Instagram has gained in popularity and is now one of the most popular social networks worldwide. Although Instagram is most popular with teens and millennials, people of every age, race, ethnicity, and location use it. There is something so unifying about Instagram, more so than any other social media platform. And creative types of all kinds (photographers, painters, fashion designers, makeup artists, etc.) use Instagram to spread their message, share beauty, and market their skills and/or products. You can find anything on Instagram, from independent shops showcasing their unique bath bombs to stores that offer unique jewellery.
Even writers can get in on the action. And not just writers of Young Adult or New Adult, or even just romance authors. Any writer of any genre or category can benefit from Instagram’s platform, including children’s book authors, memoirist, and poets.
For 2019, it is projected that there will be an astounding 111 million active Instagram users in the United States. Yes, 111 million in the United States alone. Imagine the numbers globally. Now imagine the potential there for you to reach readers. And believe me, there are readers all over Instagram. There is a thing called “#bookstagram,” which is a feed full of lovely (some even magical) photos Instagram users have posted of books. It is an art, and they call themselves #bookstagrammers. At the time I write this, there are 26.8 million photos under the #bookstagram feed.
Do you see the power in Instagram yet?
I hope you do. Whether you’re there now or interested in diving in for the first time, I have tips to help you use Instagram to its fullest potential. And all of these techniques cost you nothing, not one penny.
- Your Instagram Bio
You have a tiny space to tell people who you are, what you do, and what you like. I suggest starting with your author tagline (a sentence that describes you as an author and what you write) and following that with “Author of” and name a book or two or a series by title. Then let people know what sort of pictures you’ll be sharing with a few words.
On my Instagram bio it says:
Thrilling and Romantic with Heroines of Steel
Disaster Crimes Series
I love books, cats, nature.
I also used the ever-trendy emojis to represent books in my series.
Have fun with your short bio and show off your personality.
Links don’t work on Instagram. If you put a link in a caption for a picture you’re posting, the text will be visible, but it won’t be click-able. Someone would have to copy and paste it into a search engine in order to visit the site you want them to see. The better option is to temporarily put the link where your website’s URL is in your bio and add a message in the photo’s caption directing people to your bio for the link. You can simply say: Link in bio. Then people can go to it and /tap the link to visit that site or blog post.
- Don’t Put Hashtags in Captions
Why? For one, it looks messy. Many people space out their captions from the hashtags they use with a string of symbols or emojis like this:
But a better option is to put the hashtags in a comment. This technique is good for more than just a clutter-free caption, which brings me to my second point.
When you put hashtags in a caption, your photos and your account become at risk for being blocked by Instagram authorities if you unknowingly break a rule, such as using more than 30 hashtags or using the same ones over and over again. This happened to me twice. I never posted inappropriate photos, but I found my account blocked anyway. My photos stopped showing up in hashtag feeds, drastically dropping the “likes” to barely a handful (a few people who followed me and organically saw my photo in their feed). To fix this, I had to wait it out and didn’t post for about a week.
To prevent yourself from this headache, put any hashtags in the comment section of your photos. They work the same way here as they do in the caption.
You can save time by compiling the list of hashtags in the caption before you post the photo, then copy them, delete them from the caption, and then paste them into a comment as soon as the photo is live. I suggest this because the longer it takes you to input the hashtags in a comment, the lower down your photo will appear in the hashtag feeds, and that means many people could’ve missed it while scrolling through that feed’s photos.
TIP #1: Save lists of hashtags in a note on your phone for easy access. This works great it you share photos with similar content and will most likely use the same hashtags again. That way you don’t have to write them out/search for them every time.
TIP #2: Count your hashtags. Instagram only allows 30 hashtags per photo, so stay below that number to keep your photos visible and also so your comment will be posted the first time. If you go over this limit, your comment won’t post and you’ll get an error message.
- Hashtag This!
Here are hashtags you can use:
You can find so many more hashtags. When you insert the hashtag symbol # and then start typing, hashtags in use pop up. Scroll through and select all the ones you want to try, but no more than 30. Remember that.
I’m a bit OCD when it comes to order and visuals. Since profiles on Instagram have rows of 3 photos, I like to post photos in threes, especially if they are similar. For example: 3 black and white photos, 3 photos of my cats, 3 photos of nature, or 3 photos related to my life as a writer. I do this only because it looks nicer in my profile (I told you…OCD), but also because it increases my numbers, both in terms of new followers and likes.
TIP #3: Choose at least 3 categories (types of photos) you’ll post on your profile, but no more than 5. This gives your profile cohesiveness. At a glance, people could see what you like and what they will get if they follow you.
- Highlight a Story
You can post a story, which can be a video or even just a photo with text. Did you sign a contract? Create a story. Did you release a new book? Story! Did you write “THE END”? Story!
When you log in to Instagram, your profile photo will be visible with a little plus sign (+) next to it and the words “Your Story” under it. If you click/tap on that, you can take a video or select one already on your phone. You can also select a photo and edit it by adding text before posting. These “stories” only stay up for a short time before going away, though.
One thing you can do to keep it visible longer is to go to your profile and click/tap on the big plus sign (+) that says, “new.” A new page will pop up with your stories visible. You can pick as many as you want for a single highlight or you can set them up to be individual highlights. These highlights can be found at the top of your profile. Four will be visible without scrolling to see more, but they will all be there for new or frequent visitors to check out and enjoy.
On my profile, you’ll see a highlighted story about my free eBook Lightning Crimes, an ad for my Disaster Crimes Series, and announcements for my Facebook group and newsletter.
Use the highlighted stories for the info you would want front and center.
- Followers App
Check your app store for the free Instagram Followers app. I use this app to see which profiles aren’t following me back. And the sad thing is, many people I know elsewhere haven’t followed me back. Not even after I unfollowed and refollowed them, hoping to catch their attention. After a while, I gave up and unfollowed them. I didn’t feel bad about this, either. I follow accounts I find interesting, even if they don’t follow me in return, but other accounts I dropped to unclutter my feed.
Also, if you’re like me, you follow many accounts that follow you because you have something in common. Well, most of those accounts will quickly unfollow you because they only want the numbers, so I don’t feel bad about unfollowing them, and this app will show you those, too.
The app even lets you know which profiles you aren’t following back. I like to look at this, too, to make sure I didn’t miss someone I know, which had happened on accident.
Use this app to keep your “following” list nice and tidy, with only the accounts you want on it.
- 20 Post Ideas for Writers
Instagram is visual, first and foremost, but that doesn’t mean writers can’t post meaningful content there that works, because we can! And guess what. Long captions are becoming increasingly popular, allowing people to share personal stories and even excerpts of their books.
But since Instagram is a photo-friendly app, you may be wondering what sort of content you can post related to your books other than cover art, well, there’s a lot, actually.
- Cover teasers (Reveal distorted images or small pieces at a time.)
- Book quotes as images.
- Writing quotes as images.
- Pictures of what you’re writing or editing.
- Pictures of books you’re reading.
- Share “The End” pictures whenever you finish a book or short story.
- Proof/galley pictures
- Pictures of your desk/office.
- Selfies of you with your books.
- Your book in different places. (Book Tour)
- Fan Art
- Pictures of your blog posts (screenshots).
- Book signing pictures.
- Pictures from conferences, festivals, book fairs, and other events.
- Book release party pictures.
- Sale announcement pictures.
- Screenshots of good reviews.
- Pictures of your kids reading.
- #Shelfie photos, which are photos of a bookshelf.
- Selfies/pictures of yourself (obviously).
You can also check out the @bookstagramchallenges account to see if there are any bookish challenges you’d like to enter. Usually there are several for each month. There are even month-long photo challenges for writers, and some accounts like @IWSG (Insecure Writer’s Support Group) posts themed challenges as well as questions you can answer with a photo of your own or by leaving a comment.
The possibilities are endless.
Experiment with photos and your Instagram profile. Most of all, have fun and explore! You will find countless amazing profiles to follow and more talented individuals than you thought possible.
Chrys Fey is the author of the Disaster Crimes Series and Write with Fey: 10 Sparks to Guide You from Idea to Publication. Her blog,www.WritewithFey.com, was created to help writers capture sparks of creativity and inspiration. She also runs the Insecure Writer’s Support Group’s Book Club on Goodreads. Follow her on Instagram and Facebook.