If you ask for writing business advice, you’re going to hear platform, platform, platform. Publishers expect fiction and nonfiction writers alike to cultivate a following before their book comes out. Instagram is a current favorite for reaching readers and building your social media platform.
You may already use Instagram in your personal life, but you’ll find some key differences between using social media socially and using it professionally. You need to be engaging but not overwhelming, personal but not off-putting. It’s a tricky balance. Here are 7 tips for a successful author Instagram.
Use Instagram’s business tools.
Instagram offers two account types: a personal account and a business account. You gain access to a lot of handy features when you convert to a business acount:
- Analytics to give you detailed information about your followers and your most successful posts
- Extra contact information links on your profile page
- Ability to schedule posts in advance (requires a third-party app)
- Access to advertising, including the ability to pay to boost important posts (like book release announcements)
- Cross-posting to your Facebook fan page, as opposed to your personal timeline
If you’re using Instagram as a professional, you definitely want these business tools.
Pay attention to the link in your bio.
Instagram doesn’t allow live links in posts, and they only allow one link in your bio. This is your only opportunity to send people directly to your website, book purchase page, or anything else you’re promoting. Be intentional about the link you choose, and change it if you want to promote a blog post, book sale, contest, etc.
Don’t treat Instagram as a billboard.
There’s a world of difference between “this person I follow on Instagram is doing a project I want to support” and “I want to support this person, so I’m following them on Instagram.” The former will attract a lot more followers, while the latter will limit you to people who already know and like you.
Conventional wisdom says at least 80 percent of your content should contribute something to your followers’ day, with self-promotional or call to action posts limited to 20 percent. I think even 20 percent is too much for posts where you ask your followers to spend money on your stuff or do you a favor.
Try to post every day.
If you post too much on one day, you’ll overwhelm your audience. Spread those posts out over a period of several days and you’ll get a lot more attention.
Of course, the common advice to post every day doesn’t mean you need to do something post-worthy every day. You’re not a slave to your author Instagram page. However, you should have a strategy to make sure you don’t create a pattern of dry spells and over-posting.
If I have a lot of photos to post from one day and they’re not time-sensitive, I’ll save some for other days when I’m busy or don’t have anything new to share. This is especially handy when I’m on vacation. If you travel somewhere without reliable internet access, consider using a third-party app like Hootsuite or Tailwind to schedule posts in advance.
Learn from your followers.
You can learn a lot by observing others’ behavior on social media. Who are you trying to reach with your writing? What Instagram accounts are popular with your audience, and what sort of content are they posting? Which of your own posts have gotten the most likes and comments? Follow these clues to increase your Instagram following.
Instagram may be a simple platform, but there’s no right way to use it. Some successful Instagrammers post artistic selfies with captions that feel almost like mini blog posts. Others post gorgeous or funny photos with almost nothing in the caption. What works for you will depend on you and your followers.
Give as much as you take.
Social media mirrors real life: if you never call or text a friend, they will eventually stop calling or texting you. People like to feel as though their affection, even if it’s just a professional friendship, is reciprocated. If you want to build a connection with someone, like and comment on their posts.
Going back to the self-promotional angle, remember your Instagram feed isn’t just a marketing outlet. It’s a way to connect with your readers. Make yourself vulnerable. Let people feel like you’ve given them a window into your world. Create content that feels more meaningful than a reminder to click the link in your bio.
Remember you’re there for them, not for you.
When you use Instagram for your personal social life, it’s okay to post whatever you want to post. People might expect, or even welcome, daily posts of your kids and pets. When you use social media to boost and engage your reader base, you’re no longer producing content for your own sake. You’re posting for your audience — most of whom will never get to know you personally.
Use whatever tools you have at hand to identify your target audience. Fiction writers can research demographic information for their genre. Major social media platforms provide analytics and insights about who’s viewing and interacting with your content. Google Analytics collects a wealth of data about visitors to your website. Use this information to produce content that will appeal to the people you’re trying to reach. In the end, your social media presence may be an extension of you, but it’s not about you.