I’ve talked recently on social media for authors, but wanted to highlight a specific platform that I’ve been using more and seeing results from and discuss Instagram for authors.
I think that most social media platforms have potential to work for you if you understand how they work and make it your goal to connect with the correct audience. (As opposed to authors who accidentally gather an audience of other authors, rather than fiction readers, by posting author-y stuff.) This year, I dove into Instagram, a platform I’ve been on since 2014 and not really used well since that time.
LISTEN TO EPISODE 203- INSTAGRAM FOR AUTHORS
INSTAGRAM FOR AUTHORS
About the platform
Each social platform is different. Instagram, which is under the FB umbrella, is visual, based primarily on images. Some people use lots of text, utilizing the posts as microblogs, or shorter-form content in the image description. Hashtags are vitally important on Instagram. It’s a very simple platform with people you can follow or not and the ability to send messages. There are no groups or pages vs profile. It’s pretty… simple.
Here’s a tiny map of all the things you can use on Instagram. Because oh, right–it’s not THAT simple.
Main feed – people post pics/short videos (square)
Stories – These are videos, images, photos (vertical) which disappear after 24 hours, available when you click on a person’s profile image. Can save them for longer by creating highlights that will show up as little circles above your feed and save your stories there
Reels – These are IG’s version of TikTok, basically 15-30 second videos with popular music attached. Can upload video from other program or create in instagram. Can show it in your feed or only in the reels feed. Can see a reels feed above the regular feed, pushing the reels icon which looks like a square director’s thingy with a play button.
IGTV – Any video longer than 30 seconds becomes IGTV. Can go live and do interviews or video or you can upload video for this. Icon looks like a little TV with a tiny lightning bolt across it.
Guides – Not a lot of people using them yet. They appear at the top of the feed as well as a little newspaper icon.
HOW INSTAGRAM WORKS
There is an algorithm to the feed. Like FB, you’ll see the things they think you want to see. The more you interact with a type of content or people, the more you’ll see.
You can follow people, but you can also follow hashtags to see strangers you don’t follow who have used a hashtag in the feed. You can search for hashtags and see the top hashtags in the feed (a great way to be discovered) or you can search the most recent hashtags.
Like other platforms, they tend to favor what they want to favor. Right now, that’s reels. You might see more traction or show up on a search page or for a hashtag if you’re using Reels.
A lot of people will use the same filters, the same kinds of images, or count the images so every third or every other is one kind of image so there is a curated and beautiful feed when people look. This can be images you take, stock photos, etc.
Instagram is primarily used via the app, though there are more options rolling out to desktop now, and some schedulers that you can use, where in the past you couldn’t. You can schedule though FB’s new Creator Studio, through your Facebook pages.
WHAT IS BOOKSTAGRAM?
Because Instagram is simple and just based on the kinds of content above (feed, reels, etc), there isn’t some page or group called Bookstagram. So, when people refer to Bookstagram, it’s referring to content creators and people who are involved with the content on Instagram centered around books.
Popular Bookstagram hashtags to look for: #bookstagram #bookstagrammer #booksbooksbooks #bookstagramcommunity #bookstagrammers #bookstagramchallenge
The primary people creating content in this bookstagram community are readers. They often start by posting reviews of books they buy or own, but as they grow, they receive advance or review copies from authors or publishing companies. This is something being utilized by traditionally published books as well as indies. Some bookstagrammers tend to use one or the other–more indie or more traditional, while some are a mix.
Authors are also using these hashtags, either for their own reviews of different books or to discuss their own books and attract bookstagrammers to their content.
HOW TO GROW ON INSTAGRAM
Follow hashtags to see content and new creators. Follow creators. Engage authentically with them by commenting and liking posts you actually like or have something to comment on. Get ideas and inspiration.
Don’t join follow/engagement loops or groups. I’m not a fan. It’s not authentic, and Instagram doesn’t like it. Do it at your own risk. These are small groups of people trying to make sure their content does well, so they have a small group on insta or elsewhere and every time one of them posts, they all go like, comment, or share to give engagement.
Don’t follow advice that’s super specific on gaming the system. Follow-for-follow strategies or advice on liking X number of posts and commenting X numbers of times to see other people follow you … just no. Engage authentically with what you’re actually interested in and people you like. Over time, this pays off in a more organic and authentic way.
Use relevant hashtags. Find a few people to watch who are doing well in your genre. See what they’re doing and what they’re posting. Use the hashtags they’re using. A mix of hashtags with tons of follows and some that are smaller is a good idea. I’m not giving an ideal number or telling you whether to put it in the post or the first comment. I use however many I want and have them in the post itself.
Post consistently. Whether or not you have an intentional visual aesthetic in your feed that’s consistent or not, do consider what you’re going to post on instagram and post consistently, each day or a few times a week.
Engage with people. If someone comments on your post, respond. If you love someone’s post or they mention you, share it in a story. This is a great way to show off someone else and to have them notice what you’re doing. I’ve had authors share my content in their stories when I’ve tagged them in my stories or posts. (Again, don’t expect this always, but just engage and behave in the way you wish everyone does. Sometimes this comes back to you or not.)
WHAT ABOUT PAID OPTIONS?
I would not at all suggest paying bookstagrammers for reviews or posts. At all. There are some great book tours on instagram that will ask you to send review copies (ebook or paperback) and provide a giveaway prize. They’ll take signups and vet people and then arrange for when everyone should post.
I’ve used these two companies: Prism Book Tours and Just Read Publicity Tours. They’re both affordable, do quality work, and helped me connect with people over time who really grew my account with the right kind of people. I did not do blog or any other tours with them, just Instagram.
Like any other social media site, you can choose to dig in and find your people to see results. If you want to see this platform work for you, make sure your readers are ON instagram. Look for specific hashtags for your genre and see what authors and bookstagrammers are posting.
Your book cover MUST be great. Your book MUST be great. You want people to want to show off your book in the feed. You want them to write good reviews. Before spending time here and investing trying to build, check to be sure that your genre is active and represented and be sure your book is ready.