A captivating image can grab attention, but the right caption can hold it. It draws followers in, allows them to get to know you better and become invested in your journey, and does the ever-important job of warding off any FOMO-induced hate, so that they can look forward to your next post. That’s something you really want when you go on vacation — especially if, say, you’re on a cruise in the Caribbean visiting a new island just about every day (and if that sounds ideal, then Royal Caribbean has an adventure for you). To pinpoint the best way to approach captions (let’s be serious, this is a thing today), we asked prolific travelers with thousands of followers to share their tried and tested tips.
Always Give Context
Let’s start with the most basic of basics: At the very minimum, a good caption should tell readers what a photo is and where it was taken. For example, here Royal Caribbean ensures readers know that not only was this photo taken in Havana, Cuba, but also what street it was taken on near the city’s waterfront. Consider describing the location as your baseline, and then imagine what it’s like to be the reader, who has absolutely zero context on your fantastic trip. Whatever you write, the first few words are paramount. They will decide whether anyone reads on, so use your first line to draw people in — by being intriguing, opinionated, maybe even a little divisive.
“You might be all excited about this beach you just discovered after an hour of walking down a dirt road, but how do you explain this to your readers?” says Sanne Wesselman, founder of Spend Life Traveling, with more than 35,000 followers. “They have never been here and have no idea how strenuous your hike was.”
Another way to look at it is what you can teach followers, through your own experience or thanks to research. “If you’re traveling somewhere new, do a bit of digging and loop some history or interesting tidbits into your comment,” says Jordan Bishop, the editor of How I Travel. “People will keep coming back for more if you consistently pique their curiosity and sense of wonder.”
Get Personal — and Don’t Be Afraid to Go Long
While mixing caption types is a good idea — jokes and quotes certainly have their place — engaging your audience means connecting with them as a human. And that can take more than a sentence or two. It might even mean using all 2,200 characters that everyone’s go-to travel platform allows.
Landscape photographer Connor Mollison, who has nearly 22,000 followers, says that’s something you shouldn’t be afraid to do, as people are naturally curious. “Don’t get stuck in the thought that [a caption] needs to be a catchy sentence or one-liner,” he says. “Long-form captions can work equally well, following a similar format to a blog post.”
Even if you’re not going long, you can still get personal, notes Kristin Addis, who has 117,000 followers on her Be My Travel Muse account. She’s found that no matter where you are — waiting at the airport, walking the sidewalks of an ancient city, or taking in the vast ocean on a cruise — “something from the heart or something inspirational” encourages more engagement and comments. “It has to be more about sharing what you actually feel than trying to manufacture an inspirational quote for a post,” Addis says. “When it’s genuine people can tell, and they respond. Real recognizes real!”
Use Hashtags Selectively
You’ll want to make sure nonfollowers can find your best snaps through the right hashtag. Tempting as it might be to use every seemingly relevant one and copy and paste from photo and photo, that’s not the smartest approach over time. To find the right hashtags, popular tools like All Hashtag, RiteTag, or the generator tool at Influencer Marketing Hub can help.
“Ask yourself what hashtags give a lot of recent results? And what hashtags give recent results, but just not as many?” says Wasserman. “Then use a mix of the two as long as they make sense with the image.”
This is paid content produced for an advertiser by New York Brand Studio. The editorial staff of New York Magazine did not play a role in its creation.