Last week I wrote a post extolling the virtues of Instagram and why, as authors, it is a worthwhile platform to be on, as far as social media goes.
Hopefully I convinced you to give it a try if you haven’t already, or perhaps I gave you some ideas of things to work on to improve your own use of Instagram, but this week I want to talk about some of the ways that you can maximise your efforts and make the best use of this rapidly growing platform to promote the books you write.
/ɪnˈɡeɪdʒm(ə)nt,ɛnˈɡeɪdʒm(ə)nt/noun engagement; plural noun: engagements
The action of engaging or being engaged. “Britain’s continued engagement in open trading
synonyms: participation, participating, taking part, sharing, partaking, involvement, association”Britain’s continued engagement in open trading
What I’m talking about here is engagement with your audience; interaction with your potential readers.
I’m going to assume that you read my post from last week, which talked about some of the ways you can ensure you’re using Instagram effectively, as there are several cross-overs with content here. If you haven’t read it yet, go back and read it now. I’ll wait.
Okay, all caught up? Good, then you’ll see that engagement featured as the final point in last weeks post, only to point you to this weeks post, as I could see it becoming another huge post. Engagement forms part of – and is kind of the point of – using Instagram effectively for authors. But because it’s so important, it gets its own post.
I will still be skirting over some of the topics, as they could be other posts entirely, but as a start, here are some of the things you can do easily if you are looking to increase engagement with your followers on Instagram:
What elements should I consider?
Your Bio is the only place on Instagram that you can post a clickable link, so make sure you use it. You can also post hashtags in your bio that, whilst not searchable, are clickable, so you can send people to your content with clever use of customised hashtags #booksbysteve.
One other thing that is searchable in your bio, is your category, such as ‘Author’. If you’re wondering where to find that, when you edit your profile, scroll down and select ‘category’ then select ‘public figure’ from the selection across the bottom. ‘Author’ is hiding in there.
This is not going to be like the bio you put on your website, which will include a lot more information. Try to put some information in your personal profile that will make you more interesting to potential readers:
- Writing a war story? Have you been in the military?
- Writing a cook book? What’s your favourite thing to bake?
- Writing a Sci-Fi? Do you have any body augmentations that give you super powers?
- Favourite TV show
- Family status
- Best book you read
Something brief that will make you relatable to potential readers.
Stories are similar to Snapchat, in that they are only visible for a 24 hour period. You can use stories to drive traffic to your feed, by posting an image, adding it to your story, then from there you can add any text, polls, or other stickers (see below).
There are a few cool free tools that can help you design your story posts:
- Easil – Story design templates. Browser based drag and drop template design fo posts and stories
- Hype Type – Designed for iOS. Add funky text and music clips to your stories.
- Unfold – Build multi-page stories. Offers stylised, minimalistic story designs
- Quik – Turn photos into a video story. It works with photos and videos
- Spark Post – Marketing templates with graphics, fonts and backgrounds
- Storeo – Slice longer videos into 15 second clips for Instagram Stories
The guys over at Buffer have written an excellent guide to Instagram stories.
Instagram Story Stickers
Use these stickers on your story posts to start up a conversation with your followers.
- Question stickers – post an ‘ask me anything’ – type question and put it anywhere in your story. Followers get to ask you questions about whatever it is you want. e.g. ‘Who is your favourite character in Wizard of Oz?’ (it’s Scarecrow, obviously)
- Poll stickers – post a photo of two books and ask which you you should read / write next
Use the question stickers to seek feedback, perhaps about a story you are writing or a character you are thinking of creating.
Collect up frequently asked questions to put on your website. Let your audience know you are listening.
It’s all quite new to me, but you can watch a 30 minute video on using Instagram stories for business HERE.
Instagram Stories Takeover
Holding an Instagram Takeover is one of the easier ways to reach new followers and build your brand.
This is a huge topic, but not one I have tried yet, so I don’t feel knowledgeable enough to comment, but basically, Instagram story takeovers typically involve a person or brand temporarily “taking over” your Instagram account to give followers a look inside your company or products from a new perspective.
As an author, you have two options: you can partner with an influencer to have them take over your account, or you can partner with another business and take over their account.
I hope you can see the benefit of having a bigger party take over your account for a day, sharing content that aligns with what you’re about. You have access to a much bigger pool of potential followers.
Before I dive too deeply into Instagram story takeovers, I suggest you read this post that gives you a ton of useful information on how to run a successful takeover campaign, or this post on socialmediaexaminer.com that gives more excellent advice and suggestions.
running a competition is a great way to engage with potential new followers on this rapidly growing social platform. There are few key steps to take along the way and a few options to consider:
What do you want to get from a competition? The most common things might be greater awareness of your brand, or to increase your follower count. Knowing what you want at the start makes it easier to judge how successful you have been at the end.
What Type of contest?
- A ‘Like’ Contest – post an image and ask people to ‘Like’ it. Pick a random winner after a predetermined time. Notify winner by email and send prize (a free book?)
- Comment Contest – ask people to comment on a post and pick a winner at random. Or ask a question and pick the best answer
- Photo Challenge – ask people to post a photo with your book and a specific hashtag on their profile
- Tag-a-Friend Contest – ask your followers to tag a friend in a comment on one of your posts.
- Repost Contest – ask followers to repost one of your photos on their profile
This could be as simple as commenting on a post, tagging a friend, reposting or even joining your mailing list.
Create a Unique Hashtag
You will need to track entries, so it will need to be unique so it doesn’t get mixed in with other generic posts. For example, asking people to post #amwriting won’t really help…
Select a Prize
This is where you can get creative. It could be a copy of your book, a gift token, a signed photo (for you super-famous people), a goodie bag, etc.
- Write a blog post about it
- Post about it
- Post on your Instagram story about it
- Post it on other social media
- Email your existing email list about it
Winners and Evaluation
Notify the winners and send them their prizes, then look at the results you got an evaluate how successful or not the competition was. Make any necessary changes, then do it again!
Start following and Engage
Kind of obvious, as it’s SOCIAL media. That means being social. I’ve never been very good at it. Never been very social, so my wife tells me, but for the purposes of promoting your work, you need to suck it up and get social.
Start by checking out some of the hashtags that are used by other authors and following some of them. This will give you an idea of some of things that are currently happening in your field / genre. Engagement breeds engagement. Start commenting and liking posts to get yourself known to the people that are likely to enjoy your content, and for authors that includes both other AUTHORS but also READERS.
That will also enable you to get a handle on the most common:
Everyone knows about hashtags, right? Finding the right hashtags will put you in direct contact with people that are interested in what you are selling. There will be a number of specific hashtags for authors but also for readers. There will also be hashtags that are specific to your genre.
With a little bit of research you can find out the best hashtags to use in your posts to make sure that the right people see them. Look at what other people are doing and see which hashtags they use, then copy and paste!
Helpfully, in Instagram when you start typing a hashtag into the search function, it will suggest all possible options along with a number of how popular that search term is. Very helpful.
Your followers may have great content on their own accounts, so consider reposting it (think reblog or reTweet), remembering to tag and credit the original poster. Here’s a helpful guide to reposting.
Ask your followers to post pictures of themselves with your book, or ask them to post pictures of themselves in a location from your story, or with something else that is relevant to your book.
I’ll do more on hashtags in another post.
Trying to keep up with a regular posting schedule can be demanding, which is where the handy free scheduling tools com in:
Responding to comments
This is social media, so you’ll need to make time to respond to any comments or questions that are raised, although this is no different to responding to comments on any other social media or even your WordPress blog.
It might be tempting to have auto replies, but when you can, try to take time to respond personally to each interaction.
My question to you: Do you have any additional tips for engagement when using Instagram? Let me know in the comments.