Today, Instagram is the second most engaging social media network behind Facebook with approximately 1 million daily users. It is the first thing most of us check upon waking up, and the last before going to bed late at night. It is almost as if the ever-changing content displayed when that multicolored, squared, app opens up transports us to another world, one designed to fill our minds, fuel our desires, and meet our likeness seeming it was made especially for us. A curation of images and videos, how individuals and brands present themselves unto the world, a place to feel loved through likes, and comments. And most recently, a shopping experience. The first thing someone notices on Instagram is the picture presented (obviously), then they immediately look down searching for more information: a caption.
As copywriters, it is we, who are in charge of writing these captions. Our duty is to provide context, an explanation, and a description. To narrate and sell any image through our written words. We have the mission of making an image appear attainable and desirable, meanwhile informing people about it. Part of our job is to add value to the visual content, create meaning, give context, and put together words without sounding fake, dull, or even boring. This, of course, is not an easy task as one can find itself being stuck, without any inspiration, or a clear starting point.
How does one figure out what to write?
A personal technique is looking at the image and immediately listing the adjectives that come to mind. Aside from those explicitly shown within the picture, I usually start by imagining the picture itself coming to life. If it’s a product, I imagine how it feels to touch it, smell it, use it. Whether a clothing piece--shoes, lingerie, jewelry, or any makeup, skincare, or wellness item, I picture what it feels to wear it, to apply it. When writing on a service-- events, and sports, I imagine the full experience and visualize myself within that moment. The thing about Instagram captions is that they must be short, to the point, and concise. Powerful enough without being too overwhelming or overpowering.
Always ask yourself how that certain thing makes you feel? Then, focus on the answer in a past, present, and future tense, and truly connect with it. To me, personally, this is one of the greatest gifts of being a copywriter: Freedom to imagine.
Captions complement an image, they are not meant to undermine the picture itself. After all, Instagram is mostly a visual platform, truly photo-centric. However, without context, clear information, credit, and direction, images lose their purpose and value. After all, what worth has an image without the words that validate it?