6 Hacks to Captivate with Captions – Storyteller Style.

Jun 8, 2022

tl;dr – Enter the new era of social media copywriting. It’s all about brevity, rich visuals, trending one-liner call to actions, A/B testing and strategically chosen search-optimised keywords to tell Instagram what we’re really up to. How does your caption writing measure up?

With Instagram nudging us away from the spammy, 30-hashtag formulas to gain traction, we enter a new era of writing content for social media. Keywords, search optimisation and call-to-actions are shoved down our throats as social media experts convince us that ‘this course’, will be the one to ensure success. Wading through the lackluster can prove tiring, which is why this blog post serves to remind us: quality content reigns supreme. Enjoy part one of a two part series where I share my copywriting perspective on balancing effort with ROI and how to truly captivate with your captions. Storyteller style.


01/ Skip the intro, opt for a tl;dr

It’s, too long, didn’t read. Ouch. How? Use those first 125 characters in your caption to summarise the juiciest pieces of caption content. Get to the crux of what you have to say quickly and try not to waffle. There is 2,075 characters left to elaborate, but I promise not all of it will be relevant to your key message.

Why a tl;dr? If you are banking on every potential client having a luxurious three minutes to thoroughly read every. single. one of your IG captions; you’re seriously decreasing your chances to connect. Make information consumable and you’re more likely to get a bite.

02/ We are visual creatures

Pretty pictures, sexy fonts, bold colours. We are visual creatures and exciting imagery teases our creative brain. I always stress to my clients that published content has to be written well and accompanied by appealing visuals to aide in conversion. If you have a particularly large point to get across, opt for a slider graphic to break up the written content and be careful to minimise caption-overwhelm.

If there isn’t much to say, don’t write for the sake of writing. Sit comfortably with the adage of, ‘less is more’, and focus on letting the hero be an image. There is no perfect formula for balancing written and visual content since everyone’s target audience is going to be different. This is why it is so important to analyse and learn about your own following and take cues from their engagement, interactions and online behaviours.

03/ If all else fails, be aggressive

Sometimes a picture only says 999 words and you need the caption to pull a bit of the weight. Try writing with the aim to interest, intrigue or provoke. At least in your tl;dr section. You can do this by writing something,

  • Conservatively controversial, then go on to elaborate
  • Slightly out of context, then go on to clarify
  • Strange or playful, then get down to business
  • Relevant or trending, if your audience is akin to memes/ pop culture references.

Related Blog: Reigniting your creative. 5 tips for women in business.

04/ Play with caption length…

Remember how I said there is no one size fits all? When it comes to writing content for your audience, there is only one way to improve connection: testing to see what works and learning as much as you can about your followers. As a copywriter, I have quite an extensive briefing process and offer multiple phone calls so I can really get to learn your business inside and out. This is what helps me develop and tailor a tone of voice which will appeal to your ideal client.

In a similar vain, the ideal caption length for your business will depend on who is reading it. A UX/UI business who is trying to connect with clients interested in user interface design is going to need longer captions, rich in information and examples, to help convey a sense of professionalism, agility and knowledge.

A photographer on the other hand, is looking to showcase their art, style of photography and create a connection rooted in understanding, common-ground and emotion. By utilising shorter, personalised captions, the photographer is going to be able to create a safe space. Kindness doesn’t tend to go hand-in-hand with statistics and tech-talk.

05/ …But not at the expense of SEO keywords

The catch-22. Your caption needs to be long enough to incorporate keywords relevant to your business. Ideally you will choose evergreen keywords that stand the test of time, so they can be incorporated into your copywriting and content, again and again. Finding it tricky to narrow down what evergreen keywords are right for your content writing? Here’s a little checklist.

  • Is the keyword describing what my business does?
  • Does the keyword relate directly to my products/ services?
  • Will I be able to use this keyword over the next 12 months?
  • Is it easy to incorporate this keyword into different copy?
  • Can this keyword be used in informational/ educational content, sales content and personal content?
  • Is this keyword what my target market will actually be searching for?

Make sure to update your Alt text before posting with relevant keywords to create content continuity!

06/ Grow with organic hashtags

There is still a place for hashtags, especially niche hashtags outside of your keywords. If you are running a campaign, a seasonal promotional or have discovered a hashtag with higher reach, experiment with organically incorporating these tags into your copywriting, rather than pasting them down the bottom of your caption. Depending on your brand, this style of writing can add interest and help to break up larger bodies of copy. Just remember that less is more and only include hashtags if they are relevant – you do not want to be confusing the algorithm or getting flagged for spam.

You can read more caption hacks in part two, launching shortly. Remember to like and share this blog if you found it useful.

Esme; Copywriting – where storytelling meets strategy.

Every element of a copywriting project with me is thoughtfully researched, obsessively curated and authentically delivered. Whether you are searching for email content writing, blog copy or website copywriting, all of my copywriting services involve collaborative briefing, detailed revisions and consultation throughout the project. 🤍