The Dos and Don'ts of Growing Your Writing Account on Instagram
Whether you are a published author or just want to share your fiction or poetry to an audience other than your mom, social media is probably one of the cheapest, most accessible way to get your name out there. I began posting poetry on my Instagram account (@evergreen.reveries) in January of 2017 and have since curated 72K followers. I have been asked quite a few times how I “got so many followers,” so I decided to make this post to easily answer that question.
When I began posting on Instagram, I had no experience with marketing myself on social media. Until then, I used Instagram primarily as a place to post pictures of my dog (shoutout to Pepper!). All of the Dos and Don’ts I am about to share come from trial and error with my own account. Hopefully they will save you the trouble of having to experiment on your own!
DON'T buy likes or followers. Let’s get this out of the way right now. Just. Don’t. Do. It. I have never paid for likes or followers because one, they are fake, and secondly, accounts that buy engagement are very easy to spot. Have you ever seen an account with 100K followers, but only about 82 likes per photo? Yeah, they are buying. At the end of the day, buying followers and seeing your follower count go up quickly might make you feel good, but it is just a number. Genuine engagement is much more valuable.
DO use a business account. I switched over to a business account around 5K, because I wanted to be able to have that little grey “job title” show in my profile. The business account is actually pretty handy, because it gives insight into when your audience is most active, prime posting times, and the demographics of your following. Another cool thing about the business account is that once you get to 10K, you can embed “swipe up” links in your snapchat stories. I love the swipe up option because I can send people right to my book, this blog, or any interesting article I read and want to share.
DON'T be disingenuous. This one is arguably the most important. What I mean when I say “be genuine,” is don’t make a copy+paste generic comment and start firing it randomly on posts on the explore page. First of all, it’s annoying and second of all, no one is buying it. When accounts engage in this type of behavior it actually makes me LESS likely to follow them. If you are going to interact with other people on the platform, be genuine! I have made some friends through @evergreen.reveries and connected with so many beautiful people. Another thing comes across is disingenuous is sliding into someone’s DMs and asking them to follow you or shout out your account.
DO use your captions to start a conversation. I find my posts with well thought-out captions or questions to readers result in the most engagement. For example, when I write about my eating disorder, I usually give some background or context in the caption. But going back to one of my don’ts, make sure your captions are genuine. Don’t be phony just because something is trendy!
DO advertise. (If you have a budget for it) This is not something I would recommend if you are just posting for fun, but if you are serious about spreading your writing and making it more than just a hobby, sponsored posts are something to consider. Unlike buying followers, followers you gain from sponsored posts are real and want to read your words. I typically do one sponsored post per month, and usually gain anywhere from 400-600 followers from each. I usually spend $30.
DO take length into consideration. Unfortunately on Instagram, size really does matter. Longer (often better) poems get much less engagement than short quotes. It drives me crazy when I see a post that says something like “I love you because you love me” garnering tens of thousands of likes, when there are INCREDIBLE poets on Instagram who don’t get much traffic because their pieces take longer than .5 seconds to read. I try to find balance. I play the game, but I make sure my shorter posts say something original and include at least a bit of figurative language. Every third post or so, I will post one of my longer pieces and even though they don’t get nearly as much engagement, I get to keep my artistic integrity and not feel like I’m selling out for numbers.
DON'T be afraid to experiment. Because social media is a highly visual thing, the aesthetics (or lack thereof) of your account may play into your engagement. Regardless of how good your writing is, if you don’t take the time to make your posts and account look visually appealing, you aren’t going to have as much success on the platform.
DO be consistent. You will lose followers every day, and that is completely normal. The goal is to gain more than you lose in order to grow, but the only way to do this is to be consistent with posting. If you’re only posting once every week or two, you will lose followers but there will be no new traffic to your account to balance out the loss. Though I definitely have days and even weeks where I simply can’t keep up with posting, I try to post between at least once a day. On this note, don’t post too much either! Nobody wants their feed filled with nineteen posts from the same account everyday.
DO post quality work. Don’t post a poem until it is as good as it can be and make sure your work is your work. Don’t try to be Rupi Kaur or Atticus. Find your own voice and execute it well. This is what attracts readers.
DON'T get discouraged! Growing a following is not going to happen overnight unless you get incredibly lucky or have something go viral. Sometimes we look at large accounts and think those accounts grew overnight, but in most cases the human(s) behind the account put in A TON of work to get it there. If you stay consistent and post quality content, the engagement will come. And remember, numbers are cool, but it shouldn't be about the numbers. It should be about the love of writing and sharing your work. xx.