Establishing a Popular Presence in the Poetry (and Writing) Community on Instagram

By Leeza von Alpen (aka leezajaydepoetry)

So, you’re interested in making an impact on the Instagram writing community, and in gaining more readers.

Here’s what you need to know.

I had the pleasure of interviewing some much admired, and highly praised, instapoets; I asked them what techniques they themselves have used, and recommend, to writers seeking to establish a platform on Instagram, and connect with other creative minds.

After interviewing each of these successful instapoets, I collated their valuable insights (and mine) into six helpful points of advice.

Here’s what we suggest that you can do:

  1. Engage with other writers

There are various ways that you can genuinely connect with other Instagram writers.

Firstly, I’d advise that you avoid being stingy with your follows; if a writing account follows you, and you like them, follow them back. But, if you follow merely to gain a follower—beware! Amaramalikpoetry explains that this is a short-term method; ‘…this will help you grow,’ she confirms, ‘But many will unfollow or not follow back.’

Secondly, if you admire someone’s post, comment on it. In fact, comment on as many posts as you can; like posts, and really connect with people. In the words of amaramalikpoetry, ‘Always engage with your readers. Never forget them, or take them for granted.’

And, please, for the love of the English language, reply to your comments when someone praises your work. People have taken the time to read your writing; you should take the time to thank them. Also, the more you genuinely engage with other writers, the more likely they will be to return the favour later when you post something.

Thirdly, consider doing shout-outs for shout-outs. This simply means that you take a screenshot of another writers’ account, upload it to your Story for your followers to see, and provide a link to the other writer’s account for followers to access. Sometimes, writers will return the favour with this too.

perrypoetry says that ‘Engagement with other accounts is the best way to gain followers. You need to engage with your following and your followers as much as possible. The Instagram algorithm will start to put your posts at the top of your followers’ feed the more you engage with them.’

mingdliu agrees with connecting with other accounts entirely; ‘I also love interacting with other writers and readers; they are the ones supporting you and we all want to relate to one another. Being personable definitely helps!’

So, amaramalikpoetry recommends opting for a long-term method, which is ‘… to engage! Read others’ work, give genuine feedback, and follow them. It may take longer, but it’ll be worth it to grow a loyal and engaged readership.’

Patrick Hart (aka workinprogress13, aka author of War Paint) also emphasises that this kind of authentic connection significantly matters; ‘I suppose I took every opportunity to communicate with other artists and respond to each and every comment.’ For Patrick, this ‘…definitely went a long way.’

  1. Use popular hashtags and tag reposting accounts

Did you just cringe?

You just cringed, didn’t you?

Well, don’t! Using popular hashtags is an invaluable way to gain attention on Instagram.

perrypoetry explains he ‘… find[s] that using hashtags is a great way to gain followers. One trick is to use hashtag rotation, so you are rotating your hashtags with every post to allow for more discovery.’

Some popular hashtags that I would personally suggest including in the body of your caption, or the first comment(s) underneath your post, are:

#poem #poetry #igpoetry #poetryofig #writersofinstagram #igpoets #spilledink #poetryisnotdead #poetscorner #omypoetry #poetrycommunity

(see below for an example from lillysparkswords)

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You can also be more specific to the theme of your written piece; for example, if it’s a passionate love poem, use hashtags like #love, #soulmate, and #inlove for an increased chance of being discovered. Patrick (workinprogress13) recommends using up to 30 hashtags per post.

Secondly, tag reposting accounts! There are plenty of good Instagram poetry-based pages that happily promote the work of writers if you tag them in your upload. Some of my personal favourites that myself, and other instapoets, use are: @omypoetry, @veinheartisans, @bymepoetry, @poets, @poetsdaily, @poem_wars, @silverleafpoetry, @word.bender, @tribeofpoets, @wordswithqueens, and @artlixirfresh. (Keep in mind that some require you to use their hashtag and follow them as well.)

P.S.

Remember to ‘…post when the world is awake!’, as Patrick says. Consider what times your favourite poets post by turning on post notifications for their account, and keep up with them.

  1. Have an (attractive) aesthetic

Never underestimate the power, and allure, of having a visually pleasing Instagram account. Instagram is, of course, about pictures; and if your images are pleasing to the eye, then your likelihood of gripping a potential follower’s attention increases significantly.

The Instagram algorithm is changing so frequently that it’s difficult now a day to establish a presence without following the status quo. Remember that IG is a picture-first platform, so if you’re looking to really establish a presence, keep the words legible, but the art that it’s on top of eye-popping and cohesive at the same time, without appearing “messy”.’ 

~ Patrick Hart (workinprogress13)


Indeed, 
perrypoetry favours the enthralling, and popular, accounts of @s.l._gray and @wilderpoetry not just for their creativity, but also for their stunning account visuals.

So what does this mean for writers? Well, I’m glad you asked.

It means getting creative and presenting your writings (i.e. your text) over, or alongside, attractive photography, illustrations, or even a simple blank, or black, background. Remember to draw attention to your words, however, and avoid falling into the trap of making the image in your upload more emphasised than your writing.

Also, remember to be consistent (unless, of course, your consistency is that you have none). You need to give your followers something to expect; a style that they can look forward to seeing.

It’s also important to establish an identity,’ says perrypoetry. ‘If you look at my account, you will see it’s very cohesive, and I stick to the same theme.’ (see the examples from perry’s account, and mine, below)

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There are also apps that you can use to conveniently overlay text and apply filters to your photographs to insert your poetry that isn’t as convoluted as Photoshop. Textagram is one, but I favour CTDesign, and there are plenty of others as well.

  1. Write for you

We cannot emphasise this enough. ‘The one thing I’ve learned,’ highlights mingdliu, ‘is to remain true to your art and to yourself.’

Here are our top pieces of advice for what this means:

I have so many poets that I respect. If I began to list them off, I would barely scratch the surface, but the general theme throughout them mirrors my own-honest art! If you’re looking for some to check out, try the following handles: @Poetry, @poetryandprosebyk, @vintage.blue, @b.dani_west, @eleeborwriter, @nataliaxvela, @leah_jean_, @therosycrucifixion, @leahjstone, @dortomysoul, @vintage_cass_marie, @areadingwriter @mermaid.musings, @k.j.dunk, @leezajaydepoetry [aw shucks, Patrick!]

I guarantee I left a lot out, but the above write genuinely and viscerally, which matters more than glory.

The most important technique/strategy that I implemented was keeping my writing personal. I didn’t begin writing to gain an audience… I kept my writing as honest and revealing as possible in hopes that the community would rally around that.’

~ Patrick Hart (workinprogress13)

Write from your heart. Read others but don’t copy them, especially don’t plagiarise. Post only what you love and want to post because then you will improve if you receive negative feedback instead of feeling demotivated. Post only what you WANT to. Gaining followers means posting consistently, but you can’t force your creativity… My best and most popular pieces have come straight from the heart.

Oh, I have many favourites! @zeestkijusujoo, @alura_inspires, @lamiart, @avleenmusing, @duren_writing_stories, @breath_words, @heavensanar, @writerhashtag, and you [@leezajaydepoetry] [double shucks!] of course… Writers that write original and heartfelt pieces…who don’t copy other writers, who have their own unique voice, and speak about important issues in today’s society are my favourite writers.’

Amara Malik (amaramalikpoetry)

I adore @perrypoetry’s page and @atticus’s page. Their words are so relatable and magical… The only advice I can really give is to not be afraid to put your heart into words; there are so many people out there feeling the same way as you do. Your words can change someone’s day just by writing what’s on your mind and in your heart.’

~ Lilly Sparks (lillysparkswords)

  1. Promote Yourself

Promote, promote, promote yourself. Post on your Story regularly, and maintain your presence once you establish it. Comment frequently on posts so that people will see your name.

Moreover, I’d suggest reminding people to turn on post-notifications for your account so that they can stay up to date with your latest work.

Post your writing often, with those popular hashtags and those tagged reposting pages. Be consistent.

Also, if you are promoting yourself, I’d suggest you do it professionally and in a friendly manner. Spell-check everything (I cannot tell you how often myself and others cringe because we see a poem that is beautiful in nature but flawed in spelling). Have a professional, clean, interesting profile.

  1. Some other miscellaneous pieces of advice…

You might also like to promote other pages (selflessly, might I add; don’t necessarily expect anything in return; just spread some love!) by engaging in weekly mass posts like #followfriday. For this, you simply promote other writers’ pages. Often, they’ll do it back for you.

Also, you might choose to use other instapoets’ artwork and tag them; this promotes their artwork, and, often, your poetry through the Instagram artist’s tag. (Just remember to always ask permission first. Never use someone’s artwork without their permission. That’s, like, illegal. And rude.)

Also also, perrypoetry suggests expanding your potential readership by ‘…starting a Pinterest page… [because] it just gives your work more visibility and sometimes your work can go viral. I’ve had poems I’ve posted get up to 18k repins, which gives me a lot of visibility.’

Lastly, consider having writing-related words in your username (i.e. lillysparkswords, amaramalikpoetry, etc.); this is a clear indication to scrolling eyes that you might be a page that they are looking for.

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That’s all for now, fellow writers! Hopefully, these tips will help you on your way to making a genuine impression on the Instagram poetry community.

For now, here are some final words from perrypoetry and mingdliu:

My words of advice are to be patient and stay true to your writing. It takes a long time to get to 1k followers, but every 1k after that gets easier. Growing an account is a lot of work.

You’ll grow if you are putting the effort in.’

~ perrypoetry.

Interacting and being real to your readers and yourself is key. If you have a passion for art, don’t be afraid to take that leap and share it.

It can truly change your life, trust me.’

~ mingdliu

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A word of sincere thanks to the helpful poets who kindly contributed towards this article. You can find links to their Instagram accounts (and Patrick Hart’s poetry book) through the links below:

Amaramalikpoetry

https://www.instagram.com/amaramalikpoetry/

(Amara also runs an adorable online stationery store: check it out at https://creativecutiee.com)

Lillysparkspoetry

https://www.instagram.com/lillysparkswords/

mingdliu

https://www.instagram.com/mingdliu/?hl=en

perrypoetry

https://www.instagram.com/perrypoetry/?hl=en

workinprogress13

https://www.instagram.com/workinprogress13/

You can purchase a copy of Patrick’s poetry book, War Paint, from Amazon.com.

(it’s also available on bookdepository.com! Cue squeals of utter delight!)

And, here is my account, if you’re interested:


leezajaydepoetry

https://www.instagram.com/LeezaJaydePoetry/


Words by Leeza von Alpen

Leeza HeadshotLeeza is an Australian poet and writer, as well as an English, History and Women’s Studies teacher. She enjoys reading paperbacks with milkless tea, star gazing, puns, and Studio Ghibli movies. You can find her poetry on Instagram under leezajaydepoetry, and writing-related tweets on Twitter under @leezajayde.

The Poetry Slam: An Insider’s View

When I say Slam Poetry, what do you think of? Beatniks in black turtlenecks and clicking hipsters? Or maybe you think of Neil Hilborn’s “OCD” – the spoken word poem that made the rounds on the internet circa 2013. Slam poetry – or spoken word poetry if you like – is experiencing something of a resurgence and for a good reason. If you’ve ever listened to a spoken word poem, then you know that it is a powerful gut-punch of a storytelling medium. More than that, it’s a highly diverse form as well; the content and structure of spoken word is open wide to innovation and interpretation. Highly personalised or highly politicised, spoken word is a glimmering oyster of diverse styles and poets, which makes it a pleasure to listen to every time. It also makes it highly enjoyable to write and to read – because above all, spoken word poetry is designed to be read aloud and heard. There are few better places for this than the ubiquitous poetry slam and it’s sister, the open mic poetry night. As a person who’s performed in several poetry slams, I can tell you the nitty-gritty of what it is like to be involved in one.

I’m going to be real with you for a second. Getting on stage and performing your work to a crowd of strangers is nerve-wracking, especially when there are judges in the crowd who are giving points for your work. But at the same time, it’s also deeply satisfying to know that they’re sitting before you specially to hear slam. Here’s a fact; slam communities want new blood, specifically yours. If you’ve got a poem and a voice to tell it with, they want to hear you say it. They will even approach you afterwards to say they liked your work. It’s humbling and gratifying all at once. If you can get up there to read your poems, you have my respect as a fellow poet, especially if it’s your first time.

At my first poetry slam, I didn’t actually read any of my work. I wanted to suss out how it worked and then ghost out of there after enjoying a night of poetry. Instead I got randomly selected to be a judge (all the judges are randomly selected from the audience). No problem, I thought to myself. Except I had no clue about the standard of work to be expected at a poetry slam competition. Cue me scoring the first two people exceptionally harshly by mistake – I soon wised up, but not without escaping un-called-out. Poetry slams are friendly places with a great deal of camaraderie – expect call outs to people in the audience and call outs about judges who are overly harsh, as I had soon discovered.

My second poetry slam was the one I first performed at and, fortunately, I didn’t make a giant hash of it. I got up on stage, didn’t fall off the edge of it, spoke my piece without squealing feedback from the mic, and then got off the stage. All in all, a success. Since then, I’ve performed in a few and I’ve got ‘performing at a poetry slam’ down to a fine art.

Here’s how it goes:
I rock up to the event a good five minutes before the signup even opens (the signup usually opens about half-an-hour before the slam starts). I then hover like a vulture so I can be first, or second, or third to write my name down on the list. This ensures I’m definitely going to perform at the slam.If the slam is abiding by Australian Poetry Slam rules, there’s a maximum of 20 competitors. The first fifteen names on the signup sheet are guaranteed to be in – any number of people past that go into a lottery to see if they’re competing that night. This is the reason for the vulturing; when there’s a captive audience, I like to
know that they’re going to be my captive audience.

Once I’ve got my name down on the list, I buy myself a cider and claim a seat for myself and whoever has come with me. Some people come in a posse, others with one or two friends or family members. From there it’s only a matter of waiting somewhat nervously while I enjoy the other poets who are slamming that night. While I do this, I usually gnaw my fingers a bit wondering if I’m the next poet up or not – all of the performers are called up in a randomly drawn order, so you never know when you’re up next. I’ve got the luck of a mildly cursed witch; I’m almost always one of the last people to perform, and when I’m not, I’m definitely the first called up. This is what happened at the last slam I was in and I was not expecting it at all.

When I do get called up, I take myself and my poem up to the mic. Sometimes I memorise my poem, but you don’t have to. For poetry slams, the timer starts from the first word so intros aren’t particularly wise. Also, take this advice from someone who knows; pay attention to that timer. For Australian poetry slams, two minutes is your absolute maximum and if you go over, you lose one point every thirty seconds. Poem went for two minutes and ten seconds? That sweet little score of 9.3 has dropped to an 8.3, and with it your chance at placing. Am I speaking from bitter experience? Well, kinda. I’m not particularly bitter. Poetry slam judging is fair even if it’s reasonably unpredictable. There’s five judges, who are randomly selected, and the top and bottom scores are removed. Favouritism is pretty well eliminated but there’s an added element of unpredictability. Once I’ve been given my score, I sit back, drink cider, and enjoy the other poems before waiting to hear the final results. A round of applause to the victors and it’s all done and dusted.

Whether you’re up on the mic or in the audience, poetry slams are always a good time and they happen almost everywhere. If you’re unsure about where to start, a quick google or Facebook search will be able to point you in the direction of your local poetry slam event. If you’re in Adelaide, the Adelaide Poetry Gig Guide on Facebook has an updated list of regular open mic’s, slams, and one off events.

I’ll leave you with this pro tip I’ve learned from experience: don’t perform a poem about someone who’s in the audience unless you really want them to hear it. Otherwise, have fun and if you see me around in Adelaide’s slams, come and say hi.


Words by Taeghan Buggy 

Taeghan Buggy is a writer, a poet, and a performer. Her work tends towards emotional gut punches and dangerous words. Taeghan’s immersion within ‘Arts Culture’ includes the New Wave Audio Theatre project, Flinders’ Speakeasy Creative Readings, and Adelaide’s open-mic poetry scene.

 

‘You, the Artist’- Poems by Leeza von Alpen

you are colour

this life is a canvas

and we are all artists

but I often stop and wonder

why we dare would choose to squander

our ephemeral moments by never, or barely ever,

staining our brushes in paint pots at all;

doing nothing to fill in the shades of grey

You, the Artist’

you are colour

this life is a canvas

and we are all artists

but I often stop and wonder

why we dare would choose to squander

our ephemeral moments by never, or barely ever,

staining our brushes in paint pots at all;

doing nothing to fill in the shades of grey

but you

oh you

you who splatters hues

leaving paint smears on your shoes

because you wander through the world

wearing as many colours as you choose

with a laughter tainted yellow

and an old temper tinted black

using charcoal and pastels with tones so mellow,

and graphite pencils, oils and ink

that attack

the senses

you add texture to the world

with the way your mind can think

because you paint pictures with your mind

and I do so hope that in time

that you will see, how clearly,

that your heart is full of colour

 

les-anderson-207334

Our Silent Language’

I’ll utter nothing with my lips,

but I’ll keep speaking with my eyes

as I try to come to grips

with what I’ve suddenly realised

how surreal, this thing I feel

all contained within my chest

buckled down behind my breast

as I endeavour to conceal

but then instead you nod your head

yet not a single word I’ve said

because you heard every word

in our silent tongue through which we talk

so side-by-side we’ll pace, we’ll walk;

and I can’t explain, though try I may

how your grin makes the planets spin

how it makes the sun hiccup flares that

stretch out to lick the milky way

but still I simply cannot say

these heart whisperings to you

but I don’t think that I need to;

so I’ll mutter nothing with my lips

but I’ll keep speaking with my hands

as I try to come to grips

with what I still don’t understand

it’s breathtaking, the way your raking

of your fingers through your hair

can stop me still and make me stare

and smile even while my heart is quaking

and I turn to you, those blue eyes in view

and release a sigh in relieved reply:

I don’t need to speak or sing or sign

(which is good, because I’m shaking);

we don’t need the words to reveal

the sheer extent of love we feel.


Leeza Headshot

Poems by Leeza von Alpen

Leeza is a writer and poet (both written and slam), and an English and History high school teacher. In her spare time, she treks through rainforests and star watches. She loves paperbacks, Hayao Miyazaki movies with milkless tea, and puns. You can follow her on Twitter @Leeza_Jayde

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