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10 Instagram Caption Hacks & Ideas to Engage More Followers

Social media marketing is all about tactics to grow following for better engagement and lead generation. No wonder that Instagram has become the #1 tool for marketers to reach this in 2020:

With over a billion active users, Instagram has the highest engagement rate. 73% of Instagram users consider this platform the best way for brands to reach them, and more than 200 million of them visit at least one business profile daily.

No one wants to miss such a broad audience, huh?

The fact:

Only 29% of Instagram users are over 35. The majority are Millennials and Gen Z representatives who value authenticity and interactivity in the content before everything else. All this makes engagement the core metric for marketers to consider for the success of their social media campaigns.

That’s all good and well, but when there are 25 million business profiles and 2 million advertisers on Instagram to promote products and services — it seems close to impossible to engage more followers than you have now. Competition is crazy. So, why not try somewhat crazy tactics to distinguish yourself from the crowd?

Here go ten writing tricks to consider for your skyrocket Instagram engagement in 2020.

1. Start With an Alternative Hook

It’s not the news that Instagram shortens captions after 3-4 lines on mobile devices. To engage users, you need to focus on this piece and make it intriguing enough so the followers would like to click “More” and continue reading.

The traditional hook is a question. You start a caption, asking something to what the audience would like to get the answer. As a marketer, you know their needs or pain points; so, address them for triggering and engaging.

Besides a question, there are some alternative hooks you can try. Most come from critical essay writing and blogging, but they can work on social media too:

  • Start with a joke that the audience will understand. Humor helps to spark interest, but make sure to use situational humor, not a contextual one. While all people understand the former, the latter may confuse and lead to the reaction a la “I didn’t get it, meh.”
  • Surprise with a fact. Use data or concepts your followers might not have known: it will encourage them to keep reading and learn more.
  • Write an attention-grabbing word or expression. It’s something that makes followers stop while scrolling their feeds, think “wha-a-at?” and continue reading to learn what it’s all about. In other words, it’s a wow-effect in your caption.
  • Share a quote. It may be words of some celebrity or influencer in your niche, or you may cite other members of your social media community. Just make sure the first sentence is compelling enough to make users click.
Instagram caption idea: Start With an Alternative Hook

2. Answer the “What’s in It for Me?” Question 

Engagement on social media is not about your product or service. It’s about an added value it brings to the audience. In other words, you need to think like a customer and highlight the “What’s in it for me?” question to answer it in your Instagram post afterward.

Given that users don’t trust brands and their ads on social media, you need to focus on the emotions you want to trigger. Answer the question, “How this short (or long) caption on Instagram can make the life of my followers better?”

To get engaged, users need to identify themselves with your message on Instagram. Offer them tips or tricks that could help to solve their problems, educate them, provide step-by-step instructions, or run a giveaway.

Instagram caption idea: Answer the

When your Instagram posts provide users with added value, they are more likely to comment, share, or even bookmark them. All this influences your engagement rate by far.

3. Tell Stories 

First things first, long captions are among the top Instagram trends in 2020. And it means that you can make the most out of brand storytelling to make followers see the world through your eyes.

You know the secret behind storytelling, don’t you?

A human brain perceives 70% of information through stories and 95% – through emotions, not bare facts. So if you want people to listen to your message on social media, tell them a story.

It’s all about becoming more human on Instagram. For a brand, it’s a chance to build identity and share authenticity by making a personal connection with followers. Stories help to hook attention and remember you. Reading your stories on Instagram, users will respond because they love chatting and appreciate sincerity.

Instagram caption idea: Tell Stories

Make sure your story has a hero, a structure (a plot with conflict and its resolution), is cohesive, and relates to the real world. Users should recognize themselves in your story. Once it happens, they respond.

4. Use Sensory Words in Captions 

For a marketing Instagram account to succeed in 2020, it needs to look and sound more like a personal journal. Here you share stories behind each photo, lessons learned, and communicate the mood you want to trigger for better response. Nothing can do this job better than sensory words in your captions.

Whether you’re a big ecommerce agency or a small authentic business, write Instagram captions so they would help users see, hear, taste, smell, or feel your message. Sensory words are lexical items to include in your texts for that.

Henneke Duistermaat highlights five categories of such words:

  • Visual, related to sight and indicating colors, appearance, or shape.
  • Tactile, related to touch and describing feelings and abstract concepts.
  • Auditory, those about hearing and indicating sounds.
  • Smell and taste, related to corresponding senses.
  • Motion, related to movements, and helping readers “experience” your words.
Instagram caption idea: Use Sensory Words in Captions

Choose those communicating your brand message and influencing your target audience most. Reading a text full of corresponding sensory words, users will picture the scene: it makes your story compelling and memorable for them to respond.

5. Apply to Neuro Copywriting Tricks

You might read about this writing tactic in some management books by marketers or content selling experts. First explained by Joe Sugarman, neuro copywriting is about the psychological effect of particular sounds to the human brain. In other words, if you write certain words in a definite order and the right place — they will serve like mental hooks for readers, triggering them to respond or act.

First and foremost, neuro copywriting is about using odd numbers (better twice!) in headlines, combining emotionally charged beneficial adjectives in subheads or throughout the content body, asking questions in subheads, and using some negative language to trigger the audience.

When it comes to Instagram captions, rules are the same. Plus, make sure to avoid passive voice and weak adverbs in your texts. Use short sentences and words everybody knows, and include transitional words from time to time for better readability.

Plus, you might want to consider such stylistic devices as metaphors, contrast, and repetition.

Instagram caption idea: Apply to Neuro Copywriting Tricks

6. Appeal to Instincts 

It’s about three basic instincts, aka subconscious needs in the brain’s limbic system. They are responsible for human emotions, motivations, and behavior. When turning to these instincts in Instagram writing, you encourage the audience to respond.

These instincts are three:

  1. Self-preservation, about our physical health, secure environment, and safety. Publish content that helps users achieve this, and they’ll respond.
  2. Social, about personal value, status, approval, creativity, and action. Subconsciously craving fame, people will respond to any content that proves they are cool.
  3. Sexual, about adrenaline, connections, people, and attraction.

Writing Instagram posts with these three instincts in mind is not that difficult:

  • Use “tasty” words, even if your account is not about food.
  • Share posts with the “you can do it” mantra. Users want to see easy ways of doing something online, so show them they can do it. Words like “quick,” “simple,” “like an expert,” “DIY,” and others will help.
  • Help users find answers: write step-by-step guides, post tips and strategies, share useful tools, etc.
  • Create the illusion of presence: quizzes, tests, carousels, and other types of interactive content are your must-have. Organize contests or giveaways to appeal to the social instinct.
Instagram caption idea: Appeal to Instincts

  7. Try Phonosemantics

Phonosemantics is the idea that every sound, whether a vowel or a consonant, carries a particular meaning by itself. It’s about triggering desirable emotions and associations from readers by choosing specific phonemes for your writings.

Here are the characteristics of some phonemes and associations they trigger, according to sound symbolism:

  • /r/ – movement and activity.
  • /i/, /ee/ – small size, tenderness.
  • /b/ – round, big, and loud.
  • /gl/ – shining, smooth, brightness.
  • /o/, /u/, /e/ – powerful, strong, authoritative.
  • /mp/ – force.
  • /l/, /n/ – soft, gentle.
Instagram caption idea: Try Phonosemantics

Feel free to play with words like this in your Instagram posts. As we know, sound symbolism is a favorite weapon of poets: alliteration and repetition make their words more powerful and memorable. Why not follow their lead and practice these tricks in Instagram writing?

8. Write in the Images 

One of the top Instagram trends this year, text images are great to grab users’ attention on their Explore pages. While others post videos and photos, your text communicates a thought or an idea right away.

Use text images such as quotes, sticky notes, infographics, notes in notebooks, quotes on a wall, etc. Many micro-influencers on Instagram make the most out of this content trick already:

Instagram caption idea: Write in the Images

Another trend: posting your own Twitter quotes on Instagram. Surprise-surprise, but they usually bring more traffic than other types of Instagram posts right now.

So, post on Twitter, take a screenshot, and publish it on your Instagram account. Voila! And yet, remember about informative and inspiring captions to post with such images. Even one sentence can motivate the audience to act.

Instagram caption idea: Write in the Images Wendys instagram account

9. Use Language Gimmicks 

They are tiny yet significant visual details influencing the readability and perceptibility of your Instagram captions.

First: write like a human, not a chatbot. Short sentences, words everybody knows, intriguing questions, motivational calls to action — they all can improve the engagement rate by far.

Second: add spaces and line breaks for better readability. Use dots or individual symbols, like dashes or stars, or press the return key while writing.

Third: don’t ignore emojis, especially if your brand voice and tone allow you to use them. Emojis add fun and flavor, and they can serve as “bookends” when placing them at the end of paragraphs. Also, they can direct users to your CTA and encourage them to take action.

Instagram caption idea: Use Language Gimmicks

And remember to tag other people or brands where appropriate.

10. Hide Hashtags

You know that adding hashtags to Instagram posts can boost engagement. Actually, this social media network allows you to have up to 30 different hashtags per post. That’s good and well, but having them all in the caption makes your text look messy! More than that, it weakens readability, frustrating users and making them scroll further.

The solution is simple:

Hide hashtags in your captions. For that, add some line breaks to the text and post all the hashtags below, after your call to action:

Instagram caption idea: Hide Hashtags

You can use dots, dashes, asterisks, or any other preferred symbols, each on a separate line. 

Given that Instagram posts with at least one hashtag get an average of 12.6% more engagement than posts without a hashtag, you might want to think about using hashtags in your every caption strategically.

  • Check the most popular Instagram hashtags.
  • Collect and save your best and most relevant ones.
  • Think of using short hashtags in your Instagram posts. Short hashtags are those having less than 50k posts: Used by people from particular communities who are very connected to each other, these hashtags can help you engage them.
  • Create new hashtags for your followers that would help them feel like a part of your brand family.

Final Words

If you want to grow Instagram engagement and, as a result, lead generation in 2020, make sure to focus on what (and how) you write in captions there. With tons of tips and strategies on what images or videos to use on Instagram, marketers often forget about the power of words behind that visual content.

So, spend time and put all your writing creativity in Instagram captions. Hook followers from the very first sentence, think of attractive words you use in texts, structure it for better readability, make the most out of neuro copywriting and phonosemantics — and the positive result won’t take long in coming.

Sure enough, analyze your every effort on Instagram to see what’s working and what isn’t. Use analytics, optimize accordingly, and increase followers and social engagement for better sales.

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