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.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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’ non-sponsored 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 IGTVInstagram 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

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.

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.