As a new or aspiring health coach, it’s time to start growing a social media following so you can solidify your brand message, connect with potential clients, and build that coveted social proof.
Health coaches seem to gravitate towards Instagram because it’s simpler than Facebook, and it has a cross-generational audience who loves to follow a good wellness account. Although Instagram (IG) has always been an image-centric platform, we’re seeing more and more evidence that now there’s something even more important: the caption.
The Importance of Captions
Users have short attention spans today, and they’re addicted to scrolling, which means that even a fairly alluring image/video can fail to stop a user during the scroll. A great caption, however, can stop someone and make them engage in ways far beyond what the image could do.
Benjamin Chacon from Later, a leading Instagram Marketing Platform, said,
“One of the biggest trends to hit Instagram in 2020 was…the power of long-form captions to engage and connect with their followers – and we only expect this trend to continue in 2021!”
Why Long Captions?
A well-strategized longer caption can result in higher engagement rates and increased connection with your followers. Why? Because the more time someone spends on your post, the more positive vibes you’ll send to the Instagram algorithm, which means IG will show your post to more people and help attract new followers.
Longer captions work well for influencers and health coaches because not only do they help us gain ground in our niche, but they also help build trust and connection with our audience as ideal clients find their way to us.
A Winning Formula for Long-Form Instagram Captions
Step 1. Choose a Theme: Education or Connection
First and foremost, remember this: all posts should be valuable to the viewer. Gone are the days when you post an image of a sunset and caption it with #natureisbeautiful.
People want posts that either help them learn something for their own benefit, or make them feel more connected to something or someone.
- Education posts teach the audience something such as tips or tricks, busting myths/misconceptions, recipes (yes, the full recipe, in the caption), facts or stats, top 10 lists, or top mistakes.
- Connection posts do one of the following: let the viewer into your world, display your own vulnerability, entertain the viewer, or trigger emotion (client testimonials can do this, too).
Step 2. Write a Messy First Draft
Start to dump out all of the ideas you have for this caption. Rather than trying to write a perfect caption from the start, it’s easiest to write a crappy first draft and let ideas flow without judgment or editing. Once you get it all out, you can reword it, edit it, and rearrange it strategically during step 4.
Example theme and topic:
Let’s say I want to do an educational post that busts a common myth, like:
“Skipping meals or intermittent fasting will cause you to lose muscle mass.”
Example messy first draft:
Pause from this crappy draft and move to step 3.
Step 3. Craft a Powerful Headline
The headline can be, in many cases, more important than the image or video—unless your image is a text-based graphic (which can do most of the headline work for you).
Why so important?
Instagram truncates (shortens) your post so that only about the first 125 characters are visible in the feed without needing to tap “…more” and reveal your complete caption. If your opening headline isn’t strong enough, and your image doesn’t do the attention-grabbing on its own, people will keep scrolling.
What can you open with that will make the viewer want to tap “…more” and keep reading? Start with a riveting or compelling statement that catches people off guard or sparks their curiosity.
Cliffhanger statements are great for this, especially when they cut off right before the “…more” tab.
TRUE OR FALSE: Fasting causes you to lose muscle. The answer is, most definitely, […more]
Pro Tip: Type your idea into Hashtagie’s Instagram text spacer to see how many characters it takes to cut off right at a cliffhanging spot (around 125-130 characters). Play with the wording and spacing; add emojis to get it landing in just the right spot.
Example Effective Openers and Headlines:
Provoking statements: “I know I’m going to get some hate mail for this, but…”
Questions: “Did you know….?”
Irresistible phrases: “I never thought this would happen to me” OR “What would YOU do in this situation?”
Confessions: “The day I quit smoking, I cried…” (Authentic caption by PHCI grad Anya Perry)
Pro Tip: If your headlines need a boost, or you want to play around with more ideas, try opening with ALL CAPS (example below by PHCI grad @therachelbarber), or try displaying the headline in a custom font with a tool like igfonts.io (example below by PHCI grad @fundamenta_wellness).
Step 4. Edit Your Caption and Add Structure
Long captions rarely perform well when they’re formatted into long, continuous paragraphs. Adding frequent line breaks makes the content easier to read and acts like a speedbump for scrollers.
Turn that messy draft (from Step 2) into something with bullets, emojis, and ample spacing to intrigue your reader and minimize overwhelm.
Tip: Get rid of all the fluff, this isn’t a blog post. Give them a what and a why and wrap it up! If you don’t get to the point, people don’t keep reading.
Example Structured Draft with Spacing:
Pro Tip: There’s a trick you can use, especially when your caption is super long (like over 1,000 characters or 140 words)—clip your caption with “continued in the comments.” Then, immediately after publishing the post, leave a comment to finish your caption. This is awesome for viewers who want every last detail, and it allows you to shorten the caption so as to not scare away the others.
Step 5. Add a Call To Action (CTA)
Your caption must tell the reader to do something. It makes all the difference in the world. People are busy and distracted, and they want you to tell them what to do. If you ask them to share a post, many of them will share it. If you don’t ask them to share, no one will share it.
Examples CTA ideas:
- Tap the save button to find this reminder when you need it
- Share this post to help spread the word
- Double-tap if you’re as relieved as I am
- Tag a friend who might be surprised by this
- DM me if you want to hear the more personal part of this story > @yourIGhandle (tagging yourself makes it easy for them to jump to your profile and send a DM)
- Tap the link in my bio [@yourIGhandle] to read the full blog post
Avoid the common mistake of adding multiple CTAs to your caption. I know it’s hard; I struggle with this, too. You want to tell people to go to the link in your bio, but you also want them to comment. Or you want them to grab your freebie but also share this post. In most cases, it’s just too much…give them more than one thing to do and they’ll do nothing.
In some cases, you can spread out two CTAs so that your quick skimmers see an early CTA, and people who read your full post get another at the end.
Finish the caption with your top 3 niche hashtags. Hashtags help people find you when they’re searching for a topic that interests them, and it’s an effective tool for growing your account and attracting new clients.
Now your post is ready to go! Copy and paste your caption into Hashtagie Instagram Text Spacer to get it looking perfectly spaced like your draft (Instagram’s copy and paste requirements are notoriously fussy).
If you’re posting every day, save these long-form captions for your value-packed content. Mix it up and see which posts perform well by checking your Instagram insights and experimenting. Quit worrying about Likes, and start aiming for Saves, Reach, Shares, DMs, and profile visits.
Now you’re ready to use this winning formula to deliver huge value to your new audience as you begin growing your health coaching business.