How to Promote Your Submission Call on Instagram

Now that your organization is ready to launch an open call for submissions, it’s time to start thinking about using social media as a promotional tool. With 700 million active users, Instagram has now surpassed both Twitter and Facebook with the potential to connect with users. Most of your potential submitters are likely already on Instagram, but how do you grab their attention with your opportunity?

Build An Instagram Business Profile

To maximize your organization’s reach on Instagram, a business account is the way to go. Unlike a personal account, a business account offers you the ability to access analytics about users and posts, allow users to contact you, create ads, and more. If you already have an Instagram profile under a personal account, you can convert to a business profile in your account settings.

As you set up your Instagram account, select a username that allows potential submitters to easily find you and is consistent with your other channels. For example, if your username is @booknerd on Facebook and Twitter, try to use the same handle on Instagram. Next, select a profile photo that accurately represents your organization and include a bio that hooks users with a concise, informative description of what you do and why your content is worth following. The bio is also the only place on Instagram that allows a clickable link, so keep this section updated with the link that’s most appropriate for what you are currently working on (i.e. a link to the submission portal you are promoting).   

Create Visually Striking, Appealing Posts

On Instagram, you have the unique challenge of conveying a message with strong visuals instead of text. Unlike Facebook or Twitter, Instagram posts are exclusively image-centric and rely on creative, attention-grabbing photos to engage with users. As such, your number one focus is to develop a library of professional-looking photos that represent your organization. You can use photo filters and editing tools to boost the appearance of photos that aren’t strong enough on their own. Instagram offers their own filters, but you can also try free apps like VSCO for a wider variety of filters and editing options.

If you’re struggling to find content to photograph, consider incorporating graphics and stylized text. Websites like Canva make this process easy for anyone to try with templates and built-in tools that help you create your own unique graphics. Once you’ve chosen a visual, craft an accompanying caption that describes your opportunity and directs potential submitters to the next step. Since you can’t include clickable links in an Instagram caption, this is a good time to remind users that they can find a link to the open call in your bio.

Here’s an example from Plyspace:

In this post, Plyspace uses a striking, informative visual, includes hashtags, and directs users to their bio.

Widen Your Reach with Hashtags

Before you finish each Instagram post, make sure to include a few hashtags. Like Twitter, Instagram provides hashtags as a way for users to categorize their posts and increase discoverability. If you post about a call for short story submissions, you can use the hashtag #shortstory so that users or other organizations interested in short stories will see your post. You can research the hashtags that are most relevant to your organization by searching the hashtag on Instagram yourself or using websites like Iconosquare, which analyze trending hashtags and help you decide which ones are the right fit for you. We recommend using around 5-8 hashtags per post. We also recommend creating your own hashtag to help submitters easily search for your content and increase engagement by allowing them to use the hashtag on their own posts.

Establish an Informed Strategy

In order to stay successful, keep track of how your Instagram is performing and use that information to build and consistently tweak your posting strategy. With Instagram business insights, you can see who your followers are, when they are online, what posts are performing well, and more. Analyzing this information will help you better reach your existing audience and attract new followers for your open call.

If you’d like to learn more about optimizing your Instagram profile based on business insights, check out the Social Media Examiner’s article: “4 Ways to Use Instagram Insights to Improve Your Marketing.”

Interact with Other Organizations and Popular Users

Since we’re dealing with social media, it should come as no surprise that a large component of your success on Instagram relies on interacting with other users. If you run a literary journal, scout out other literary journals or publishing houses on Instagram and follow their accounts. You can also connect with other organizations by mentioning them in your captions using their username or tagging them in your photos. Finally, pay attention to other successful Instagram users in your industry — you can follow their accounts, like their content, and even share their posts on your own page if it’s relevant to your organization.

In the example below, Michigan Quarterly Review connects with their community by featuring an open call from Superstition Review on their own Instagram page.


Looking to build a promotional strategy across multiple social media platforms? Check out the first two blogs in our series:

Grace Hulderman

Grace Hulderman lives in Missoula, Montana, and works as a designer and marketing coordinator at Submittable. She's also a graphic artist and poet. You can view her work here: