A Writer’s Guide to Curating a Personal Brand on Instagram

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It used to be that writers got work either through word of mouth or simply on the strength of their portfolio. But in an increasingly data-driven and connected world, those channels simply aren’t enough anymore.

Social media has come front and center as another way for writers to start or to expand their careers.

Like it or not, your social media presence and ability to engage with an audience are things that clients look at when they’re considering hiring you for a project. And out of all of these social media platforms, the current king is undoubtedly Instagram — with engagement rates almost sixteen times higher than on Facebook and follower growth three times higher than on Twitter, this visually-centered site is going to have to be a vital part of your online brand.

You may be thinking that there’s only so much value a photo and video-sharing platform can do for you as a writer. It’s true there’s little to no opportunity for long-form writing on Instagram, but to say there’s no chance to display a writer’s wit and skill is disingenuous. It’s precisely the fact that you have limited space to work with that makes it such a rewarding challenge and an effective measure of your skill at quickly connecting with an audience.

Yrsa Daley-Ward’s personal posts also showcase her writing
Source: https://www.instagram.com/yrsadaleyward/

Today we’ll be giving you the keys to mastering Instagram as a writer. You’ll see how you can curate your own personal brand to achieve a distinctive, relatable voice on what is an otherwise noisy and cluttered social media space. Let’s get to it!

Part 1: Find a Good Balance

One of the biggest missteps we see on Instagram is to either post too often or too rarely, as well as posting too much personal information or too much promotional material. This is primarily something that happens when people aren’t familiar with social media marketing and how audiences respond to your posting strategy.

The name of the game is balance — you need to have enough personality that your account doesn’t look or feel like just an advertising channel, but at the same time you do need to promote your professional ability. You also need to post enough that you’re getting on to people’s feeds, but not so much that you’re filling up their page.

Brian the Bootmaker has some great copy that showcases his personal philosophy
Source: Brian the Bootmaker

Personality posts will help you connect with your audience and showcase your other interests. Strengthening your bond with your readers can pay dividends in terms of your reach and marketability. It can also help introduce you to a community of people who resonate with you, one that you can immediately rely on to follow you and read pretty much anything you’ve worked on. Be yourself, but don’t overshare. The key here is authenticity — nobody likes a manufactured, shallow persona.

Glennon Doyle posts witty, personality-filled content both of her own creation and from others
Source: https://www.instagram.com/glennondoyle/

On the other hand, sharing promotional posts and industry information is something that adds value to your account because it helps people learn more about the work that you do. Developing professional credibility as a thought leader and a prolific, knowledgeable writer is something that’s invaluable. The more work you’re already doing, the more people will want you to work on things for them. The key for these kinds of posts is to use them relatively sparingly on Instagram but make them high impact.

A good rule of thumb is to use personality posts 80% of the time and promote your own work 20% of the time. This is just a jumping off point — if you’re using a business account, take a look at your Instagram analytics to see what kinds of posts are most effective. If not, you’ll have to do a little more work: keep an eye on how many comments, likes, and reshares you get to gage whether your posting strategy is working.

For Instagram, one to two posts per day is a good number. Occasionally posting more or less is fine depending on your goals — special events may warrant a going a little over the top with posting to your feed, especially if it’s a big day for you.

Part 2: Get People to Come to You

You’ve probably got a blog or a website where you showcase your work. Now, as we discussed in the previous section, you can’t be constantly pushing these external sites in your regular posts. The one place you can put a clickable URL is in your bio, so you need to make the most of that one link. Aside from that, your email and contact info need to be on there so any prospective clients can reach out to you right away.

Your posts can also direct people to external sites, but this tactic should be used sparingly — people are reluctant to leave one site to go to another unless there’s a compelling reason to do so.

Mapalo Makhu getting people to come to her with a small, easy competition
Source: Mapalo Makhu

Part 3: Edit Down Your Hashtags

Hashtags one of Instagram’s strong points.  They allow you to expand your reach and organize your posts. Sadly, it’s one that’s also abused and misused a lot of the time. If you go on Instagram right now, you’ll see hundreds of posts with dozens of hashtags. Even worse, you’ll sometimes see accounts where they substitute hashtags for words in the caption. Too many hashtags aren’t just a breach of Instagram etiquette, they’re also messy and can break up the flow of your text.

A minimalist approach to your hashtags is more appropriate — only place a couple of targeted and relevant hashtags, and if possible, place them in a comment instead of wasting precious space in your caption.

Part 4: Make the Most of Stories

If there’s one thing that all writers understand it’s the power of a narrative. People just love a good story. There’s one feature of Instagram that allows writers to make the most of this fact, the aptly-named Instagram Stories. While it’s possible to craft a full-blown narrative piecemeal on Instagram Stories, with each video being a couple of seconds long, there’s a smarter way to get people engaged using this feature.

Instead of making the story one-sided, make use of all the features offered alongside Instagram Stories. Polls and questions for your followers to respond to can dramatically increase engagement. And you get instant feedback about what they want to see from you. This results in a more organic back-and-forth between you and your followers, and allows you to develop that narrative with the help of the people reading it. You can even use these as promotional material (always following the 80:20 rule, of course) and to direct followers to your blog or website.

Content contributed by Instasize.

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Denise Langenegger

Denise Langenegger is part of the team over at Instasize – a content creating tool kit for anyone editing photos and online content on mobile.

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