Let’s cut to the chase. You’re busy. Spending an hour writing the perfect social media caption is just not an option.
Thing is, rushing it isn’t an option, either. Every social media caption is a valuable opportunity to further define and clarify your message to your audience. And a poorly written caption—with bad grammar, misspelled words, and incoherent messaging—can negatively influence people’s opinions of your brand.
Because everything you write is a brand message. It’s an opportunity to share, engage, and grow—as long as you do it right.
But here’s the good news: social media caption writing doesn’t have to be poetic, or beautiful, or Pulitzer-Prize worthy.
It just has to be effective.
And crafting effective social media captions—captions that engage, delight, and communicate—comes down to just a handful of key practices. Master them, and you’ll be knocking out those social media captions in no time.
Ready? Let’s go.
Give me the short version
- Captions should clearly convey a message.
- They should focus on the benefits the reader gets.
- Use storytelling to captivate your readers.
- The content of the post will help guide you in caption choices.
- Be snappy, fun, and easy to read. But also use correct spelling.
- Err on the shorter side, as long as you’re not losing your message on the way.
- Trigger people’s emotions.
- Don’t be repetitive, and write captions that encourage engagement.
Now let’s get into more detail.
Social media caption writing 101: Communicate a clear message
Social media caption writing might seem like trying to communicate in an alien language, but it’s the same as any other form of written communication.
It’s all about conveying a message.
Sure, there’s flair and style and even emojis, but those are all to just boost readability.
Struggling to figure out what that is? Here’s a trick I like to use. Forget about how you’re going to word your caption, and just jot down what it is you want to convey.
Maybe you want to clarify what your post is about. Maybe you want to expand on the details. Maybe you just want to say something witty that ties into your post.
At its core, writing anything is just knowing what you want to say and rewording it for style.
But what if you’re struggling to figure out what it is you’re even trying to say? Or what if you’ve got the what down pat, but the how remains as elusive as Waldo?
Well, then . . .
Let the content guide you in writing your social media captions
What is your post about? Is it a meme, a job post, an employer brand post, a product post? Is your featured content an image or a video? What is the desired goal for this post?
These questions will guide you in creating the caption.
Compare this example:
View this post on Instagram
With this one:
View this post on Instagram
Visually, the posts are kinda similar. But in terms of what they are about and what each account is trying to achieve with the post—one, a sales post, the other, an on-brand witty observation—they’re miles apart. And the captions reflect that.
So think about what fits with this post.
For example, take calls to action (CTAs). As you may already know, to get your audience to take a desired action, you need to call out that action. Thing is, not every caption should have a call to action—that would be highly repetitive. So let the content guide you in that. If your post’s about an open job, then sure: a call to action makes sense. If it’s a meme, not so much.
Think about the audience’s needs
One of the most often misunderstood facts about social media is that it’s best when it’s authentic. It’s 100% true, but that doesn’t mean you should ramble on about whatever’s on your mind and just assume your fans are gonna nod and say, “Tell me more.”
As one of my favorite copywriting articles puts it: it’s never about you. Even when your followers tell you they want you to be personable and raw and authentic—and they do—it’s not because they care about you. It’s because that’s the type of content that affects them.
So take a moment before writing that caption and set the ego aside. Instead of asking yourself, “What do I want to share?,” ask: “What do my followers need, and how can I give it to them?”
Here’s an example of how to market your message while making it about the audience:
Loosen those writing muscles
Yes, a social media caption should communicate a message, but it’s not an email or notification. It’s supposed to be fun, engaging, and easily readable.
So get loose with your social media caption writing. Ditch the formal words for smaller, easier words. Even try experimenting 😱 with emojis. (But be smart with emojis. Use them in a way that makes sense, and use them in a way that flows. You don’t want your followers to pause and think, “Huh?”)
Want an example of how to convey a message in a fun, easy way on social media? Here’s one from our very own account:
View this post on Instagram
Tell a story
I’ll explain this one with a story.
In 1926, legendary copywriter John Caples was hired to write an ad about a music book. Most people would have written, “Learn piano like a pro,” or something like that.
Instead, John Caples wrote: “They laughed when I sat down at the piano, but when I started to play!”
In the ad, he told a story: of how “Jack” decided to jokingly play piano in front of a room, and how everyone laughed at him, thinking he couldn’t play. But then he played, and played beautifully. And when he was done, he told his stunned audience that he’d learned it from a music book.
Caples tapped into the core desire to learn piano and gave it to his readers—as a story. And told them, “Here’s how you make that story a reality.”
That’s the power of a story. And it works in writing captions, too. Not with everything—not every post can be a story. But some can.
Here’s an example:
Don’t be afraid to get emotional when writing social media captions
Just because social media caption writing should be short and fun and snappy doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be emotional. On the contrary: triggering your followers’ emotions is a powerful way to get them to engage with you.
Here’s a perfect example of such a post:
View this post on Instagram
Don’t be repetitive
This is especially important when you’re posting a bunch of similar-style posts, like multiple job posts. It can be tempting to keep writing the same caption, over and over—for example, “Can you recommend anyone for this job?” But taking the time to freshen up your templates and add a little creativity to your posts is worth it, for two reasons.
Firstly, repeating the same caption over and over sends a bad message to your followers. It tells them you’re either boring, lack the creativity to come up with new captions, or simply don’t value your followers enough to put in the effort. Perhaps all three.
And secondly, it looks robotic. Humans by nature are nowhere near as good at repetition as machines. And considering how much people on social media value authenticity, appearing robotic is not a good idea. (Which, as an aside, is why CareerArc automates your posts while offering you full creative control over them. You can learn more about how we work here, or click here to see it in action.)
Instead, be creative. Take a moment to think about how you can make the best use out of this caption to promote your message. Here’s a great example of a job post that goes beyond the bare necessities to really convey a message:
Be super easy to read
Social media is made for scrolling. So if you’re hoping to get people to stop scrolling and read your caption, you need to make it as easy to read as possible.
- Use shorter paragraphs and shorter sentences
- Break down details like time, location, and such into short lists
- And, again, be less formal.
Grammar and spelling actually matters when it comes to social media caption writing
Here’s a myth we can put to bed right now: “grammar doesn’t matter on social media.” Yes, social media captions are meant to be more informal, but grammar and spelling definitely matter when it comes to social media caption writing, for a simple reason:
Grammar and spelling makes skimming easier.
Try reading this sentence: “Gr8 news we or hirn. Now Fur a productdevlopir apply here thnx.”
Not easy, huh? Now imagine you wrote an entire paragraph like that.
Your audience is gonna struggle through a sentence or two and give up.
Engagement is the currency of social media. Whether it’s comments, likes, or shares, engagement not only boosts the performance of your posts but also:
- Is a valuable metric for measuring what type of content your followers engage with, and;
- When it comes in the form of comments, it:
- Allows you to forge actual relationships with your audience;
- Offers unique insights into what your followers are looking for, and;
- Speaks volumes about who you are as a brand.
So how do you write captions that encourage engagement? It could be as simple as asking a question or asking people to share their own content in a comment, like in this post:
Encouraging your followers to share content on their own accounts and tag you, like here:
Or simply creating content so darn captivating that your followers have no choice but to engage with it.
Make your social media caption writing as short as possible
When it comes to social media captions, short is better. But at the same time, it shouldn’t be so short that you’re sacrificing your message. Sometimes a message can be conveyed in just a few words, like here:
While other times, it takes a little more, like in this post.
View this post on Instagram
So the rule is: be as short as possible, so long as it doesn’t affect your message.
Include humor when called for
Humor on social media is powerful. All you have to do is check out Urban Daddy’s social presence to see that.
But it should never go to an extreme that doesn’t fit with your brand. There’s a fine line between being humorous and becoming a comedian, and unless your brand is in the comedy field, you probably shouldn’t cross that line.
Use the right hashtags
We went into everything you need to know about hashtag usage here, so I’m just gonna summarize some key points:
- Make sure your hashtags are specific to your content. So #instafamous for a job post isn’t the best choice.
- Use a combination of high-competition and low-competition hashtags
- Branded hashtags can be a very powerful tool, but you probably don’t want to rely on them alone. At least not until you’ve built a dedicated following.
- Consider the types of hashtags your audience is looking for before picking them.
For more on this, check out our hashtag guide here.
How can we help?
Here’s the thing. Social media captions are kinda like the icing on the cake. To be relevant and effective on social media, you also need a strong social recruiting strategy.
- 84% of active job seekers and 89% of passive job seekers consider employer brand and reputation before applying to a job
- 86% of job seekers use social media in their job search.
- 90% of job seekers follow brands on social media.
In other words: social media is an unparalleled resource to engage, attract, and even retain candidates and followers to your brand.
Want to learn more about social media recruiting? Access our social media recruiting guide here.
And if you want to harness the power of the world’s best social media recruiting platform—a platform that can get you the talent you need, cut down your costs, and save you literally hundreds (perhaps even thousands) of hours a year—then click here to check out a free demo of CareerArc.
P.S. Want us to cover a topic in social media recruiting, brand awareness, or talent acquisition we haven’t yet talked about? Leave your suggestion in the comments below!