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On my last post, I wrote about how one of the best ways to build your platform is to concentrate on one social media space and learn it well. In 2020 and 2021, that platform for me is Instagram. Why? Five reasons:

  1. Because most of my readers are there.
  2. Because it’s less contentious than Facebook or Twitter, and I’m weary of all the arguing.
  3. Because it’s visually appealing–as an artist this matters to me.
  4. Because once I get to 10,000 followers, I’ll get the swipe up feature which will allow me to directly link to whichever book I’m promoting.
  5. Engagement is better on Instagram than other places. It’s 10 times > than Facebook, 54 times > than Pinterest and 84 times > than Twitter. (Source: Trackmaven and Social Pilot)

My cheapskate strategy for learning about Instagram has been to take free courses, then not sign up for the several thousand dollar courses offered at the end of each “free” webinar. By watching several, I gleaned enough information to try something new about every month. Once I learn that new thing, I then move on to another new thing. This also keeps me current and savvy.

Here are a few of the free courses I took:

To do well on Instagram, you need to be a storyteller. That’s great news for writers because that’s our default. We love to tell stories! One good book on creating your story brand is Building a Story Brand by Donald Miller. The best (simplest) iteration of the book’s message is this: Your brand is NOT about you. It’s about your IDEAL reader. What does your ideal reader need from you? How do you help them? What is unique about your books that help readers grow in their own stories?

In light of all this, with a reader-centered story as a foundation, here are some best practices I’ve learned over the past year or so that have grown my following significantly (several thousand in one year):


  • Your bio verbiage is very important. You only have a few words to make a first impression. Be sure to make it about your reader (“It’s a joy to pray for you,” but also add in some trust badges (1.6M listens!). Here is mine below. Be sure your picture is amazing. Here’s a little tutorial on writing a great instagram bio.
  • Beneath that you can create buttons (etsy shop, podcast, books, sexual abuse resources, mentor) for your content. You can learn how to do that here.
  • REELS are your friends. Because they are new, Instagram gives them a higher priority. So the more of those you do, the better your exposure. Here’s how to create a reel.
  • Aesthetics are important. Below you’ll see the pics from the Truly Company. They’ve used a subdued, fresh palate, similar fonts, and everything matches beautifully. Here’s how to take great photos with your phone. Here’s a great place to create graphics, Canva.
  • Authenticity matters on Instagram. Not fake authenticity (Is that a thing? Yes it is.) Genuine thoughts from your daily life, struggles you face, how you’re overcoming a challenging situation. But not just emotive so that you’re word-vomiting on your readers–you need to always keep your reader’s wellbeing in mind as you share. How can they take something away from your story?
  • Note the “Promote again” button. Since this post did well, I chose to promote it a few times to grow my Instagram followers. Simply click the PROMOTE button and follow the steps. First, you would choose that people would visit your profile (so you can get more follows). Second you would pick your audience. Typically Instagram does best in selecting the audience, though you can create your own. Last, you assign a money value to a per day rate. I typically do $5 a day for 4 days. Here’s a tutorial on creating effective ads for Instagram.
  • #Hashtags matter. But they can be a pain. How I’ve navigated this: I’ve created several lists of different kinds of medium value hashtags (Not a million, not a hundred followers, usually ones that garner 10,000–100,000) in my NOTES app on my phone and desktop. I also write my posts in Notes on my desktop because it’s easier to type there rather than the little keyboard. Because Notes is synced across all devices, I simply copy and paste the post and copy and paste appropriate hashtags into the post. Here’s a list of 55 author hashtags to get you started. Here’s another list of 130.
  • Many people schedule their posts using a third party app. I actually don’t do that. I feel like it’s more real and spontaneous to simply post in the moment. As Barb Roose has shared with many, Canva does have a Content Planner you can use to share your social media images if you belong to the Pro version. Here’s a brief tutorial.
  • Engagement helps a lot. Commenting on others’ posts. Commenting on comments of accounts that you like and are similar to your tribe is a great way to gain followers too. Mixtus Media who specializes in helping authors with social media, wrote this: “I started researching hashtags that I felt my Ideal Reader would use to find information she was looking for. I then made a list of those hashtags and started liking and commenting on posts that used those hashtags.” You can read the rest of the post here. VERY helpful.
  • Direct Messages are gold. I often direct message people who are struggling with a prayer that I record right in the DM section. I view it as ministry, and it’s a true joy. Be a human. Help people. Bear their burdens.
  • Posting consistently enables others to find you. Instead of drudgery, I’ve come to view this as joy. I see it as shepherding my people, loving them well, and providing help for them. I like to take the temperature of my readers and then offer them content that truly helps.
  • Stories build engagement. (You find these along the top of your Instagram feed). What I’ve found: Using video in my stories endears my readers to me. This is an area I’m growing in because folks keep asking for more. Many influencers on Instagram do video because it causes a deeper connection with your audience. [Aside: people buy books because of either word of mouth or relationship. Instagram provides both–and video fosters this powerfully.] Also, unboxing videos of receiving your books are VERY popular. And they’re fun. You can go live on Instagram just as you do on Facebook, and many have had success with scheduling and sharing that schedule with followers. You can also upload videos both to your feed or your stories.
  • Carousels (multiple pictures on one feed indicated by several dots below the pictures to indicate this) are rewarded by Instagram. Anything that keeps people there makes Instagram happy.

There is so much to learn, and I have barely scratched the surface in this post. But keep this in mind (those of you whose eyes are glazing over): I have been working on this for over a year. I’ve been researching, learning, and practicing this for a long time. That’s the beauty of concentrating on one platform–you can become an expert. Little by little, task by task, new thing learned by new thing learned.

The other piece of encouragement I want to leave you with is this: You are a storyteller, so use your well honed skills on social media, no matter what platform you use. Think of Instagram as a micro blog, and then deliver great content. If you’re tired of typing on your phone, compose in Notes on your laptop, then copy and paste from your phone’s synced Notes to post.

The goal is engagement. It’s finding your readers and blessing them. It’s serving those who are in your tribe. Instagram is my preferred way to do that, but that doesn’t mean it’s your joyful way. Find YOUR place of joy and thrive there.

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