Instagram tips for writers out on the internet can offer conflicting advice and complicated strategies. In this post, I’ll try to boil down the top three Instagram tips for writers so you can kick-start or enhance your author platform.
Over the last two months, I doubled my Instagram followers from 400 to 800+ so I could try out real strategies for real results to share with you.
Let’s jump in and explore these simple Instagram tips for writers to grow your following!
Instagram Tip for Writers #1: Set Up Your Basic Profile
Personal Versus Professional Account
For most users just starting out, a personal account is best. You’ll get better engagement with a personal account unless you have the budget for paid advertisements. In my experience, switching to a professional account will not help you unless you are paying Instagram money.
However, if you are a self-published author and want to sell your books…Or, you’ve landed a book deal, and your publisher wants you to be active on social media…Then you might want to invest in a professional account, which will give audience insights and metrics into your post performance. Check out “Should You Switch To An Instagram Business Account?” by Susanne Rieker if you’re on the fence!
Private Versus Public Account
If you set your account to private, only your followers can see your posts. If you’re set to public, the world will see your feed.
To grow your author’s platform, you really need to set your account to be public, especially if you want to participate in follow trains (see below). It’s very hard to get a large following with a private account.
If you’re worried about being too “out there” with your Instagram, consider having two accounts, a public one for your platform and one that’s private for friends and family.
Basic Profile Setup
Before you attract your audience, you’ll need to prove that your profile is one to follow (and not a spam bot!). In order to do that:
1. Upload a Picture of Yourself.
Nothing says spam bot like an account without a picture or a photo of some random object.
I use my professional headshot across all of my platforms, on my website, and even as my static photo on my Zoom account, which helps people recognize me. However, a simple, smiling selfie will do nicely!
2. Make It Clear You Are a Writer in Your Bio.
If you want to attract like-minded followers, let them know that you belong in the #AuthorsOfInstagram community!
- State right away that you’re an author and what genre you write in.
- Mention your professional organizations, like DIY MFA, so other members can find you.
- You can even use hashtags like #CreativeWriting.
- Lastly, link to your blog or website if you have one.
For example, my bio reads, “📚Writer of fantasy and YA, MFA candidate at Lesley University. Volunteer for #nanowrimo, lover of #bookstagram. #CreativeWriting is my jam! ❤️📖lettersandfeathers.wordpress.com.”
As you can see, I use book emojis, so at a glance, potential followers instantly understand what they can expect from my feed.
Keep in mind: You only have 150 characters for your bio, so make every word count!
3. Create 5 Relevant Posts.
Before attracting followers, make sure you have at least 5 Instagram posts in your feed to show the valuable content your account will provide.
Speaking of content…
Instagram Tip for Writers #2: Make a Posting Game Plan
Making your Instagram content strategy is a big topic that I plan to cover in my next article. But to get started, try these simple smart Instagram tips:
Have a Regular Schedule
As my sister’s yoga teacher says, we want consistency, not intensity. It will be more effective to grow your following if you post a little bit on a regular schedule rather than doing a huge content blast and burning out.
I post at least once a week on Wednesday mornings at 11:00 AM when my calendar and scheduling app send me reminders. (More about third-party scheduling apps in my next article. But, spoiler alert: I like using Later!)
Remember all the hard work you did in your bio, telling the world who you are in just 150 characters? In marketing, we call that your “brand.” Your brand is that you are a certain kind of author, so your audience expects you to post author-ish content.
My bio mentions that I write YA and love #bookstagram, which is Instagram-speak for reviewing books. So, a lot of my content is reviewing YA books I love! Since I’m always reading, I figured short book reviews would be an easy way to generate social content.
As a bonus, if you tag them, many authors will follow you back after you give them a glowing review, which builds your network!
Instagram Tip for Writers #3: How to Create and Manage Your Instagram Following
Now that you’re on Instagram, how can you attract more followers?
Hashtags are live links that cross-reference related content that you can include in your posts. On Instagram, you can even follow hashtags like #AmWriting, and posts from users who use that hashtag will show up in your home feed.
You can include up to 30 hashtags on your Instagram posts, but Hubspot recommends using three to five per post in their article, The Ultimate Guide to Instagram Hashtags for 2022.
Here are some of my favorite Instagram hashtags you can include in your posts:
A follow train is when a group of like-minded users gets together and all agree to follow each other. When you’re just starting out, follow trains can help grow your audience quickly. I’ve gained as many as 100 followers in just one train!
How to Participate in Follow Trains:
- You can visit hashtag index pages like #authorfollowtrain and #bookfollowtrain to find opportunities.
- Instructions will vary by host, so make sure to read them carefully! Usually, a train will require you to post the train image and caption on a certain day and time.
- When you’re brand new, feel free to participate in a ton of trains to grow your audience.
- However, once you’re established, you don’t want to gum up your feed with too many posts for follow trains, as it can be spammy.
My personal rule is to participate in a few follow trains a year, no more than one every three months. But I’ll often follow users who are hosting a follow train without actually being a participant.
Instagram Follower Strategy
You don’t want to just follow everyone willy-nilly, hoping they’ll return the favor. While an unlimited number of people can follow you, you can only follow 7,500 people max on Instagram!
This means that people who are near their 7,500 cap likely won’t follow you back…even if you are on a follow train with them.
So, when you are following a new user in the hopes that they will follow you back, consider the following:
- Is this person someone who aligns with my interests (like reading and writing) or someone who might buy my book one day?
- What is their following-to-follower ratio? If they have more people they are following than followers, or if the ratio between the two is about even, they are a safe bet. But if they have 10,000 followers and are only following back 5,000 people, don’t waste your time unless you are interested in their feed!
Final Thoughts on Instagram Tips for Writers
Now you have everything you need to make your Instagram shine! And if you want a video guide covering everything we talked about here, including an even deeper dive into more Instagram tips to increase your follower count, check out my blog!
Please keep your eyes peeled for my next DIY article, where you’ll learn how to make an editorial calendar to keep your social on track, make a killer content plan, and target audiences to help grow your following!
Rachel Teferet (lettersandfeathers.wordpress.com) is a marketing copywriter and content manager, novelist, and poet. Their work has been published by Subprimal Poetry Art, Zoetic Press’ NonBinary Review, and more.