I’ll preface all of this by saying that there is not a “right” way to do any of this and everyone is in a different place. Maybe you have no idea what you’re doing on social media across the board. Maybe Facebook is your safe place and you just like to stay there. Maybe you think it’s all stupid and time consuming. An online presence is incredibly personal and dependent on your goals, your skillset, and your ability to dedicate time to growing your digital footprint.
Here’s the thing, though: Instagram is a thing for a reason. I know. It’s overwhelming and you don’t have time and you don’t understand it and WHAT ABOUT TIKTOK and all the other protests. It’s okay. You don’t have to like it. In fact, you can hate it and delete it altogether if you want. But before you write it off entirely, let’s talk a little bit about why people think it’s so important.
Why is Insta so great for writers?
There are several reasons it should be a happy place for writers. It’s easy for someone to say that you should “get on Instagram,” but has anyone ever explained why?
The reasons are likely personal, but here are some unique features that make Insta powerful:
Less distraction in the feed
If you’re like, lol, social media IS a distraction, well, you’re right. But the Instagram platform is a much simpler design with few native linking options, no busy sidebar, simple text comments, and no in-feed sharing option. All of this creates a cleaner platform with an engagement rate that far surpasses that of other social platforms.
Bookstagram is a thing
This is likely why people start to tell you how awesome Instagram is for authors. LOOK AT ALL THE AUTHORS THERE! This is a plus and a minus – you want to network with other authors, book reviewers, etc. But these are not going to be the people that buy your book. The GOOD news is that your readers are probably on Instagram, too.
It’s a free marketing tool
The most important thing that you need to understand is that Instagram is a marketing tool. It is a way to get people to connect with you as an author, and then connect with your work. The reach potential is vast, the content presentation is beautiful, and you get to control how little or how much you want to share. You get to control your aesthetic and your messaging. You get to build relationships and support others.
If you recognize Instagram as a marketing platform, then all of your content is marketing content. You are your own product. What story do you want to tell?
You can add a “shop” link directly into your posts
Seriously. Instagram has a “Shop This Post” functionality, which means you can sell things IN THE PLATFORM. If you’re trying to sell books, this should matter to you.
Fine, but how do you do it?
It’s easy to talk about this theoretically, but how do you even start to build an account? Once again, this is a situation that does not have a single answer. However, there are some guidelines that might help things feel more manageable.
Build your hashtag bank
I’m mentioning this first for a reason, and that reason is it will force you to research.
Understanding the space you’re trying to participate in is critical. If you’re looking to connect with Bookstagrammers who will help you by photographing and reviewing your book, then you need to know which feeds you should tag. And no, #bookstagram is not enough.
In fact, you should be using up to (not more than) THIRTY hashtags on Instagram. Look at larger accounts and accounts that are similar to you in genre, explore their hashtag banks. Create a mix of broad author hashtags like #authorsofinstagram and more niche hashtags like #momswhowrite. You can save these hashtag banks in your notes app on your phone, a google doc, or some other accessible place so you don’t have to pull them every time. Copy/paste and you’re good to go!
And no, it probably doesn’t matter if you put the hashtags in the comments or in the caption of the post. Do you, boo.
Don’t start too big
YOU DON’T HAVE TO DO EVERYTHING AT ONE TIME! I promise, it’s okay to take it one step at a time. We all have a wheelhouse. If videos come naturally to you, start with Reels or Stories. If images come naturally, take pictures and write captions. Text your thing? Drop words on an image and own that. Then, you can build out your content as you become more comfortable and figure out what works and what doesn’t. Give yourself room to grow.
Focus on consistency
You need to post around 5-7 times a week minimum. Show up. Nothing else matters if you aren’t posting. Figure out a flow that works for you and stick to it.
Here’s an example:
You know you are comfortable with text on image posts, which you make in Canva. Since these are an easy lift for you, you create 3 a week.
You decide to add in one video. Maybe it’s just a 30 second Reel.
Then, you add in 2 photos posts a week, focusing on you and your writing environment.
That gets you to 6 posts a week! Figure out what is easiest for you, and start there.
What do I post?
The first question I like to ask when people say this is “Well, what do you WANT to post?”
“Authenticity” has become trite, but it is still a critical component of success on social media. Nobody wants to read a book written by someone they don’t believe. You have to be yourself – or at least a version of yourself that you are comfortable with.
One dimensional people are boring, and you are not one dimensional. You do things outside of writing a book. Do you have other creative outlets? Other endeavors you are proud of? In the trenches of momming young children? Coffee addict? Go to interesting places? Obsession with collecting offbeat comic books? Talk about it! Give people something to agree or disagree with you on. It sparks conversations and leads to relationships and community.
Some content suggestions:
- SHOW YOUR FACE. We want to know who you are.
- Other creative projects
- True stories from your daily life
- Travel photos
- Daily coffee mug photos if coffee is your thing
- Photos of your writing space
- Illustrations of your characters
- Causes/groups/things you support
- Memes (Create your own. Don’t just steal them.)
It’s going to be okay.
If you’re just getting started, there’s going to be a learning curve. You’re going to make mistakes and you’re going to be uncomfortable. It’s always that way when you step out of your comfort zone! But don’t let it stop you. You have to start if you’re going to learn, and once you learn it’ll get easier. Just like everything else in life, you are so much more aware of your awkwardness and your mistakes than anyone else is. Typos happen. You’re going to get cut off on a Story at some point. It’s all going to be fine – own it, move on.
You can do this!