How to Create a Great Text-only Instagram Post

In the past few years, text-only Instagram posts have become popular. Non-profits, community groups, news organizations, activists, influencers and just ordinary people are increasingly using them to get their message out on the gram. 

Text-only posts are shared as a regular Instagram post. They can consist of one or multiple images that users swipe through from left to right. And while these types of posts are great for your already-engaged audience, their true potential is realized when your followers are motivated to share them to their Instagram stories. When this happens, your post reaches new people.

Here is an example I really love from GLAAD, the LGBTQI+ media advocacy organization. It’s eye-catching, has a clear point of view on how to celebrate Trans Day of Visibility and Women’s History Month and contains a way for the user to learn more.  

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A post shared by GLAAD (@glaad)

So, how can you create a great text-only Instagram post that people just can’t help but get inspired by and share? Here are a few tips and tricks.

Add Value to the Conversation

These days, many people are rightly worried that big social media companies like Instagram, Facebook and Youtube incentivize the posting and sharing of poor quality content on their platforms. People are also concerned that these companies don’t do enough to ensure the content they host is factual – to say the least. So, you might be wondering, what does this have to do with creating a good Instagram post?

Just because social media networks have been agnostic about the quality and accuracy of the content they host, it doesn’t mean you should be. In fact, there’s an opportunity to buck these trends, which can allow you to really stand out online. 

First, when creating your post, try to add real value to the conversation or issue you’re writing about. Many mental health practitioners do a great job of this in their text-only posts by providing stuff people can truly use to make their lives better. Often, mental health practitioners post on topics that just aren’t talked about in other spaces or even stigmatized, so they are providing a real service. Here’s a great example from Aparna Sagaram (@reflectionswithatherapist). Posts like this almost feel like a throwback to the early internet, when communities of like-minded people just shared cool and useful stuff, and things weren’t so toxic. Did someone say America Online?  

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A post shared by Aparna Sagaram, LMFT & Coach (@reflectionswithatherapist)

A great tip is to actually cite the sources you used to create the post in the post description or as fine print, which lets people know you are committed to factual accuracy, even if the network you’re posting on might not be. 🙃

When you add something unique or valuable to a conversation topic, not only will this content get above average engagement (more likes, more comments) with your established audience, it will also spur them to share it to their Instagram stories. Among many qualities, humans tend to be altruistic. When we hear a good tip, we are wired to pass it along to those close to us (think: there’s a lion lurking in the woods by the stream 🦁). People are prone to smash that share button on any credible advice and information you give them. 

But this also brings up a cautionary note! When sharing resources and valuable information in a text-only Instagram post, think twice before you include a blatantly self-interested call to action (think: “become my client here!”). The power of a text-only post to spread organically through peoples’ social networks depends on it staying true to the spirit of disinterested information sharing. If the post is perceived as too narrowly self-interested or sales-y, it could lose a bit of credibility. So, thread that needle carefully!

Focus On Great Copy & Design

Let me say this for the people at the back: hire a copy-editor! And, if you can’t try at least to find an outside eye or friend to read over the post. Ask the outside eye or copy-editor to look for opportunities to make your message more succinct, accessible and relatable. 

Another thing you want to do is make sure you don’t overburden the post with visual elements. The power of these posts lies in the focused nature of their message, conveyed in the copy. Photographs can work, but consider using them as backgrounds. Solid colour backgrounds that match your brand colours and create a good amount of contrast with the copy are a good choice. You can include your brand’s logo, but consider putting it on the last slide or increasing its opacity. Fading your brand identity slightly into the background can help to position the message you are conveying as the most important point of the post, giving it a clear focus.

Do Your Research

This goes back to the value conversation. The more time you spend researching and workshopping your message with your team, the better the result. So, if you’re coming up with a post to mark World Mental Health Day, start by doing a bit of research. What topics aren’t being discussed widely related to mental health? LOTS of people are going to be posting an almost identical positive-vibes-y message on this day, so how can you make yours stand out? If you find a unique angle and add meaningful resources and insights that contribute to the discussion, people will appreciate this and reward you with above-average engagement. It’s science. 

That’s it! Happy social-media-ing my friends. And remember, always read the article before you hit the share button.