Please forgive me for being late to the party, but I have recently joined Instagram. What took me so long you ask? Well, it’s just not something I had ever considered as being helpful in my goal of promoting my work. It’s mostly photo sharing, so it won’t be useful in that goal. Right?
I was wrong.
What is it?
Instagram is a relatively new social media platform that focuses on photo and video sharing. Users can browse post by tags (the good old #hashtag) and by location.
It’s fairly new in comparison with some other social media you may use (see my post on Twitter), but it is the fastest growing of all social media platforms and as such, should not be overlooked. As I did for so long [smacks forehead].
Why should I use it for promotion?
- Back in 2017, Instagram had 800million users, 500million of those people use the platform daily, and that’s only climbing
- Create / edit beautiful photos in app to promote your work
- Run adverts (if you switch to the free business account)
- It can link to other social media, so your instagram posts can appear there as well
- Studies have shown that engagement on Instagram is several times greater than on Facebook
- Instagram live story feature enables you to chat with followers in real time
- over 60% of adults online use Instagram
- Over 80% of users are outside the US (as a UK author, that helps me)
- It was designed as a mobile platform, and that’s how the majority of people consume their internet
- Oh, it’s fun
According to a Q1 2017 Index, 60% millennials and 67% of Gen Xer’s said they were more likely to make a purchase from a brand they follow on social media. The single-scroll environment of Instagram puts your content front and centre in the viewer’s smartphone or tablet, and you can see from the above chart, that Instagram is by far the top network when it comes to social interaction.
How Do I Use it Effectively?
As I mentioned at the start of this post, I am a relative newbie when it comes to Instagram, but like most things that interest me, I have done a shed load of research and have come up with the following strategies / tips:
This one’s obvious, but make your user / business name simple and searchable. Try to follow these simple rules:
- Simple and easy to spell
- Try to keep it the same across all social networks
- avoid any underscores or special characters
For a much more in depth and detailed look at user name creation, have a look at this post over on itchban.com
I’ll mention this more when we get to Engagement, but don’t cut corners here. Instagram doesn’t (yet) allow you to put clickable links in your posts, so the only place you can have a clickable link is in your bio. Make sure this section is short but sweet and gives people all the info they need about you.
This doesn’t have to lead to your website, it could lead to a marketing landing page, such as your newsletter signup or your Amazon author page.
The other thing you can do in your bio, is insert hashtags. Although they are not searchable in bios, they are clickable. They’re a great way to show off your own content.
Don’t overlook your profile pic. Make it something that everyone will recognise. Try to use the same picture across all your platforms to aid brand recognition. I use the picture on this website as my avatar for most things, mostly because it’s recognisable, but also because it’s the only decent picture I have of me!
Make your bio informative and interesting, something that will hook your readers. You’re writers. You can do it. You can even ask your followers to use a particular hashtag in your bio, which is useful when you are planning a book launch, for example.
If you’re really stuck, use this helpful bio formula:
Who you are + what you do+ something of your personality
Make use of the business account. Switch your profile to a free business account to link your Instagram account to your author page on Facebook, so people know who you are and what you do.
The business account will also give you access to Analytics, helping you to understand your followers better, find out what they like most about your page and even when they are online to better schedule your posts.
The Rule of 30-35-35
It’s like the 80-20 rule you may have heard about – only 20% of your posts should be direct selling posts, 80% should be everything else. With the 30-35-35 rule, I am suggesting 30% of posts should be promotion and selling, and the remaining 70% should be split between entertainment and educational posts of some kind.
Avoid the hard-sell and try to focus on brand recognition. Some of you are really good at this as I see your names popping up often, and I know what you write. So well done.
Instagram should be a promotional tool that sends people to your website where you can sell them your books.
Seems a bit silly to mention, as Instagram is primarily a photo-sharing app, but I think it is even more important to use the facilities on offer here. The days of using stock photos from Pixabay (I hope you’re not using Google images) are not numbered, but there are only so many times you can see the same image used in a blog post. Instagram allows you to use photos taken on your phone, or from your cloud storage, and edit them with a range of filters and effects to make them stand out.
- What about using photos of a setting for your story
- Images (copyright free and with permission) of some of the characters in your book.
- photos of your work space
- photo updates of your current WIP (people like to follow along with you)
- Book cover reveals
Interestingly, photos that show a lot of blue generate 24% more likes than photos with red and orange colours. Also, brightly coloured images receive 24% more likes than darker coloured images. When you consider that 65% of posts get between 0-10 likes, finding any advantage is crucial!
Instagram has recently added a feature that allows you to add multiple (up to 10) pictures that your followers can scroll through. Which is Funky. Click the image below to see how I have used this feature in a post.
Have you ever been told that size doesn’t matter? I haven’t. Never. Not once. However, with Instagram, size does matter, and to that end, there are some simple size restrictions for your images:
Square images should be 1080 x 1080px. Landscape images should be 1080 x 566px, and profile images should be 1350 x 1080px. Regardless of what size you upload, every image will be shown as a square in your profile feed.
Behind the scenes
Give your followers a glimpse into what like is like for an author:
- photos of settings
- Your workspace
- The coffee shop where you write
- photo inspiration for your book
- Photos from your recent book signing
- screenshots from your blog / website
Ask your readers to take photographs of themselves with your book, or in places hat your book is set in (unless it’s the moon). Post some of the reviews of your book and the things people have said about your work.
Even better, if you can get a picture of a well known person with your book…
I’m sure you’ve all come across the humble #hashtag. As with other social media platforms, the hashtag is your friend. It will enable you to find content you are interested in and it will also allow others to find your posts.
Try to keep up to date on any trending hashtags that are relevant for your product. Look at other users that are similar to yourself and see what hashtags they use in their posts. If you start typing a hashtag into search, it will helpfully tell you how common that term is, and how many posts there are relating to it .
There are a number of analytics tools for hashtags, but that is big enough for another post, and I’m anal enough to write it. I’ll have that ready in the next few weeks or so. If you can’t wait, why not have a look at this post on ‘How Not to Suck at Instagram Hashtags.’
Professionally Showcase your Brand’s Personality
Try to remember that you are posting for your potential audience, not yourself or your friends, so try to leave out the selfies and travel snaps unless they are relevant to your brand. e.g. as a horror author, I might post a photo of my visit to a ‘haunted’ house, or a selfie of me with Bela Lugosi (which would be interesting, as he’s been dead for decades)
Bearing in mind the 30-35-35 rule I mentioned above, try to get into a habit of posting regular updates, even one or two a day may be enough to keep your followers engaged.
Once you start building a following, your followers may expect a regular schedule. Although there is no all purpose time for posting, there are some industry-specific times that can be pin-pointed. I wrote a long post about the best posting times for Twitter over on Nicholas Rossis’ blog, and if you read that, you’ll know it was in depth, but you’ll be pleased to know I’m not going to do that here.
All you need to know is that Insights (available with a business account) will show you all you need to know about your target audience, such as when they are online, which can help you determine the best times to post, and with tools such as Hootsuite, you can schedule your posts to go up whenever you like, even when you’re not around.
Share Great Content
This one almost goes without saying and encompasses all the points above, but bears saying again. Post high quality photos, along with compelling captions, and engage with everyone!, which brings me on to:
I’ve touched on some methods here to engage with your followers, but as this post is already longer than I had planned, I’ll leave that for another time, hopefully next weekend, so stay tuned.
Instagram offers authors a lot of new opportunities to promote their work. That’s not to say that you should neglect other means of promotion, but it certainly becomes another strong weapon in your promotional arsenal.
My question to you: Do you use Instagram, and have you found it useful in your efforts to promote your work?
You can follow me on Instagram: authorsteveboseley or just steveboseley