I have been using Instagram for about 4 years now and in the last year, it has transformed into something that I invest a lot of time and effort into. What used to be a place for “cool” images coupled with witty captions and terribly lame jokes has become a place for me to explore my love affair with photography. The urge to post silly puns and bad jokes was probably the result of the amount of time I used to spend on Twitter where silliness and wit was celebrated. Looking back at my Instagram feed from 4 years ago, it is kind of embarrassing.
The purpose of this post is to explain why I think Instagrammers should start writing more substantial captions and not rely solely on the quality of the imagery to push your personal brand and other brands. This is my opinion but it is from the perspective of a marketer that understands both sides of the influencer conversation.
I have watched many videos, read many articles and chatted to content creators that spend an inordinate amount of time refining their Instagram profiles and personas in order to make their accounts more attractive to brands in the hopes that brand partnerships will emerge and the money will flow. Instagrammers also spend a massive amount of time tweaking and refining their photography and editing styles. They seek out gimmicks that may distinguish their accounts from the rest of the millions of people on the platform. And they painstakingly look at their Instagram feed to ensure that it seamlessly flows in some coherent and meaningful way.
But how long do Instagrammers spend crafting captions?
Many Instagrammers would argue that their images are visual stories in their own regard and that most people spend time looking at beautiful images rather than reading captions. I do agree that people are far more visually inclined, but at the same time, how do we truly engage audiences through pretty pictures. Instagrammers that have done massive brand collaborations tend to be quite specific about the creative freedom that they have in the way they visually portray the brand, but those same people spend about 30 seconds crafting a caption that really doesn’t say that much beyond the branded hashtags and brand mentions.
Is this driving the right actions? And is there actual value for the client in this approach?
I don’t think that this is enough because fundamentally pretty pictures that are not overtly branded will not drive brand awareness in audiences and does not lend itself to brand resonance. (Brand resonance refers to how well a brand message resonates with a specific target audience and their ability to recall the messaging in that piece of advertising). A picture of a beautiful landscape will tempt my wanderlust but where exactly did you take that photograph and how would the company that paid for this post get me closer to that exact experience. How does a moody portrait in an abandoned building tempt me into buying the sneakers? And how does a clothing brand benefit when an editing style overwhelms the colours of the actual garment?
This is why I think Instagrammers should start writing. Captions can add so much context to images and if you spend time crafting well-worded copy, you can activate your audiences in meaningful ways. You have 2 200 characters to play with on Instagram which means that you really can go wild. And if the prevailing thought about people not reading captions is true, then why do we include instructions for campaigns in the captions, what is the point of hashtags and fundamentally where is the value to the brand and the audience.
Not every photographer is a writer but you do not need to craft the best captions in the world. I can speak from personal experience that if you start writing more, people will start engaging with your photographs in new and often wonderful ways. When it comes to brand work, more people will actually read your captions, there is a higher chance that they will engage with the brand messages and in turn, drive much higher brand resonance.
This it just my opinion on Instagram and how I think aspiring Instagrammers should approach their content in order to increase relevance for the brands that they work with.