Instagram is an incredible tool for small businesses. It gives us indie brands access to an almost unlimited audience, for free, so that we can build our communities and populate our marketing funnels.
That’s why we spend so much time investing in tactics to increase our Instagram metrics - tips and tricks for gaining followers, increasing reach, and gathering up those likes, comments, shares and saves.
However, those stats are kinda meaningless unless our content is making an impact on our audience, an impact that changes how our audience thinks, feels, or acts towards our businesses. A lot of that incredible valuable impact is drawn from our Instagram post captions, so here’s my 5 super easy tweaks to get more people reading your Instagram captions - allowing you to make the most of this incredibly useful social media platform.
1. Use your first sentence as a click-driving headline
The first time your audience sees your new Instagram post, the caption is collapsed with only a teasing sentence on show. The more effectively we use this tease, the more people we can convince to open and read our full captions.
I like to approach my first sentence in the same way that I approach the titles on my website’s blog articles:
- Be specific
- Say what someone will find out when they read
- Lead with the most valuable proposition
- Use numbers when you can
- Create intrigue and excitement
And as an extra bonus, I lead with an on-brand emoji to grab a little extra attention and stand out in the Instagram feeds of my target audience.
Using effective headlines is the oldest trick in the media book, and works just as well on Instagram as it does in a newspaper. It also softens the transition into your content, so that your audience isn’t crashing into your awesome expertise.
2. Include lots of paragraph breaks in your Instagram captions
One sure fire way to guarantee text doesn’t get read, is to present it in one massive block. It’s genuinely more difficult to read, especially for those with sight difficulties or dyslexia, and feels like a mammoth mountain for your followers to climb.
Instead, break up each paragraph into a single sentence of text. It will be more way more digestible, easier to understand, and therefore easier to remember to boot.
3. Use emojis as bullet points to structure lists
Emojis come in so darn handy in Instagram captions. The amount of formatting we can achieve in Instagram is pretty limited, so emojis are a wonderful tool for conveying and structuring information.
I like to use bullets to share my expertise, like in this post on the business reasons why our studio is so darn pretty and pink.
They can also be used for product descriptions, e.g.
Handmade in Bristol, UK
100% sustainable materials
Recycled packaging, always
And for communicating structured data, like credits from a collaborative photoshoot, e.g.
Sally the Model
4. Don’t (just) repeat the image contents in your post caption
If you share a graphic of a motivational quote on your Instagram grid, and repeat that same quote in your caption, your reader didn’t gain value by reading your caption.
If you share a picture of a beautiful rattan basket with pink pompoms, and your caption is “Just dropped: beautiful rattan basket with pink pompoms”, your reader didn’t gain value by reading your caption.
Your post image and your post caption should complement, not match, to ensure that your audience has a reason to engage with and absorb both elements.
Take that motivational quote, a more valuable caption would be why you are sharing it, and what it means to you and your business.
The beautiful rattan basket? I want you to share how I could style it in my home, or who I could buy it for this Christmas.
My favourite example from my own Instagram feed, is where I created a series of graphics to explain what a marketing funnel is - and in the caption, it opened me up to talk about why that same marketing funnel matters.
5. Be consistent with your Instagram captions
I find a lot of small business owners posting to Instagram because they feel like they ‘have to’. They feel like that pesky Instagram algorithm will punish them from staying away, or that their audience will think less highly, or that the mythical boss-babe-hustlers will frown down from the heavens for failing to be anything other than perfect.
It is far, far, far, far more valuable to your business to post only when you have the time, creativity, and brainspace to produce valuable content that makes you proud.
I share an insane amount of free business expertise in my Instagram posts - and it’s not because I am a total altruist - it’s my marketing strategy. My publishing and sharing value, I give my followers a reason to keep reading my captions.
And because my audience is consistently opening captions, it gives me the power to sneak in messages that encourage them to move down my marketing funnel; with requests to read my blog, subscribe my mailing list, or join my Facebook group.
One last thing
Your Instagram presence is a far more effective business tool when used with intention and purpose, and not out of obligation. Take your time, create something that you would personally find interesting, and then write a smashing headline that sells it.
A little about Aime Cox-Tennant and Studio Cotton
Studio Cotton is a proudly independent marketing agency based in Bristol, UK. Their founder Aime, and her team of incredibly talented creatives, develop brand identities, websites and marketing campaigns exclusively for small creative businesses that are based in the UK.
And, Aime writes a lot more articles like this one. You can find an immense amount of free advice and expertise over on the Studio Cotton blog, or dive into Aime’s Instagram via @studio.cotton for bite-size nuggets of small business know-how.