How to Grow on Instagram as a Writer

26 Mar, 2020

5 tips for finding organic, engaged followers

by Shelby Leigh

Photo: Georgia de Lotz / Unsplash / License

Instagram is a highly visual platform, which can sound intimidating to some writers.

But don’t shy away.

It’s a great place to share your work, find loyal readers, and network with other writers.

To be successful on Instagram, you don’t have to be a professional photographer or spend a bunch of money.

In fact, with just a little time each week, you can grow an engaged following on Instagram.

Here are my top 5 tips.


Be genuine and engaged

You’re not a business. You’re a writer.

And your readers want a connection.

90% of consumers say authenticity is important when deciding what brands to support, so it’s crucial that your brand is genuine.

Don’t just post your writing. Talk about your life. Share photos of yourself, your other hobbies, or what you’re currently reading.

Use Instagram Stories to talk directly to your followers. The story features are great for engaging with your audience and teaching them more about the person behind the words.

For example, use the Quiz feature to ask your followers what they want to see on your page.

Photo courtesy of author.

Use the Poll feature to ask your audience what you should post next.

Additionally, the Questions feature is great for hosting a Q&A or getting your readers engaged in the writing process.

You can also use it to ask your followers questions related to your brand. For example, my personal brand is focused on positivity and self-love, so I regularly ask my readers to share a positive message.

Photo courtesy of author.

Don’t oversell or undersell

People that visit your page don’t want to see posts only about your new book or your latest article. But you also don’t want people to visit your page and have no idea you’ve got something to sell.

Every brand is different and there’s no magic ratio of promotional posts to non-promotional posts.

As a general rule, think about how often you like to be advertised to, and experiment from there.

The caption is just as important as the photo

Your Instagram caption can be up to 2,200 characters long.

While you don’t have to use every single character every single time, your Instagram captions should be useful to your readers and contain a call-to-action.

Use Instagram captions to talk about a current project, share advice, and ask your followers questions so they engage with the post. (Also, don’t forget to engage back! You should always respond to as many comments as you can.)

Be strategic

There’s now over 1 billion users on Instagram. And while most of us want our writing to reach as many people as possible, it’s important to think strategically about who you’re targeting.

Who does your work resonate most with? Who do you want to reach?

Once you’ve determined your target audience, research popular hashtags within your target demographic.

Search through those hashtags for relevant people to follow.

(Note: do not follow just because you want a follow back. Follow people you genuinely want to follow.)

You can also like and comment on posts within relevant hashtags.

For example, I regularly visit #positivequotes and #selflove. These hashtags are relevant to me and my work, and they help me find people who are passionate about these topics.

As you begin your strategy, tweak it every couple months based on what’s working and what’s not. If you have a business Instagram page, you can use the insights provided by Instagram to help you.

The Insights tab will show you the best times of day to post based on the activity of your followers, what types of posts get the highest engagement, and more.

Network with other writers

Just like in any business, establishing a network is the key to being successful.

One of the worst things you can do is see other writers as your competition. After all, how many people only read one book or one blog post in their lives? Supporting other writers will not lead to you losing readers!

Find other writers in your genre and make authentic connections. Follow them, engage with their content, and form a relationship.

Once you have a friendly relationship with the person, offer to exchange tips and advice.

From there, the opportunities for collaboration are endless.

Partner up with another writer to do a book giveaway. Host a writing contest together or collaborate on a short story or blog post.

My following and engagement always see the biggest increase when I support and work with other writers.


I’ve found Instagram to be the most effective platform to share my writing, market my books, and find loyal readers.

If you’re a writer and you’re not on Instagram, you should definitely give it a try.

Do you have any tips to add to this list? What has worked well for you?


This article originally appeared on The Writing Cooperative on Medium, here. You can find other Shelby’s articles here.

Shelby Leigh

Helping writers navigate social media marketing. Author of 2 poetry books. Top writer in Social Media. Instagram @shelbyleighpoetry. shelbyleigh.co/learnmore