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:
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.’
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)
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.)
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.
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)
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.
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)
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.
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.
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.’
‘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.’
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:
(Amara also runs an adorable online stationery store: check it out at https://creativecutiee.com)
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:
Words by Leeza von Alpen
Leeza 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.