People read. We may be visual creatures, but we read. We love a good story, a spicy gossip, an enticing sale, even if these don’t come to us as images.

Instagram is touted as a visual network, but words have their own power here too. In feeds filled with images captions hold their own – often, the longer, the better.

A lot of marketers I have interacted with tend to spend a lot of their resources – time, money, brainpower – on creating beautiful, artistic photographs to upload on Instagram. What they, surprisingly, ignore completely are the captions.


Instagram’s API has several restrictions which desist good, detailed research. However, a study by University of Wisconsin and photo integration company Olapic analyzed what kind of images drove sales, and here’s what they had to say:

Write longer captions, because, when captions are shorter, the sentimental content is likely to be minimal.

Sentimental content, i.e., content that would help you connect with your followers, is essential for building a loyal following. Great images will drive likes, but captions are where you can ask questions, touch a nerve and drive home a point.

Instagram limits caption length to 2200 characters (that’s enough characters to market the hell out of each image you post and then some).

Instagram’s official account has long captions accompanying its images and who knows Instagram marketing better than them. Here’s a post out of their timeline to illustrate a really well-written caption:



Several small businesses use Instagram very effectively to sell their products. Here’s an example from @prepobsessed, a boutique in Florida that uses the captions to sell its store wares within minutes:

To Tell Stories

The best way to connect and engage with people on Instagram is to tell a story. For brands, this could be a behind-the-scenes while individuals can share the story about the image (where it was taken, how it came about to be taken and so on). There are several accounts that are only story accounts, where only the captions matter and the images are supplementary. Here’s an example of one such account:

To Promote If you have an upcoming campaign or launch, want to announce something that’s going to happen in the near future, use the captions. Here’s an example of how @cremacrema used their caption to market their upcoming new coffees. The comments they received were all about the description and people saying how they couldn’t wait to taste the new flavors. Note how the image, in this case, conveys little:

To Engage

A lot of long caption writers tend to ask questions – a simple and effective way of getting more engagement. As a business/brand that is a strategy you should adopt too. There are cool images aplenty on Instagram. Your caption is what will help you stand out, and if you are a brand well-written captions can help with branding and recall.

To Educate Long captions can also serve as mini-tutorials or lessons. For instance, there are several cooking-related accounts that give out recipes in captions. NASA does an excellent job as well. Here’s an example of a caption that explains what ground frost is:

To Build Awareness

NGOs, socialpreneurs and brands doing CSR can use their Instagram captions to build awareness about the causes they support or are active in. Charity Water does this extremely well, as does NatGeo. Here’s an example:


Tell A Story: The easiest way to write a good, long caption is to tell the story of the photo or a story related to the photo. By story, I do not mean the “Once upon a time…” kind. I mean a descriptive, engrossing tale of the photo in question. The photo by itself will generally tell the “What” of the story, you should use the caption to tell the “Why, When, Where and How”.

Build The Loop: A great caption will change the viewer’s perspective of the image. With every caption attempt to build a Photo > Caption > Photo loop, wherein your follower sees the photo, reads your caption and finds out a totally different angle that makes them take a closer look at the photo again. Here’s an example of a great caption that builds the loop:

Don’t State The Obvious: Your captions shouldn’t have stuff that is very obvious, that the viewer can see for herself. If a photo shows two people shaking hands, your caption should not say they are shaking hands. Well, duh!

Conversational Language Works Best: Don’t go overly formal with your captions. Conversational tone seems to work best. Those brands or instagrammers that directly connect to their followers by using personal pronouns in their captions  get the most engagement.

Specific to General or General to Specific: In your caption, the description should either move from specifics of the photo to general content the broadly talks about the context of the photo or vice versa. Either of these flows work well and make captions very readable.

Quotes Can Be Effective: Don’t refrain from using quotes in your captions. If they fit in the theme of your photos, many quotes can actually enhance the overall impact of your Instagram post.

To conclude, I hope I’ve driven home the fact that long captions are the way to go. Maybe, not always, but most of the time. If you have any questions, feel free to ask in the comments below. Do share this post to show your great find with other social media enthusiasts. Also, do check out TakeOff – an excellent scheduling and marketing app for Instagram. Adios!


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