On social media, in order to command the most attention you can, you need to convey your message in a way that works on these unique platforms.
We’ve covered the why, what, where, and when of posting. Now, it’s time to cover the how. My final piece in this mini series centered on gaining followers and increasing engagement will focus on this underappreciated aspect of posting: How to write a good caption.
Defining what a caption is, it’s the bit of text accompanying the media you’re posting, whether that be a photo, video, link, etc.
To understand the importance here, the media you’re posting is the bread and the caption accompanying it is the (vegan) butter. People may at first notice the photo or video that you’ve posted, but when they look closer, they’re checking out the words you’ve paired it with. What you say here conveys how you feel about this media, and how you feel about this media often determines how your followers will react.
When you are posting to social, you want your audience to take action. So, put yourself in their shoes. If you saw this in your newsfeed, would you engage? Recall the importance of people sharing your content. They aren’t just sharing the photo or video you’ve posted -- they’re also sharing your caption. So make that caption inspiring.
Craft your caption differently for each platform. See what works best for you and your audience. Generally speaking, your audience on Facebook will be most personal, so make your captions here more tailored to your friends and family. Twitter and Instagram are more public-facing, so picture yourself speaking to a less personal audience.
Brevity is important. I live by the 80/20 rule. 80% of captions should be very short, around 1-3 sentences. 20% should carry on for several paragraphs to give your audience a deeper dive into your mind, thoughts, and philosophy.
Use calls to action, such as “Give Meatless Monday a try,” or “Follow my friend’s account.” Try to keep the calls to action on the platform the user is on, otherwise the likelihood of them taking that action decreases significantly.
Statistics can be powerful and work well to make a point, but talking about just one single animal or single act of factory farming cruelty will often do the most to inspire your audience.
Directly ask for retweets on Twitter or double-taps on Instagram. Use emojis; they increase the click rate and likelihood of people engaging. Ask questions at the end of your captions to not just inspire your audience, but also increase engagement.
Speak authoritatively to increase the likelihood of people sharing your content. For example, a post like “It’s outrageous how farm animals are treated” will get more shares than “I’m outraged by the treatment farm animals endure."
Learn what appeals to your audience, and cater your message accordingly. Write in a way that will most appeal to them and encourage them to take action. Speak in terms that are relatable and relevant to your followers or else they won’t engage.
Your audience is a diverse bunch who react to different content in different ways. Incorporate humor and creativity. Humor can bring people’s walls down. Inject creativity into your posts to reduce the chances of boring your audience.
Anger is the high-arousal emotion that is most likely to cause people to take action. Don’t shy away from instilling anger in your audience because that will encourage more engagement of your posts. Given the state of modern animal agriculture, there is a lot to be angry about. Do enough that they take action, but don’t make them so upset that they unfollow you or are left feeling hopeless.
Encourage conversation and dialogue, and don’t be afraid to challenge your followers’ beliefs. Not only is this a generally healthy exercise, the increased engagement also boosts the likelihood of your post showing up in more newsfeeds. That engagement is what will fuel the work you’re doing for animals on social.
John Oberg is a social media pro, dedicated to making the world a kinder place for animals by utilizing the power of social media. He recently launched his own independent project for animals through Patreon. Prior to that, he served as Director of New Media for the international animal protection organization, The Humane League. And prior to that, John served as Director of Communications for Vegan Outreach. In both of these roles, John oversaw social media for the organizations which led to a tenfold increase in following in both, as well as over 1 billion views of content posted to these pages.