From the very beginning, Instagram has been a photo app. In a December 2010 post on Quora, shortly after the first version of the app was released, Instagram CEO and co-founder Kevin Systrom chalked its speedy international growth up to a simple, universal factor: "You don't need to speak a specific language to like taking pictures."
At the same time, captions have always been seen as a necessary component of gramming. Although one of the earliest prototypes Systrom and his co-founder, Mike Krieger, played with featured only photos, Systrom acknowledged "it was pretty awful." Eventually they decided on three main features that still make up the core Instagram feed: Photos, comments, and likes.
While photos might have started out as the main way to stand out and build a following, captions have taken on an increasingly important role. This is especially true for influencers, who are now operating in a very crowded space: Standing out requires more than just a pretty picture; it requires a caption that will build, connect with, and engage audiences.
No one knows this better than Amber Venz Box (a.k.a @venzedits), a fashion blogger turned early influencer who, in 2011, launched rewardStyle, one of the first companies to enable influencers to monetize their posts. The service, which counts over 32,000 of the top influencers as members, has since launched LiketoKnow.it, an app that lets its over two million users shop Instagram posts via screenshots, effectively turning the app into an e-commerce platform.
Ahead of the release of LiketoKnow.it's first book, Stories From The Influencer Next Door, Refinery29 asked six of the influencers featured, including Venz Box, to share what goes in to a winning caption (and what doesn't work so well).