This blog was posted on Medium and has been published by The Startup.
This is not a blog about self-censorship. Anyone who knows me knows I struggle with formalities in communication and that I speak (and write) with a pleasant 10% swearword density. What is it I want to filter then?
Felt cute, might delete later.
The distinction was long clear, Twitter was for text, 140 characters full of wisdom and wit, Facebook was for any kind of bullshit your aunt wants to share, and Instagram was for anything you could put a Valencia filter over to make it look pretty.
I have worked for a social media agency for almost two years. I ‘’made’’ visuals and videos, although I have zero sense for design and to be brutally honest: I used Windows Movie Maker. You may cringe. But, social media was booming, and we were going to war with a shitload of content and clueless millennials.
I also had to write the captions that went with my posts, preferably in the tone of voice of the company — even though that was guesswork: I wrote for 75 accounts at the same time in my peak. My beloved colleagues knew that I was critical of their grammar and preferred making the captions over the visuals, so we often traded. Oh, exciting office times.
Cutting the crap, keeping the copy
Becoming a freelance copywriter, I quickly learned that I could not entirely say goodbye to social media. I did, however, say farewell to Photoshop and all stock photo websites I had bookmarked: I wasn’t making the world a prettier place with what I made. New clients that came up all got the same response: I will do your social media, but not the pictures.
They agreed. And again. And another. I now have several excel sheets filled with short copy (with a lot of puns and alliterations), meant to accompany pictures and videos on their journey into the algorithms. Off you go dear, make someone chuckle.
When I got specific requests to ONLY be responsible for the captions, and when I re-evaluated my own Instagram use (I usually only do that for Tinder), I realized something changed for me too. Instagram is not about the pictures anymore. I’m not talking about video — it’s the captions that are gaining importance all over. I am not interested in yet another beach or polaroid-in-a-picture. I want to read the words that caught your feelings at that moment. You can call me sentimental — because I am.
Our beloved Valencia filter is now applied to the words in the caption.
They have to give you the feeling you’re in a romantic novel (Rise), make you feel warm (Slumber), or nostalgic (Toaster) or mysterious (Sutro).
Filter on words
Whereas the caption section was long used as a place to put unrelated song lyrics or annoyingly generic hashtags, it has now become a place to strengthen the persona, feeling, message or whatever you are trying to display on the medium.
The power of words has again become more evident. Possibly because of the shitload of visual content that is being catapulted online every second. It has become nearly impossible to stand out with videos or photography. Whether it is for businesses, travel bloggers, fashionistas or restaurants/chefs — chances are there are 1343291 similar pictures that have already been uploaded to the gram (Healthy breakfast much? Two legs by the pool? Your coffee mug with a quote on how you’ll kick Monday in the balls? Shocking!). So we massively are falling back to words. Lucky me!
Any kind of influencer uses it for personal branding, from #fitgirls to beauty bloggers. Whenever they post nonsponsored content, they still use the caption. No coupon codes or shoutouts to brands, but stories, thoughts, reflections. Whatever you might think of this — it isn’t necessary, but it’s hella smart. It strengthens the bond between them and their followers — now readers — as it would happen when you’re sucked into a great novel. You form a personal bond, and you have to give it to them: I’d rather buy from someone I know than a duckface with just some #spon.
Is it the place to publish your entire novel? Maybe not, but Instagram gives you the opportunity to speak, so why not use it. It is increasingly popular anyway, whether you’re there or not. Don’t let it be empty and wasted space.