Key points
  • Captions are an incredibly important part of your social media post: they provide important context to your visuals, allow you to tell a story, and help boost your engagement.
  • Unfortunately, many schools treat their captions as an afterthought and focus on their photos and videos instead.
  • It’s easy to start improving your social media captions. The key is putting your audience at the centre! Find out our top tips and tricks to writing better captions.

Social media is one of the most popular marketing tools that schools around Australia use to showcase their brand and stand out amongst other schools in their area. It has one of the lowest barriers to entry of any channel (just snap a picture and share!), but it’s one of the hardest to get right. One of the trickiest parts of creating engaging, thoughtful social media content is writing a great caption. Because of this difficulty, school social accounts are awash with tacked-on, hastily written captions that don’t add much value to the post.

Along with finding eye-catching imagery or videos, crafting the caption for your update is the most important part of posting on social media for schools. That’s why we’ve put together this guide to get you writing captions that hit the mark.

Why are social media captions so important?

A picture is worth a thousand words, but sometimes it’s not enough to hold your audience’s attention. Shopify recently put together an article about Instagram, where they wrote, “A strong visual on Instagram can make users 'slow their scroll' and stay locked on your post, but a carefully thought out caption can do a lot more heavy lifting in terms of marketing and sales.” 

In other words, your imagery and videos can be completely on-brand and beautiful, but they still don’t tell your audience about your school or why parents should care about what you’re posting. Captions offer you the ability to tell an interesting story and offer context around the image or video that you’re sharing.

Another reason that you need to put effort into your captions is to ensure your posts actually get seen by your audience. Great captions prompt people to engage with your post, which in turn boosts your reach and your likelihood of being featured in places like the Instagram Explore tab. 

So how do you go about writing the best possible captions to engage your followers and increase your content’s visibility?  Here are our top tips that you can use the next time you sit down to post.

Put your audience at the centre

When it comes to writing captions, it’s not about you — it’s about them. This means, rather than writing a post that will benefit your school in some way, you think about how you can add value to your readers.

To do this effectively, it’s important that you write directly to a segment of your audience. You’ll likely have a list of different personas that you can keep front and centre when you’re writing. What kind of content would quickly capture the interest of that specific persona? You can play around with different content types, but you can’t go wrong with offering educational content, such as quick tips and tricks or ‘Did you know?’ posts.

If you’re looking to take it up a notch, take a dive into your social analytics to get even more personal. Each platform will have audience insights that you can use to track the age, gender and interests of the people who are following and engaging with you. This data can help you to see which demographics are most interested in your posts, and who is most likely to engage.

Considering your audience first is the key to success for any type of inbound marketing strategy. Once you have a clear idea of who your audience is and the posts they like, you’ll be able to start sharpening your captions to better engage with them.

Match the message to the visual

If you’re using images, video or a graphic (and we highly encourage you to!), make sure your caption serves to complement the visual that’s being shared. If your visuals are engaging, there’s a high chance viewers will want to know more about what they’re looking at — your caption can do just that. 

Even if you believe your visual speaks for itself, your caption can work to add extra interest by using storytelling techniques. If you’re stuck for a story, consider whether there is an interesting anecdote that happened around the time the picture or video was taken. If you’re still unsure, think about a few sensory details that you can add to paint a picture. For example, you can describe the weather on the day or the emotions felt by the people featured. 

Hit the important information early

Did you know that the most important part of your caption is the first sentence? Many social platforms shorten captions when they appear in a user’s feed, so only the first three or four lines are displayed. This means you need to front-load the most important information at the start of your caption — in other words, use the famous journalism technique of leading with your hook. This prompts the reader to click the ‘More’ button to expand your post, further signalling to the social media algorithms that you have something interesting to say!

Consider your brand voice

Does the tone of your caption match your school’s brand voice? Having a consistent brand is crucial to the success of all of your marketing efforts. While social media often warrants more casual language, it’s important that your posts still feel and sound like your school brand.

Our recommendation? Gather your executive or communications team and decide on 3-5 words that describe your brand voice for social media. Are you bold and adventurous? Caring and compassionate? Professional and collaborative? Make sure you note them in your brand guidelines and tone of voice document and perform regular consistency checks to ensure every caption is written with them in mind. 

Finalising your posts: CTAs, hashtags and emojis

Your social posts should always encourage your audience to take action — this might be prompting them to engage with your post or visit your website. It’s important that you make it clear what you would like your users to do, by writing a specific call-to-action (or CTA). One of the best ways to encourage your audience to engage further is to ask them a question before including your CTA. For example, you could ask ‘How are you spending your summer holidays?’ before introducing your CTA, ‘Comment below and tell us your plans!’.

Hashtags are a clever little addition to posts that can help you to join in on a broader conversation. They are mostly used on Instagram and Twitter, as they help your posts get found in the platform’s search. Be wary when using hashtags on Facebook, however — as we’ve mentioned before, research shows your posts perform better without them. Finally, emojis — those expressive little icons you can use to illustrate your text — can add a little bit of fun to your posts regardless of which platform you are using.

Once you have the basics covered, it’s time to get started writing your captions! One of the best ways to learn how to nail your message is by trying different things. Write several drafts before you post — even check in with your coworkers to see which ones are the most effective. There’s no time like the present, so why not put these tips into practice today?

Social media toolkit for schools
Social media has a multitude of benefits for schools, so if you’re not on it, you’re missing out!
Published 15 October 2020