Somewhere in an alternate universe there’s a version of Mad Men that’s set in the here and now instead of the 60s, and Don Draper is a pompous millennial butthead—but instead of writing ad copy, he writes captions for his clients’ Instagram posts …probably not, but that’s where we imagine people would go for captioning advice, if that were the case.
For better or worse, it looks like you’re stuck with us. Unlike Draper, we don’t have Esquire’s great George Lois in our DNA, but we’ve learned a thing or two and what’s ours is yours. Here are some tips of which to remind yourself when writing captions:
1) Brevity is key. You’re not writing a novel. Instagram isn’t the platform for that. Duh. Think about it though: Have you ever seen someone browse through their own feed? It’s not a slow stroll through a garden, stopping for elongated moments to smell the flowers. It’s a blazing dash to the finish line. Seldom do they even think to read a caption. Know your social media platform, know your audience, and know yourself. Considering all that, make it worth their while. Surely you have a sense of your own personality. Make it known through as few words as possible. There you will find the perfect caption.
2) Same goes for hasthags! One is likely enough. More than two and you’ll have to have a really strong reason for including them. #Never #do #this #when #composing #a #caption.
Another thing to remember, dear influencers, is to opt for ones that are still relevant. Employing hashtags, as you hopefully know, is a way for people to search for specific things; it’s like Google within the social media platforms. Anyway—as of the writing of this post, #ootd (outfit of the day) is still viable where as #whatarethose isn’t.
But while we’re on the subject of trends, it might be best to steer clear of them altogether when considering hashtags. Trends, in general, have such a short life span, especially in this meme-heavy digital age. You don’t want to use something that people might not be searching under six months from now. If you stand by your content (and your profile on a whole), wouldn’t you want someone cruising for #denim to come across your post—even if it’s at a later date?
Let’s pause for a second to take a pop quiz, just to make sure you’re paying attention.
Here we go:
You post a picture of a cute dog looking nonplussed and you want to employ a joke in the caption with a phrase that’s in common parlance. Do you caption it:
A) It me.
If you said B)—go back to the top of this article and start over. If you said A), please continue:
3) If you made it this far, hopefully you paid attention in grade school, as well. Please, for the sake of all that is holy, be mindful of your spelling and grammar! This isn’t Twitter. What we mean by that is: There isn’t a character limit, so you don’t have to forgo apostrophes and exclusively use contractions or abbreviations to make it all fit. Spell things out, use proper punctuation, consult The Elements of Style grammar handbook if you must. Just don’t give the person browsing your content a reason to think, This person’s a dum-dum—and unfollow forever.
4) Captions should add something to your image. Be it an explanation, a joke, a freaking emoji might do the trick—it can be anything—so long as it’s of value. Much like your image, you really want to get a sense of the person’s personality through their Instagram feed.
Time for another pop quiz. You wake up to find the temperature dropped overnight …And you remember the new sweater you bought over the weekend and think, Now is the perfect time to put it on (and tell your friends/fans about it). So you take a selfie, or make your mom take the pic, or boyfriend, etc. It’s great. No filter necessary—it’s ready to be posted. Do you caption it:
A) Baby, it’s cold outside.
B) Baby, it’s cold outside. #ootd
C) Baby, it’s cold outside. #ootd #topshop
D) Any of the above.
(You don’t need us to spell this one out for you, do you?)
5) No caption is ok, too! Aka you can let the picture speak for itself. You know how people write, “I’m just going to leave this here”? Not writing anything at all is the classier equivalent of that caption. Make sense? Less is more.