It's important to choose the social media platform that fits with your personality as well as one that resonates with your target market.
Personally, I still like Twitter best (@thecreativepenn), and I use Facebook to connect with my readers and fans. But I have also started to use Instagram more (@jfpennauthor) and in today's article, Frances Caballo from Social Media Just for Writers explains how to use the platform effectively.
What’s the hot social media network that people are talking about but few understand how to use?
But Instagram still appears to win the prize when it comes to the race for the fastest growing social media network.
According to The Medium Well:
Its growth has outpaced the other top four social media platforms in recent years: Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, and Pinterest. Furthermore, Instagram has very dedicated users, who often use the platform daily.
In 2016, Instagram introduced new features similar to Snapchat. But first, let’s get a few numbers out of the way before diving into Instagram Stories and Boomerangs.
Instagram’s User Base
Pew Research Center has the most reliable facts among U.S. users of social media. Their latest report, released in the latter part of 2016, revealed that:
- 32% of internet users (28% of all U.S. adults) use Instagram.
- Instagram usage is especially high among young adults. An estimated 6 in 10 (59%) of online adults ages 18 – 29 use Instagram.
- 33% of 30- to 49-year-olds use Instagram.
- Female internet users are more likely to take a shine to this platform than men, 38% to 26%, respectively.
Also, according to the Buffer blog, there are 500 million users on Instagram and of those, 300 million are daily active users. In all, 95 million users post images daily.
What’s clear is that if your reader demographic is between the ages of 18 and 49, Instagram can be a strategic application for you to use. If you write young adult, new adult, dystopian, graphic, and teen and young adult romance novels, then you need to spend time connecting with your readers on this channel.
The beauty of Instagram – and this is why it’s easy to test whether it’s the right platform for you – is that it’s effortless to incorporate it into your life. You’ll see why if you keep reading. For now, let’s leave the statistics behind and talk about how to sign up and use this tool.
How to Join Instagram
Joining this network is easy. Sign up by navigating to Instagram.com on your computer, smartphone, or tablet.
When you select your username, use the name you use on the cover of your books. Build your brand around your author name, whether it’s your birth name, a name you predominantly use, or a pen name.
Complete your bio, which Instagram restricts to 150 characters, and add your author website address. Don’t forget to check the box next to Similar Account Suggestions so that Instagram will suggest additional users for you to follow.
As you’re out and about, visiting your favorite café where you write or taking a walk in the woods or a lovely path through your city, snap images with your smartphone. Then, upload them directly to Instagram. Select a filter you like, and post it.
As you post your image to Instagram, you can simultaneously post it to other accounts, including Facebook, Twitter, and Flickr, but I don’t recommend that you sync to Twitter.
When you sync Instagram and Twitter, the tweets appear as links and your followers won’t be able to see the images until they click on the link. Few will do this. Consequently, the links will generate poor engagement, if any.
On the contrary, syncing Instagram to Facebook is seamless. The comment and hashtags you write for your Instagram post will integrate smoothly with your Facebook profile as well as the image. This is how to connect your accounts:
- Navigate to your Instagram profile on your smartphone.
- Tap the gearshift in the top-right corner.
- Click Linked Accounts and select the websites you want to sync with.
Don’t want to sync your accounts and rather decide on a case-by-case basis? Then as you’re about to post your image on Instagram, indicate that you also want to post it to Facebook.
How Authors Can Use Instagram
Many authors have taken to Instagram, expanding their brand, and letting readers learn more about them than what they write or blog about. Check out these examples:
Tyler Knott Gregson
You’ll find Tyler on Instagram where he’s known as Tyler Knott, an #Instapoet on this app. He’s a successful poet who rose to fame by using Instagram. He creates quote images and posts them mostly on Twitter and Instagram.
Here’s one of his poems displayed as an image:
Jane was excited about the inclusion of an essay she wrote in an anthology and announced its availability with this picture of the cover. Granted, it’s not an exciting cover, but it’s still a good use of Instagram.
Orna likes to take pictures of her surroundings and give her readers and colleagues a sense of the beauty where she lives.
This image with a thought bubble is perfect for Grammarly, an online application that corrects grammar and word usage in your writing. Notice the logo placement in the lower left-hand corner.
Barcelona writer Fluer Hols chose this quote image featuring Maya Angelou.
Romance novelist Kate Kisset posted this image of a vineyard near where she lives in Northern California.
While attending an Indie author event at a library, Northern California author Crissi took an image of a display of her books.
Agent Gordon Warnock’s Instagram feed is named for his dog, Archer and the feed is called archersnack. Gordon regularly posts touching or amusing images of his dog.
When to Post on Instagram
The easiest time to post is right after you take a picture or create one. You can also plan your posts.
According to Later, a scheduling application for Instagram, the best time to post is between 2 am and 5 pm EST, with 5 pm being the most opportune time. The best day to post is on Wednesdays. According to Co-Schedule, the best time to post is between 8 am and 9 am EST.
I think that the best time to post is when you receive the most engagement from your followers. So test several times of the day and try to post consistently at your own optimal time.
How to Grow Your Account Organically
I include this information not because numbers are important – people and engagement are important – but because we can all become impatient with growing our accounts. The best way to expand the follower count on any social media channel is organically. Here are some tips:
- Choose a posting frequency and stick to it. You want your followers to be able to rely on your for content they love.
- Cross-promote from other channels. Don’t be shy to ask your Facebook friends or Snapchat followers to check you out on Instagram.
- Create a photo theme by creating consistency in theme by using the same font, filters, and cropping style.
- Use hashtags. On Instagram, you can use quite a few of them.
- Experiment with emojis.
- Do giveaways.
- Create quote images.
- Share your followers’ posts.
- Include faces in some of your images.
- Share Instagram posts to Facebook.
No post on Instagram would be complete without some mention of Stories. Instagram Stories are temporary videos or photos (similar to Snapchat’s feature) strung together to tell a story. To create one, follow these directions:
- Swipe left in your news feed. You can also quickly launch Stories by swiping right from the main screen.
- Tap the circle button at the bottom of the screen to take photos or tap and hold to record a video.
- Edit the photos or videos with text or add a drawing.
- Tap Done to save your Story.
- Tap the checkmark button to share your Story.
Perhaps to further compete with Snapchat, Instagram added the Boomerang feature. When you create a Boomerang, you take a burst of 20 photo frames and then Instagram speeds them up forward and backward to create a looping video. Here’s what to do according to Instagram:
- Tap the circle at the bottom of the screen. To control the length of your video, you can swipe the screen to switch between your phone’s front and rear-facing camera.
- Tap the Instagram or Facebook icon to share your Boomerang video, or send the video to a friend.
- Tap save in the top right to save the Boomerang to your phone’s camera roll.
Scheduling Apps for Instagram
Once you start using Instagram regularly, you might want the option to schedule images in advance.
With this app, you can upload images and videos from your computer, not just your smartphone. Onlypult also provides analytics. Plans start at $12/month.
This tool enables you to upload images from your computer, iPhone, Tablet, or Android, plan and schedule your posts, upload videos and manage multiple accounts if you have more than one. On a free account, you can upload 30 posts per month.
With a free account, you can use this app to schedule posts to Instagram. If you opt for a paid account, starting at $10/month, you can also view your analytics.
How do you use Instagram as an author? Do you have any questions or tips of your own? Please do share in the comments below and join the conversation.
Frances Caballo is an author and social media strategist and manager for writers. She’s a regular speaker at the San Francisco Writers Conference. In addition, she’s a contributing writer at TheBookDesigner.com, blogger and Social Media Expert for BookWorks, and blogger at Bowker’s Self-Published Author.
She’s written several social media books including The Author’s Guide to Goodreads, Social Media Just for Writers, and Social Media in 30 Minutes a Day. Her focus is on helping authors surmount the barriers that keep them from flourishing online, building their platform, finding new readers, and selling more books. Her clients include authors of every genre and writers’ conferences. Not sure how you’re doing online? Sign up for my free email course.
Teesha Morgan says
Hi,firstly love the creative Penn, as a new self publisher I find your stuff very helpful.
Now to Instagram, I started using it 2 weeks ago, I post once a day and am up to 52 followers,that is actual followers not fake ones.my advice would be.
1 follow everyone who likes your post and take the time to look at their posts,not just the top 2 either,really look,like stuff that you thinkbis good and comment on things.justva simple one word like amazing will boost someone s day and get youba follower.
2 don’t get sucked in to 1000 liker schemes.
3 have fun, check out people similar to you or who read similar books, follow them, look at which hashtags they use and add them to your posts
4 use hashtags!
Hope this helps someone
Cheers Teesha @craftwerx
Tracey Ambrose says
Compleatly agree Teesha, hashtags are essential. I have a note in Evernote listing the hashtags I use the most and copy and past the relevant ones as a comment, not in the main body as I find posts buried in hashtags distracting to read myself.
Kristin Ashby says
I like these two tips–keeping a hashtag list and posting them in the comments–will definitely use them. Thanks!
If posts have more than a couple of hashtags I ignore them. Also the link buried in them too. If I can’t see quickly what it’s about I ignore it. I’ve seen links with nearly every word hashtaged.
If I’m writing original content under my posts, how do I protect my writing the way I would if I published a book or owned a blog? I’d eventually like to create a blog once I have enough followers and at that point I would register the domain and so on.
Joanna Penn says
YOu’d have to look at the Instagram terms of service for that – but this is why I recommend never building your platform on a service you don’t own. So blog on your own site first and then add it on other sites later.
Christa Tomlinson says
Great post! I think I’m pretty good at posting pics on my author Instagram, but I’ve been a little afraid of trying the other features like Boomerang and stories. I’ll have to give them a try.
Thanks for sharing!
Katie Coughran says
Interestingly enough, I just listened to episode #232 of the podcast with Ricci Wolman and came onto thecreativepenn site to see what other info you had about Instagram and voila! A post put up today!
I especially appreciated the way Frances showed us the different ways Instagram can be used. It gives me ideas of how I’d like to be present on social media instead of floundering around, wondering what to post.
As ever, thanks for the info!
Janis Wildy says
Instagram is super fun to use and I appreciate getting more information about how it works! Instagram feels like it is still small enough to make connections and build followers. I think authors like Kate Morton do a wonderful job of keeping her posts in the mood of her books. The 50-64 age group while smaller feels very active on instagram. The only thing that creates a problem is that the posting is not done chronologically so you see posts from 8 hours ago before posts from one hour ago. I’d like to know more on how authors are doing converting Instagramers to buyers of their books!
Stephanie Scott says
My best advice for authors using Instagram is to decide who you want to connect with. If it’s other writers, then create posts that appeal to that demographic. If you are looking to brand yourself and connect with readers, adjust your posts to appeal to what the bookstagrammers are into–mixing in photos of books you’re reading, “shelfies,” and fun book tags #bookstack #bookspiral #socksunday etc. show you know the community and you’re not just blasting pics of your own products/books and yourself. Or you know, you can do whatever you want really.
I started a group on Facebook last year for authors to specifically share ideas on using Instagram. I can link to it here with the blog owner’s permission if she’d like. I don’t want to impose! It’s a very laid back group with a lot of beginners.
Audry Wagner-Morales says
Joanna, thank you so much for everything you do for authors! You’re such an inspiration. You have single-handedly reignited my enthusiasm for writing and for contemplating it as a career. Thank you, thank you!
Tracey Ambrose says
Fantastic article. I love using Instagram to share inspiration, show off the stunning places we visit in our world travels and share where I find my muse. https://www.instagram.com/traceyambrose/
Wendy Tokunaga says
I’m a writer who also prefers Twitter, but I’ve just taken the plunge into Instagram. This article was very helpful. Thanks! I find that Instagram (so far!) is another creative outlet for me and I’m enjoying it while still figuring things out.
Emma O says
Great ideas for us writers to use Instagram, thanks! I think it’s more complicated in my mind than it actually is!
I don’t think it’s easy to grow your IG organically, but it’s most def a lot of fun 🙂
I started an instagram account for my writing .But have reached a point where the number of followers is stagnant(around 70 followers).With my account all i want is to reach out to people and because many of the people following me are my friends and family,I feel i am not able to reach out to many people yet.
Could you give some advice ?
And regarding reaching out to other authors, could you suggest some?
Ira Porterfield says
I have recently gone on Instagram to set up an account (which I have done), and to create a biography (150 words or less). I have been unable to navigate the sight for where/how to create the biography, and then to list my website for the sale of my books of poetry. Need help, and thanks.
Leo Rián says
I appreciated this very much, thank you. I have been hesitant to spread myself too thin with so many social media platforms out there, but I think I may have to try Instagram. I was especially interested to see the data you posted on user demographics. Humbling, really.
As a first-time self-publisher, I would be interested in your thoughts about how to go about self publishing so I will give your ebook a look. Have a good one and thanks again.
Joshua S says
I’m not hash tag sauvy. Would like to know more on how people use them. How to be as precise as possible in attracting folks and not be misleading. I’m a fiction author
Sonja S. says
I started a couple of days ago, my instagram is focused on quote images (potentially shareable) with excerpts from my books. For now I have trouble increasing the base of followers as all the usual instagram marketing and promotional tools seem to be for different kind of accounts – usually there is a product you are selling, or your lifestyle or persona, when it’s just pure content it’s a bit more difficult, so I am struggling. Tried to focus on aesthetics and making it visually appealing.
https://www.instagram.com/_little_rivers_/ check my account out, hope you like it!
Hi, I don’t really know what I’m doing I have been writing my own short story’s for awhile now I’m 16 years old but I believe I can still reach out to people with my short story’s and poems I don’t want to earn money because I don’t want to mess up and be in dept I just want to write and publish but I can’t seem to get it right
Joanna Penn says
Don’t worry! At 16, you have time to get it right 🙂 Check out NaNoWriMo Young People’s Program – that might be fun and provide some support for you – https://ywp.nanowrimo.org/
All the best!
Neelu Bala says
Great ideas for us writers to use Instagram, thanks! I think it’s more complicated in my mind than it actually is!
@Wordslikesongs! That page is new but fiiiire check it out!
You are so interesting! I do not believe I’ve read through anything like that before. So wonderful to find somebody with some genuine thoughts on this subject matter. Really.. thanks for starting this up. This site is one thing that is needed on the web, someone with a little originality.
I have a personal instagram account and am wondering if I should start a separate author account where I concentrate on readershipand book stuff rather than bore family and friends with that sort of thing. Any advice on having a separate account?