How to Write Instagram Captions That Sell in 2019: A Step-by-Step Guide
I think you’ll agree with me when I say:
It’s hard to connect with people on Instagram anymore…
…Growing an engaged audience is almost impossible.
Or is it?
Well, it turns out, that in 2019 you can grow authentic, meaningful relationships by making one small change to your next Instagram post…
…a change that’s increased the amount of comments I receive by 307%!
How did I do it?
By writing compelling Instagram captions, that’s how.
And in today’s post, I’m going to show you exactly how you can easily apply the same strategy to your Instagram account.
Here’s 9 tips to help you write Instagram captions that sell in 2019.
Table of contents
Almost anyone can put one word in front of the other and call it an Instagram caption.
But in 2019, that’s no longer good enough.
In a sea of over-filtered, over-produced travel images, people today are craving the buzzword of the decade:
They don’t want staged, unattainable perfection. They want real people they can connect with. That they can relate to.
That’s where your Instagram caption comes in.
Your caption is your opportunity to share your brand's unique personality, style and tone of voice.
But to know exactly what to say, and how to say it, you need to be really clear on who you're talking to.
And to do that, you need to get super clear on your target audience.
If you’ve got a few different types of customer that you’re targeting (e.g. a fitness brand that speaks to both older and younger women) flesh these out with buyer personas.
For example, rather than a group of 45-year old, country living yoga lovers, you want to give this persona:
Their pain points
To put this into practice, our 45-year old year old yoga lovers will be represented by the name Shavasana Susan. Instead of talking generally about her life in the countryside practicing yoga, you want to think about her as a real person.
She is 45 years old
She lives in the suburbs
She’s raising two teenagers
She works for herself
She likes to practice yoga 5x a week
Her biggest pain point: Being a present mother while still doing the things she loves – running her small business, and doing yoga
Her values/goals: Attending her children’s sports/theatre events and being a positive role model to them
Now you're clear on your target audience and specifically, audience personas, can you see how much easier it is to infuse your captions with sincerity?
It's so much easier to develop your brand voice, when you have Shavasana Susan's hopes, dreams, and challenges in mind.
And she will be much more likely to participate and engage with your content.
In terms of the style of your brand voice – it can be lighthearted, humorous, matter-of-fact or even sarcastic.
Whatever works best with your overall brand values and mission.
People that succeed on Instagram do two things very well.
First, they create great visuals.
Second, they tell compelling, engaging stories that connect with their audience.
Now, you might be thinking:
“The days of the written word are over. People don’t have time/don’t care about reading text anymore.”
Well, firstly, the myth about people having attention spans as short as goldfish is just that – a myth.
What is true, is that people are more distracted than ever before, with information overload coming at them from many different devices and applications.
So you're going to need to grab people's attention.
How do you do that?
Not with short, fluffy, and unmemorable Instagram captions.
For example, one of my very own Instagram captions last year.
This just isn't going to cut it in 2019.
Who am I speaking to? What am I offering? How am I helping or inspiring or informing?
Because it's hard to communicate any value in a caption comprised of 11 words.
Now, that's not to say your caption should be excessively long and overindulgent.
But it should be long enough to stop an Instagram scroller in their tracks and read for a minute.
Don't be afraid to share so much that people have to click the "more" button.
Unlike other social media platforms such as LinkedIn, where I encourage a short word count to avoid messages getting truncated, I urge the opposite on Instagram.
So how many words should you aim for?
I would aim for a minimum of 70 words.
The beauty of keeping it longer, is that there is the space to include many of the other Instagram caption must-dos listed below.
It's really important that everything you write online or social media inspires action.
And guess what?
You're going to have to tell people what action to take. In other words, include a call-to-action (or CTA) in your Instagram caption e.g. "Double tap if you think/tag a friend that..."
I know, I know.
You think it's cringey or pushy and what's the point anyway, because no one will actually follow your instruction?
Many people won't.
But some just might.
Get into the habit of including a CTA in every single Instagram caption you write, and soon it will become as natural for your audience as it is for you.
The good news is that there's lots of CTAs you can choose from.
Here's a few to whet your whistle:
Double tap [if you are_____ / if you agree / if you disagree]
Tag a friend [you'd like to experience this with]
DM me [with your questions]
Comment below [with your favourite ice cream flavour]
Click on the link in my bio [to sign up]
The truth is, people need to me motivated to do things.
Otherwise, they'll remain passive...
...and that's not going to help your engagement rate or the relationship you have with your audience.
So go for it – be a little bossy, and include a CTA in every Instagram caption you create.
Do you follow Humans of New York (HONY) on Instagram or Facebook?
If not – go do so. Immediately.
If you already do, you'll know exactly what I mean when I say:
This account is SO popular because it brings people to tears/hysterical laughter/sadness/joy.
And that's all thanks to those emotion-triggering Instagram captions.
Without those captions, HONY would just be a collection of portraits.
Without those captions, Brandon Stanton (the guy behind HONY) wouldn't have connected with millions of strangers around the world.
But what's the key takeaway for you, if your account isn't filled with people and their stories?
Write captions as if you're having a conversation with a friend in a cafe.
Put your heart into them.
If writing doesn't come naturally to you, focus on four types of emotion.
Motivate your audience with valuable information and/or facts
A small business owner talking about his/her journey to success, honing in on a particular failure and how they overcame it.
Use other people to tell your audience the value of your product/offering.
A cake company sharing user-generated content of customers enjoying their cakes and including a review within the caption.
Make your audience feel like their part of your community.
A candle company talking about how the reader will feel when they come home from a long day, light a candle and de-stress.
Build a sense of anticipation with an offer - whether that's something to purchase, or a free piece of content you've created.
A travel company explaining the wonder of a destination people will experience if they purchase five nights stay at a newly discounted hotel.
With every caption, you want to be telling a story.
Even if the purpose of your caption is to tell your customers about an upcoming sale.
Don't just say:
Think about how your customer will benefit from the sale.
The stories you tell in your Instagram captions will vary depending on what you're selling/offering.
But always think about the particular emotion you want to convey – and then write.
Related post: 10 Ways To Gain Instagram Followers And How I Got To 60k!
In 2019, hashtags are more important than ever before.
Because they are key to increasing your reach and allowing others to find you.
Technically, this tip isn’t about including hashtags within your caption.
It’s about considering them as you write your caption…
…and then adding them as the first comment beneath your Instagram post when it’s live.
So, how do you go about finding the right Instagram hashtags to use?
I use two methods:
1. Manually searching (through competitor + peer hashtags)
2. Using the tool Display Purposes
Manually searching is exactly what it sounds like.
Open up the notes app on your phone.
Then, head over to your competitors' content.
Check out the hashtags they're using on their most engaged content and add them into your notes.
As you start to build a substantial list, you can divide your hashtags into sections depending on the types of content you share.
For example, "Product shot", "City shot", and "Quote picture" – and under each of those you'd add the relevant hashtags.
Another great way to find Instagram hashtags is to use the tool Display Purposes.
The beauty of this desktop-only site is its simplicity.
Type in one of the hashtags your competitor is using and see what results you get.
For example, I typed in popular travel hashtag "#travellingthroughtheworld".
This is what Display Purposes spit out...
Each hashtag is based on popularity and relevance, but there is also weighting towards geographical location.
And if you don’t want all 30 suggestions, move the slider to streamline the number of hashtags.
Pro tip: Now you've saved down groups of hashtags on your notes app, simply copy + paste up to 30. Add these as the first new comment beneath your next Instagram post.
Remember point #3, when I explained the importance of including a call to action in your Instagram captions?
Asking a question is another kind of call to action...
...and it's a great way of driving engagement on Instagram.
This is because it harks back to the point about speaking to your audience like they're your friend.
You wouldn't sit opposite your best friend and speak to him or her without asking any questions, would you?
It wouldn't be natural or interesting to have a one-sided conversation.
And the same goes for your Instagram captions.
"What are you doing this weekend?"
"What's your favourite Netflix show at the moment?"
"What's one thing you're struggling with right now?"
The wonderful thing about questions, is that they help you to understand your audience better.
It might sound obvious, but it's surprising how many brands view their Instagram account as a sales pitch, and not a place to build genuine, meaningful relationships.
And in every good relationship, you ask questions – because you care.
Oreo is a great example of a brand that is constantly asking questions and including CTAs in its Instagram captions.
Pro tip: Include a call-to-action or question right at the beginning of your caption, to stop people scrolling and encourage them to click “read more”.
Like them or not, emojis are everywhere.
They are universal. Their meanings transcend language barriers and generational gaps.
They're used by people young and old, in conversations between friends on WhatsApp, and between colleagues in work email.
Speaking of emails...
56% of brands using emoji in their email subject lines had a higher unique open rate than those who didn’t.
What does that tell you?
That emojis are great for engagement.
This is because they add personality to your Instagram caption, and can sometimes stand in for words altogether.
For example, Instagram influencer @ColorMeCourtney, who sprinkles emojis throughout her captions.
Moral of the story?
Don't be afraid to use emojis in your Instagram captions.
Does your Instagram post feature another user or brand?
Include their username in your Instagram caption to increase the likelihood of them resharing your content with their audience.
When doing this, make sure to consider whether said user/brand is within your target audience or speaking to your target audience.
And, ideally, tag an account that has no more than 100-200k followers.
Any more than that, and it’s unlikely your content will get noticed.
For example, an interior design consultant shares an image of her living room and tags a London-based furniture company with 90k followers.
Last, but definitely not least, don’t write your Instagram captions on the fly.
What do I mean by this?
I mean: don’t write your caption one minute before you’re due to share your Instagram post.
You need time and space to think about all of the points included above.
You need a birds-eye view of your Instagram posts for the week ahead, and the week after that.
When you know that, you know what emotion your next Instagram caption should include.
You know the story you’re going to tell, and the hashtags you’re going to use.
Don’t stress yourself out by having to think of all of that on the spur-of-the-moment.
Use a scheduling app such as Plann or Planoly to plan your Instagram content for the upcoming weeks/months, and draft corresponding captions accordingly.
How to write Instagram captions that sell in 2019: A step-by-step guide: Conclusion
Instagram captions are key to helping you sell products because they build meaningful relationships with your audience.
Try incorporating all of the tips above into your next few Instagram captions and monitor the results.
Is there more dialogue?
Comments below and let me know – I’m excited to find out!