Ever get “stuck” when writing Instagram captions?
You work hard to bring your Instagram images and videos to life, but are your captions working just as hard to promote them?
If you’ve ever been unsure about what to write, how many hashtags to include, how to use emojis, or when to include mentions — this article is for you.
No more guessing!
We show you the latest data on Instagram captions – and walk you through how to use all the elements in a way that gets results.
Keep reading for tips on how to boost your engagement, reach, and conversions with well-written captions.
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Here’s what you’ll learn in this guide:
How to Use the Elements of Instagram Captions
In this section, we explore the different elements you can use in Instagram captions, such as:
We’ve also included some statistics to help you decide how to form your captions for the highest possible engagement rates.
Text in Captions
Captions can contain up to 2200 characters, including elements like hashtags, mentions, and emojis.
Captions get truncated after 125 characters, and viewers have to tap “more” to see the rest of your post.
Tip: Make sure your most compelling text is at the top! Hashtags and mentions can be placed at the bottom, or even in a comment.
What caption length gets the most engagement?
A recent study of over 44,400 profiles and more than 8.9 million posts found that:
- Over 30% of Instagram posts contain 300 or more characters in the captions.
- 29% of Instagram posts contain between 50 – 150 characters in the caption.
- 8% of Instagram posts contain between 1 – 50 characters in the caption.
- 1% of Instagram posts use no caption at all.
So, if you’re still getting to know your audience, try shorter captions since they may boost your engagement rates!
For example, the Spotify Instagram caption below contains an emoji to emphasize the word “ocean.”
In the next example, Sue B. Zimmerman uses emojis to organize and highlight a list in her caption.
Emojis can be an excellent way to break up blocks of text and make your captions more fun. But, is there a limit? How many emojis are too many?
How many emojis should you use? Here’s what the data says.
If you’re looking to increase your engagement (and let’s face it – who isn’t?) here’s the amount of emojis-per-post that delivered the highest # of interactions (Quintly study of 8.9 million posts, 2018).
- Brands with 0 – 1,000 followers: 1-3 emojis
- Brands with 1,000 – 10,000 followers: 4 – 10 emojis
- Brands with 10,000 – 1 million followers: 10 or more emojis
- Brands with over 1 million followers: 1 – 3 emojis
Data can be super-helpful when your brand is just getting started, or if you’re not getting the engagement rates you’d hoped for.
Always keep in mind, though, that data is a starting point.
You should experiment and track your metrics using Instagram Insights to learn what works best for your brand and its audience.
Below are a couple examples of what happens when you type a hashtag into Instagram search.
Source: Instagram #springdessert
How many hashtags should you use?
Here’s what the data says about using hashtags (Hubspot 2019):
- It’s better to use 5 hashtags or less that are relevant than to add in hashtags just for the sake of putting them in.
- Using more than 1 hashtag decreases your average engagement rate.
- Hashtags won’t help your engagement rates if you’re not publishing high-quality content.
- Many Instagrammers ignore hashtags because they’ve become desensitized to them, and view them as spammy.
From the information above, we learn that hashtags may not increase your engagement rates. But hashtags aren’t supposed to increase your engagement rates.
The purpose of hashtags is to reach new people with your posts!
Hashtags play a vital part of your Instagram captions.
If the goal of your post is to expand your reach or grow your audience, then don’t skip the hashtags!
- Use only well-researched, strategic hashtags.
- Put hashtags at the bottom of your caption.
- Use no more than 5 hashtags per caption.
In the example below, Hubspot uses more than 10 hashtags. But, they put a space between their message and the hashtags.
Despite statistics, Hubspot has experimented and most likely found the ideal number of hashtags is different for their target audience. It’s a great example of how data should be used — as a starting point for experimentation, but not as “law.”
Learn how to use hashtags in ways that expand your reach, grow your audience, and encourage user-generated content from your target audience.
Encourage your followers to use your hashtags!
One more way you can use hashtags it to ask your users to share photos or other user-generated content with your hashtag included.
For example, Boxycharm offers a $500 shopping spree in a giveaway contest. To enter, users must take a picture of themselves with the product and post it with the #BoxyChella hashtag.
Contests are a popular way to encourage user-generated content and are an excellent way to use hashtags in posts.
Mentions in Captions
You can mention an Instagram user or brand in your captions by using the “@” symbol. For example, @shareloveapp.
When you mention someone in a caption, they get a notification and are directed to your post. Ideally, they add a comment that increases the engagement rate of that post.
Mentions are also used to give credit to post authors (if it’s a share) and contributors.
People are using mentions more than they did a year ago. Around 40% of Instagram posts currently have no mentions, compared to last year when 72% of posts had no mentions.
In the example below, we’ve highlighted the use of mentions in a Puravidabracelets post.
You can use mentions in many ways, including:
- Encouraging user-generated content
- Mentioning contributors and guests
In the example below, Pier 1 Imports combines hashtags and a mention into one caption.
CTA’s in Captions
Some of the CTA’s that work well with Instagram captions:
- Ask followers to tag a friend
- Encourage viewers to tap the link in your bio
- Encourage users to tap the products, when you have products tagged
There are a million different ways to write CTAs!
What’s essential is that you be sure to include a CTA when your goal is to engage or convert users.
For example, the Pottery Barn caption below includes “Click the link in our bio to learn more.”
Earlier in this article, we talked about placing hashtags below the caption’s message. The example above is another excellent way to separate your hashtags, so they don’t look like spam!
CTA’s can be questions posed to users, to encourage engagement. In the caption below, Ann Taylor asks the question “Which bouquet would you choose?”
The Metropolitan Museum of Art encourages user-generated content in its caption below by including “Keep sharing your own drawings of the museum,” plus a prompt to use its #MetSketch hashtag.
Posts that are meant to increase engagement can benefit from all these elements.
How to Format Instagram Captions
Now that you know how to add in all the elements, let’s take a look at how you can pull it all together with formatting.
Adding spaces, numbered lists, and other types of formatting can help you grab the attention of your readers.
If your caption is short, there’s no need for formatting.
Format your captions if they go behind a line or two, though. Otherwise, they can be frustrating to read on some devices.
For example, NASA posts a stunning image, but the caption’s lack of formatting makes it difficult to read.
Social Media Today offers an excellent example of Instagram caption formatting in the image below. It begins with a short CTA message and emoji, then adds a space before creating a “how-to” style numbered list.
Social Media Insider separates its mentions from the caption’s central message and uses spacing to separate sentences. The combination produces a clean, easy-to-skim format that viewers love.
In a report for Social Insider, Susan B Zimmerman shares some excellent ideas for innovative ways to format and space Instagram captions.
Through clever use of emojis, numbered lists, and spacing, she’s able to turn long-form captions into messages that are fun and engaging.
Zimmerman recommends using the IOS Notes app for caption writing. You can write out the entire caption, then copy and paste it into Instagram.
Get the most from your Instagram captions with a solid Instagram marketing strategy that combines a winning Instagram profile.,
2. Encourage user-generated content with a campaign hashtag.
User-generated content on Instagram has a 4.5% Higher Conversion Rate.
Ask people to share reviews, images, or product testimonials with a specific campaign hashtag.
Holding contests or prize drawings is an excellent incentive for people to share your hashtag with their content.
3. Include mentions when appropriate.
Mention people or brands that you think will contribute to the conversation.
4. Use emojis and numbered lists as highlights.
Make sure your CTA stand out by adding an emoji next to it. Or, use emojis or numbered lists to highlight a set of instructions.
In the example below, Sipsby highlights a checklist with check mark emojis, then uses another emoji to draw attention to its promo code.
The Target post below uses emojis to highlight one hashtag and one mention.
Sometimes adding an emoji next to the CTA is an excellent way to draw attention to it.
One way to give your conversions a nice boost is by including a customer testimonial in the caption.
Whatever type of action you want to encourage in your caption, the essential elements for conversion are:
- A clear and simple description of the product/service and its benefits
- A clear call to action that shows readers how to take the next step
Tailor Captions to Meet Your Goals and Match Your Audience
The above tips and data offer some excellent starting points for writing Instagram captions that engage and convert, but you can continually improve your results through testing and experimentation.
Get to know your target audience by monitoring your Instagram Insights frequently over time. The metrics don’t lie! Find out what type of captions your audience responds to, using your most successful posts as a guide.
Messaging, emojis, hashtags, CTA’s, mentions, and formatting can take your Instagram captions to the next level when you use them strategically!
What’s the best caption you’ve ever used? Share it with our readers in the comments below!