Are social media captions really that important?
Updated: Mar 24, 2021
Er, in a word- YES.
That’s it. End of blog.
I joke, I joke! I have tips, and if you use them you can absolutely nail your social media captions. Why should you listen to me? Well, I'm a freelance copywriter, I've worked in (sold in!) retail, hospitality, and education, I have a degree in English, a diploma in copywriting and my Instagram engagement is currently 15%, when the average is 3%.
The truth is, social media captions are super important, but they are often overlooked. People rely on pictures to do the talking for them. There’s nothing wrong with this, but you can gain lots from a simple, straightforward caption. It doesn’t have to be bells and whistles to have an impact on social media, but captions do need a little thought.
You have a wonderful responsibility to your audience as a business owner. They have found you, they’re following you, and they might just love you. Everything you do on social media is about building trust, and reliable, consistent social media captions builds trust. If you don’t have that consistency and reliability then your audience is going to move away from you. There are a lot of other people to follow and social media platforms will always champion new, popular and engaging content.
To keep your audience engaged, you need to be engaging. Don’t worry- you’re already an engaging person- you have friends, family, perhaps a partner who all stop to listen when you speak. This is not about you being someone you’re not on social media, is about bringing all that you are in a careful and considered way.
Your social media captions should be vibrant, engaging, and authentic. They also need to be professional, effective and accurate.
That’s a lot, but I can show you how to do it.
First off, make some decisions about your brand voice. Hopefully you’ve already done this, but if you haven’t it’s never too late. What are your key values? What words do you associate with your brand? What do you want your audience to think or feel when they see your posts? Once you’ve made these decisions, keep them somewhere you can see them whenever you’re writing anything for your business. They’ll keep you on the right track.
Ok, here’s how to smash those social media captions.
Bring all of your personality, enthusiasm and energy to your captions. Think something’s funny? Post it! Think something’s moving? Share it! Use all the vocabulary you always would when speaking to a friend, include the gifs and emojis you really use. Use capital letters to show excitement, if that’s how you’d usually text. Don’t be afraid to be yourself, but through the filter of your band voice.
By being vibrant, you’re going to be engaging. But, there are more tricks. Keep your sentences short and clear. Use questions to get a conversation going- instead of writing “aah, its sunny, I love sunny days!” go for “the sun is here- do you love the sun as much as I do? What’s your favourite weather?”. Ok, the weather isn’t the most exciting example, but you can see how much more engaging a question is, and it’ll get your audience instantly thinking or making a decision about their weather preferences. It only takes a second for them to respond, and BAM, you’re engaging with your audience. Yes, this is initially superficial (I mean, feel free to use more interesting questions than my weather example!) but once you’ve got a response from a follower, you can get to know them.
There are other ways to be engaging rather than asking open- ended questions. In fact, use a range of engaging tactics, to keep things fresh. Think about how you can add value- eg, tell the audience something they don’t know. Use polls, and allow your followers to ask questions. Giveaways are contentious, but are undoubtedly effective and engaging. When you’re writing your caption, choose your first words carefully. Think of them like a headline; grab attention immediately. If you can (while being in keeping with your brand voice) be bold or shocking. Not for the sake of it though… You need to be authentic. See below.
Being yourself, through the lens of your brand voice, is gold. Remember that overused quote from Oscar Wilde? “Be yourself; everyone else is already taken”. Your unique style of writing, your photography, your goals, your values, your story, and your business are all what makes you stand out. This is your brand voice, not someone else’s.
You can’t champion every cause and charity. Focus on the one you really care about and share why you care. You aren’t a multimillionaire, celebrity influencer, and you don’t need to act like one. You aren’t inspirationalquotes.com, so only share quotes which mean something to you, and tell the story about why.
Share your good days, share your wins, share your bad days and share your learning moments- all linked to your business. Please note I didn’t say “share your failures”, because there’s no such thing. Embrace your contradictions. You can love heart shaped post it notes and only wear black at the same time- that’s who you are.
Just a warning though- think carefully about what you’re comfortable with your audience knowing about you. Relationship woes, conflicts, ranting about current events probably aren’t going to align with your brand voice. Once your content is out there it can’t easily be taken back. Check you’re still coming across as professional if you’re a natural oversharer.
When you work for yourself, you can do whatever you want, and that it glorious. “Be professional” does not mean “be corporate”. Getting the blend between professional and personality is your sweet spot. You can decide what professional means to you, but to me it means being respectful to everyone. I aim to be inclusive, kind and treat others as I’d expect to be treated. Whatever your definition, being professional tells your audience they can trust you. Be careful not to share things which could be divisive, triggering or deeply personal, just like you wouldn’t in an office environment. Just because it’s social media doesn’t mean you drop your professionalism standards. All of this will show your authority as an expert. Quick tip- it there’s ever a problem with anything, always respond quickly and apologise.
Ok, this is the biggie. This is one of the most important things to consider when writing every single social media caption. What is your intention for posting? What do you want to achieve? You need to be clear on this before you post. If you’re trying to sell a product or a service, you want to include a call to action (CTA) which reflects that. If you’re trying to build a community, you want encourage liking, sharing and saving, depending on the platform. Focus on the value you can bring, but do it in an interesting way. Like, tell a story which your audience can learn from. Don’t over use your CTA, only one per post, or your grid/ profile/ feed can become too sell-y, which is just off putting. Hashtags, use ‘em! Experiment with a range to see what works for you.
Yes, it’s a social media caption, and yes, you need to have accurate spelling, punctuation and grammar. Your posts should convey a sense of authority, and attention to detail. The smallest mistake can undermine your message. Typos happen, don’t beat yourself up, but correct them as soon as you can (damn you Twitter- give us an edit button already!). If in doubt, type your caption as a text message first, or in your notes app to see if there are any errors. Read it aloud. On a laptop? Open a word document to help you. Batch creating your content is a cracking way to check for errors, because you can write it all and then ignore it for a few days before proof reading with fresh eyes.
That’s it! You’re ready to create, or tweak, some incredible social media captions! Please do let me know if this has been helpful to you, or if you have any more questions.
PS: Still need help? That’s ok, we all do sometimes! Book a discovery call with me and together, we’ll crack it.