Today, there is hardly a day that goes by where a person does not pick up their phone and scroll through some type of social media network. Perhaps making the biggest impression on us is Instagram. As a freelancer, Instagram is a powerful marketing tool, and as a storyteller, it’s a fantastic way to showcase your work – but how?
If you are a writer, like me, then typing out imagery is something familiar to you. You can paint a picture all day with your words, but maybe you have no idea how to get those words in front of readers – beyond the typical publishing route. Instagram, more specifically Instagram Stories, should become part of your marketing strategy as a freelancer, writer and self-starter. Why?
Per Statista.com, between October 2017 and June 2018 the number of Instagram Stories users increased by 100 million. As of June, a total of 400 million users on Instagram utilize Instagram Stories. That gives your story way more of a reach than most online magazines can give you – and you won’t have to wait for an editor to say ‘yes’ or ‘no’. Think about the opportunity, the eyes that could be reading your stories.
Still not convinced? Well then, think about the algorithm. I know. You have probably heard that term thrown around a million and one times at this point, but each social platform has its own algorithm, and it’s crucial – especially for Instagram which has 1 billion monthly active users (MAU) for you to compete with – to be aware of how the algorithm chooses the content it will highlight and feature. Instagram, in particular, has a very robust algorithm, and it puts a huge emphasis on the content of users who utilize all that Instagram has to offer, including Live Streams and Instagram Stories. So, by implementing Instagram Stories into your routine of publishing written content, you are upping your chances to be seen by new readers, because Instagram’s algorithm will favor you more.
Tools for Making Your Instagram Stories Stand Out
There are several apps out there that will allow you to customize your Instagram Stories. However, I found it incredibly difficult to find an app built for written content for Instagram Stories. Most apps have an image or video focus – because that’s primarily the content posted to Instagram – which led me to download multiple apps and test my written content until I found one that worked: Unfold.
Before I dive in deeper, I do want you to know that this isn’t a paid advertisement. I am not partnered with Unfold in any way. I genuinely found the app useful for creating stories and then uploading them to my Instagram Story, and I have seen great results from it.
Unfold is very user friendly. You can download the app onto your phone, create your story (or copy and paste in your story) to a given blank template, and share each paid of the story (one at a time) to your Instagram Story. I do not recommend this for longer stories. This will work great for flash fiction or short fiction, even poetry or hymns. Remember that people don’t often have a great attention span, and they can swipe away from your story the moment it gets dull. So, it is important to post stories that showcase your voice, talent, and skill, while keeping them short and sweet.
I tend to opt for the first template available (CS1), and I like to choose the template that has a title with a short paragraph underneath. I simply delete the title, pull the paragraph box up toward the top, shift the text to be on the left rather than centered, and type my story. When I reach the end of the page, I just create another page from the same template, adjust it again, and continue writing. If you aren’t someone who can really stop in the middle of writing to make these adjustments, you could always write up the story in your notes on your phone or a Google Doc, and then you can copy and paste the story in.
Prep Your Story with Your Audience in Mind
As I mentioned before, remember that your audience probably won’t stick around for long. You want to really catch their attention – so, your story’s hook is imperative. But also keep in mind what the user will see.
For example, if you pull up any Instagram Story, you will notice that there is a comment box at the bottom of the story and at the top is some of the user’s profile info. When you are creating your story in Unfold, give yourself some margins that leave room for these things. That way, you won’t need to worry about anything getting cut off.
Also, make it interactive! When you upload a page of your story, you will have the option to add GIFs, polls, questions, etc. Including some of these, especially hashtags, will not only help you gain more views on your story but help you keep your reader engaged. Something I love to do is put a “vote” at the end of my story to see how the reader enjoyed my content. At the end of the day, I’ll view the stats (swipe up on your story) and see how people liked my content.
As much as storytelling is about expressing yourself, it is also about inspiring others and engaging them. In this day in age, you must make more of an effort to implement some technology into your writing strategy. This can even be a great way to get your work in front of literary agents and editors, most of which have their own social profiles. Instagram Stories is a great way to expose your work and get feedback. As a freelancer, I need that kind of data – knowing what types of stories excel – to understand what my next move should be as a content creator. Think of it as an open door you haven’t walked through yet.