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How I write my Instagram captions

4 min read

It took me a while to realize that Instagram captions had a formula and that I could use it without selling my soul.

Before you say it, it’s not copywriting as many social media gurus sell in their online courses. Copywriting works for brands but not much for real people.

So, before we dive into it, let me start with some premises.

Social media is defined as a digital technology that facilitates the creation, sharing, or exchange of information, ideas, interests, expression.

But what happens if we break those words and think a little bit more.

Media is the plural of medium, a means by which something is communicated or expressed. Social means “relating to activities in which you meet and spend time with other people and to your ability to be friendly with others.”

Alright, now, if we join those words again, social media is a means by which we communicate and express ourselves about activities where we meet other people, spend time together, and be friendly with them.

If you combine both definitions, you already know how to write a good caption. But keep reading.

captions

To be honest, I don’t think we should keep calling it a caption anymore. I get that Instagram was originally conceived as a photo-sharing app with telegram-like descriptions of the photos (captions), hence the name of the app, INSTA-, as in “instant photos”, + GRAM, telegram-like captions. But…

As Instagram became more popular, those initial short meaningless captions became more elaborated. Captions got smarter, and some became longer. Most of us turned them into little articles, making our Instagram accounts look like microblogs.

But all that also made Instagram another way to contribute to one of the worst maladies of the century: information overload. That, in its turn, contributes to people idly scrolling their timelines and drooling over their screens without stopping anywhere.

Good. Why am I saying all this? Because this post is about the formula to avoid drooling scrollers and to write a good caption and it’s all related to what I said so far.

You get it by now, Instagram captions are a mix of little conversations and microblogging. Which means you have to talk to your followers and still write a good little article that adds value to their lives and convince them that what you have to say is not information overload not a meaningless description of your photo, it’s just you talking about an interesting subject they might also like and you’re trying to find friends to discuss it, it’s you being social.

So, here’s the formula:

(1) hook
(2) talk
(3) keep the conversation going

How does it work?

hook

The first words you use have to hook your reader. Those words have to take them out of the autopilot scrolling with a dead face and make them raise their eyebrows and eyelids. It doesn’t even have to be both eyebrows and eyelids, just one side with a little head slant and a “humm” is enough.

Write something interesting in the beginning to make your reader crave for more or to call their attention.

In other words, this is the part where you say, “Hey, I got something to tell you…” more creatively than that, and they go, “Okay, I’m listening, what is it?”

talk

You have one or two (maybe three) short paragraphs to talk about now. It’s worthless to hook your reader and not deliver what you promised. What was that something you wanted to tell them?

During the talk, you want to remember to be social, write like you talk, be friendly, and that you’re talking to a real person on the other side. You’re also using that medium to convey your ideas, information, interests, or whatever you want to share (or sell — that’s why some people mistake it for copywriting).

You also want to establish a purpose here. Basically, you want to inspire, educate, or entertain. And that means you have to keep the conversation interesting and add value to the life of that person you called and took out of their catatonic state.

keep the conversation going

You could end there and let your reader go back to their zombie scrolling and keep walking.

But you want them to visit you again, you want them to tell their friends that you have something different and good to talk about. You want to create a community, a group of friends, a place in this crazy digital world where people can gather and talk about that subject you’re passionate about.

Because of that, you have to use what marketing people and (yea) copywriters call a CTA or a call to action. In other words, you have to ask something or ask your reader to do something and keep the conversation going.

Now, there are some extra ingredients to make it all better. We can talk more about them later, but it comes down to this: be authentic, be honest, and don’t use that formula as a robot.

Between the lines…

What do you think about it? What makes a perfect Instagram caption in your opinion?

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