Don’t Throw a Social Hail Mary: Create “WOW” Instagram Captions

I am not a sports fan normally, but when it comes to social media marketing, I quite frequently use the term “Hail Mary.” A “Hail Mary” or a “Shot Play” is a very long forward pass in American football made in last minute desperation for play success.

For example, these are some of the best “Hail Mary” passes in football history:

There are probably many of us who experiment with our social media posts, specifically Instagram captions, the same way: “Lets throw stuff up there and hope for the best.”

We have all suffered from the dreaded “writers block”… when you don’t know what to write on an Instagram post and your mind quickly goes into a panic mode wanting to throw a random “caption ball” out hoping for high engagement and results!

Incomplete pass, my friend!

You might throw a content “Hail Mary” out into Instagram, but without strategy you will not become engaging nor interesting to your target audience.

With that said, let’s chat about how you can write better Instagram captions for your Instagram content!

No fear, Instagram caption checks are here! 1, 2, 3, BREAK!

Why Instagram Captions Matter

Why do good captions matter in an app that focuses on visuals? Well, compelling visuals are all over but an effective and thoughtful Instagram caption can define your business.

Your captions and content communicate with your target audience, so what are you saying? When you think of the messaging, intention and experience you want for your audience it will push your content to the next level, like getting you more likes and comments.

Engagement is the key to Instagram success!

The Instagram algorithm displays posts in a user’s feeds based on the likelihood a person would be interested in a post (aka, popular and well liked posts). That means that a photo or video with lots of comments and likes will display better and higher on follower and general feeds.

Instagram captions can help you make the most out of this as you can emphasize an idea, create call to action or an user experience while gaining high traffic.

A caption the meat of the post. Don’t think of your Instagram captions as an afterthought, if you do you are missing out on an opportunity to engage your target audience in ways beyond visuals (which is what everyone else is doing.)

How to Write Better Instagram Captions

The good news is, there are several easy ways to write Instagram captions that will produce reliable wins for your business. Let’s take a look at a few of them.

Confirm Brand Voice

If you haven’t identified your brand voice, ask yourself: what are the qualities and values I want to promote? Brainstorm, make a list and use it to be thoughtful in your visual and written Instagram content.

In general, Instagram users don’t expect or want formality. Of course, it depends on the industry and audience, but you should strive to keep things true to the personality of your brand.

An example of this would be Michael Kor’s advertisements on Instagram:

The social media marketing team at Michael Kors did a great job at combining the brand’s minimalistic design with creative captions that compliment and expand on their visuals. Although the images aren’t particularly flashy, the captions makes the pictures “pop” with creative content!

Think Like Your Audience

If you are stuck writing something witty, fun or engaging first ask yourself this:

  • Are you bored with your caption? If that is the case, your target audience will most likely be snoring too! If you find yourself feeling “blah” think inside the mind of your audience: What would be interesting to them?
  • Are you being helpful? Many people on social media are trying to find tips, tricks and inspirations. Are you informing your audience on your business, industry or service? Are you teaching them and helping them be more informed in those ways?

For example, instead of saying: “Leg day is amazing for getting in shape, check out my workout,” you can focus on providing helpful information like Brittany Dawn fitness does below. She has specific workout movements and helpful hints to better inform her audience.

This is useful information for people who are looking for healthy lifestyle changes! Heck, like Pinterest, they might bookmark the post for later review!

  • Are you giving your audience things to respond to? The internet is a special place where people want to share their thoughts, feelings and opinions. One of the easiest ways to get more comments on your photo is by using the caption to pose a question or an opinion they can respond to. An example of this would be Whole Foods asking us our opinion of preference between cucumber toasts or avocado toast (My choice, Avocado all the way)


Instead of a stagnant post just talking about avocado toast, they offered a opportunity for the audience to engage and talk! These are easy ways to stir up engagement and traffic to your page!

  • Are you inspiring your audience with captions? We all want a little bit more positive in the world. One of my favorite social media quotes that is constantly shared around is ” Throw kindness around like Confetti.” These days, this is a fairly strong feeling in the social media world. People want to escape the reality of the world to be inspired, built up and influenced.

One Instagram that does a great job of inspiring their audience is Spiritual Gangster. Spiritual Gangster is chuck full of positive posts, leaving you wanting to come back for more positive vibes!

Think of ways your business can inspire someone to better their life! Create a tutorial, a list of helpful tips, a positive quote, a good reminder for them to read, etc! The possibilities are endless to share some of the love!

Write Creatively

In today’s world, the less you have to read, the better! Instagram is no exception. If anything, it’s a place where people want to read even less, so captions need to be short, sweet and to the point!

In the post above, the Bagel Store is short, sweet and informative of the services they offer in getting you your bagels! YUM!

Make sure your descriptions are short, precise and engaging!

If there’s any doubt, keep your captions on the shorter side. Give context where you need to, but if the post speaks for itself, let it. Be creative and punchy!

Use Instagram Hashtags

Instagram posts with at least one hashtag average 12.6 percent more engagement than those with no hashtags, according to a study by Simply Measured. So use hashtags when they are relevant but make sure it does not interfere with a customers reading experience! Some helpful hashtag tips are:

  • Use periods to break up captions and hashtags. Once you create the perfect caption for your image, tap the 123 key. Select return and then enter a period, dash, or asterisk. Repeat those steps at least four -six times. Because Instagram caps off captions after three lines, the hashtags won’t be viewable to users unless they tap the more option.

An example of this is Jess Whitney Photo. Like many photographers, it is popular to spread out their hashtags from their captions.

By doing this, you can create a pleasant visual experience for your target audience to read without a lot of hashtag clog up!

  • Put hashtags in your comments! Want to forgo the typing, period and asterisk? Forget it! Just put your hashtags in your comments below! (Make sure its the first comment) Once other people leave a few comments, the hashtags won’t be viewable!

Give Instagram Shout Outs

Instagram is about spreading the love as much as it is about amazing visuals. It’s truly a love fest called “cross featuring.”

Does your post feature another Instagram user? Make sure you take advantage of the exposure by including their handle in the caption! It is a “you scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours” type of action.

By mentioning another user in the caption, you’ll likely compel that user—and possibly some of his or her followers—to also engage with your content.

A big company like Anthropologie even does this!

@darlingcoco probably got a lot of exposure from this post but Anthropologie also got traffic for purchasing the dress worn in the image! Cross promotion at its finest!

Cross promotion is a helpful way to build your presence in the community/network. It builds credibility and helps your business grow!

Promote Instagram Authenticity: Behind-the-scenes caption

Instagram is a great platform for giving your audience a behind-the-scenes look at your brand. Lush Cosmetics does a great job at this, using their captions to explain how their products are made.

What does this do?

Captions that are “Behind the Scenes” create a sense of authenticity, trust and connection with your target audience. People want to know about the product they are consuming so to have fun tips, tricks, and information about the products are interesting and desired.

Touchdown: Great Instagram Captions

Touchdown! We scored with these new Instagram caption tricks! There is no need for content “Hail Mary” anymore!

Sometimes a picture can really be worth a thousand words but a little explanation can still prove to add an extra “OOMPH” to your posts. Think about how captions can improve your Instagram marketing!

What efforts do you put into your Instagram captions? What have you found helpful? Share your thoughts in the comments!

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Cydney Hatch

Social Media Manager
Cydney is a polka dot wearing business owner, photographer, cupcake enthusiast and writer, who through her work, shares her personal passions about visual marketing, branding and business strategy.

3 Comments

  • Joie Gahum says:

    You can use hashtags. But not too much. Look for the best hashtags at hashatory

  • Great article! Thanks so much for taking the time to write such a comprehensive article. This article is very useful for a newbie. I will definitely try out these new strategies to create instagram captions.

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