This is the second blog in the series: Social Media for Writers. Click here for links to the other blogs, or continue reading to find out my tips and advice for Instagram.
My number one social media tip is to ease into it. I started with just one platform and that was Instagram. I’ve had my Instagram writing account for just over two years now and have found it to be the best place to connect with the writing community.
For the first few months, I was sharing and reposting from other sources. The reason for that was because I had no clue about branding, I didn’t have a published book to promote (and still don’t) and I also thought who was I to brand my account like I’d seen others do. What I came to learn is that you need to back yourself.
It’s perfectly fine to create your own images and brand them with your Instagram handle. That’s how your followers will come to know your posts. It’s easy to do and can be done for free. I use Canva to put together quotes and writing tips (which always credit the author of the quote or tip) and includes my Instagram handle so that when it shows in someone’s feed, they’ll know where it came from. The sky didn’t fall when I did this. No one messaged me to say I was a fraud, and I’ve since built up a recognizable account because of it. In those two years, I’ve gathered over 1,000 followers—which brings me to my next point.
When you first start, you’ll be so excited that anyone has followed you that you will follow anyone back. Although I did try to limit myself to writing-related accounts (basically if you’re all about writing, books, or amazing pictures of trees and sunsets, I’m following you), but even sticking to that criteria meant that after two years I was following well over 1,000 accounts myself.
That’s a lot of feeds to scroll through and it got to the point where I was dreading logging into Instagram because it felt like a chore. Accounts I wanted to see were lost in a sea of books wrapped in twinkle lights, posts about coffee, and the meme of the week being reposted by every second account, so I decided to cull my followers and two things happened:
One: I lost a good chunk of followers (and continue to) and gaining more has ground to a halt. I didn’t join Instagram to gain followers, but any writer who has submitted knows that most agents and publishers ask about social media in their submission process. This led to a bit of a panic as I currently have a book out on submission and was worried the drop in numbers would negatively impact that (silly, right?). Then I realized that I have no control over who does and doesn’t follow me, and replacing endless scrolling guilt with lost follower guilt was something I didn’t need in my life. That brings me to…
Two: I am loving my feed again! I can now see the accounts I enjoy because I’m not mindlessly scrolling and trying to look at as many posts as possible. I have the time to see posts that I want to see and to actually comment on them and interact with the person posting, which to me is the best thing about Instagram.
Make It Manageable and Interact
Follow a manageable number of accounts, make friends, and interact. A like is always welcome, and if you have a thought or comment about what is posted, tell the person! I’ve had some great conversations this way. And as someone who spends all day talking to imaginary people, a little interaction with a real person (even if it is via an app) is great.
Make It Unique
As unique as you can in a feed where every writer is posting quotes, images, tips and their mugs full of coffee arranged perfectly next to their laptops.
Give your feed a “look” or theme where a follower scrolling will know it’s from your feed instantly. It’s also a good idea to periodically change up your aesthetic. Every 6 months or so, change the overall look of your graphics or the style of your photos to freshen things up.
Captions and Hashtags
I usually wing my captions, but I do have notepad files for each day I post reminding me what I need to post. For example, Monday is always Motivation Monday, so I have a note on my phone creatively titled “Monday” and I include the standard hashtags (#motivationmonday #writersofinstagram etc) and the fact that I’ll be posting a graphic. I then post said graphic with a caption, copy and paste the standard hashtags (such a time saver) and add new hashtags relating to that specific post.
Another example is that Tuesday is for writing prompts, so my saved “Tuesday” note reminds me that I’ll need a photo (taken by me) as a prompt and that I’ll need to write text to go with that prompt. I usually write the text the night before and then review again (or sometimes completely change it) just before posting. I used to post just the picture and ask for others to write some text in the comments, but that rarely happened (except the one time Aarika Copeland from Readtolivetowrite went above and beyond and wrote some flash fiction based on one of my photo prompts!). Now I write the text myself (which is creatively satisfying), and I’m happy when it’s inspiring enough for others to write their own text in the comments.
Click here for part three of the series: Social Media for Writers: Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest.
— K.M. Allan
If you want to get motivated every Monday, learn a writing tip on Wednesday, see my pictured writing prompts, the writing goals I’ve ticked off during the week, or the books I’m reading, feel free to follow me on Instagram.