I’ve often grumped that I don’t do photos, because I’m a words guy. A picture may be worth a thousand words, but not the words I want.
(For one thing, as a humor columnist, I like to toss in the occasional booger joke, but I don’t think people want to see me with my finger jammed up my nose. There are some things better left to the imagination.)
But Instagram and Snapchat are so popular right now — Snapchat just launched their IPO — you have to wonder if we writers can use them as writing tools.
Even though we’re wordsmiths and ink slingers, photo-sharing apps can still benefit us.
I’m not a big fan of Snapchat for this kind of thing though, because the photos aren’t permanent. Snapchat’s photos disappear from your feed after 24 hours. You could save them, but they won’t reappear. But with Instagram, the photos are permanent, and you can go back and look at the photos you took, or your friends’ photos months later.
So if I had to choose a network to put more time into, I would choose Instagram. My oldest daughter and her friends use Snapchat, and I tried it out for a bit. I even have friends who use it. But I could never hit my stride. There was too much pressure to look at photos, and I don’t always grab my phone to fill a few empty minutes, which is what Snapchat seems geared for.
If a picture is worth a thousand words, here are 1,071 more on why you should use social sharing apps.
1. They’re Social Networks
I always believe that social networks are a boon to writers, because they help you promote your work to a much wider audience. So any time you can spend building relationships on a social network is time well spent, because you’re adding to your total readership.
Using Instagram and Snapchat are also a great way to let people see what you’re doing. Remember, social networks let you give readers a “behind-the-scenes peek” into your life, which you can manage. Think of it as a controlled and orchestrated look at your life without actually letting people see the real behind-the-scenes.
For example, take a picture of your writing station, the interior of your favorite coffee shop, an interesting image on one of your “inspirational walks,” or the interior of your favorite bar where you go when your writing isn’t going so well. Post those and let get a glimpse into your life so they feel a stronger connection to you (which will hopefully translate into higher sales!).
You should avoid selfies as much as possible though. (There’s no actual reason for that. I just don’t like selfies. I mean, which would you rather see? A picture of the Eiffel Tower or a picture of the Eiffel Tower half-covered by someone’s giant head?! Am I right? Oh God, am I getting old?)
2. You Can Cross-Post to Several Outlets at Once
One thing I like about Instagram is I can repost any photo to Twitter, Facebook, and Tumblr, which makes it an efficient tool when trying to share a photo. Whenever I snap a photo, I can automatically push it out to those three networks. I can also write a caption to accompany the photo.
This way, I can reach up to four social networks (or more; see below) with a single action. As long as I’m not posting every single photo I ever take to Instagram, this is a nice way to reach a wider audience with a minimal effort. And I can choose which networks a particular photo goes to. So if I don’t want to share a photo to Tumblr or Facebook, I can turn that network off before I send it.
Note: If I use Instagram to share directly to Twitter, the photo doesn’t actually show up in the tweet, only a link back to the original Instagram post, which defeats the whole purpose of sharing the photo. I want it to show up immediately, not make people dig for it (because they won’t). You can solve this problem if you use IFTTT.com, a website that automates certain actions — like sharing Instagram photos to Twitter as “native photos”, or saving them to my Dropbox drive — with applets. (It’s an amazing site, and I may cover it for a future FWA article.)
3. They Can Be Sources of Inspiration
People all over the world use Instagram and Snapchat to take photos of their surroundings or things that inspire them; you can use these for your own inspiration. For example, we have a distinct lack of mountains here in Florida, but maybe you like seeing them. What better way to see them than to follow a bunch of people who live in Colorado or Switzerland? Or to follow some of the national and state park Instagram accounts? Maybe you want to see photos of the desert, or an old city like London, or national monuments or the seven wonders of the world? They’re all on Instagram. You can find the photos and you can follow the photographers.
4. They ARE a Waste of Time Though
Make no mistake, anything that keeps you from writing or improving your writing is a distraction. That includes Facebook, television, networking, and especially photo sharing apps. I’m not saying you need to spend 16 hours a day writing. But if you only have a limited amount of writing time each day, make sure you don’t eat into it by checking your Instagram or Snapchat feeds every 20 minutes. If necessary, get one of those apps that blocks you from social media for a few hours so you can focus on your work..
Being a writer is so much more than putting fingers to keyboard or pen to paper. Even photos can play an important part in our work, and Instagram and Snapchat are the two leading options. We can connect with people, reach them more easily, and find our own inspiration. It’s just a matter of finding the one photo sharing network that fits your style and personality, and developing some solid work habits around and with the app(s) you choose.)