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min read
March 27, 2024

How I Turned Clutter into Cash: 10 Proven Instagram Copywriting Hacks

How I Turned Clutter into Cash: 10 Proven Instagram Copywriting Hacks

Table of contents

Imagine running a business from your bedroom — with only a smartphone, an internet connection, and boxes of junked clothes.

In 2020, that’s what I did. 

We didn’t have a website or a brick-and-mortar store or even leads for customers when we first started. I just knew one thing — I had bills to pay, and mountains of clothes stuffed with mothballs that needed new homes.

Instagram, where conversations in DMs convert 70% of the time, flows with milk and honey for those who can hack both, its visual-heavy format and powerful, crisp copy. 

But with more than a billion active accounts, how do you reach your people?

In my four years of selling on the platform, I’ve learned that its specific brand of copywriting is a sequence of context, personality, and action. 

This is your insider manual to Instagram copywriting that converts. (Trust me, it works.)

Let’s get straight to it.

Why Instagram copywriting matters

Posting on Instagram for fun and selling on Instagram for profit are two different animals.

There are two things you need to know about writing powerful copy that converts:

  • First, your customers aren't reading your content, so much as scanning it. 
  • Second, we store and process visual and verbal information differently. According to psychologist Allan Paivio, a combination of visual and verbal information greatly boosts memory performance. For example, if I say ‘plant,’ we’re likely to have different memory representations for the same word — for me, it’s the succulent on my desk. For you, it might be the potted flowers on your way to work. This is the dual-coding theory. 

Instagram is a slot machine for scrollers with intermittent rewards. As a seller of products and services, you need to make sure that they "stop and dwell" on your content. And to do this, the visual identity of your brand which includes brand colors, logos, and typography, is half the battle won. 

The other half is how you contextualize your visuals

A picture may be worth a thousand words, but on Instagram's slot machine, you need to spell them out. 

This means that your copy needs to be brain-friendly

Enter, neurocopywriting.

What is neurocopwriting?

When you sell online, you're eliciting specific behavioral responses from your customers so that they follow you from awareness to advocacy. Think of language here — persuasive language — as glowworm trails flinting in a large forest with identical trees. The more precisely you mark the way, the more likely your audience is to find you — and to stay.

The application of the scientific principles of persuasive language to copywriting is neurocopywriting. You're psychologically motivating your audience with specific language triggers — tapping into human psychology through the intentional manipulation of clear-eyed messaging.

The practice of neurocopywriting is less daunting than it sounds. You don’t need to lick clean entire psychology textbooks to hook your customers; the knowledge of a few tried-and-tested tenets is enough. 

A note on knowing your brand

A clear framework sonorous with your philosophy will guide you toward greater clarity in messaging. These are four questions you must answer and define for your brand before you start writing:

1. WHAT is the key differentiator of your brand? In other words, what’s the USP? For example, for my small shop, I positioned my business as a source of ethically sourced, dry-cleaned, and hand-picked fashion finds in a niche Indian market that was just warming up to the idea of thrifting. 

2. WHY does your company or business exist? What problem does it solve for beyond money-making? 

My goal was to raise awareness about eco-sustainability in fashion and market second-hand clothes as circular instead of ‘used.’

3. WHO are you? Who are you trying to target?

4. HOW are you reaching your audience? 

This framework of WHAT, WHY, WHO, and HOW that defines your brand will determine the efficacy of your overall copywriting strategy.

10 hacks for Instagram copy that converts

The juggernaut copywriter, Joe Sugarman, advises that we should create slippery slides for our audience: “Your readers should be so compelled to read your copy that they cannot stop reading until they read all of it as if sliding down a slippery slide.”

Let’s make some slippery slides for Instagram!

1. Add beneficial adjectives

The first subconscious question you must address for your customers is — “Why should I stay here?” 

You tell them why they should stay with beneficial adjectives, that is, adjectives that signpost the benefit(s) for them. 

A few common beneficial adjectives are ‘new,’ ‘low-cost,’ ‘quick,’ ‘free,’ and ‘effective.’ But here’s the kicker: customers see these words so often that they might think, “Sure, everyone says that.”

The trick here is to combine two logically coherent but seldom-used beneficial adjectives in one sentence

Here are a few examples:

  • A quick, no-nonsense guide to Instagram copywriting
  • The best free solution to growing your business
  • Want to know more about our new and improved practical skincare routine?

Take a look at Dyson’s masterful, crisp copy:

2. Pay attention to formatting

The word limit for captions on Instagram is 2,200 characters, which means you won’t be writing Lolita or War and Peace. Nonetheless, white space — or micro white space, in this case, is important for audiences to take a visual breath in between swathes of content. They’re tired of scrolling. They want quick bites. Sliced and diced. 

  • Consistent line and paragraph breaks improve the digital legibility of text
  • Lists are less heavy on the brain – we know exactly what we’re getting, what to scan for, and a definitive start and end point. These are mental shortcuts in copywriting

An excellent example is on Instagram’s own feed:

3. Use the Socratic method

Do you want your Instagram posts to stand out? We all want our businesses to grow on Instagram, don’t we? Imagine having a list of tried-and-true copywriting hacks all in one place. Sounds good, right? You might not have said it out loud, but your brain has said yes, yes, yes to my questions. This is the Socratic method — you guessed it — developed by Greek philosopher, Socrates.

Here, I’m not trying to actively sell to you. Instead, I’m taking a muted desire and amplifying it by leveraging the principle of consistency. We don’t like to contradict ourselves. If you can get your audience to agree with you repeatedly at the start, you’re subtly guiding them to be more receptive to your offer later on.A sample template is the one above — starting with a universal truth, moving onto a positively framed pain point, and finally, an offer of a service directly linked to the reader’s benefit. 

Stuck? Try using this prompt for your copy on Wordtune:

The prompt "Please turn this into the Socratic line of questioning" entered into Wordtune's bar.

4. Add power and sensory words

What are power words?A hallmark of persuasive writing, power words elicit an emotional response from your target audience. We’re often driven by emotions to make purchase-related decisions. Therefore, if you’re able to evoke the necessary emotion in your customers, you’ll likely increase your conversion rates by 12.7%.

Curiosity: Sneak peek, jaw-dropping, trade secret, eye-opening, little-known, members-only

Trust: Certified, guaranteed, authentic, bestselling, research-backed, scientifically proven, zero-waste, approved, risk-free, no-strings-attached

Greed: Giveaway, limited, running out, exclusive, expires, deadline, last chance, discount, sale ends soon

What are sensory words?

“You’ll love this sweater, it’s perfect for cold days.”
“This plush sweater made from the softest wool will keep you cozy and warm, like being hugged by a cloud.”

The same sweater — but which sentence would you want to experience again?

Sensory words paint a picture in your readers’ minds by bookmarking sights, sounds, touches, tastes, and smells in their memory. They make for indelible freckles in copy because we tend to recognize tangible words faster than others. 

Sight: Glowing, radiant, colorful, clean, tiny, dull, messy

Sound: Silent, swish, whisper, hum, snap, relaxing, loud, quiet

Touch: Rubbery, soft, furry, icy, rough, oily, wet, slimy, velvety

Taste: Fresh, sour, buttery, juicy, minty, zesty, tangy, luscious, creamy

Smell: Flowery, fragrant, earthy, sweet, smoky, aromatic, strong

Laneige’s Instagram caption plays on multisensory language expertly: 

5. Create action-oriented CTAs

The call-to-action is a marker of where your copy converts into leads and/or sales — it tells your customers what to do next and where to go next. Aren’t all CTAs by definition action-oriented? Well, yes and no. Again, language matters. Action-oriented words are those that help your customer visualize an action — an action that conveys a sense of movement and urgency, making passive observers into active consumers. These are best communicated through active verbs:

  • Book a call
  • Learn more
  • Get started
  • Subscribe today
  • Join the community
  • Maximize your productivity!
  • Create your own template

They work better — 42% better in fact – than passive calls to action like ‘More info’ or ‘Next.’

For Instagram captions and stories, another important factor is placement.

We’re more likely to recall words presented either early in the text (primacy effect), or at the tail-end (recency effect), and the ones in the middle don’t lodge themselves in our memory. This is what’s known as the serial position effect


Here’s how I sold a vintage Burberry muffler in record time (seven minutes) with a time-sensitive, action-oriented CTA:

Post in focus from @thriftbybrinda's page with "GET THIS IN TIME FOR CHRISTMAS. AVAILABLE. LINK IN BIO." highlighted.

6. Ask questions

There’s research that shows we like people who ask questions. So, how can you use this to your advantage on Instagram? There are three main benefits of asking questions in your copy

  • They clarify what the customers will learn if they stick around
  • Questions stimulate curiosity and motivate visitors to continue reading to affirm their hunches — “Do I know the answer to this question?”
  • Questions can create a fear of missing out (FOMO) — “Will I miss out on something important if I don’t read this?” (Fear is the most powerful motivator of all emotions.)

Whether your questions are rhetorical, open-minded, or literal, the purpose here is to demonstrate that you understand, and can solve for your customers’ pain. 

Notice how Uber peppers in not one but two questions in its Instagram caption making use of the serial position effect — one for the hook, one for the CTA:

Uber's Instagram post with "Get something NOT on your wishlist this holiday?" and "Not an Uber One Member?" annotated.

7. Build narrative urgency with the PAS framework

Every sentence in your Instagram copy must serve a clear purpose. 

The first sentence should propel your customer to the second. The second sentence must make them want to read the third. And on and on until the very end.

If a sentence doesn’t move your narrative forward, it’s time to kill that darling.

The PAS copywriting framework – problem, agitate, solution – gets to the heart of the problem and its resulting solution in a flash. 

First, you’re going to present the critical pain point. Then, you’re going to agitate it by adding emotion. Finally, it’s time to resolve the tension!

ASUS does this in three sentences flat:

When you’re building narrative urgency, vary your sentence lengths. Create a sense of movement in your copy. Ask questions. (Go easy on the emojis.)

8. Create accessible Instagram copy

Write at an 8th-grade level

No one likes to feel excluded.

Many best-selling books, like Harry Potter and Animal Farm, have been written at an 8th-grade reading level or lower. Why? 

Consider this — the average American reads at a 7th-8th grade level. 

The more readable your content, the more accessible it is to a wider audience including non-native English speakers as well as people with learning difficulties. And the more accessible your content, the higher the engagement rate for your business.

Here’s how Wordtune can simplify your writing, making it more direct and precise:

Wordtune's "casual" tone feature in focus with the top-most suggestion annotated.

BONUS TIP: Want to measure the readability of your copy? Try the Flesch Kincaid Grade Level test.

Include alt text 

A speech reader uses alt text to describe icons, graphics, and other visuals for visually impaired people. (It's also an SEO must-have.) 

This may surprise you — people with blindness and visual disabilities like, comment, and share content on social media just as much as those who don’t have a visual disability. 

There’s business incentive here to make your Instagram brand more inclusive. You could be losing out on deals and dollars by sleeping on an important section of your customers. Instagram has made writing alt text easy with its automatic alt text function. 

A tiny checklist for (manually) writing or editing alt-text:

  • Keep the characters at a maximum of 125 characters
  • Avoid saying ‘This is a picture of…’ They know. Instead, focus on the key details of the image
  • Include contextual information and avoid repeating descriptors 
@mejanjaynevrabbe's Instagram caption with an arrow pointed to "[Image description in alt text]"
Megan Jayne Crabbe

9. Try to include rhymes

What if I told you that you can make your audience like you better, be more memorable, and form emotional bonds with them?The human brain loves rhymes. They create a kind of music, and responses to music are located in the right brain, our emotional home.

Pringles official brand campaign graphic with the rhyming tagline, "Once you pop, the fun don't stop."

Plus, there’s research that confirms we find information more believable when it’s in meter or rhyme. (I mean, I still believe that an apple a day keeps the doctor away.)

If you’re thinking, “I’m not a poet, and rhymes take time,” Wordtune is a great brainstorm buddy. I’ve asked it to make one of my sentences into a rhyme:

An arrow pointing to the prompt entered into Wordtune, "Please make this sentence into a rhyme."

And here’s the result:

Wordtune's generation in focus with an arrow pointed to the purple text.

Easy peasy, lemon squeezy.

10. Use second-person language

We don't like being actively sold to. We want to be heard, to be seen. For our experiences to be validated.A surefire way to do this is to make your Instagram copy “you”-centric. In fact, “you” is one of the five most persuasive words in the English language.Focus on the customer. Focus on what positive benefits and feelings they stand to gain by being associated with you.The magic formula is — for every “I,” include about three “you”s. The customer is the hero in your brand story. Notice how Wikipedia centers its birthday around its readers with active verbs:

Wikipedia's Instagram caption with 4 "you"s annotated, and 1 "your."

Make every word count

On Instagram, stunning visuals alone won't cut it. You need words that pack a punch to stop the scroll.

Your customers’ attention is fast vanishing, and these linguistic weapons of persuasion smash passive skimming, building relationships that turn casual observers into loyal fans.

The key takeaway? You’re now a storyteller who sells, not just an online business looking to make a quick buck.

You have the power of psychology, creativity, and AI on your side. 

Bookmark this manual and come back to it whenever your Instagram feels a little emotion-dry.

Hit a creative block? Return to the basics — those two Ws that can cut through the fog. Why you do what you do, and Wordtune for clear, concise, and compelling copy.