An example of copy for Instagram.

Copy for Instagram: Are You Doing it Wrong?

An example of copy for Instagram.

While scouring the internet for inspiration for a blog post about copywriting and web content, I harassed some friends who also work on the web for some ideas. What were some of the copy-related questions they had? What issues in the world of web copy were keeping them up at night? OK, maybe they weren’t losing sleep, but experiencing some mild irritation.

My good friend and former co-worker Oli Maughan came to the rescue. She’s a Social Media Strategist and All-around Nice Girl that some pretty big brands in North America (Luvo, LYFE Kitchen, and lululemon lab, to name a few) have trusted with their precious online reputations. She creates copy for many different platforms, including Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, and she has some bones to pick. Namely, she wants to address the Dos and Don’ts of writing copy for Instagram.

I sat down with Oli (aka I emailed some questions from Toronto to Vancouver and then bugged her incessantly on Facebook chat to complete them) to uncover some best practices for creating content for Instagram. These mostly apply to brands using the platform (fun fact from Oli: 67% of top brands are now using Instagram to reach more than 100 million active monthly users on the network–a 500% increase from last year), but you could easily apply these to your personal use as well.


Why should we think about copy for Instagram differently than other mediums?

Like any social network, Instagram offers another opportunity to engage and inspire your followers, but each one is going to be different in terms of the amount of space you have to fill. When thinking about writing content on this platform, or on any for that matter, you should always consider the kind of content you interact with most. Obviously, on Instagram the image is the main event, but what makes you stop and read a caption?

What is the ideal length of copy for an Instagram post? Should it be like a blog post or more like a tweet?

Instagram is a very visual medium, and unless you’re a celebrity, people likely won’t stick around to read a long caption. Keep it short, sweet and to the point–your post can be a bit longer than a tweet, but not quite as long as a Facebook post.

Best practice: watch the behaviour of the people engaging with your photos. If they are not just liking but also commenting and regramming posts (a new feature that will catch on and be a great KPI for Instagram–check out the app: InstaRepost) that are copy-heavy then continue to focus on copy (same goes the other way around).

How many hashtags are too many hashtags?

Hashtags have their uses, but there’s no excuse for bogging down an awesome picture with 20 hashtags that all say the same thing. Using more than 4-5 hashtags makes you look desperate for followers.

Best practice: use 2-3 awesome and relevant hashtags and let the pictures speak for themselves. Pay attention to like-minded bloggers and brands and try and tap into their unique hashtags in hopes of a repost/retweet (if you feed your photos to twitter) or reblog (example: lululemon’s #thesweatlife campaign).

What about including copy in the actual image vs. in the caption?

It really depends on the image. Quotes can be cool but too many can look spammy or too Tony Robbins (like an affirmation machine or automated self-help book). This is a practice more suited to Pinterest.

Best practice: if you’re going to do it, do it sparingly. My favourite app for adding text to photos is called Over.

What about including links?

Instagram does not allow you to click on a link from their platform (at this time).

Best practice: if I want people to go somewhere I usually say: “check out our website for this giveaway” or “pop over to our Facebook page for today’s cooking tips” etc.

Any final tips for brands using Instagram?

  • Engage with your followers. Comment. Follow back. Like things. Be human.
  • Remember that constant product placement is not a good look.
  • Pay attention to what your followers react to most and adjust your posts accordingly.
  • Don’t overpost pictures of the same thing (pets, products, people) be diverse and intentional.
  • For some more interesting facts about getting the most from Instagram, check out this article.


Thanks Oli!



About the author: JessicaGrey

I'm a copywriter for web, print, radio and video. Contact me to get content that effectively communicates the benefits of your product or service.

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