The last Tips for Social Media post focused on making the most of your Facebook. Now that you’ve had a chance to work on that, tackle another social media account: Instagram. While books are (often) a text-based form, never doubt that photo-based Instagram is a great way to build a brand and to get your name out in the book world. If you do have doubts, spend a few minutes reading this Huffington Post article about #Bookstagrams to allay them.
The reasons why should be obvious. If you use Instagram primarily to connect with family and friends and to show them what you’ve been up to, then keep your account private. But if you want to use Instagram to build a brand and build awareness about you/your books/your bookish habits, then you should make your account public, so it’s discoverable.
Once you’re public, create a profile. It seems simple, but your profile really matters. If someone sees and likes your photo, they’ll click your profile. Same thing if you like their photo. Make sure you have a good name (preferably representative of your brand), profile photo, and description. Your description can link to your website, but people will want a blurb on Instagram to, even if it’s just “Writer in New York,” “Writer, Dog Lover, Adventurer,” or “Avid reader and bookstagrammer.” Make sure it’s clear to potential followers what they’ll see if they follow you. Then stick with it.
EDIT, EDIT, EDIT
Speaking of sticking with your brand, curate what you post both in content and in appearance. Instagram has all sorts of editing tools, from filters to saturation changes. If you don’t know what I mean, don’t worry! Basically, just take time to play with your photos. Don’t automatically post your original. Work on it until you have the most aesthetically pleasing photo you think you can.
DO WHAT THE PROS DO
A quick way to figure out what’s aesthetically pleasing in Instagram photos is to follow pros and influencers, so you can see what people respond to. If you want to be known for book photos, follow people on Instagram who have tons of followers, and figure out what people like about their pictures. All for research, of course.
And did you know there’s an Instagram blog that has photo skill tips?
THERE’S AN APP FOR THAT
Of course, pros use tools not available on Instagram. You can too. Layout lets you make a collage with multiple photos, Boomerang creates a video going backward and forward, Sprout Social allows you to do some analytics, Pic Monkey lets you do in-depth photo edits, and tons more apps let your pictures—and you account—stand out.
TIMING IS EVERYTHING
Pay attention to when you post. If your followers are NYC-based and you exclusively post at 2 am on Wednesdays, your posts won’t be seen. Post when your followers are checking your feeds. Photos on Instagram only “live” for four hours, so make sure those four hours are when people will see your pictures. Recent posts go to the top of feeds, so post when your audience has downtime (like during commutes).
Hashtags are how you get discovered. If don’t add hashtags (or the location) to a photo, the only people who see it will be your followers. When you hashtag something, it appears in that hashtag’s feed, so new people see your pictures. If they like it, it gets bumped up. Enough likes and your photo will get to the most popular posts section of the hashtag.
But don’t overdo it. Use only the best hashtags for your purpose (a quick way to discover hashtags: start typing one in for Instagram to offer recommendations with the number of times that hashtag has been used). Hashtag or at-mention organizations, because if they like your photo, their followers will see that. Or they might regram, with credit—which will drive their followers to you.
SHARE THE LOVE
As with Facebook, engagement with followers is key. Respond to your followers or regram people who take a picture you like. While you’re at it, keep asking questions or use Instagram to run giveaways with a link in your profile/caption or by asking them to comment (and, to get more followers, ask them to mention a friend—the friend will see the post too).
When you post your photo to Instagram, you can also share it to other sites (Facebook, Twitter, etc). Remember, people like photos on Facebook—so publicize your already-edited photo. Do this in moderation, because you want followers not to get bored. Give unique content on each platform.
Instagram has evolved. You can post to your story, you can post a single stationary photo, you can post a group/album of photos under one post, or you can post a video. Play around.
Stories: Last 24 hours before automatic deletion; they have urgency: watch now or never. Stories, which can be pictures or video, are where many Instagram users start.
Photos: Stick around forever but get buried quickly.
Albums: Post multiple photos on the same topic/from the same event without spamming your followers, because your followers choose whether to scroll through.
Videos: Stick around forever, like the photos, but (of course) move; they follow the same lifespan as photos (four hours).
For people new to Instagram, here’s a guide to getting started: Instagram Tips and Tricks
People like pictures of books, writing spaces, and cats.