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.