Okay, there’s a part of me that would prefer to wait until I had more experience, and more followers, on Instagram, before writing this post. And yet, if I’d waited to “feel qualified” to discuss social media related topics, my posts on Twitter, Tumblr, Google Plus and Pinterest wouldn’t yet be out there. Or my Social Media for Writers overview, or my post regarding secret groups on Facebook.
So, I’m going with this, anyway: using Instagram, as part of your author platform. Here goes.
I mentioned Canva in my recent Pinterest post, and this website has helped me out so much – and especially so, with graphics for both Pinterest and Instagram.
Although other platforms, such as Facebook, Twitter, and Tumblr, do have ideal image sizes, this is much more significant, in practical terms, for Pinterest and Instagram.
Until you can get your images looking great, in appropriate sizes and dimensions, you will struggle on Instagram, and be continually trying to “work around” Instagram’s automatic cropping. Or, at least, that was how it was for me.
Once you have your images optimised for Instagram, you can focus upon the most enjoyable part.
It’s awesome for connecting with other writers, and creative artists in general.
As with other social media sites, it’s generally better to stay within your niche, as much as possible. Random posts may be fun but, if you want to grow an author platform, it’s best to keep posts mainly writing related, to avoid confusing your audience.
For inspiration, definitely pay attention to other writing accounts, but ensure that your own content is unique, and feels like “you”. Also, keep it consistent with your brand elsewhere, such as on your website, and other social media sites.
You need to be using hashtags.
In terms of potential post reach, Instagram is much better than many other social media sites – notably, Facebook. But, in order to reach anyone beyond your own followers, you must be including relevant hashtags on every post.
As for number of hashtags – you can use up to 30 per post. There are many differing opinions, as to how many you should ideally be using, in practice. I’ve heard that you’re missing out, not to use all 30 on each post. Also, that you should only use about 5 to 7. And pretty much everything in between. Personally, I use roughly 24 to 28, depending upon the particular post. I don’t like to use 29 or 30, simply because I sometimes miscount, and am aware that you render every hashtag invalid, if you include 31+ on a post.
I currently put my tags in the description, but many people prefer to place, either them all, or a percentage, in the comments.
Finding the best hashtags is an ongoing process, for most of us. There are dedicated websites, listing possible hashtags, as well as many blog posts that provide lists, that may well be more niche specific.
I personally find it easier to experiment on Instagram itself. Often, I guess potential hashtags, or try out ones that are popular on other sites, such as Twitter. Sometimes I notice them on other people’s posts.
Instagram will tell you how many posts, in total, there are on a given hashtag, and it’s worth looking at a selection of posts on the tags you’re using, or considering, to compare the content on there with your own.
When we’re starting out, the natural tendency is to go for obvious tags, such as #writing and #inspiration, but these are huge hashtags, and the chances of your posts being discovered on these are extremely low.
Tiny hashtags may not give much better results, as the search volume will tend to be low, or even non-existent.
On the whole, you’ll get the best results from hashtags that are somewhere in between, in terms of popularity, but choosing a decent range will usually lead to some success.
Just have fun with it. To some extent, it will always be random, because someone could suddenly decide to look up quite an obscure tag you used months ago, and discover a post you had almost forgotten about. And yes, that definitely happens.
Now for the not so fun part: fluctuating follower counts.
It’s very much a thing. In my experience, Instagram is the worst social media site for this. It does occur on social media sites in general – notably, on Twitter – but somehow, it’s most prevalent on Instagram. The main cause is probably the emphasis upon “follow-unfollow”, which some people still view as the ultimate “growth hack”.
The only solution that I’ve found is to try not to take it personally – to focus upon posting the best content I can, interacting in a genuine way myself, and building authentic relationships, over time.
In terms of driving traffic to blog posts, Instagram isn’t the most ideal platform, because the only link you can post is the one in your bio.
Many people do successfully promote specific blog posts via Instagram, and the usual method is to adjust the link in the bio to that of your most recent post. You then direct people to this link via a related post. I haven’t yet tried this, but understand that it can be effective.
As with other social media sites, it’s important to engage.
Regularly “like” and comment on posts, from your own followers, and also on relevant hashtags. And reply to, or at least “like”, comments received on your own posts.
When possible, engage directly prior to posting yourself. In practice, I often post myself and then engage, but when I manage to engage first, I do tend to see slightly improved results. If you’ve just been chatting to a follower on their post, Instagram is more likely to show that person your post.
I hope that this Instagram for Writers post was useful. For more information on Instagram, take a look at my Instagram board on Pinterest. This will guide you in the direction of many more blog posts, as well as a selection of videos, on the subject.
I do highly recommend the post from Mixtus Media, about how to build a solid Instagram following in ten minutes a day.