Note: Various relevant and related articles are linked to from within the text below. However, for those who prefer to read through uninterrupted, a complete linked list is provided at the end.
The original intent had been to cover in one article the why and how of Instagram however, this would prove unwieldy and lengthy. Therefore, for ease of reading, conciseness, and in acceptance of most having limited time resources, the topic is split into two parts. This is the second part that considers how authors in particular may utilise Instagram. The issue of why authors should consider using Instagram was covered in Instagram for Authors – Part 1: Why Use
In effect this is a further partial update to the previous article Instagram and Authors. The rest of the update is comprised, as indicated above, in part one of this two part set of articles. To avoid readers having to switch back and forth between this and the original article, some of the information contained therein is repeated in whole or part or in revised format.
As usual for this website, the topic is discussed from the viewpoint of an author, though others will no doubt find some of the content helpful.
A word that puts many off but need not when understood (‘A plan for achieving a major goal’ Oxford English Dictionary). Reminder: this article is about how to utilise Instagram to meet a user’s aims and goals. In the case of authors it is primarily to gain attention and purchasers for their books. To make the most of the site and their time, it is crucial the user (author) decides, up front, where the primary focus is to be: e.g. grow readership; make sales; provide answers to reader’s needs; perhaps an other; (rather depends upon the genre the author writes in). Inevitably, the overall goal will result in a combination however, to be effective and avoid confusion for both parties, author and reader, a primary focus is needed. How else will the author determine which are the most appropriate and relevant images to post or what results to look for? Readers will also look for consistency in topics: the majority will be following because they found something of interest and relevance to them and want more of the same or similar.
A crucial element to any campaign, and social media activity in general, if either is to prove successful, must be engagement and interaction. Publicity will rarely work if it is done in isolation. Most people want to engage and, where they are going to part with hard earned money, may wish to learn more about the product beforehand.
As part of their strategy authors must build in time for:
- engaging with followers;
- responding to comments;
- reading other posts;
- commenting on other posts;
- sharing other posts (where they consider them relevant and appropriate).
In general social media is pointless unless those using it have some sort of engagement with other users. This is usually developed by following people of interest. Here are some recommendations for who authors should consider following:
- Book Reviewers.
- People following authors who write in the same genre. (Done by looking at who those authors fans and followers are.)
- Book clubs.
- Book reading groups.
- Relevant hashtags.
- Fellow authors. (Some suggest this is pointless because the author should be concentrating on readers however, authors are also, or should be, readers. There is also the opportunity to share, support, and learn from each other.)
Naturally, beside the obvious, as listed above, the subjects and topics an author writes about and the genres they write in, may make it appropriate to follow people in other specialities.
What to Share
The following are simply a few ideas for the type of image to share; the possibilities are limitless.
Understandably, most authors will wish to concentrate on their books. After all it is readers and sales they are after. However, it has become increasingly evident readers and author followers are also interested in the author as a person. The idea of personal sharing will not rest easily with several authors of who many are introverts. Nevertheless, to obtain the publicity they are looking for there may be need to at least meet the reader and fan part way. Some of the following suggestions do not require actual personal exposure but will go some way to satisfying a readers curiosity:
- Inspiration: Things that inspire the author in their life or writing.
- Quotes: Favourite quotes (in image format).
- Work: Work space; Desk; Writing equipment (computer, pen, notebooks, etc.)
- Hobbies: Assuming the author has other interests beside writing.
- Reading: Author with a book they are currently reading. (Alternatively a photograph of that book.)
- Relaxation: Enjoying a cup of tea or coffee; Looking out over a scenic view; etc. (Some simply share photographs of the steaming coffee or tea cup or scenery.)
- Home: Family home; Garden; Territory; etc. (Authors should bear in mind the security issues surrounding the publication of such photographs.)
As already mentioned, it is only natural and appropriate for authors to share information relevant to their books. After all, it may be assumed a reader’s primary interest is in their books:
- Cover: An obvious choice. Naturally, front cover but may also consider back cover of paperback edition showing blurb, etc. (May also be utilised for cover reveals of a forthcoming book.)
- Content: Photographs and images contained within the book, if any.
- Research: Research articles; Resources related to the book’s content; etc.
- Related: Images, from whatever source, depicting a book’s story or content.
- Pages: Closeup of a page or two e.g. an opening page with first lines to catch attention.
- Quotes: From the book, in image format upon an interesting background.
Note: Authors should be careful to maintain a balance between promotional and general sharing posts. Some recommend a balance of 95% general to 5% promotional. Other suggest an 80/20% split. Excessive promotional posting is likely to prove irritating for the reader with the consequent result.
People generally enjoy participating and playing along. It therefore makes sense to provide opportunities for them to do so (remember these require to be presented in image format):
- Ask Questions: Either to learn reader’s interests or what it is they want from a book.
- Character Names: Seek suggestions.
- Plot Twists: Share possibilities but not so as to act as spoilers or perhaps even ask for ideas.
- Competitions: Most people are interested in winning something.
- Giveaways: Readers will enjoy getting a book for free.
- Surveys: A useful tool for all entrepreneurs, including authors.
Public author events were once commonplace however, interest in such has seriously declined over recent years. Nevertheless, there are still some occasional occurrences, particularly within local communities:
- Book signings: Author with pile of books waiting to be signed; Someone requesting their copy of the book be signed, if they agree (IMPORTANT!: Photographs of people must NEVER be shared without their permission).
- Writer conferences: Author at conference centre; Author together with other authors, editors, agents, etc., ensuring permission to publish has been obtained from them.
- Book displays: At book signing; At conference; At book fair; or; On shop shelves.
- Scenery: Places travelled through to get to a book signing or conference.
- Route: Map, image or photograph of route taken.
Though images have their own attraction, simply posting them in isolation is rarely sufficient, especially if the author is hoping for engagement. Some sort of enhancement is required though it should never be excessive or complicated.
These may be of any length though it should always be born in mind a majority of Instagram users do not wish to hang around. There is also the fact internet usage, probably due to its immediacy, has reduced concentration time spans. Something simple, to the point, catchy, and where possible and relevant entertaining, is best. Including keywords within the description will also help discoverability, after all attracting readers has to be a major aim for authors.
As with many social media sites, Instagram utilises hashtags to combine related material. Of course, they also help users discover others with similar interests and tastes. Up to thirty hashtags per post are permitted however, recommendation is to limit these to no more than eleven. The current usage is estimated at ten point seven. Some suggest eleven is a good target though others suggest fewer. The main objective is not to bamboozle the reader but to provide meaningful content.
Anyone may create a hashtag however, before doing so and adding to the hundreds if not thousands that now exist, authors are advised to search within Instagram for relevant ones. To help with this process two articles 15 Twitter and Instagram #Hashtags for Connecting with Readers and 15 Twitter and Instagram #Hashtags for Connecting with Authors are available.
In addition to the usual hashtags there are also those related to realtime trending topics. As a rule the majority are short lived nevertheless, if relevant authors may consider including them.
Warning: Hashtag relevance is important. Anyone utilising one that has no relevance, simply to try and gain unwarranted attention, runs the risk of being identified as a spammer and having their account suspended or possibly closed.
Instagram only permits the inclusion of one URL (Link) within a users bio (description of user and what they do). It is entirely a personal choice as to which is entered, though recommendation is it be for the author’s website or blog.
Only being able to include one url is obviously limiting however, it is suggested, to help a reader locate associated material e.g. when referring to a blog post, etc., authors include within the post description the relevant url. Anyone interested in reading further may then copy and paste it into their browser search bar. It would be nice if Instagram made these active but there is currently no sign of that possibility, perhaps in the future.
The opinions upon how often to post to Instagram vary wildly. At least once a day appears to be a baseline though some find once every couple of days is sufficient. In the end it comes down to personal preference and the analysing of responses and feedback. Trial and test or simply posting regularly as desired, are really the only options.
Time for authors, and it seems for modern people in general, is a constant issue. Consequently, authors need to determine whether Instagram is suitable for their aims and worth their time and effort. If they do, some of the time issue may be handled by utilising third party scheduling software.
Considering its popularity Instagram is a site authors should contemplate utilising. Nevertheless, as with all meaningful and useful options, time availability has to be taken into account. Simply posting without interacting is unlikely to achieve much.
To make their activity as effective as possible, authors should consider, up front, the strategy they wish to adopt. Subsequently they may decide what to share and how to enhance their posts to reach the appropriate audience.
Disclaimer: Other than being a general user, neither T. R. Robinson Publications nor T. R. Robinson have any affiliation with Instagram. Nor do either receive any renumeration for referring to the site.
The stated intent for splitting this discussion into two parts was to accommodate conciseness and reader limited time availability. However, this second part has ended up longer than proposed but to break this set of articles further would seem inappropriate and undesirable. Apologies are extend to anyone who has found the length tedious nonetheless, it is hoped they have found the content helpful.