Writers in the Storm

A blog about writing

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April 27, 2016

Why Instagram Works for Writers

Sierra Godfrey Fong

Jump in! The Instagram Water Is Fine!

Jump in! The Instagram Water Is Fine!

Most writers I know make sounds resembling a dying wildebeest when you mention yet another social media outlet to grapple with.

And usually that’s Instagram.

We get Facebook (because we have to), and we get Twitter (you get Twitter, right? If not, you’re missing out on wonderful things like #MSWL and #pitchmad!). We get Pinterest because you can just be passive and pin all the pretty.

But Instagram isn’t so clear in terms of use and marketing for authors.

Is it really necessary?

And yet, Instagram is one of the most fun tools out there. It really is! Bear with me and let me show you.

The basic mechanics of Instagram

First, understand that Instagram doesn’t want to be anything but mobile, so if you’re hoping to use it on your desktop, you won’t (well, unless you use a tool like Bluestacks, which I recommended in my last post on Social media tips for keeping your sanity).

For a long time, I didn’t care because—what? Was I going to take photos of my feet or my breakfast? Who cared? Turns out, there are tons of times you might want to take a photo and upload:

  • When you put together your TBD pile
  • When you get your ARCs in the mail if you’re pubbed
  • When you and your cat are enjoying a nice cup of tea (I’m guilty)

Think of Instagram as snapshots of your life. Behind the scenes snapshots. And people LOVE seeing the person behind the words. And therefore, Instagram is a terrific tool.

Just like Twitter is a quick little foray from your head, Instagram is a visual snapshot of your head.

Tags work just like Twitter

Yes, and there are tons of authors waiting to see your photos. There really are! You can find your tribe just as easily on Instagram as on Facebook or Twitter. Try these:

#amwriting #editing #authorsofinstagram #authorlife #authors #writers #writersofinstagram #books

Frequency matters

The ideal posting frequency is 1.5 times a day. Instagram recently changed their algorithm to resemble Facebook’s in that the more you post, the more you’ll be seen.

Followers are as sneaky as on Twitter

You’ll get the usual people following you so you’ll follow back, just like on Twitter—yawn! And you’ll hear people tell you that the way to get more followers on Instagram is to follow loads of people you don’t know and see what happens. Um….or, just be yourself? And followers will come because you’re awesome?

There are plenty of marketing opportunities

There’s so much fun to be had for writers and authors on Instagram. There are:

  • List challenges, like the current #ListifyLife challenge that me and author Roni Loren came up with. It’s just all about writing lists – one topic per week. Search for it and see!
  • Instagram take-overs. This is a really fun idea where a friend or fellow author takes over your account for a set period of time, like a day or a week. They post and their followers get exposure to you, and vice versa. It’s a fun way to inject something different into your posts.
  • If your reader audience is in the 15-25 years-old age, Instagram is the way they are connecting now. But DON'T be promotional. Be authentic.

Joining Instagram is easy

It may seem slow at first...but you'll get there!

It may seem slow at first...but you'll get there!

It's best to use a mobile device, because Instagram was designed for mobile use. Go to Instagram.com. When filling out your profile, use your real picture--a really good one of the real you. You are going to use Instagram to build your brand. Build your brand around your author name. You want to sell you, why you write. Be positive. Follow people and leave comments.

Like Twitter, Instagram uses hashtags and limits your characters. You've got 150 to say what you need to go with your pictures. The easiest time to post is right after you take a picture you want to share.

The best time to post on Instagram is quitting time, 5:00 p.m. The optimum number of posts per day is 1.5. So that means a single post one day, two the next, and alternate on that schedule.

You can be as creative as you want. You can be as engaged as you want. It's another way to connect with your potential readers. And it can be fun. Really!

Are you on Instagram already? What challenges, successes, or just fun times have you had on Instagram? What's your best shared picture?

(Note from Fae: Sierra is collecting cool pictures in places with little-to-no connectedness. Never fear, our Writers in the Storm group will respond to your comments. And Sierra will be here when she can throughout the week, so check back for her responses.)

About Sierra

Sierra GodfreySierra Godfrey writes fiction with international settings and always a mention of football (soccer) or two. She is a member of the Women’s Fiction Writers Association and a quarterly contributor to Writers in the Storm. She writes weekly about Spanish football for various sports sites, and is also a freelance graphic designer. She lives in the foggy wastelands of the San Francisco Bay Area with her family.

Come visit her at www.sierragodfrey.com or talk with her on Twitter @sierragodfrey.

40 comments on “Why Instagram Works for Writers”

  1. Sierra, have I told you lately how much I love you? I signed up (grudgingly), for Instagram, and . . . nothing. I couldn't see squat, couldn't figure out how it worked. You just explained why. *pink-cheeked emoticon* It won't work on my desktop computer! Head. Desk.

    And here I thought I was all social media savvy. Well, I WAS - they just keep changing it! And thanks for making me sound like my grandma (oh hell, I AM my grandma).

    Going to my tablet now, and figuring out this bad boy. Get ready, InstaGRAM (as in grandma) to be blitzed with my cat Boomer's photos!

    Instagram is going to be SO mad at you for teaching me this...

  2. I upgraded my phone just so I could use Instagram, and it's become my favourite social media site! I find Twitter excessively promo-focused a lot of the time (so following authors gets boring), and Facebook's reach is laughable, but Instagram is so fun that it doesn't feel like promotion or work at all. There are so many gorgeous book and reading-related accounts out there, and monthly challenges are a blast. I'm meeting readers and authors I wouldn't have contact with elsewhere, and I find it's generally a really positive place.

    I'm in trouble if posting more than 1.5 times a day hurts you, though. ?

    1. From what I've read, Kate, posting more than once a day just gets your pics to more people, so no worries! That 1.5 number is for those of us who are just getting into social media--it's a much friendlier number than Twitter or FB.

      1. True. I know I should post more on FB, but the fact that the posts never reach many people is discouraging. Instagram is nicer for that. 🙂

  3. I love Instagram! 🙂 What's your take in reposting? I use the Repost app and (when I'm on the ball) I'll repost a couple times a week. It's fun, and I like that it gives me a different way to interact with people by sharing their pics.

    Great post! 🙂

    1. Thanks for reminding me about reposting, Misha. I think that's one of the easier ways to "interact" and share the smiles.

    2. Misha, the Repost app is a separate thing to download, but it's free. It's fun. I think reposting is like retweeting a tweet BUT -- do so with the caveat that some people get touchy about reposting their photos. That said, once you post something on Instagram, it's out there for the public, so...you kinda can't get mad!

  4. This is a great post! Thanks for sharing. I have an instagram account, but wasn't sure how much I should be posting, so this was quite helpful. Great ideas about the kinds of things to post too!

    1. Glad to be of assistance, Charity. Now, go out, have some fun, and share the pics!

  5. I use Instagram and Twitter religiously ... FB and I have never been on the best of terms. Loved your post, but now I'm worried about the FB thing. LoL.

    1. I recently went to a week-end marketing seminar. The instructor said to pick one thing and do it excessively well. If you're great with Instagram and Twitter, don't worry about FB. My takeaway from the workshop was to be authentic. You can't do that if you're struggling with the social media.

  6. I love Instagram! I get more non-friend followers and people liking my IG posts than any other form of social media. I use it for both my writing life, daily life, and my non-author food blog.

    Also, there is no character limit for Instagram. You can make your posts as long as you want, but the program itself doesn't allow for paragraph breaks, so the longer the post, the harder it is to read on a mobile screen.

    1. Thanks, Christina. I am a novice--and obviously believe everything I'm told--and sometimes I think my ears are faulty. Thanks for the tip about no paragraph breaks!

  7. Thanks, Sierra! Never saw the need and don't have a phone smarter than I, but being able to work from a computer until enough books are sold, to be able to get one, changes everything! You are definitely today's hero!

    1. Thanks, Nance. Can't wait for you to join the ranks of those who have phones that are smarter than we are!

    2. Ah, TBD in this context: To Be Done
      ARCs are Advance Reader Copies (fancier than "galleys" in the old days) from your print publisher

  8. I'm a huge fan of Instagram. It's quick and easy, and I can browse a hashtag for some happy and just double-click on a picture to "heart" it. I love all the stuff you can do with photos for Instagram.

    What took me the longest time: figuring out how to cross-post to Facebook. Turns out it's really easy - you just tap the Facebook button at the very bottom of the posting screen.

    Two things I wish for:

    1. Ability to save pictures. Based on the comments here, the easiest way to do that would be the reposting app. However, I'd love to save them for future FB use.

    2. Easy desktop use so I can use it wherever I am.

  9. I love the idea of Instagram and I signed up and event sent a few photos out into the ether...but I am more comfortable with my computer than using my phone. I looked up Bluestacks and it seems to have something to do with games (?) I have PC desktop, laptop, and iPhone. Is there something that makes it easy to IG from my PC as well iPhone?

  10. Thanks so much to Fae and Jenny for help getting my post ready while I scuttled out of town!

    I would love to follow everyone on Instagram -- please include your Instagram name on your posts here! Mine is @sierragodfrey

  11. Like others, I upgraded my phone, so Instagram was a goal. It targets the age group I want to reach. I never knew there wasn't a character limit. Good to know. Thx4 this info!

  12. Well, I was in the dark about this. Still am. Fascinated by the unknown. At least I know something now. Thanks, All...

  13. This is awesome! All I've known about Instagram was that the teens and YAs I know all use it, and I was clueless. Maybe I've been getting IG and SnapChat mixed up, because I thought pictures didn't stay very long. So I just got an account even though I probably won't post for a while - I can follow people tho! I'm @jenniferjensenauthor.

    Thanks for the explanation - I've bookmarked it for future reference when I get started. 🙂

  14. I agree with Laura, another social media thing. I'm already on Twitter,Fb, Pinterest, LinkedIn, BingBing, and now you say this one is the ultimate media to be on. I'm not good with cell phones, I hate them. I don't own an IPad either. Will look it up though, sounds great. Thanks for the input.

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