IMG_5731We all know how important storytelling is, right? And if we want to connect with other like-minded folks we also have to share that story so that we can find those folks. Social media is, of course, a great way to do that, and it has made it easy for us to find and connect with our people. For some people, storytelling comes pretty easily and for others it takes work.

You would think that as a writer, storytelling comes easily to me. Most of the time it does. When I’m using words. But throw images into the mix on a platform like, say, Instagram, and I’m paralyzed. You see, I’m not so good at the photography thing.

I think it has something to do with the fact that, because I deal with words on the regular, I am constantly working in the real and the specific, always looking for the right word to describe the precise meaning I am after. It’s exact work. It’s almost formulaic: you want words to equal the feeling or sensation or taste or color or sound.

The realm of images is much more abstract. The image doesn’t have to be a literal representation of words. But that is where my mind goes. For example, if I need an image to accompany an excerpt from Under the Gum Tree about a little girl going to the opera with her grandmother, my brain thinks: opera glasses, ticket stubs, an opera house, an older woman holding hands with a young girl. See? Very literal.

But I know that images resonate with people, and provide a way to draw them into my story. We see an appealing image of a stack of books, we respond because we like books, and then we go to investigate and see what the person posting has to say about those books. Problem for me is, the part about creating appealing images?–yeah, I need help with that.

So when I heard about Melissa Camilleri’s 21-Day Insta-Course, I was definitely interested. I knew I needed help in the whole crafting-story-with-images department. I signed up for the course and then I even hired Melissa for an extra month of 1:1 coaching.

Three words: best. decision. ever.

The timing of the course and my work with Melissa was about one month before I went to a huge writing conference (AWP) as a vendor with Under the Gum Tree. We used that time to get ready for the conference. We fine-tuned my bio, refined my feed, kicked up the quality of my photos, and began interacting with people who would also be at the conference.

Then came a surprise. The conference started on a Thursday and on Wednesday afternoon I was setting up the Under the Gum Tree table when someone came by to introduce herself because I had liked her picture on Instagram. I didn’t really think much of it because the conference hadn’t officially started yet. The only people wandering around the exhibit hall at that time were other exhibitors. It didn’t seem like a big deal.

The next day, though, Under the Gum Tree’s table was swamped with folks who found us on Instagram. And that kept up for the rest of the conference. I would say that over all, at least 50% of the people who came by saw us first on Instagram.

It was Under the Gum Tree’s third time as an exhibitor at AWP, and our best yet. Not only were people coming to visit our table because of Instagram, but also we sold out of magazines (a first for us) and got rid of all our give-away bookmarks (also a first). To top it all off, I would also estimate that 90% of our sales were from the Instagram folks.

Social media is great and all, but this is the first time I have experienced direct and immediate results from strategically using a particular platform. Every time a new person came to the UTGT table because of Instagram, I would give them a social media high-five. It was so energizing to meet people who were excited and interested in what I was doing, and the only thing I can attribute that to is Instagram: they got a glimpse of our story in images and then were interested enough to come get the full story in person.

My experience with Instagram during the past few months is such a great story that I had to share it with you–because Melissa is offering her 21-Day Insta-Course again beginning on June 16 and registration is now open. I am sure my story is only one of many success stories, because Melissa really knows her stuff, and it’s always helpful to get an objective perspective on your work. Not only does she know her stuff, she is incredibly encouraging and supportive. It’s so easy to get down on ourselves, especially when trying something new, and I couldn’t have asked for a better cheerleader than Melissa to help get me past my own negativity and self-doubt.

If you could use some help telling your story in images, you should absolutely check out Melissa’s Insta-Course. You can’t beat the value for the price, and you get to hang out with cool folks like me in a private Facebook group.

p.s. This is not a sponsored post, but it does include affiliate links to the course.

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