The Anatomy of an Effective Instagram Caption

The Anatomy of an Effective Instagram Caption | Kayla Hollatz: Community Coach for Creatives

Brands are flocking to Instagram and rightfully so. The power of visual marketing on Instagram is like no other social platform we've seen to date. 

While some brands are putting their entire focus on hitting the next thousand follower mark as quickly as possible, you’re smart and know that engagement is the most important metric on Instagram. Luckily, we’re not the only ones who think so. 

Instagram recently updated their Top Posts algorithm to highlight photos with the highest engagement rates, meaning it compares the ratio of interactions (such as likes and comments) to the number of followers. This is why you’ll see photos in the Top Posts section with a wide range of likes from an even wider range of follower counts. 

No matter if you are just starting your online business Instagram account or ramping up your Instagram game, engagement should be your primary focus. One of the best ways to inspire engagement is through your Instagram captions. 

You’re already investing time into shooting and editing photos for your eye-catching Instagram feed. Now it’s time to seal the deal with your captions and start a conversation with your target audience. 

Let’s break it down! 

Include only one CTA

Every photo in your Instagram feed should serve one purpose. That purpose is to get your audience to take an action. Giving your audience several options at once actually discourages them from taking action on any one of them. 

Instead, include one CTA, which is an abbreviation for “call-to-action.” Here are some common CTAs you’ll find in Instagram captions:

  • Click the link in the bio
  • Answer a question
  • Tag your friends in the comment section
  • Poll your audience for their vote
  • Repost an image 

The list goes on. Remember, do not distract your audience from the real action you want them to take. If it’s to give you feedback on something specific, don’t reference a link in your bio and ask people to tag their friends. Focus in for your best results. 

A few people who do dedicated CTAs well are Blog Society, Nesha Designs, So Worth Loving, and The Blissful Mind. Not only are their Instagram feeds super attractive, each photo also serves its own purpose which feeds into the brand’s overall mission. 

Choose the right hashtags

Hashtags are one of the best and worst things about Instagram. They are great for helping you build your reach but are often abused by users who fill them with irrelevant photos. You only want to use the hashtags that will help you reach your dreamy clients and buyers.

To find hashtags that are relevant to you, look at other professionals in your niche to see which hashtags they’re using, especially if they have a highly engaging feed. You can also look for people on Instagram who fit your ideal client/buyer/reader profile and look at which hashtags they use on a regular basis. 

I love how Caitlin Bacher, Social Studio Shop, and Maya Elious use hashtags to attract other creative entrepreneurs. For additional hashtag resources, here are a few blog posts from my social media Pinterest board that may help: one | two | three | four | five

Tell a story

Sure, you could write a quick one liner, but it’s not as engaging as a story would be. Of course the story doesn’t have to be a novel, but in order to start a conversation in your comment section, you'll want to spend some time crafting an interesting story. This especially works well for personal brands.

It’s important that your caption adds real value to your photo. After all, your main goal is to inspire your audience enough to hit the Read More button so they can continue connecting with you. The comments that follow are priceless.

Not sure which story to tell or even how to tell your story? These questions might help you get started: 

  • If your photo could talk, what would it say?
  • What story is most relevant to your life right now?
  • Can a past memory be paired with a recently captured photo?
  • How does this story help me tell my bigger brand story?

For Instagram storytelling inspiration, read the captions of Hannah Brencher, Made Vibrant, Alisha Nicole, and Kercia Jane. I’m sure you’ll love them as much as I do.

Infuse your personality

People want to connect with people, not logos. Humanize your Instagram captions by cultivating your own unique voice. The more approachable and authentic your written voice feels, the more you’ll be able to build loyalty and trust. 

The Anatomy of an Effective Instagram Caption | Kayla Hollatz: Community Coach for Creatives

Another way to showcase your personality and add a little pizazz is through emojis! One way to discover your emoji style (if that’s not a thing, let’s make it one!) is to look at the Frequently Used emoji keyboard on your photo. Which ones feel on-brand? Consider it your new emoji dictionary. 

I admire how Paige Poppe and Steph GIlbert use emojis to add some spunk to their Instagram captions. I instantly know they are fun, light-hearted people along with being insanely talented. 


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What has helped you heighten your engagement rate on Instagram? Any other tips you would add? Share them with us in the comment section below!