twenty-five were injured. I was the twenty-fifth. I broke my back and neck in four places. The driver was fleeing from the police in a stolen car. He was twenty-one years old. His name was Rashad. A lot of people in my life thought he should get the death penalty. But I never had strong feelings about it. Maybe I disconnected from my emotions. Maybe it’s just my personality. But I mostly just felt sad that he’s so young and he’ll be in jail for the rest of his life. Recently I looked up the address of his prison. I purchased a PO Box. And I wrote him three letters. I’ve held onto them for months without sending them. I guess I’m struggling with the fact that empathy is a privilege. I’m still alive. I’m still able to walk. There are people who lost more than me who might be upset that I’m showing him any compassion at all. But I find it curious that I know nothing about somebody who had such a profound impact on my life. All three letters begin the exact same way: ‘We’ve never met, but we were in the same place at the same time.’ I’m not sure what I’m looking for. I just figure there’s something to be said. And I’d like to figure out what that is.”

A post shared by Humans of New York (@humansofny) on

Humans of New York is one of the best examples of an online presence which deals exclusively in personal stories—to great effect. This particular post is a first-hand account of someone’s past and personal hardships, which evokes a powerful response from followers. Although this format is innate to the account and nothing new to its followers, the engagement remains strong in each post.

Elise Young Documents Personal Struggles


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I moved to NYC without a job 10 years ago. I quickly started personal training and worked 4 jobs to pay rent in attempt to pursue a career helping others. As years passed and I carved my path in fitness, my confidence began to build, but I was still unsettled.⚡️When I first started, I couldn't say my job out loud without my head down and mumbling "personal trainer" fearing rejection or that dreaded response, "but what's your real job?"I wasn't proud.I was unsure.I cared too much what others thought of me.I thought with a college degree, social acceptance in NYC meant working in Midtown or Wall Street+what I was doing was just a filler job.I was wrong.I didn't trust my heart or listen when it was screaming this is your passion, this is what you love.I was too focused on going everyone else's way and not my own. It was then that I took it into my own hands and decided, “I want my mind to match my body. My interior must be as strong.”I worked endlessly.⚡️Today, I openly+proudly not only share my career but also who I am as a person.I don't live behind these fears of acceptance.The voices of I can't are minimal.I speak true to who I am+remain rooted to this very ground. By following my heart, fueled with constant drive, I have created a career out of my passion+aim to reach as many as possible to help them reach their goals-that is truly a gift. ⚡️I share this because, this weekend, as I sat meeting with women from the @adidaswomen community to discuss their goals for 2019, I had a moment of self reflection.I took a second to take in what I was truly doing, where I was sitting, among who, in what context+felt a sense of pride for never giving up on a dream despite the many hardships of the journey. And as I introduced myself to the clients coming to chat one by one, I proudly said I am a personal trainer. I can promise you, no physical lift could ever match the strength of feeling confident in the person you are. Continue to trust your heart.Believe in your journey and the rest will line up how it is supposed to.⚡️To learn more about the amazing events that @adidaswomen offers and how to be a part of the community, register using the link in my bio. 💪#adidaswomen

A post shared by Elise Young (@elisesbodyshop) on

This sponsored post makes use of long-form captioning with a personal story. Young gives a detailed history of her early struggles and her ensuing progress before combining those themes with her sponsor.

The relatability of this approach to sponsored content provides an almost universally positive response from her audience in the likes and comments department. The message is rooted in a brand’s commitment to a meaningful cause, which adds extra layers of authenticity and significance. Taking it even further, Elise responds individually to her followers in the comment section.

5. Humorous Instagram Captions

Humor is a very common tactic used in influencers’ Instagram captions to inject comedy and entertain their audience. This can include using unnecessarily long hashtags for comedic effect, or just a regular pun or joke. It’s also common for influencers to caption their uploads from the point of view of someone or something else, like a pet or a baby, or even inanimate objects like cars.

Examples Of Humorous Instagram Captions

Walter Geoffrey Entertains With A Side Of Sass

Walter Geoffrey, a French bulldog with a thriving Instagram following, uses long hashtags for entertainment value and to provoke a response from the audience. The hashtags themselves don’t provide much of a searchability purpose, and mainly exist to supplement the already comical and crude Instagram captions depicting Walter’s feelings toward his owner. The hashtags are virtually extensions of the Instagram caption but allow the user to add more off-the-cuff commentary.

Ivy In The Wild Cracks Jokes With Audience

For some influencers, comedy goes with the territory. In this case, we have another pet influencer, Ivy. Ivy’s post makes use of a short and simple joke, which received a solid amount of positive engagement. Jokes offer an excellent way to connect with followers through creating laughter and causing amusement.

6. Quote Instagram Captions

Quoting in captions is another effective tool for influencers. Whether from a friend, someone they overheard, song lyrics, or words of admiration or motivation, quotes can bring a level of conversation to a post. In general, quotes capture the contextual emotion of an upload that can’t be seen, be it humor, inspiration, introspection, or a simple feeling.

Examples Of Quote Instagram Captions

Nathaniel Wise Echoes Wise Words

Wise’s post typifies how quotes can elevate a post and foster a response from followers. Here, the intention is to inspire awe in his fans, which, judging by the comments, was largely successful. By connecting his current experiences to a relevant and reflective quote, Nathaniel instills a sense of wonder with his audience.

Juniper Fox Recites Appropriate Story Quotation

Juniper, the fox who has attracted an enormous following of 2.7 million on Instagram, may be an unexpected example here, but there’s no doubt as to the effectiveness of employing a quote. Taking a line from The Little Prince, the quote adds an adorable and fitting explanation of Juniper’s relationship with her dog sibling. An otherwise standard video of Juniper playing with a dog is transformed through the quote a, giving the Instagram caption and video post entirely new meaning.

7. Short-Form Instagram Captions

Short captions may run counter to the trend in long-form, confessional posts, but they still have a place in the Instagram blogging world. Pulling back on the descriptive text and keeping it simple, short-form Instagram captions often employ between 1-5 words. This places emphasis on getting the message across to the audience as concisely as possible.

Short-form Instagram captions are most effective when a deeper explanation isn’t necessary. Because of this, they are far more appropriate for some topics than others—it’s difficult to be concise when promoting a pharmaceutical product, whereas a cup of coffee might speak for itself.

Example Of Short-Form Instagram Captions

Zippora Seven Dreams Fashionably


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Dream with me 🕊 @billabongwomens #givebillabong #ad

A post shared by Zippora Seven (@zippyseven) on

Zippora Seven uploaded this post with a short caption followed by an emojis, promoting beach fashion brand Billabong. The post is short, sweet, and has no frills—seemingly capturing a quick snippet of life as opposed to a filtered and staged photo. Instagram captions like these are good for raising brand awareness without too much of a promotional punch.

8. Blank Instagram Captions

On occasion, influencers opt to write no caption at all and let the image or video speak entirely for itself. The effectiveness of blank Instagram caption posts depends exclusively on the content and whether it’s able to effectively communicate its message without a descriptor.

Blank caption approaches are normally found in slice-of-life images and awe-inspiring travel images, where the caption is secondary to the image and can be discarded if need be. Overall, the lack of an Instagram caption can be a statement by itself, allowing onlookers to use their imagination when interpreting the meaning of the post or solely focus on the visual elements.

Example Of Blank Instagram Captions

Stephanie Gilmore Creates Mundane Mystery


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A post shared by Stephanie (@stephaniegilmore) on

Gilmore’s nondescript post features her standing in a cafe with the audience seemingly invited to make their own interpretations of the post. Similar to the #NoFilter hashtag popular on Instagram posts that capture a photo’s beauty without editing, the choice to not use a caption puts the focus on the raw image rather than words.

In terms of Instagram sponsored posts, using a blank caption approach is not compliant with FTC endorsement guidelines. Therefore, blank Instagram captions should not be used in influencer marketing campaigns, and should instead be reserved for influencers’ nonsponsored posts—which can organically promote a brand through product placement or by simply tagging the brand’s Instagram handle.

How Can Brands Create Good Instagram Captions With Influencers?

As a platform that commands an audience of 1 billion global users and a market poised to reach $2.3 billion by 2020, Instagram is arguably the most important channel for your brand’s influencer marketing strategy. In order to take advantage of what the platform has to offer, users, influencers, and brands alike can implement any number or combination of the above Instagram caption trends to drive more effective Instagram posts. Above all else, remember that authenticity is the key to writing good Instagram captions.

How Have Instagram Features Shaped New Social Media Content Trends?

Instagram has changed a lot over the last few years. Newer features, such as Instagram Stories—designed to make the platform more directly competitive with Snapchat—and Instagram Shopping—designed to facilitate e-commerce capabilities within the platform—have created new social media content trends. Other features, like IGTV, Instagram Live, direct messaging, and search and save functionalities have molded the platform into a social staple in different ways.

Instagram Feed Vs. Instagram Stories Content

instagram caption story

On one hand, users have begun to use their regular Instagram feeds for longer narrative Instagram captions, while on the other, Instagram Stories has opened up a completely different opportunity for marketers and influencers. The widely popular Stories format allows users to cultivate live-feed content and day-in-the-life content distinct from staged posts of the normal feed.

Meanwhile, for the regular feed of an Instagram influencer, the comment section has become an increasingly important organ of the platform. On a social media network where so many photos look identical, influencers are turning to commenters to give them an edge and differentiate themselves with the engagement of their fans.

In both scenarios, Instagram captions have become a critical part of Instagram influencers’ strategies to:

  • boost awareness
  • generate conversation
  • build trust
  • nurture engagement
  • drive sales

How Can Instagram Captions Be Leveraged For Influencer Marketing?

Influencers Nurture Audience Engagement In Innovative Ways

Due to the potential of Instagram captions to capture audience interest, influencers have become whizzes at crafting creative, thoughtful, and actionable captions. One such way is by posing questions to their followers, which generates subsequent dialogue and inter-Instagram user connections in the comments section. This practice has become a huge attraction across the platform.
engaging instagram captions

Influencers have also become experts in delivering calls to action (CTAs) in their Instagram captions which cause their audience to take some form of action naturally. This results in a productive marketing method that so many marketers strive to achieve in their own advertising efforts. Here, influencers have mastered the art in front of an already captive audience.

In this sense, Instagram captions have become a beast on their own. Whereas their initial purpose was as a descriptor, their foremost function now is often to engage the audience and provide a forum for discussion. This is particularly pertinent to marketers looking to raise awareness, create buzz, and drive sales for a brand through Instagram sponsored posts.

Get the CMO's Guide to Influencer Marketing for tips on launching an Instagram influencer campaign:

cmos guide to influencer marketing