Freelance Marketing on Instagram

Before you start this learning track, I recommend you complete Introduction to Social Media for Business so you’re clear about where Instagram sits in your social media strategy.

Instagram is popularly perceived as a young person’s network, but though its audience is younger than that on the other social media platforms we’ve covered, the biggest user base is aged 25-34. The platform is owned by Facebook, which makes it easy to cross-promote. It’s primarily a visual content platform, offering the chance to share content via photos, short videos (Reels) and longer videos (posts and iGTV). It offers another way to get more visibility for your content and to drive traffic to your site. 

If you already have an Instagram account feel free to skip forward. But as you do, assess your profile with fresh eyes and see if you’re really making it work for you. You may need to edit your bio, follow new people, and change the content you share so it enhances your reputation with potential clients.

Activity 1: Set up your account

The first step in using Instagram to promote your freelance writing business is to set up an account. If you can, grab a username that your potential customers will recognize. For example, my own Instagram username is the same as my Twitter username. 

You’ll also need a profile picture. Again, use one that’s recognizable, such as the same photo or logo you use on other social media sites.

Finally, once you have your account set up, you’ll want to make it into a professional account. This will give you access to additional features, such as insights on who’s visiting your profile and engaging with your content.

Assignment: set up a professional Instagram account and add a profile picture

Activity 2: Write your bio

The Instagram bio is where people who follow you get to learn a little bit about you. However, you only get a few characters to make an impression, so you have to make them all count. As a freelance writer, or other freelancer, you’ll want to use that space to describe your role and the kind of writing you do, but you can also add other text that showcases your personality. And it’s perfectly acceptable to include emoji in your Instagram bio, as well as hashtags you use often.

Instagram also lets you include a website link, but since space is limited many people use a tool like Link in Bio, Linktree,  or Tailwind’s Smart Bio so they can direct people to multiple links. This is useful to direct potential clients to your website, an online portfolio, or a key example of your work you want to share. 

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Assignment: write your Instagram bio; set up one of the smart bio tools

Activity 3: Post some images and captions

Instagram started off as a photo sharing site, and despite the growing popularity of video, that’s reflected in the content people share. Writers have several options, including:

  • Behind the scenes photos of the writing life and inspirational spaces
  • Images with titles of or quotes from key pieces of content (effectively creating an Instagram portfolio)
  • Galleries (collections of up to 10 images) that tell a story
  • Inspirational quotes

If your account is new, it’s good practice to post at least 9 images so when people first visit your account, there’s something for them to see. Instagram influencer Lisa Hurley recommends you post 3 images per day for 3 days, at approximately 3 hour intervals.

Add a caption to each image. This can be a short commentary on the image, or something longer. 

 

These days, many people use the captions to tell engaging stories relating to the image. You can also include emojis to add more personality to your caption. I tend to share title images from newsletter articles, with a quote and short commentary as the caption.

Add hashtags (which help people find content) in a comment below your original caption. 

If you want to boost content engagement, share it to your Story. Because of the algorithm (see next section) more people are likely to see it.

Assignment: post your first 9 images. Share at least one of them to your Story.

Activity 4: Understand the algorithm

Like most social media sites, Instagram uses an algorithm to determine what content shows up to whom at what time. And it’s constantly changing. The best way to keep on top of it is to monitor your insights. These will give you information about audience demographics, as well as content reach and engagement. 

At the time of writing, the common wisdom is that content that people save and comment on ends up getting more visibility than content that people simply like. And content that’s shared in Stories gets more engagement than content that’s only posted on your profile. 

Just to make things even more complicated, posting too often or using the wrong hashtags can get you shadow banned, which means your content is less visible for a while. You want to avoid that at all costs. Again, you’ll be able to detect this by monitoring your Instagram insights regularly.

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Assignment: check your stats and write down 3 things you’ve learned about your audience. See if you need to adjust your Instagram content strategy.

Activity 5: Grow your network

Social media is, errr, social, so you’ll need to interact with others on Instagram to build a network and get some visibility. Ideally, you’ll follow existing and prospective clients, but it’s also useful to follow writers with a strong Instagram game so you can learn and grow. I know I’ve been inspired by the content I’ve seen other writers share. Now, this is not a quick fix, especially if you’re starting from scratch, but good content always ends up attracting followers. 

NB: Stay far away from accounts that offer you the chance to pay for follower growth. That’s spammy and can get you shadow banned for a LONG time. 

Remember that you get more from social media if you participate, so take the time to leave thoughtful comments on the content posted by people you’re following. Once you start having conversations regularly, you can make some genuine connections.

Assignment: Follow at least 10 new people and engage with their content at least once a day.

Activity 6: Create video content

If you really want to boost Instagram engagement, video is the answer. There are several options for using video. You can:

  • Upload short videos (under a minute)  to your feed
  • Use Reels, which are 30 second video clips with background music
  • Upload longer videos (up to 60 minutes) to IGTV
  • Record video as part of Stories
  • Use live video

Here are some resources to help you learn more about those options:

Assignment: Create and share at least one video on Instagram

Activity 7: Run an Instagram ad (optional)

You can get more visibility for your Instagram content by paying to promote it. And, since it’s owned by Facebook, it’s easy to run campaigns on both platforms. While I haven’t used this feature for my freelancing business, I HAVE used it to get book sales. For best results, pay attention to the content that’s performing best when deciding what to promote (and don’t worry; Instagram will let you know if there’s a standout piece of content). 

Here are some resources to help you learn more about Instagram ads:

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Assignment: Carry out the initial steps to create an Instagram ad. Note, you do NOT have to make the ad live. 

Activity 8: Learn more about Instagram

Assignment: Pick 1 tip you learned from the articles above and implement it on your Instagram account.

That’s it! Don’t forget to check in with me via the drop in sessions if you have questions.