How to Win at Instagram Hashtags for Authors

To conclude my series on promoting yourself as an author on Instagram (read PART 1 read Part 2), I want to get on to hashtags.

Do I really need to tell you about #hashtags? They are the lifeblood of the social media post. They are the mechanism by which you can categorise your posts. They are the breadcrumbs that help potential followers find your work. That’s not to say that without hashtags you can’t be successful, it’s just that with hashtags, you can be more successful. Research has shown that Instagram posts with at least one hashtag receive 12.6% more engagement.

70% of Instagram posts go unnoticed.

But How and Why Should You Use Hashtags?

Gaining followers

In any marketing strategy, one of the goals should always be to increase the number of people that want to hear about you and your work, in other words, you are looking to increase your follower count.

This, however, should not be your main goal or motivating factor in this regard. Having a huge follower count is only great if you are engaging with said followers. My recent blog post about engagement would be a good place to start, but as this is social media, the key point is that you need to interact with these followers.

One hashtag related way that I spoke about last time, was the contest or giveaway. This is a straightforward way to increase your follower count and increase engagement. As an author, one example would be to take a picture of your book and ask followers to take photos of themselves with your book and use a particular unique hashtag in their post for a chance to win a prize. If you want to get more people to read your book, how about a contest that asks people to post images of them with their favourite book, with the unique hashtag for a chance to win a copy of your book?

Ideal numbers (Stats Warning!)

Believe it or not, there has been research done about the ideal design of your hashtags, and guess what – I’ve found it! I do like to use a graph where I can, so to get my graph quota in today, here are a couple for you:

The ideal number of Instagram hashtags to use in a post is 5-10 to ensure maximum engagement. Stuffing your posts with hashtags may seem like a good idea, but beware as this could lead to shadow banning, which is a process whereby your posts, although looking normal to you, will not be visible by others (which is a bad thing). To be safe, stick within those guidelines and try to use different hashtags for your posts.

More specific, is the number of characters you use in your hashtags and believe it or not, there is an optimal character count for this, which is under 24 characters, although i’m not sure what hashtag you would use that would be more than 24 characters!

Trending Hashtags and Featured Posts

Getting featured on a trending hashtag is HUGE. Essentially your post goes viral. That’s all well and good, but how do you get featured as a ‘top post?’

If you search for a hashtag, you will see a grid of 9 ‘Top Posts’ on the results page. If you make it into this lofty category, everyone in the world that searches this hashtag will see your post! That’s right, when you browse a hashtag, everyone sees the same results, not filtered based on behaviour or anything like that.

What makes a ‘Top Tweet?’

  • Engagement. Getting a ton of likes and comments will help. This can be related to
  • Hashtag popularity. Super-popular hashtags can be very competitive. A good plan would be to use a mix of popular and not so popular hashtags
  • Engagement ‘Growth Rate’. How quickly did you get the engagement? 500 likes in an hour is better than 5000 likes in 24 hours. This is good because it means that accounts with 500 followers have as good a chance as accounts with 5000 followers

How to Make a Featured Post for a Trending Hashtag?

  • Pick the right hashtag. For smaller folk (like myself) pick a smaller, targeted hashtag which will have less competition (see below)
  • Generate loads of engagement. I’ve said that more than once, but it bears repeating. Engagement is king. The best way to do that as quickly as possible, is to post when your followers are online (check Insights). More engagement bumps your post up users feeds, which equals more engagement etc Use a free schedule tool to help you in this aim (find a selection HERE)
  • Use 3-5 ‘big’ hashtags in your post. Pick less popular hashtags that still get likes and comments. You may have to do some trial and error research on this one. Start typing a hashtag in the search bar and scroll down the list of suggestions., then see how many likes posts are getting. For example, I just searched for #writing and scrolled down to #writingmemes where there is only (only!) 12k posts (lowest number there), but there are posts there getting 2000+ likes
  • Use a call to action in your caption. Pose a question or ask something of your followers. Ask them to leave comments.

Which Hashtags Should I be Using?

That’s a tough one, as it very much depends on what you are going for; are you looking for readers or are you promoting to other authors, for example?

Each category will have some popular hashtags. For example, here are the top 3 hashtags from several popular searches for authors. For a more complete list, you can check out a larger list HERE.

Writers

  • #writersofinstagram
  • #writersofig
  • #writerslife

Young Adult

  • #yalit
  • #yabooks
  • #readya

Romance

  • #contemporaryromance
  • #romancebooks
  • #romancenovels

General

  • #bookstagram
  • #booklover
  • #instabook

The list above is based on how many posts there are in that particular category. #bookstagram, for instance has 22 million posts. The next best has 8 million. You may have more joy posting in categories that are not as competitive, but that would be something you would need to experiment with for yourself.

If you are looking to promote your book, a useful hashtag would simply be its genre. For example #romance #horror #scifi.

There are specific hashtags for almost anything you can think of. Pop over to selfpublishongauthorspodcast.com for a list of great hashtags for:

  • Books and reading
  • Promo
  • Self-publishing
  • Publishing
  • Writing process
  • plus more than I could list!

More Hashtags

As an author, there are literally hundreds of hashtags that serve the community. Which ones are the best? Hard to say, but I would suggest that in keeping with the theme of these last 3 instagram posts, I am looking at hashtags to help promote my upcoming work. To that end, I would suggest these hashtags, as suggested by thebalancecareers.com:

  • #bookgiveaway: This signals to all that you’re raffling or otherwise giving away a free copy of a book. Also useful: #free and #freebie
  • #teasertuesday and #samplesunday: Offering up a link to a sample chapter or another snippet from your current work or work-in-progress is a great way to get readers involved. The Twitterverse has made Tuesdays and Sundays the days when writers customarily do this—these hashtag helps readers find the excerpts.
  • #novelines: Use this hashtag when you quote from a novel—your own or others.
  • #poetrymonth: Poets are used to short-form writing—they should be pretty good at tweeting, no? And in April, they should use the hashtag for National Poetry Month.
  • #shortreads: This hashtag generally relates to short stories and gets used most intensively in National Short Story Month, in May.
  • #indiethursday: Readers who support independent booksellers use this hashtag when tweeting about their purchases. On Thursday.

Secret Bonus Hashtags

What counts as a secret bonus hashtag? Well, considering that a search for #amwriting has over 2 million posts, I would consider anything in the 10’s of thousands to be secret. This goes to the points above about not-so-popular-but-still-getting-engagement posts. To do this, simply pick a popular hashtag, type it in the search bar and scroll through the results until you find something you like. Here are a few examples that you can have from me. No charge.

#amwriting gives 2.3 million posts

  • #amwritingmemoir gives 1300 posts – only getting 60-80 likes, but not bad for a small niche
  • #amwritingscifi gives 11000 posts – 200-300 likes (max of 800!)
  • #amwritinghorror gives 6000 posts – 300-500 likes

#bookgiveaway give 95000 posts but #bookgiveaways 5500 posts, actually averages MORE interaction (up to 2000 per post)

#author gives 6.6 million posts, but #authorsrock gives just 18000, the top posts getting 1-2k likes (max 4k!)

That’s it for this series. I hope you have found it useful and have been able to find even one little part to help your promotion push.

My question to you: what hashtags do you use when posting (if they’re not too secret)?

2 thoughts on “How to Win at Instagram Hashtags for Authors

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