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How to Write Social Media Captions that Convert with Ashlyn Carter

Let’s talk about social media captions that convert!

While I AM a professional writer, I’m not a professional social media celebrity, wink. I’ve learned so much from my copywriting clients, who have followings of upward of 500K and 700K, and seeing what works (and what doesn’t!) with words on their accounts.

My goal is to give you useful tips that go beyond algorithm. I tried to think through a few tips that have worked for me writing captions since I started my business, but also tips that worked well back when I helped businesses show up on Instagram in corporate marketing.

So, without further adieu, I hope these help, no matter what month it is and what the algorithm is up to, wink.

1. Never write without gathering your toolbox—starting with your brand voice, story, and sales goals.

Here’s the thing I tell my students and clients: you can’t tell people what you do if you don’t know how to say it yourself.

Think about Fixer Upper: Chip takes the house down to the studs before they get cranking on shiplap city. When you write on the fly, you’re likely slapping up words and not paying attention to the message at stake—not to mention the sales goals you need to hit to be a profitable business.

My friend and copywriting client Beth Kirby of Local Milk says it well in her Instagram to Income course—if you don’t know WHY you want to grow your following or social media accounts, you’ll always be chasing an elusive number. Popular doesn’t equate to profitable!

Before I dig into practical tips for telling a story in your Instagram captions, a note on brand voice: I talk about it a lot!

Want to dig into the words that define your brand’s online persona? Take the quiz, and get swipeable copy bank of your own word style! 

When I was trying to think of WHAT I’m doing in captions or social media ad copy for clients, I realized I try to add in 2-3 sensory words/phrases or anecdotes that paint a picture.

Describe touch, taste, sound, sight, emotion, feel. Get specific. Don’t just say Tex Mex. Say salty corn chips dunked in guacamole washed down with tart margaritas.

Aisle Planner How to Write Social Media Captions that Convert with Ashlyn Carter

No, you can’t just skirt by on your brand’s unique voice and storytelling and hit your sales goals, but it’s a start!

ACTION STEP: Have your own demo day to find your brand voice. Pour a fresh cuppa coffee, sit down, and pull your brand down to the studs by gathering (or writing out for the first time!) the following. This will help you be more thoughtful with your copy.

Think about it this way: You have a mood board for your visual branding, but do you have a “mood board” for the message and words of your brand? They’re just as important!

2. Don’t forget that social media is an online cocktail party—be engaging!

How do we cope with things like the algorithm? By investing in high-quality and engaging content on Facebook and Instagram.

Instagram, Facebook, and the gang want to put content in front of users that those users actually care about. Content that they’ll share with friends who also care about it. And if your content gets a lot of engagement, it will likely do better in the newsfeed.

JUST like you’ve likely heard on Instagram, Facebook also isn’t a great place to “post and ghost.” Instead, try to spend the window of time before or after you post engaging with commenters, answering DMs, commenting on others’ posts, etc.

Engagement trumps educational content on social media.

ACTION STEP: Experiment! Post long captions, post short captions, change up the call-to-action you end your posts with, and see what tends to get you an uptick. What feels more “you.” What lets you naturally be social on the app.

“Good Instagram captions come in all shapes and sizes, from short and sweet to a longer, in-depth stories (an Instagram caption can be as long as 2200 characters). As long as your audience finds it engaging, you’re doing great!” -Later

The “best practices” for how long your captions should be or what call-to-actions you need to use are what works best for YOUR engagement and audience.

Engagement naturally is a part of our interactions and communication in social media, so that brings me to …

3. Hook before the fold.

Some of us write long captions (me!) and some of us write short captions, but unless you’re just typing a few quick words, you’re going to have copy bump after the fold.

(They’re going to have to click “more” to see the rest of your post.)

SO, what that means for me as a copywriter is I need to treat this real estate like I do any words I’m trying to get someone to read—I need to lead with the hook! This could be totally arbitrary, but at least on my account, when I try to bake in pertinent details before the line break and give enough info to hook them and have them keep reading, I see that people actually read.

This works kinda the same way that writing headlines on your website goes.

Related: How to Write Headlines that Sell on Your Homepage

ACTION STEP: Try to front-load your captions and get to the good stuff first. When I do this, I see better results (people actually click and read the caption).

The internet changes on a daily basis, but it’s our job to learn how to write copy for our businesses that connects and converts, so we can reach our ideal clients online. Have fun with it, share your story, and couple your brand imagery with words that further your relationship both on and offline.

Want a bit more support when it comes to your captions? I created a FREE caption copywriting guide for you! Click here to download it.

About the Author

Ashlyn Carter
Ashlyn Carter

Ashlyn Carter serves creative women as a copywriter & calligrapher. Leaving her job in corporate mass media and marketing two years ago, she’s traded clients like Delta Air Lines and Chick-fil-A to build a multiple six-figure business writing conversion copy for entrepreneurs like Jenna Kutcher, Melyssa Griffin, Hilary Rushford, The Bachelorette’s Desiree Hartsock, and more than 78 other clients. She’s been a featured speaker with Creative Live, and her calligraphy has been featured in Style Me Pretty, The Knot, and Southern Weddings. Ashlyn lives in Atlanta and convinces her husband to go grab margs and tacos weekly.

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