What's in this session?

  • Tip #1: Really short or really long (1:05)
  • Tip #2: Emojis (4:07)
  • Tip #3: Line breaks (5:03)
  • Tip #4: Expand upon the post (5:38)
  • Tip #5: Scripture (6:24)

Show notes and resources

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The Transcript

Brady Shearer: There’s an element to social media that I’ve seen most churches neglecting. What is it? Your post’s caption. And if you overlook this, you can actually be harming your organic reach on socials. So on this podcast, I’m gonna share with you five tips for writing amazing social media captions, and you’ll learn why captions are so crucial to your church’s overall social strategy.

Alex Mills: Well hey there, and welcome to Pro Church Tools, the show where in ten minutes or less, you’re gonna get a dose of tips and tactics to help your church share the message of Jesus while we navigate the biggest communication shift in 500 years. I’m your host, Alex Mills, joined as always by the boss man, Brady Shearer.

Brady Shearer: Alex, we put so much effort into crafting beautiful social media posts, great looking images, great looking videos, but if there’s one part of social media that I see churches often neglecting, it’s the captions. For me, I love writing the captions for my social posts. I do it myself. People don’t write them for me. I write them because I think they’re that important and crucial to your social strategy overall. So we wanna give five tips to Pro Church Nation on how to write better captions, and the first tip is I like to keep my captions really short or really long. I’m a man of polarity, Alex. So the first example that we wanna show you of a really short caption is the Instagram post that I did of me and Ryeland putting our Ursa Mini Pro into an aquarium and then putting the aquarium in the water. The image itself is pretty self explanatory.

Alex Mills: Speaks for itself.

Brady Shearer: And the caption just reads, “So I did a thing. Swipe to see the final shot.” So that is a total of 11 words and 49 characters, and that’s an example of a really, really short one. The reason I like really short ones is I don’t want people to feel like they need to engage a ton. Usually these are more lighthearted or self explanatory. They can just do a quick double tap and move on. But then I also like to use really, really long captions. The caption limit on Instagram is 2200 characters. The Facebook one is actually a bit longer at 63206 characters.

Alex Mills: Okay.

Brady Shearer: You probably won’t exhaust those. You’ve got a lot of room to write a caption. You can write a ton of different things. So an example of a long form caption would be a post that I shared recently comparing four different Instagram posts done by elevation. We’re talking about how there’s no trend when it comes to the visual branding here. I wrote a really, really long caption. It was actually 258 words, 1653 characters. So basically 20 times as long as the other one. And the reason I write long captions pretty frequently is because if you can get someone to start reading them, you can get them to stay on your post for a very long time. And this plays a huge role in organic reach. If the social platforms are seeing that people stay on your post for a longer than average time, they’ll say to themselves, “People are liking these posts. Show more people these posts.” And your organic reach algorithms are such mysterious creatures that we don’t know too much about them, but the more people spend time on your posts, the more likely those platforms are going to deliver your posts to people.

Alex Mills: I like to do this too on my personal account, and for anyone that follows me, you know that most of my posts are about coffee, so sometimes on Saturdays I’ll do some shorter captions just to comment about making coffee today. But usually I’m writing a longer form captions, talking about the specific coffee I’m drinking or talking about whatever, and like you said, trying to increase that hover time on that image, but then also trying to inspire some engagement in the comments section. Usually there’s a question I throw in at the end, saying, “Let me know in the comments,” what have you. But what I found is especially when you’re using longer form captions, you need to get a bit creative about how you space your thoughts out, how you break this caption out, because if it’s just one large block of text, it’s kind of hard to engage with and I’m likely to scroll past that. So there’s a couple things that we do on your account and on my personal account that help to kind of break up those captions and maybe bring a little bit of fun into the mix, and the first thing that we like to use is emojis.

Brady Shearer: Yeah, because it’s all about readability now. We’ve all landed on a page before and you see this giant paragraph of text. Or we’ve all received an email from that one family member and you’re like, “Oh my gosh. It’s gonna take everything I have within me to get through this email.”

Alex Mills: And it’s also all in caps lock.

Brady Shearer: Oh well, okay, that’s a bit much for me. I don’t know about your family. My family would never … okay, they would do that. Point is, readability is important. If you’re gonna have a long caption, it needs to be easy to scan and easy to consume. So like Alex said, I like to put emojis at the beginning of each line break, each new paragraph. It’s just a way of saying, “This is the personality of the next paragraph,” and it adds some color, adds some brightness and lightens the mood, and for some reason it just seems to engage people more because emojis can show emotion in a way that black text on a white background usually cannot.

Brady Shearer: The other thing that I do, that was tip two, this is tip three, is I’ll use line breaks. You can do this on Instagram with a period and a line break. You can do it with four underscores and a line break. To make it work, make sure that there are no spaces after the line break or before the next paragraph, and that way, you can break up your text into line breaks. It does require this little hack where you have to put the four underscores and then the space and …

Alex Mills: They don’t make it easy for you.

Brady Shearer: Exactly. Instagram’s gonna be like, “We don’t want you to do this,” but there is the hack and there is the work around at the line breaks, at the emojis, look at my examples to get inspired, and this will just make your captions more readable, especially when you go with the long form version.

Brady Shearer: Tip number four is to use your caption, this has to do with the content, use your caption to expand upon the original post. For instance, if you’re doing a quote post from your pastor’s message, I would take the opportunity to expand upon the single quote and share some context behind what this part of the sermon meant. There might be some clever alliteration and the post might be the type of post where you just wanna double tap, double tap, double tap, but take a moment to expand upon it. Add some personality. Add some emotion, some authenticity. Show a bit more behind the scenes. Again, this is why I love long form, because there are gonna be some people that just wanna get the quick version and keep scrolling, but there are some people that want the longer version. And the more people that engage with the longer version, the better your organic reach is gonna be, so take that opportunity.

Brady Shearer: And the final tip, and I learned this tip from one Steven Furtick, is called the troll shield. He didn’t call it that. I called it that. I think that every time you share a quote post of your pastor or share a video of them sharing a message …

Alex Mills: You may need a little bit of insurance.

Brady Shearer: That’s a great way to say it, Alex. I like that. Insurance. Because when you share an out of context message, just as we see with out of context sports quotes, you can make someone look like they’re saying something that’s not exactly what they’re saying. And what I love about elevation is every time they’ve got Furtick up there sharing his sermon, or they’re doing a quote post, which they don’t do very often anymore, they’ll always add in the caption the scripture verse.

Alex Mills: Can’t argue with that.

Brady Shearer: And you know what? Sometimes a little bit of a stretch maybe, but at least it’s there. So that way you won’t have that person, and we all have those people like, “Where does it say that in the Bible?” Just look at the caption, John, and you’ll see. Oh. Oh. No more trolling for me today. The troll shield, tip number five. Five quick tips for writing better captions. There’s so much that you can do within the caption to expand upon your post. So boost organic reach and to shield yourself from the trolls.

Brady Shearer: The featured resource we wanted to highlight on this episode of Pro Church Tools is a case study we did. Furtick and elevation were included in it. We tracked churches for 21 days, documented every single thing they posted, and turned it into a case study. What can we learn from these churches? They’re doing social well, why? How can we get inspired? That’s what this case study is all about. It will be linked in the show notes. You can also go directly to checklist.church to download it, and that’ll do it for this episode of Pro Church Tools. We’ll see you next time.

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