5 Quick Steps to Crafting Better Captions

It’s no secret that social media is a visual business. As companies up the ante on visualization, stylized photography is almost a necessity to keep customers engaged with your brand. However, that doesn’t mean the little caption box below your beautiful photos should be ignored!

A picture may be worth 1,000 words, but just a few well-placed words in a caption can pack a serious punch. Here are five of our tried-and-true quick steps to better caption writing.

1. Always Speak To Your Audience

As a copywriter, there is one earth-shattering talk I have with each of my clients before beginning any project: IT’S NOT ABOUT YOU. Your social profiles, your marketing collateral, your website, even your ABOUT page are NOT about you. It’s about your target customer, their problems and how your product or service can solve it for them.

Once you realize that, it makes writing a lot easier. I encourage my clients to to picture who their ideal or current customer is (it’s okay to have a few!) -- what do they look like? What are their needs? What do they find entertaining? What media do they digest when they aren’t interacting with you? Why are they drawn to you?

When you have an idea of WHO you’re talking to, even if it’s imaginary, you can picture them as you write anything for your business. If you imagine you’re writing to THAT person every time it won’t feel as impersonal.

2. Engage, Educate and Entertain

Now that you know WHO you’re writing to, we’ve got to dig deep and find out WHAT to write to them. For that, I lean on my three E’s to better caption writing: engage, educate and entertain.  Every piece of content that you put out into the world should fill one of these buckets, and you should have a clear idea of which you’re trying to achieve with each caption.

  • Engage: attempts to involve your followers in a discussion. Imagine Media is all about building relationships, not profiles so this is a key step for the team! Consider captions that ask questions, re-post user-generated content or build community. This is all about getting your ideal customer INVOLVED with your brand instead of merely listening.

  • Educate: This does not always mean sell. This means providing your followers with information that they find useful. Own a yoga studio? Share healthy recipes. Sell glasses? Share eye care tips. This establishes expertise and trust with your followers.

  • Entertain: This is important, but is not the same for every brand. Humor, memes and GIFs aren’t for everyone - for some brands, this simply means providing a smile, motivation or inspiration instead of a laugh.

I see many brands fail in the social space because they rely too heavily on one of the three buckets - too much entertainment, not enough product or industry education. Or, on the other hand, too many education-driven sales captions and not enough entertainment. It’s all about finding balance that makes sense for your brand’s audience.

3. Cash-In on Calls-to-Action

The simplest tip I offer to brands complaining about lack of follower engagement is to occasionally place a call-to-action in your captions. This doesn’t always mean, “Check out our product - link in bio!” Although that works for many, here are a few I keep in my back pocket:

  • Tag a friend who _____

  • Double tap/like/RT if you agree!

  • What’s your favorite _____? Tell us in the comments!

4. Run It By Someone

I love puns. I mean LOVE them. But, they aren’t for everyone (and remember, it’s not about you!). To keep my punning in check, I always run “questionable” captions by a friend, colleague or family member or two. It’s not enough to ask if they like it, though. Here’s my formula:

“Hey, (friend whose opinion I trust and is always willing to be brutally honest). I wrote this caption for a brand that’s ideal customer is _____. Do you think this would resonate with that audience?” Bonus points if the friend IS the ideal audience, but it’s not necessary.

5. Test, Measure, Re-Test

Running it by someone is a pre-test, but you’ve still got to check-in after publishing. Every week or two, I like to look at the analytics or scroll through a client’s content to see how each photo/caption combo performed. Obviously, there’s a lot that goes into performance analytics - time of day, visuals, the caption, the platform - but, you can usually pick up on trends. My best advice is not to be too tied to any idea - a lot of captions that I think will be a smashing hit totally tank. Don’t take it personally, just learn it’s not for that audience and move on!

What caption copy tricks do you have up your sleeve? Let us know in the comments! (Holla, rule number 3.)

To learn more about copywriting, head over to Alex Palmerton’s website The 5th Sense.

Story by: Alex Palmerton