According to many reliable sources (me and maybe like two other people), I am the queen of Instagram. I like to use the app as a daily diary of sorts and have for years. Part of that means I write nice, long stories in the caption box to get my point across and remember little moments that are important to me. Since there are about 80 million photos shared on the app each day, it means a lot when someone takes the time to look at my content, take it in and even go so far as to appreciate it with a like or a comment. While likes on social media definitely aren't everything, they are a feel-good moment in our otherwise busy and hectic lives. To get a notification that practically yells 'someone thinks you're cool!' is a unique and important social cue in 2017— especially among us ~generation Z.~
In order to keep working and socializing in this goofy, immediately-gratifying culture, I've researched a bit on how to rock your Instagram captions, with ideas from myself and from actual media professionals.
1. Know your audience.
Chances are, your audience is mostly other college students, and maybe that one aunt that comments on everything you do. However, think about your engagement over time. Do they seem to like shorter captions? School spirit hashtags? Panda emojis? Maybe before you set a caption standard for yourself, play around and see how your audience embraces your content. According to Sprout Social, if you're really hell-bent on creating and maintaining a brand, using websites with analytics can also help.
No matter what the context of my photo/caption is, I always try and include a sentiment that might resonate with my audience. Like "hope everyone is having a great Monday!" or "sleep well, friends." I think it's important to be inclusive and human on social media accounts, because you aren't better than anyone and we're all just trying to live the human experience.
Except maybe those Trump supporters who always comment insults on my page. It's fine.
2. Take your time.
This might sound ridiculous to some people, but don't rush your process. In my eyes, sharing on Instagram should be fun, rewarding and artistic. Since adding the draft feature, Instagram makes it easier for you to come up with different ideas without losing your original intention. Before they had the drafts, I would straight up type caption ideas in the notes section of my phone. HubSpot Marketing even reminds us that it's totally cool to ask your BFF or coworker which one sounds best. There's no shame in properly getting your point across.
3. Get creative.
All I'm saying is PUNS WORK. I've been a proponent of play-on-words since high school, and I've only gotten better at flexing my creative muscles. I like to do a pun-like title and that artsy slash-slash (//) thing and then tell the story of my photo. Some websites like Spoon University even give people ideas for funny captions, so go forth and give us your best Dad Joke.
4. Limit your hashtags.
I know it's tempting to tag up a photo because it will usually lead to more likes and followers, but try to keep them to a minimum in your captions. A lot of websites vary on the "allowed" number of hashtags, but Rival IQ even included a nice infographic to show the best ways to hashtag a photo on Instagram. I say if you want to add a lot of tags to your post, put them in the comments section of your photo, so your followers aren't drowning in #fit #fun #friends all day. I am not usually a heavy-tagger, but sometimes I'll add in a hashtag for irony.
5. Use good quotes.
Just like any other form of media and journalism, quotes add a lot of color to your content. I always feel like your quote has to be absolutely necessary to use it properly in a caption. So, while Ralph Waldo Emerson is definitely a gem, posting "the earth laughs in flowers" every spring gets old. Try and draw your inspirational quotes from a book you're reading, a Pinterest post that really spoke to you or a personal mantra that keeps you on the right track. Again according to Sprout Social, quotes are a good way to drive engagement. Selfies are always pretty hard to caption because most people get the gist that we're looking at your face, so quotes are always an easy fix when everything else is on point. Or you can make it a joke quote and have something from the Bee Movie below your best selfie; I can't tell you how to live your life.
Now that we've reviewed some of my best hints in becoming a social media superstar, let's try it out! I took this very typical, yet beautiful, sunset picture on my dorm's balcony a couple weeks ago.
I thought about posting it, but it seemed unimportant because I couldn't think of a solid caption. I'm going to use the above tips to try and get it right.
Alright, not great. A little too basic for me.
Not too bad! This is definitely an option. I like that it tells more of a story and has a cute little pun at the beginning.
This one. This one is a winner. Although I cut out the pun, I think this is more genuine and connective. Plus, Rupi Kaur quotes are my kryptonite.
No matter how hard you want to try on building the perfect Instagram account, don't put too much pressure on yourself to be perfect. This is all about you, your creativity and your story. Tag @FreshUOnline in all your perfectly-crafted captions and give us a follow while you're at it. I think that about CAPtions it off!