How To Write For Instagram


Be Real.

Real nice.

I’ve been working as a social media marketer for a while now, and I’ve always had great growth and engagement for my clients. Even when Facebook became more of a pay-to-play platform, I got great organic results when some of my peers were struggling to explain poor performance to their clients when I was agency-based. I think most of the time I was getting great results wasn’t because I got lucky with great clients.

It was because I was paying attention to who I was writing for, and I dialed in to an authentic voice. Being authentic doesn’t mean just writing as you speak. It means finding a way to connect to what you’re writing about.

I’ve been lucky enough to find a way “in” with every client. I can pivot towards the things I connect with, so I can write authentically. I don’t lie and I don’t pretend. I can tell when a brand is copying what they’ve seen elsewhere or just phoning it in, and it completely ruins the experience (and sometimes the whole brand) for me. So, I try to never do that with my writing, for myself or clients.

A few things I recommend to people just starting out writing for Instagram:

Learn About the Brand First

Dig in and make sure you understand as much as you can. The more you know about your brand or product, the easier your job will be. Of course, if the brand is your own, you’ve got it made.

If you’re working for someone else, you should take some time to learn about production, the company’s main sales pitches, and how the product actually works. It will help you respond to questions and create educational posts that are more than just the basics.

Also, when people know more about a brand, they tend to like them more. It’s called the mere-exposure effect. I think it works *unless* the brand turns out to be doing really bad things. The idea of associating with brands that differ with us on our values can cause a backlash. See: people burning Nikes or Harry Potter books.

Start With Photos and Then Write Copy

If you’re short on time, this is the easiest way to write multiple posts without eating up hours. You could find it easier to write when there’s something to pull from, like a gorgeous picture. It may trigger memories or give you new ideas.

Try looking at a photo and writing about the first thing you notice. Is it the color of the flowers, or the couple kissing in the background? Use that first impulse. Chances are, it’s what your audience will notice, too, and they’ll feel more connected to it.

This also helps me avoid wasting time or using photos that don’t feel right. If the angle is off, or your model doesn’t look as happy as you imagined, you may have to rewrite copy anyway.

If It Feels Wrong, It Is

Awkward language. Jokes that fall flat. Lies.

Don’t do it. If you’re not sure how something is going to come off to your audience, try to get a second opinion. Still not sure? Scrap it. It’s not worth the time damage control will take up later.

Don’t Sell All the Time

Instagram is a great place for sales, and Facebook keeps pushing features that make it easier to make purchases right through the app. That being said, space out your salesy posts with informative and fun posts.

Have Fun

Instagram is big business, but overall people tap in multiple times a day to be entertained. Play around and experiment. Some of the best movies do well because they take risks and stray from formula. If you see everyone else making the same joke or same un, you know it’s not going to land right when you tell it.

Don’t Post and Walk Away

Engage with the community you’re a part of and be genuine with your responses and comments. Customer service is huge, and there are so many brands competing with you. Following up with questions and liking comments is common courtesy. Go above and beyond by having a clear strategy for dealing with trolls, negative comments, and other bad vibes.

Story time: One of my favorite meme accounts is actually really good at engaging with followers. Not only does she post A+ quality memes that aren’t tired or overdone, but she also talks about her struggles and asks questions. She follows up in the comments, ensuring people understand that she’s a real person, and not a “brand.”

If you want to know more about writing and marketing, let me know. I love talking about this stuff, and could probably go on forever…