Writers should be posting on Instagram for a variety of reasons. While several other social networking sites have their place when it comes to self-promotion, Instagram is unique in the fact that it’s a visual medium—your witty wording used in Facebook posts won’t carry much weight here, yet your creative and eye-catching images could attract a wide-range of new followers and expand your personal brand.
While there are several opinions on how Instagram should be used—I’m not going to tell you exactly what time of day to post, which scheduling apps you should use or what filter attracts the most attention—I find that these are all subjective suggestions and in the world of Instagram, there is no exact science to its effectiveness. I find Instagram to be random and unpredictable, which is why I enjoy using it. Where Twitter and LinkedIn are more time-sensitive when it comes to reaching your intended audience, Instagram is a round-the-clock stream of interaction. At any time of day, people are scrolling through their Instagram accounts—at lunch, waiting in line at the supermarket, waiting for the train, at the airport, at the kitchen table—there’s always a captive audience logged on at any given time, and you should be taking advantage of this.
If you’re new to Instagram and haven’t created an account yet, just follow these few simple steps:
- Create your user name. Use your real name name or the name that you write under, but if that’s unavailable, choose a name as close as possible. Keep it as simple as possible because you want it to be easy to remember, and it needs to look good on your marketing materials.
- Write your bio. Be informative but remember to keep it to 150 characters. Remember to add your website. You do, after all, want to drive traffic to it from your Instagram.
- Choose your default photo. Remember to use a good photo of you that represents you as an individual—don’t use your cat or some random abstract image that won’t connect with users.
- Start taking some pictures of things from your daily routines; getting coffee, walking the beach, visiting a bookstore—whatever encapsulates you as an individual, share these photos and add some filters to your pics to give them that special zing.
It’s pretty straightforward. Remember to be diverse in your postings. If you’re a writer, don’t just share photos of your books and your computer screen all day long. There’s a way to self-promote without using Instagram as your self-promotion dumping ground. Again, you need to keep in mind that social networking is about selling yourself, not just your work. You might have a bunch of followers who couldn’t care less that you’ve published a book about a vampire square dance party, however, those same people might really enjoy the fact that you cook really incredible vegan food and the fact that you share those photos of your food could open up new networking possibilities for you—possibilities that might not exist if don’t stretch your legs a bit more on social media. So remember to be diverse and share more about yourself than the fact that you’re “just a writer.”
Here are things you—especially writers—should refrain from posting on Instagram:
- Memes: lots of people post these, but they are posting content that has been created by someone else and they aren’t very inspiring and not much of a personal statement. In fact, they are pretty boring.
- An abundance of selfies. Once in a while, here or there, yes, post a selfie because after all, you want your audience to remember what you look like. Daily selfies? No—not a good idea.
- Photos intended to humiliate: Don’t, and I mean DON’T post random photos of strangers you see on the street, in the stores, on the bus who might be dressed oddly (to you), have debilitating conditions, are showing their “plumbers crack” or are doing something that you seem to find humorous. I’ve seen this many times and it’s in poor taste and will reflect poorly on your character. This is not how you want to promote yourself online.
Everyone is using Instagram, from big corporate companies such as Coca-Cola and New Balance, as well as small mom and pop outfits such as coffee houses, clothing stores, restaurants and home improvement professionals. This is how they are establishing and sustaining their brand. Writers need to jump on this as well. I’ve been told by a few writers, “well, I write all day and I’ve got nothing very exciting to take pictures of.” Below are a few examples of how writers and book editors are using Instagram to their benefit.
As you can tell, editor Tanya Gold has an affinity for dinosaurs and cleverly works them into many of her posts. Along with beautiful landscapes that she encounters while out and about, she puts forth an attractive collection of engaging photos. She doesn’t just post pictures of her time spent editing books. That wouldn’t be very exciting, but we get a different perspective on Tanya as she posts things that interest her as an individual away from the process of editing.
Writer / Blogger Katie Li‘s Instagram page is another terrific example of how writers can express themselves without constant self-promotion of their own work. Katie does a fantastic job at sharing glimpses of her daily life with books she’s currently reading, working at home or being out and about. As a lover of art and an artist herself, there’s no room for guessing as to what she’s all about.
Todd Henderson is a children’s book writer and as you can see above, he utilizes his account to share photos of his work, his outdoor adventures and Kid Lit related imagery. He does so without piling on too many redundant photos one after another. It’s a perfect blend of what makes him who he is and what it is that he does.
I’ll use my own account as a final example. I’m someone who doesn’t enjoy being chained to my desk. As you can see above, I tend to share photos from my morning walks, Red Sox games, vacations in addition to my writing endeavors. Wherever I happen to be, I like to capture a moment from it.
A quick final few words on some additional benefits to using Instagram. For starters, your website link (or Amazon link to your books) is displayed right at the top of your header. This is encouraging because with some creative photos and captions, you could potentially drive more traffic to your destination page than you could with Facebook. Facebook, as we all know, buries our website links on our “about” page, which we know nobody bothers to click on. Hashtags; you are allowed to post up to 30 hashtags on each post. This opens up the possibility to reach a very large audience. Finally, unlike most social media sites, Instagram enables you to share your posts on Facebook and Twitter, etc… I recommend sharing your Instagram pics on Facebook. This will only help to increase your reach. I don’t recommend sharing them on Twitter. Your pictures won’t show up as a photo in your tweets, but rather as a link. No one will care or bother clicking picture links on Twitter so it’s not worth your efforts. There you have it. Take some pictures and expand your personal brand!