Please note that this post was written in 2019 and may be out of date, as the author has removed herself from all social media.
Instagram for Writers: When did you join your first social media network?
The first time I heard “Instagram for Writers,” I was a little confused. Wasn’t Instagram a mostly visual medium, best for photographers and the like? It turns out Instagram is actually a great place for authors. But I wasn’t about to run out and open an account—it’d taken me forever to even get a social media account of any kind.
I was the last of my friends in university to sign up for Facebook. I resisted it for such a long time. Back then, we had Orkut, and I was already a half-hearted member of that. I didn’t see any reason to join another social network. Eventually, I caved and made an account, especially when all my family in Brazil started joining. It really was an easy way to stay in touch with everyone (granted, so was Orkut, but we all know how that went).
The reason I finally got Instagram didn’t have anything to do with writing
Then Instagram came along. I never even considered having an account at all. Some people would ask me about it, and I’d just say I was on Facebook. But then came our Grand McDougall Family Adventure, where we spent nine months travelling through the US & Canada in an RV.
I thought Instagram would be a super easy way to share photos of our adventure and to let our family know where we were each day. I do also share my blog posts on my Instagram, but I must give you full disclosure: I’m not an “Instagram marketer,” neither do I have a plan for using Instagram as such. However, I have heard more than once that Instagram, somewhat surprisingly, is actually a great place for writers to bring attention to their work.
You can certainly use Instagram for your marketing if you do freelance writing, but I think it’s more applicable to book authors. Here’s a brief overview of what I learned about Instagram for authors, should you choose to use the app to bring attention to your work (you can certainly use it for fun, too. That’s mostly what I do).
Why authors should have Instagram accounts
Aside from the gigantic usership (Instagram has 1 billion users), there are also a tonne of book lovers on the platform—an audience every author should be interested in connecting with. A quick search on Instagram reveals several accounts with “booklover” in their handles, and the hashtag #booklover comes up with 11.5 million results (as of this writing). And that’s not including variations like #booklovers (2.4 million posts), #bookloversday (61.4K posts), and #bookloversclub (over 5,000 posts), among others.
In other words: there are a lot of people who love words on Instagram, and tapping into that audience would be a win-win situation for any writer. But be sure you don’t bombard people with every post being about selling your work, though.
Get to know people first
Different authors use Instagram in different ways, and there are different options to bring attention to your books on the network. Having said that, I’ve found over the course of many years using social media that the people who will actually read your work want to get to know you better first.
People aren’t ready to buy from you from the first post they see. They want to know who you are, they want to know what you’re about. It usually takes 6-8 contacts for someone to trust you enough to purchase from you, so be sure that for every “buy my book” type of post, you’ve got 6-8 non-sale related posts. They can still be about your work—share a poem, share a few lines that you’ve written, share pictures of your home office or the things that inspire you as a writer. Be personable, too. Don’t be afraid to share a selfie here or there, pictures of your pets, etc.
Your posts don’t necessarily have to be about your work, though it helps
Even though my only current book for sale has nothing to do with family adventure travel, family adventure travel is exactly what most of my initial posts on Instagram were about—because I was travelling with my kids and freelance writing along the way. My book is about freelance writing, so it all ties in.
Regardless of how you promote your work on Instagram, be sure to share at least a little bit of your personal life—even if it’s a picture of a nice flower you admired as you were walking outside. That way, people will get to know you better and will be more likely to buy from you.
Convinced you should get Instagram for your writing business? Here are the steps to using Instagram for writers.
1. Create your Instagram account if you don’t yet have one
Creating an Instagram account is pretty straight forward.
You can sign up either by clicking “sign up with Facebook” or you can sign up using an email address. Facebook owns Instagram, so while I usually don’t recommend the “sign up with Facebook” option for most websites, for this particular case, it makes sense to do so. It’s convenient and Facebook already has all your info anyhow, so… If you go that route, just click “sign up with Facebook” and follow the prompts. Here’s a step-by-step if you choose to sign up with your email address.
Please note that I work from my laptop and find many writers do the same, so the step-by-step below is shown as it appears on a laptop. The sign-up process from mobile looks a little different.
- Fill in the info below “Sign up with Facebook”
- Click “sign up.”
- Once you click “sign up,” a new screen will appear asking you to confirm your email address. Click on the “send confirmation” button.
- Once you click “send confirmation,” a very small notice at the bottom of your screen will appear that says “Sent! Check your email.”
- Check your email and click on the “confirm your email address” link sent by Instagram. Once you do, you’ll be automatically taken to the following screen:
- At this point you can choose some of the suggested accounts or use the search bar to find some. I suggest searching for “booklover” and following both the hashtag as well as accounts with “book lover” in their handles. Try other variations, such as reader, books, etc.
- Don’t forget to follow some writers, too—we live in a world of collaboration, not competition, especially online. Becoming part of an author community will only help you in your writing goals. Stay tuned for suggestions on accounts to follow.
- Once you’ve followed a few people, let’s tell your audience a little about you by filling in your profile details.
2. Fill in your details
- Click on your profile button, which looks like a head and shoulders.
- Click “edit profile:”
- Fill in your details, like your website url and a brief bio. I personally almost never list my phone number on any social media, but it’s up to you if you’d like to include it.
- Once you’ve filled in your details, click “done.” Now you can switch to a business profile.
3. Switch to a business account (you can do this step later if you prefer)
If you’re a writer of any kind, but especially if you’re a blogger, your audience wants to get to know you, so yes, it’s not only cool but advisable to get vulnerable and show them the real you. For that, a personal account would do the trick. However, you also want to be able to eventually advertise to your audience, and for that, you’ll need a business account.
With a business account, you’ll also be able to add a contact button and get analytics, which will help you see how you’re reaching your audience. This will allow you to create better marketing once your’e ready to sell your books and other writing products.
Creating a business account is pretty easy. However, it looks like you do need to be on a mobile device to do it. So far the screen captures I’ve shown you are from a laptop, because I almost always do all my posting from my laptop. Well, here’s how to switch to a business account from a mobile device.
- You’ll need to download the Instagram app for your phone if you haven’t yet done so. If you need instructions for this, here’s a post explaining how to do it for an android phone, and here’s a post explaining how to do it for an iPhone.
- Once installed, sign in to your Instagram account.
- You’ll then need to tap on the three horizontal lines at the top right corner of your screen.
- At the very bottom of your screen, tap “settings.”
- Tap “Account.”
- Tap “Switch to business profile.”
- You’ll then need to connect it to the Facebook page that you have created for your business. If you don’t yet have a Facebook page, here’s an article from BookBaby explaining how to set one up.
- Once you’re on the “Switch to business profile page,” be sure to review your business’ info, and once all is confirmed correct, tap “done.”
4. Follow some writers, but most importantly, follow some book lovers
Go back to the Instagram home page by clicking the Instagram icon at the top left corner. Now you can search for some more people to follow by using the search bar. Stay tuned for some suggestions on accounts writers should follow.
5. Make your first post (and remember to use relevant hashtags)
Give your followers a taste of what’s to come by creating your first post. A good idea is to start with a photo of yourself and a quick explanation of what your account will be about, so your followers know what to expect. Don’t forget to use relevant hashtags, like #booklover, #writer, #books, etc. Here’s a blog post giving you even more ideas for great hashtags for writers.
6. Post consistently
Be sure to create a schedule for yourself and post at the same time each week/day. This way you’ll be sure to continue posting regularly, and your followers will know what to expect from you.
7. Make it easier on yourself by scheduling posts
I don’t know about you, but I don’t enjoy being a slave to my devices. Electronics are not welcome at our dinner table at home, and when I talk to people, I give them my full attention. So having a posting schedule sin’t going to be fun for me if I have to drop everything to make social media posts each day. To make things easier on myself, I use a scheduling service.
Later.com offers a free option for people who just want to schedule posts ahead of time, and best yet, it’s super easy to use on desktop. I highly recommend signing up for an account and scheduling your posts there.
8. If you work from the computer a lot, install some apps or extensions that will make your life easier
In addition to Later.com, I also use the Google Chrome extension “Download for Instagram (+upload photo).” This extension allows me to upload photos from my computer to Instagram, which helps a great deal if I want to do some editing of photos or if I’ve already uploaded photos from my phone to my computer before posting to Instagram. I’m also able to upload graphics I’ve made to advertise my blog posts, etc.
8. Have some fun
Personally, I don’t use Instagram just for business. I have fun and get inspired from it, too. I am a nomad at heart and I love family adventure travel, so I’ve followed a bunch of travelling families and I interact with them just for fun on the app. I also have followed some funny people, like Strange Planet, so I can have a good laugh every day. Remember that while working is important, having fun is important, too.