5 Tips to Improve Your Writing Using Instagram
Writing on Instagram seems like an oxymoron. Instagram is supposed to be for pictures, and serious writers don’t do pictures. Or do they? In the last few weeks, I have found that using Instagram has improved my writing skills, including how I think about writing, how I plan my writing, how I express my writing, and even how I can use Instagram to make money for my writing.
I hope to convince and show you how to post your writing on Instagram, where you will both enjoy the process and reap the benefits. I see Instagram as one of the greatest writing tools in a writer’s repository.
Use Instagram to Storyboard Your Writing
I’m not a fan of outlining my articles or stories. The reason being, I feel outlines constrict my artistic expression. There’s a beginning, a body, and an ending. Sure, this is helpful for specific articles, but I love experimenting with writing and seeing what tricks I can make it do. That’s where Instagram comes in to help.
No matter my topic, if I first imagine pictures to post on Instagram, I can get a great sense of how I want to write the story. The trick about posting on Instagram is making the pictures communicate a story.
For instance, I posted this picture of someone mixing up the packets for macaroni and cheese with hot chocolate, along with a caption, “tough day?” It tells a story within itself, where people browsing Instagram can imagine their own story. I could also write what I believe happened.
Use Instagram Carousel for Multiple Pictures
Longer stories do well with multiple pictures. Not only can you use each image to help you organize how you want to tell the story, but you can use them to help your reader follow along with pacing and engagement.
In posting pictures on Instagram, you can post a single image or multiple photos. Posting multiple pictures is called Instagram Carousel. Users will see two things when they run across your post:
- In scanning posts or searching hashtags, users will see your Instagram Post with an icon of a stack of pictures.
- When people scroll their feed, they will see your first picture with an arrow icon, as well as a counter (e.g., 1/4 for first out of four images).
I used two pictures (a before and after shot) to tell my poem about eating a hand; I used eight images to tell a National Margarita Day story. The most images you can use in an Instagram Carousel are ten.
Use Instagram Stories for Personal Video Content
Instagram Stories is a great way to give your followers personalized content that includes your writing process, what you do behind the scenes, your daily life, or what you have planned coming up.
I learned about Instagram Stories the hard way from my teenage daughter, who has been my personal Instagram coach. I had made a 58-second video that I felt inspired writers. Here’s what I did right, and here’s what I did wrong.
- I created the video in a vertical format, as opposed to Instagram’s typical 1:1 square format. Vertical is the correct format for Instagram Stories.
- I made the video under 60 seconds, which is the limit for video in a typical Instagram post.
- I made the video over 15 seconds, which is the limit for an Instagram story.
- I posted similar content as my typical Instagram posts. Instagram Stories is a tool to engage followers with personal and relational content.
Also, keep in mind that Instagram Stories is fed directly to your followers versus appearing in feeds, and the story is up for only 24 hours (you can permanently save your story to your Instagram profile for anyone visiting it directly).
Use Instagram Captions to Write Out Stories
You can use the caption area in your Instagram posts to tell your story in more detail. I’ve seen people write stories on the photos themselves, but they don’t typically engage your audience unless they are very short or are quotes or poems.
The maximum length for an Instagram caption is 2,200 characters, but according to Sprout Social, the ideal length for an Instagram caption is 138-150 characters.
Along with the caption, you should include a couple of emojis (despite my daughter telling me I’m too old to use emojis) and always include 30 relevant hashtags. Instagram limits your post to 30 hashtags; you should always use this limit. (Just as you should always use all five tags in Medium posts.)
Instagram does not allow hyperlinks in your posts. You can tell people to check out your profile, but that should be for your linktr.ee page or similar. Using Instagram to promote your writing is a poor choice. Instead, using Instagram to create, organize, and enhance your writing is a smart choice.
Use Instagram Trending Hashtags for Writing Prompts
Hashtags heavily influence Instagram. Not only can you follow people on Instagram, but you can also follow specific hashtags. My favorites to follow are #WritersofInstagram and #MediumWriters.
While other social media platforms use hashtags, the best practice is to use 2-3 hashtags for Twitter, LinkedIn, and Facebook. Again, use all 30 hashtags in your Instagram posts.
Like Twitter, specific hashtags trend based on news and world events, but other hashtags always trend on Instagram. #Love is the number one hashtag used on Instagram.
You can plan your posts based on a weekly hashtag calendar or a yearly holiday hashtag calendar (both found on The Socials Ms blog). You can use these for both planning posts and for writing prompts. For instance, I saw #NationalMargaritaDay was coming up for February 20, which I used to inspire a short story that I posted on Instagram and then wrote it out.
Bonus: Instagram Writing Apps
Apps for writing Instagram posts are abundant. Most of them are simple tools to add a quote to a picture. Some apps create trending hashtags based on a topic. But I haven’t found any apps dedicated to writing on Instagram. My favorite apps so far are the Instagram app itself and Canva for creating specific Instagram pictures for each format (Instagram post, Instagram Carousel, Instagram Stories). Canva is also great for making GIF images and videos (remember, the limit to Instagram video posts is 60 seconds).
You can also use apps like Buffer or Hootesuite to schedule posts ahead of time for Instagram. Some plans let you schedule based on social media traffic patterns and find the best times to post on Instagram, but their main utility is to spread out your posts and not get spammy.
Here are some ways other users have used Instagram to tell stories:
- Dad hilariously reviews daughter’s restaurant.
- Britney Spears sending ‘secret’ messages to fans.
- Instagram itself on a guide to create your storytelling account.
- Here’s an incredible resource for Instagram writing templates.
Instagram writing (writing for Instagram) is a process that will stimulate your creative mind and help you to tell your story better. The pictures you choose for Instagram will help engage your audience, both on Instagram and your writing platform.
You can use Instagram hashtags as writing prompts, as well as to gather your audience. And while you can’t share links on Instagram posts, you can certainly tell your story in the captions and via posts, including Instagram videos and Instagram Carousel.
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Thanks for reading. Let me know your tips and tricks for writing on Instagram in the comments.