9 Common Instagram Caption Mistakes That Tank Engagement

While beautiful images take center stage on Instagram, the captions that accompany the images have an important role, too — especially when it comes to promoting your brand. Captions provide a space to really connect with your audience and drive your messages home.

If you’re still struggling to meet your engagement goals on Instagram, captions just might be the culprit. Below are 9 common caption mistakes that may be preventing your posts from reaching their full engagement potential.

1. Not including a caption

Even if your image already includes text, the caption is an opportunity to expand on your message, connect with your followers, and call them to action. Why pass that up?

2. Adding no value or meaning

Just throwing in some hashtags and emojis doesn’t do much for your followers. They want to know why you’re posting the image, how it’s relevant to you, and how it’s relevant to them. Think of the image and the caption as a unit: they complement each other and work together to speak to your audience.

3. Having a weak hook

In the age of smartphones and Twitter, people have shorter attention spans than ever. As with every kind of content, you need to grab your followers’ attention right away if you want them to continue reading.

This is especially true in Instagram, because people scrolling through their feeds will only see the first line of your caption with a ‘more’ link. Your first sentence needs to inspire them to click that link and read the rest.

Here’s a post example from @boosted_social with a strong caption opener that makes the scroller want to click ‘more:’


4. Sticking to dry descriptions rather than telling a story

Don’t just tell your followers what’s in the image. Tell them why they should care about it.

You can find a story in everything if you look hard enough.

Spontaneous picture of a beautiful sunset? Write about how you were walking down the street worrying about work deadlines and what to make for dinner when you suddenly looked up and noticed that the sky was ablaze. Now it’s a story about taking a moment in your busy life to notice beauty.

Photo of a cup of coffee? Write about the mug your sister gave you. Now it’s a story about connection. Or share with your followers that you can’t get your morning started without a shot of caffeine and ask who can relate. (Spoiler: just about everyone!)

The winning combination is an image that already tells a compelling story and a caption that outlines and enhances it.

5. Making a hard sell

Instagram is not the place for aggressive marketing. The vibe on IG is relaxed and friendly, and people will see a hard sell as a major turn-off. So don’t make your caption all about selling your product. Focus instead on your audience — which brings us to mistake #6:

6. Not focusing on your audience

Talking about yourself can make your posts more relatable and friendly, but your caption should ultimately be about your audience, their interests, and their needs. If you tell a personal story, have it lead to a key takeaway for your followers. Always keep them in mind when crafting your content.

7. Attack of the giant text block

You may have a lot to say in your caption, and that’s totally fine — as long as you make it easy on the eyes.

Large clusters of text are intimidating and hard to read, especially on a smartphone. A text that might just be a couple lines on a computer screen will go on forever on a smartphone screen! It’s best to keep each paragraph no longer than two sentences.

The Instagram caption editor is a little fussy about adding paragraph breaks. To ensure your caption comes out looking right with plenty of white space, you can use this tool to write your caption and then copy-paste into the editor.

8. Emoji overkill

Definitely feel free to use emojis in your captions: they can add visual interest and flair, augment your emotional messaging, and make your text more engaging. But don’t overdo it! Use only emojis that are relevant to your message, and use them sparingly.

Emojis are like cinnamon: sprinkle just the right amount, and your caption will be warm and inviting. Add too much, and it’ll make your followers’ eyes sting.

9. Leaving out a call to action

You’ve done all this hard work to get your followers to read to the end of your caption… don’t leave them hanging now! Tell them what you’d like them to do next. For example:

  • Hit like if you agree!
  • Tell me what you think in the comments.
  • DM me for more details.
  • Check out the link in my profile to learn more.

A follower may love what you wrote, but you’ll never know about it if they don’t know how to show you. Give them clear instructions.

Avoid these 9 mistakes to make your captions engaging and compelling — and take your Instagram feed to the next level.

Action Items:

  1. Review some of the captions you’ve posted (or some on your feed) and identify any mistakes from this article reflected in them.
  2. If you find something, as an exercise, rewrite the caption to make it more engaging.
  3. On your next Instagram post, review this list again to ensure that your caption is optimized for engagement.


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