Instagram Essentials

I’m very excited to get started on this new series for Soaring. We’re taking a look at social media and what it can do for your writing career. Since it’s 2017, most people are online in one capacity or another.  This series is great for those of you who are still holding out on joining the party or for those who are online, but need some help using social media as a way to promote your writing and your brand.  In this post we’ll look at Instagram and go over some essentials for getting started and marketing ourselves as writers.

This series will lead up to the launch of our new Spalding MFA Alumni website. While we’ll go over the new website in more depth, for right now, I’ll tell you that the site will be a great resource and community for alums.

What you can look forward to in this series:

        1. Intro to Social Networking for Writers
        2. Facebook Page Essentials
        3. Twitter Essentials
        4. Instagram Essentials
        5. Pinterest Essentials
        6. YouTube Essentials
        7. Blogging Essentials
        8. Our New Alumni Website

Instagram is a mobile photo sharing app that allows users to share pictures and videos. While Instagram started as an app, and remains an app, it is not exclusively used on mobile anymore. It can be accessed on a computer but only for viewing. To upload photos and videos, and share Stories, you must use the app on either an android or Apple device.

What Instagram can do for your writing career

It would seem that Instagram doesn’t fit with promoting your writing. At its core, Instagram is for sharing photos, and not writing. However, Instagram is a refreshing way to show another side of yourself to your readers and followers. Because photography is king on Instagram, you are forced to share more than “Hey, check out my article!” You need to post pleasing images that will entice users and get them interested in you as a person.  I personally love Instagram because it’s a nice change from the other social media platforms. I like to see how people live and what they do “behind the scenes.” Instagram can bring you more readers and followers and, of course, that’s what we’re trying to do with promoting ourselves on social media.

Stats of Instagram

  1. 32% of teenagers consider Instagram to be the most important social network
  2. Female internet users are more likely to use Instagram than men at 38% vs 26%
  3. Most Instagram users are between 18-29 years old, about six in ten online adults
  4. Instagram receives the silver medal with 32% of users (After Facebook), Pinterest is in third with 31%, and Twitter at 29%.
  5. 51% of Instagram users access the platform daily, and 35% say they look at the platform several times per day.

Creating an Account

  1. Download the Instagram app on your mobile device.
  2. Open the app to get started.
  3. Tap “Sign Up,” then enter your email address and tap Next.
  4. Create a username and choose a password. Fill out your profile info and then press Done.
  5. To customize your account, go to your profile, click “Edit Profile” under your follower and following counters.
  6. Upload a profile picture- hopefully one similar to your other social media profiles.
  7. Upload your website or blog link so people can find your writing easily.
  8. Write your short bio. Again, similar to your other social media profiles.
  9. Add Contact info. Here you can put an email address, phone number, and location. This is only on Business profiles and if you’re not comfortable giving a phone number you don’t have to put one.
  10. If you’ve filled in all fields you’d like, your profile is complete and you can start uploading photos.

Instagram Settings

On your Home Screen, you will have your timeline in front of you.


On the top left hand corner is a sketch of a camera. Screen Shot 2017-04-18 at 2.07.13 PM This is for creating a story. We’ll get into this in a minute, but basically it’s a photo or video your followers can see for 24 hours and shows up separately from your photo gallery.

On the top right hand corner is a sketch of a paper airplane.Screen Shot 2017-04-18 at 2.07.19 PM This is where your direct messages go. You can send private messages to other users this way.

Along the bottom from left to right:

Home- Screen Shot 2017-04-18 at 2.06.09 PMThis takes you take home, like you can imagine, from anywhere in the app.

Search- Screen Shot 2017-04-18 at 2.06.15 PMthis is where you can search hashtags, users, keywords, and places to find photos you’re interested in.

Add photo or video- Screen Shot 2017-04-18 at 2.06.21 PMthe plus sign means to add media to your gallery. I’ll go over how this works in depth in a moment.

Notifications- Screen Shot 2017-04-18 at 2.06.29 PMThe heart shows a list of your notifications like your new followers, likes, and comments.

Profile- Screen Shot 2017-04-18 at 2.06.35 PMYou can view your profile here. You can edit what your profile looks like, and check your gallery.

From your profile you can find a few more sections.


Along the top:

Discover people.Screen Shot 2017-04-18 at 2.06.42 PM You can find people who follow you, who have profiles you might like, and Facebook friends or Contacts that might interest you.

Insights: Screen Shot 2017-04-18 at 2.06.47 PMIf you do have a business account, you can view your insights here. This is where you can see your top posts, impressions, reach, profile views, website clicks and more. I will also go further into what these mean in a minute.

Options: Screen Shot 2017-04-18 at 2.06.52 PMThese are all of the behind the scenes sections. You can play around here to change settings if you want, but the biggest sections we want to pay attention to are Edit Profile, and Switch to Business Account.


How To:

  1. Press the “plus” icon in the middle of the bottom menu bar.
  2. Add a photo from your library.
  3. Adjust the image to fit in the space given.
  4. Press Next
  5. Either choose a preset filter or press edit to change levels on your own.
  6. Press Next
  7. Add a caption
  8. Tag relevant people or accounts.
  9. Add a location
  10. Press Share

Tips and Advice:

  1. Don’t post mediocre photos. If you’re ridiculously famous or well-known, you can get away with posting that low-light, blurry selfie. But when trying to get noticed, you need to post photos that grab people’s attention. With 400 million users, you need to make each photo count. Take photos that are interesting and intriguing to keep from being passed by.
  2. Edit your photos. While the subject of your photo is important, make sure the photo is edited well. Brighten a dark image and enhance colors. There’s nothing wrong with giving your already good photo a little boost to make it pop.
  3. Post regularly. Most people suggest every day, but even if you can’t every single day, post most days of the week without too much space in between. Users need to be reminded of why they follow you. If they don’t hear from you, they’ll probably forget you. And the way the new algorithm works, the more they interact with you, the more they’ll see your photos. Taking a few weeks off will put you in a hole that is hard to crawl out of.
  4. Show your life. You don’t just need to post photos of your laptop, or the notebook you’re scratching ideas into. Post photos of your home project, your travels, or your family. Make them interesting photos, but show that you are more than just someone who sits in front of a computer pressing buttons.
  5. Use relevant hashtags. One popular method of adding hashtags to your photos is to not include them in the caption, but add them as a first comment after it’s been published. This keeps your captions clean while letting you add up to 30 hashtags to get your image in front of users. Remember to add this hashtag comment as soon as you post as you want your photo to show up as high as possible in the hashtag gallery.
  6. Add a location. Adding a location gets your photo in front of even more viewers. It also “grounds” your photo and your story to give your followers a better sense of who you are.

Instagram Stories

Instagram Stories are a new feature that has grown in popularity very quickly. Here you can share photos and videos separately from your gallery. The photos are only visible for 24 hours. This is a great feature to show a little more of your personality and “behind the scenes” of your Instagram gallery. Often, we only want to post the best photos in our gallery, but it can leave a lot out from our personality. Showing behind the scenes photos and videos this way gives followers a better insight into us and keep our gallery fresh with the perfect photos we want to share.

Stories are displayed on the top of your timeline, displaying small profile photos. Click on the photos to see their story. Stories will continue on to the next user automatically.

To Post:

  1. Click the camera sketch in the upper left corner of your home screen.
  2. Take a photo using the built-in camera that automatically shows up.
  3. Upload a photo from your phone by swiping up. This only works for photos taken in the last 24 hours though.
  4. Once you have taken the photo or video, click the arrow to the right.
  5. Choose if you want it sent to your story or to a friend only.
  6. Click Send.

Promotion and analytics

Instagram has the option to create a “business” profile. The main difference between a business profile and a standard profile are the Insights. These are extremely useful when trying to grow a following and improve your engagement.

To create a Business Profile:

  1. Go to Options.
  2. Click, Switch to Business Profile.
  3. Continue through the information, read through these to learn more about Business Profiles.
  4. Click Log in with Facebook
  5. Click Log in with the Facebook app
  6. Click Continue and OK, when prompted.
  7. Choose the Page (already connected to your Facebook profile) that you’d like to be connected to your Instagram account. If you don’t have one, you can click Create one, on the bottom. For help with that go to our Facebook Essentials post.
  8. Continue to fill out your business profile information when prompted.
  9. Press Done.

Insights section:


To get the most out of a Business Profile, you need to check out the Insights. This section tracks your Impressions, Reach, and more to see if what you’re doing is working or if you need to change up your approach.

In this section, the very top shows impressions, reach, profile views, website clicks, email clicks, and get directions clicks. It will show how many of each from the past week as well as the change from the previous week.

Top posts: Here shows your top posts based on likes, comments, impressions, engagement, reach, and saved. You can choose how they are ranked and the time frame of photos being searched.

Stories: Here you can see your stories and see how many people have viewed them.


Followers: This shows when your followers are active on any given day. Click “see more” to see even more insights into your followers. This shows how many followers you have, how many new this week, the percentage of men or women follow you, age range, and top locations.

Promotions: This is where you can create and track your promotions. Promotions are just like ads. Your post will show up in a users timeline even if they don’t follow you, and can increase your reach and engagement. However, this does come at a price, like any advertising.

To create a promotion:

  1. Click Create a new promotion.
  2. Find a photo that you’ve uploaded to your gallery.
  3. Click Next
  4. Choose what you want people to do from your photo: visit your website or call or visit your business.
  5. Select an action button you want displayed with your profile.
  6. Choose your budget and the duration of your promotion
  7. Click Next
  8. Review your order.
  9. Click Promote

Insights Glossary

Impressions: The total number of times all of your posts have been seen.

Reach: The number of unique accounts that have seen any of your posts.

Profile Views: The number of times your profile was viewed.

Website Clicks: The number of taps on the website in your profile.

Email Clicks: The number of taps to email your business.

Get Direction Clicks: The number of taps to get direction to your business.

Followers: Average times your followers are on Instagram on a typical day.

Finding followers and Improving Engagement

It’s not enough just to post photos and wait for people to follow you. You need to be social, just like any other platform. Here are some tips to create a following and improve your engagement so it can translate into views on your website and readers for your writing.

  1. Choose a posting frequency and stick to it. People don’t want to follow users who post once in a while. If you’re lucky enough to have someone follow you, that means they enjoy what they see. Keep giving them what they like.
  2. Cross-promote on other channels. Shout out your Instagram photos on Twitter or Facebook. Bring people who follow you on other platforms over to Instagram.
  3. Create a photo theme by being consistent with the filter or editing style, the content, and your captions. Once again, people follow you because they like what they see. Keep it similar to keep them engaged. You can test out some different tactics but it is much more pleasing to look at a gallery that is consistently designed than one all over the place. It’s surprising what a little thought toward consistency can do for your following.
  4. Use hashtags. Hashtags are one way that users find your photos. If they don’t follow you, they won’t see your photos in their timeline (sometimes they still don’t). Hashtags get your photo into a gallery of like photos so users can search and find you.
  5. Write great captions that “force” users to interact with you. While the photo is the most important part of Instagram, the caption is next. Let your followers know what you’re doing, tell them a story, and give them a reason to comment something other than “great photo.”
  6. Interact with other users, both your followers and new users. While you want people to comment on your photos, you need to also comment on theirs. Like, comment, and follow users that you like to further get yourself seen and to create a relationship with other users.
  7. Share Instagram Stories Instagram stories are another way you can get noticed. This is even more behind the scenes than just your photos and it can entice users to following you if they like what they see.
  8. Get featured by larger accounts. By using hashtags and tagging users in your photos, you can get noticed by larger accounts. This isn’t something you can do easily, as everyone is looking to get noticed and featured, it is something that can help you. Keep consistently posting and eventually an account will feature your photo with a link to your account. You could see a spike in engagement because of this and get your name out there.
  9. Don’t be boring. This is pretty obvious, but no one wants to look at boring photos or a boring gallery. Don’t just post the exact same thing day after day. Give users something to look forward to and be interested in.

Additional resources

Social Media Marketing Statistics
How Authors are Using Instagram
The Business of Being Authors
Instagram Tips and Tricks

I’m looking for contributors for the following posts:

DEAR SOARING!: Send me your questions to be featured on the blog. Other alumni will help in answering your questions.

Where in the World: Where have you gone recently? Send me a picture with information on your trip and any writing you may have done about the trip.

Awards and Accolades of Alumni: Time to brag! What have you accomplished recently? I want to help spread the word and show just how great our alumni really are.

Email me at to be featured.

Mackenzie Jervis is a Summer 2016 Graduate. She lives in Texas with her husband, two cats, and puppy. She has way too many books, more cameras than she knows how to properly use, and a never ending need to keep moving. She write about her life and adventures at home and around the world at A Wandering Scribbler.

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