How to Write Engaging Instagram Captions
Advice for Artists
Most people are not on Instagram to pay attention to you specifically. Instagram is a great way to waste time and stimulate the brain with loads of pretty content. Standing out is hard, especially as an artist. And if you’re reading this, you’re probably wondering how to get your art noticed by more people.
If you’ve taken a great photo and researched hashtags, but you’re still not getting much engagement on your posts, it might be time to give your captions a makeover.
Start with a story
If you just post a well lit picture of your art with the title of your work in the caption—what story are you telling? Why should people care?
Now, if you post your work and then write about how your studio cat starting dipping his paws in your paint water as you were working on this piece, then you start to create a more engaging scene for your audience to interact with.
You have to settle with the fact that you are not the only talented artist out there. I can scroll through Instagram and point at hundreds of artists that have more skill in their pinkies than I have in my entire body at the moment—but I have more Instagram followers than some of them. At first glance it might not make any sense.
How is the universe not fairly rewarding those who are crazy talented? Honestly, it’s because it is not just about the art. (Let’s be real, my art isn’t all that groundbreaking or complicated.) It’s more about your story and the sense of community you can create around your art.
How can you write more engaging captions to capture your audience?
First, figure out the tone you want to communicate:
If you ever think about your brand as an artist, the tone and emotions you communicate help define your brand. Basically, how do you want people to feel when they interact with you and read your captions?
Do you want to inspire people? Do you want all of the attention on you? Do you want people to feel dark and depressed? Do you want people to think you’re humble and genuine?
Decide how you want your audience to feel about you and your art to begin.
Then, tell a story your audience can relate to:
When I start writing a caption on Instagram, I try to think of interesting things that I might tell a friend. I want to be open and approachable on social media, just as I am in person. This doesn’t mean that you need to share a bunch of super personal information. I actually strongly advise not doing that without having a larger purpose behind it. If it doesn’t make your audience feel the tone you want, then don’t tell that story.
For example, I don’t write about my depression unless I can provide a solution I used to overcome an episode. I don’t complain about things for the sake of complaining, but to connect with others who have encountered the same thing. You don’t have to tell everything about yourself. As much as people like to use social media like a diary—don’t do that. It’s like airing all of your dirty laundry on a first date. That person probably won’t call you back…and that new potential follower might just keep scrolling.
For example, a lot of times my captions boil down to “I clearly have anxiety,” “I like cheese,” and “Why the f%*$ is it still snowing?!”
I choose stories that give insight into my daily life and the things I care about. They can be simple and mundane stories, or they can be meaningful and heartfelt. It all depends on the brand you are building for yourself.
Make sure to show your personality:
Now, once you know the tone you want to communicate and the stories you can tell, how are you going to let your personality shine through?
Are you super serious all the time? Or are you a lighthearted person? What would your friends say about you? When your audience can connect your art to a real live person, it changes how they see it. If you are a likable person, your art becomes more likable. If you are a dick—the opposite effect often happens. The lesson here is, be nice and be genuine. Life is more fun that way.
Now, I am not a perfect person. I’m often a hot mess and I admit that I don’t show these parts of my personality on social media, because I’m always trying to become a better version of myself. I’m still being genuine. I’m just showing you the parts of me that I am most proud of and that I feel good about. I’ll write about the bad stuff after I’ve figured out how to improve it.
Keep it simple and well formatted.
You don’t always have to have a long and meaningful posts. Switch it up. Have days where you write about your deep thoughts, and then have days where you just let your art speak for itself.
I often stop reading long captions after a paragraph or two. Wow, some people write a LOT! There is definitely an audience for that sort of writing, but I find shorter or easily digestible captions work best for me.
I also don’t even waste my time reading captions with one huge block of text. Always break up your captions with symbols and spaces. If your post is long, make sure to break up the paragraphs so it doesn’t look overwhelming.
Other Things to talk about:
Talk about your passions: Obviously, I love art—but quite a few of my captions revolve around food. You never know what else you’re into that your audience will respond to. When we write about the things we love, we will attract others who feel the same.
Tools of the trade: What are you using in the studio? What are your favorite supplies. This is a great way to start a conversation and tag your favorite businesses for more exposure.
Get to know your audience: Ask questions! People want to connect in a genuine way. If you engage with your audience, they will be more eager to comment on future posts. I like to ask for music recommendations or opinions on supplies, as well as ask questions around deeper topics.
This is a great way to get engagement on your posts right away and hopefully get the new Instagram algorithm to work in your favor.
Calls to action:
If you are on Instagram as a business, then you most likely want your audience to act in some way to help you. Whether it’s shopping in your store, subscribing to your YouTube channel, or reading your blogs, it’s a good practice to gently plug these things. And I must stress, gently!
If all of your captions are “This piece is available for sale, DM me for purchase,” your following may lose interest in what you have to say. Don’t just think about what your audience can do for you, but instead think about what you can do for your audience. It’s cheesy, but it helps. Your followers are doing you a favor by clicking on your links. Make it worth their while and don’t be pushy.
When I write captions meant as a call to action, I try to include other stories first and place my “follow the link in my bio to shop,” line lower down. Show your audience you care more about interacting with them, and consider the call to action as a “by the way, you might be interested in this…”
It’s okay to be blunt every so often, but don’t let every one of your captions become an advertisement for your store.
Don’t Forget your hashtags
Maximize the exposure of your posts by using strategic hashtags. Put in a little research, and include 25-30 hashtags with each caption. Keep your captions attractive by separating your tags from your text with 5 to 15 symbols (spaces, hash marks, dots, asterisks, etc.).
How do you know if your captions are working?
“But Kelly, people ignore what I wrote and just comment “Nice pic!” or “Great!””
Give it time. You can’t define yourself as an artist and tell your story in just one caption.
Most people don’t comment on my blogs, but often I do get wonderful and encouraging messages through Instagram DMs or people I know will tell me in person that they like what I’m doing.
Just because you don’t get a reaction from people immediately doesn’t mean they aren’t listening to what you have to say. Sometimes just the act of following you is a big thumbs up to everything you’re doing. A lot of us are silent observers.
It’s going to feel like you are talking to yourself for a while, but keep telling your story!
Ask For Help:
If you need help with figuring out how you come across through your social media posts, ask for an outside opinion! As a creative person, I have learned over the years that critique sessions are incredibly valuable. I often ask my nerdy other half to read my blogs for that fresh perspective.
When we have a message to communicate, it’s not always easy to get it right the first time. I’m constantly tweaking what I write to communicate more effectively.
As always, I am willing to offer my consulting services if you want a more in depth outside opinion or help defining your brand as an artist.
Thanks for reading! I’d love to hear what you think in the comments below, or reach out to me directly. I love getting new inspiration for blog posts, so don’t hesitate to let me know if you have questions.