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Transitioning from Twitter to Instagram: How to Use The Platform as a Writer 📷✨
my thoughts on social media, business, & pleasure - welcome back to The Slush Pile!
We’re entering Issue 16 of The Slush Pile in high spirits, as we just passed 200 newsletter subscribers! I’m incredibly grateful to everyone who has read, subscribed, and shared my work, and for the community we’ve created together to share and spread knowledge about the writing world. This month, I wanted to discuss something I’m very passionate about as a writer and an emerging public figure, otherwise known as the dreaded “s” word: social media. We all love it and hate it, and I’ve written about it a few times before in this newsletter for its joys and pitfalls. It’s by no means perfect but for many writers, it can be a powerful tool to share work, support others, and create your own little community hub of creatives. Today I want to move away from discussing its flaws and actually dive into the logistics of how to use it, what to post, and how to separate our personal life from our writing one, if at all, which I’m sure many of us struggle with. But first, some context.
As many of us know, the beginning of this year was marked by Elon Musk purchasing Twitter, prompting many users to jump ship and either cut out social media altogether, try new networking sites like Hive and Discord, or head to Instagram. One, for ethical reasons because, well, it’s Elon Musk, and he was making a name for himself as CEO by firing virtually everyone on staff, prompting worries that the website would shut down altogether and leave people with nothing. This was unfortunate and frustrating because Twitter’s word-based structure makes it the perfect place for writers - we literally make our living off of words. I was lucky in that I had already built a substantial Instagram presence, meaning I wouldn’t have to start over from scratch on a new platform. But I began to notice that as people transitioned to Instagram out of necessity and then later, when it became clear Twitter wouldn’t go anywhere, out of cautious preparation in case their work was threatened again, there were a lot of questions about what to post, if it was better to have separate writing and personal accounts or lump them in altogether, how to share work efficiently when Instagram doesn’t allow clickable links (which I detest), how to adapt to a visual-centric platform. I don’t pretend to have all the answers but hopefully, I can offer some guidance from my years of experience and practice that will help you carve out your own online presence, brand, and identity in every way that feels true to you. May we all be our strongest and most powerful advocates online and in real life!
Look at other writers for examples & inspiration
For any newbie or even an experienced Internet veteran, there’s no better place to start thinking about your social media than other people’s profiles. Especially if you already have a community of people on Twitter, chances are that you’ll find them on Instagram, so at this stage, the search and follow buttons will be your friends. As you scroll, take note of a few things:
Do they have two accounts for writing and personal content that stay separate or overlap, or do they merge everything together? Do they have another account just for their book?
What are they posting on their feed? Photos of themselves or their families or their surroundings or their travels? Photos and videos of their performances and events? News of recent publications or interviews? Screenshots of their tweets? Examples of their writing? Reposts of writing memes?
What are they posting on their stories? Reposts from their own account and other people’s? Writing-related or personal content? Photos and videos that didn’t make it to the feed? Story-only features like polls and Q+As? What are they saving to their highlights?
How frequently are they posting? Once a day? Once a week? Every few days? Rarely?
How much of themselves are they sharing online? Do they share their every thought in the content they make, or are they more distant and reserved?
How do they describe themselves in their bio?
Where does the link in their bio lead to? Their website? A Linktree? A link to buy their book?
TIP: Notice what you like and what you don’t, and especially what you might take into consideration and adopt in your own way as you begin your own Instagram journey. Hopefully, you’ll also notice that everyone uses social media in their own way, and there’s no “right” method of doing things. You’re not doing it “wrong” if you decide to only post selfies or only post about your writing or do a mix of other things. You’re in charge of your feed and what people see of your life, and that’s a powerful (and fun!) responsibility to wield.
Make a plan
It’s helpful to make important decisions about your social media plan early on. One of the first I’d recommend making is deciding whether or not to divide your writing and personal content into two or more separate pages. There are plenty of good reasons for doing so: out of professionalism, out of a need to keep your two online identities separate and so people in your personal life who want to follow and support your writing have a dedicated place to do so, ensuring that only people who truly care will put in the effort to follow a second account.
Personally, I would find it too stressful to divide my writing and personal content. Not only are they interchangeable and intertwined in my real life, but I have built enough trust in my followers at this point that they expect to see both kinds of content from me, and it wouldn’t make sense to separate them after years of that work. My life is my writing. But it is also other things like my personal relationships, selfies, and outside artistic hobbies and interests, which I post about but don’t do often enough to warrant making a separate account. The opposite is true for my reading journey, which I did make a separate account for because it has an entirely different purpose, tone, and branding, and actually has so much content I’ve planned for that I wouldn’t want to clog up people’s feeds. But as I mentioned, it’s a highly personal choice.
To solve this dilemma for yourself, I would think logistically about the time you’ll have to dedicate to social media on a day-to-day basis, what/how you’ll be posting, how much content you’ll have to curate and post, if you think people will follow two different accounts, and if that separation of identity really makes sense for you. You can always change your mind as you experiment and start posting but that intention should be clear from the get-go.
Make a list of goals for your page
Figuring out what you want to get out of your page or pages will help you immensely as you think about what content you’d like to create and share, because it will continuously drive you forward and help you stay focused when you’re lost about what to post next. Do you:
want to create community?
network and connect with other writers?
develop a following?
share your work?
share your passions/interests/hobbies?
raise awareness about certain issues or topics?
promote your book or other projects?
Consider what you want, what you hope to share, and develop content that will help you get there.
Make a list of content ideas
Once those decisions are made, a lot of the guesswork will solve itself and fall into place. Whether you decide to make multiple separate accounts or not, make a list of things you would like to post about, returning to outside examples for inspiration. Keep in mind things you believe people would be interested in, as well as what you personally would like to share. Remember, this is your page so people-pleasing and relevance can be an aspect but not the totality of your content curation. If you’re doing this only for instant gratification through likes and comments, it will come across that way. So think, what would you want to see? What do you want to share? Here are some ideas of what you might want to post about:
Samples/excerpts of your writing (NOTE: these are different from the above in that they might not be officially published)
Everyday life (whether or not you’re seen in the photo)
Your writing desk
Reviews of books/movies/tv shows
Screenshots of tweets, your own or someone else’s
Reels (these can range from comedic videos to casual chats to videos of your readings and performances)
TIP: Take note of what you can re-post across various platforms without creating extra work for yourself. Instagram is the ideal place to re-post your tweets and TikToks, not only to remind your followers of where else you’re active, but also to diversify your content outside of photos. However, do be aware of copyright rules if you re-post other people’s content or photos on your profile. When in doubt, ask for permission!
IG stories vs. the feed
Before, I briefly mentioned about stories and feeds on Instagram, and while they serve similar functions, they can be used for different, but complementary, purposes. Your feed is what you post for all your followers to see and is semi-permanent (though you can always archive posts). For me, I reserve the most aesthetic and important content for my feed to create a visually compelling layout, like really important announcements, pretty photos, and eye-catching graphics that are too good just to share only on my story.
In contrast, my story is the place where I can repost content I believe in and want to share like my mutuals’ successes and news while tagging them (or even something as silly as a photo of Kermit), as well as everyday photos that I don’t feel need a place on my feed like my desk set-up, check-ins, and outings. But stories also serve the important function of being the place where you can repost content from your feed to ensure more people see it or create original content, and include all sorts of story-only features like clickable links, polls, countdowns, tags, music, stickers, and more.
There’s also the added bonus of the story highlights, where you can sort all your content into different categories so newcomers to your profile can instantly see the breadth and width of your content - or, if you don’t want to save it, it simply disappears after 24 hours, so it’s a bit more dispensable. I especially like using stories as a place to stay active on days when I don’t have anything to share on my feed, just to remind people that I’m still around. Or, you might want to use your feed as casually as your stories and post about everything, and that’s okay too! The nice thing about social media is that it’s highly customizable to you, so just experiment and see what works best for you.
Create your account
If you haven’t done so already, take the plunge and start that Instagram account or accounts you’ve been meaning to! We could literally sit here and talk all day about the logistics but it’s all for naught if we don’t actually put these practices into action. When initially creating your username and bio, go back again to your two lists of goals and content ideas. While some people might just use their first and last name, others will include the word “writes” or “writer” to their usernames to designate it as a writing page. Also think about moments when people you meet will ask for your username and what you’ll say in return. Will it be serious and standard, or more creative and funny and with a whole backstory behind it? As small as it may seem, your username does say something about you and your online identity, so make sure it says what you want it to.
The same goes for your bio. You can tag the usernames of publications your writing is featured in, the title and publisher of your most recent book, where you’re located, and anything else you may want followers old and new to know upfront. Or you can do away with all of that and go the minimal route with as little information as you want like your age, location, and “writer” signifier. Even your profile picture doesn’t have to be a photo of you - I currently follow people who use pictures of gradients, nature, childhood portraits, memes, and more. The options are endless and dependent on what kind of foot you want to put forward. Nothing is off-limits!
Be open to change & adaptation
As you begin to post and experiment, constantly returning to your brainstorming lists, be open to changes in your strategies. You can always change your username, bio, and profile picture, and you can even archive or delete posts altogether from your feed as you begin to find your footing on this new platform and carve out your online identity. Most of all, don’t be intimidated or discouraged by low numbers of likes or follows or comments - it has nothing to do with your value as a human being. Just keep posting and trying again. Still, studies have shown that extensive social media usage can lead to low self-esteem and depression so remember to take breaks when you need to and if nothing else, be sure to dedicate time to actually write.
Because at the end of the day, you’re a writer, not an influencer or social media strategist, and these platforms aren’t everything, nor do they make much difference when it comes to the chances of being published, contrary to popular belief (you’ll often find that even authors being published by one of the big 5 houses only have a handful of followers on Instagram). Large numbers do help when it comes to marketing but for the writing itself? Your words, more than your content, are what truly matter.
P.S. Looking for even more social media tips? I recently invited my Twitter following to offer up the strategies they use to build a following and share their work on Instagram. Simply click on the tweet embed below or click this link!
notes from the writer’s desk ✍️
my favorite recently pub’d pieces:
‘SOS’: What The Industry Can Learn from SZA’s Success and Why It Matters, Unpublished Magazine
‘Scream VI’ is a Bloody, Heroic Win for Latinas, LatinaMedia.Co
This month, I will be leading a FREE generative political poetry writing workshop as part of the Santa Clara County Youth Poet Laureate workshop series on March 31st from 4pm to 5:30pm PST. We will be doing group reading and discussion, writing time, and optional sharing. To register, click here!
This year, I launched creativity café, an ig live series where i feature, create space, and hold conversation with writers I love and that you should too! The latest and fifth episode premiered yesterday and featured special guest writer Cecilia Caballero, so head to my Instagram to view and stay updated about future guests. See you there!
STREAMING SERVICE: season two, the sequel to my self-published debut poetry chapbook STREAMING SERVICE: golden shovels made for tv, IS NOW OUT! Digital and signed physical copies are available, as well as the option to bundle both chapbooks and receive a bookmark and sticker with every physical order! Order your copy today! Thank you as always for your support :’)
I am now a media mentor for Tectonic Media! If you are a young/aspiring journalist, I am available for consultation and mentorship on a variety of topics. Learn more about my areas of specialty and how we can connect here.
other stories i’m loving 📖
Thirst for Salt by Madelaine Lucas
Sex and the City, S5
currently listening to:
“ceilings” by Lizzy McAlpine
all my love,