As an Indie Writer, you’re always looking for new ways to promote and sell your book and you’ve undoubtedly looked at Instagram and wondered how can I utilize this tool? Some of you may have even taken the plunge and started an account. But, Instagram is a whole different beast than other social media platforms.
For starters, it’s designed to be a completely mobile application. Yes, you can access Instagram via your desktop but other than viewing and commenting, it’s quite limited. Throw in the facts that external web-links aren’t clickable anywhere but in your bio and visual content (both photos and video) appear to perform better in a 1:1 ratio, you may have wondered in the work required will garner enough followers and engagement to make it worthwhile.
We get it. But, just as with any other social media platform, understanding how Instagram works best will help guide you to creating content that should drive engagement such as likes, comments, shares, mentions, and more. Below, we’ve compiled some of the best practices to help boost your bookstagram account.
Know your audience
Do you know who follows you? Do you know who you want to follow you?
These are important questions to ask because Instagram will be just another arm of your business and your brand. Creating visual content that will attract people who are interested in your books is the point of Instagram so, the best place to get started is to learn more about what your target audience likes to interact with.
Begin by looking at other authors who write in a similar genre. What kind of content do they post? Do people seem to enjoy it? How can you recreate it?
Share eye-catching imagery
Okay, you know Instagram is a visual medium so this should really go without question, but it’s important to emphasize that quality is just as important – if not moreso – than quantity. Potential followers are scrolling through hundreds, if not thousands, of photos. If you want your image to catch their attention, make sure it’s something that is visually interesting.
Some things to consider:
- Use bright color schemes
- Use interesting images
- Add Filters
If you’re not a professional photographer or graphic designer, that’s okay! There’s plenty of tools, like Canva, that are free (or cheap) that can help you create eye-catching material.
There’s a time and place for marketing material, but the people on the other end of the algorithm are people and you need to treat them as such. When making content, don’t focus on pitching your book with every post.
Thinks like behind the scenes, meme, or candid posts from work or life can be what gets people to hit the subscribe button, opening their virtual doors to your sales pitch posts.
Post video content
You knew this was going to be on this list. Video is one of the highest performing mediums across all social media and, for good reason: it requires very little effort on the viewer and can usually capture their attention longer than a photo. In fact, videos, on average, garner 38% more attention than photos.
Your videos don’t have to be perfect, either. Remember, people are drawn more to people than products, so keep your videos authentic and don’t worry if you’ve got perfect lighting or sound.
Write strong captions
They say a photo is worth a thousand words, but so are … well, words. Your images and videos may be what draws viewers to your post, but your message is going to be what keeps them engaging.
A good caption should further deliver your brand messaging and give more context to the visual aspect of your post. Unlike Twitter, or other microblogging website, Instagram gives you up to 2,200 characters to get your message across. Use it wisely!
Use carousel posts
On Instagram, a carousel the term for using multiple photos in a single post and often produce more than 3x the number of post clicks than a standard one-image post.
Going live is all the rage these days. You can do it on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and yes you can do it on Instagram. Going live is great for a number of reasons. It can give your followers (and potential followers) a way to get a real-time answer or reaction from you, which is often a lot more rewarding than posting a comment and hoping you get back to it.
As a matter of fact, according to Hootesuite, 80% of people would rather watch a live stream than look at a blog post (maybe I should live stream this?).
Vary your content
We already touched upon how you need to be authentic, and should shoe in some video product among your photos and graphics, but if you really want to keep your audience engaged, you need to stretch your horizons.
Creating content such as quizzes, polls, questions, and contests help break up the monotony of pitching your book.
Share your audience’s content
If you go back to our post about conquering social media’s rule of thirds, you’ll remember that one-third of that formula is about sharing content. It’s the easiest way to deliver new content to your page because, well, you’re not creating it!
But this one goes beyond simplicity. For example, if someone tags you in a post, sharing it gives your audience an authentic testimonial from someone who isn’t associated with your brand or business and that is one of the purest, most effective forms of marketing. Also, sharing content that’s similar to yours (and likely of interest to your audience) will often get liked and shared by the original creator, expanding your reach.
See a comment, answer a comment
Again, this should go down in the social media engagement handbook. If someone is going to take the time to write you a question or comment on your post, take the time to write a well-thought response or, at the very least, tap that like button (trolls need to apply).
This simple act shows your audience that you care about their input and will make them more willing to like, comment, and share your future posts.
Always be willing to try something once
You never know what’s going to work until you try it. Be willing to expand your comfort zone and try something new. It could blow up (in a good way) and you’ll have a new tool in your belt for creating engaging product. Or, it could blow up (in a bad way) and you’ll know your audience better for it. It’s really a win-win situation, regardless of outcome.
Find your timing sweet spot
The only way for your audience will engage with your posts is if they see them. Experiment with what time you post your content (even go as far as scheduling things for the middle of the night) and analyze how well each post did. Do it again the next week and compare. Doing this will allow you to better understand when your audience is online and most likely to engage with your content.
Drive traffic from other sources
Just like with your website and other social media, sometimes you need to go outside Instagram to bring in new followers. Try promoting your account on other social platforms, add a link to your email signature block, add your username in your bio at the end of your book, or embed your feed on your website. There’s lots of tools out there to help build awareness.
Monitor and engage in trends
If something is trending, it means a lot of people are talking about it. Use this to your advantage and jump headfirst into the conversation. This could be as simple as using a hashtag or popular meme. But your content needs to be in good taste to the original trend, otherwise this could backfire on you and the attention you’ll be getting won’t be the kind you want.
Add to your stories
Instagram stories are temporary posts that give viewers a snapshot of information before disappearing after 24 hours … and they’re incredibly popular. According to Hootsuite, half a billion (yes, with a “b”) use Instagram Stories every day and 62% of users say they’d prefer to see a story from a brand after seeing a story.
Include a strong call-to-action
If you want people to do something with your post (click a link, hit the like or subscribe button), sometimes the easiest thing to do is to just ask. Simple, right?
Boost your posts
As independent and self-published authors, we know money can be tight. But, if you’ve got a post you think will be worth the investment, then do it. Generally speaking, most organic posts on any social media platform are never seen by 100% of your audience. In fact, if you take your total number of followers and do the math to find 1-5%, that’s approximately how many people will see your post.
This is because selling ads and boosted posts are how a social media platform makes its money. It may seem unfair, but considering everything else about social media is free, it’s hard to argue with a business trying to keep its doors open.
Hashtags are a great way for people to discover your content. Do a little research and find the best hashtags related to your brand and start including them in your next post to see if there’s any increase in engagement. But be weary, while a well placed batch of hashtags can draw in the right crowd, overusing hashtags can come across as making your content look like SPAM (and not the canned meat kind).
Although Instagram may feel a bit overwhelming, it can be a great tool to improve brand awareness and boost book sales. If you’ve started an Instagram account for your books or author brand, drop your links in the comments and let us know what best practices you use to boost engagement.