• Margaret McGriff

How to Use Instagram as an Author

Updated: Jul 4, 2020

Instagram is a great platform to really connect with readers, especially if you write in popular genres like YA fantasy and science fiction. Like other forms of social media, Instagram can do two things for your writer business.

It can serve as a distribution channel, meaning you share the content you've created elsewhere. Think blogs, podcast episodes, videos, etc.

Instagram is also a place where you engage and grow your tribe of readers that will buy your books. That means sharing content you know they’ll love, share, and comment on.

Before we get into what to post on Instagram, let's really just take a look at Instagram as a platform. Unlike Facebook, you don't have to pay for followers to see your posts or create a group to get crazy engagement.

With Instagram, there are so many different ways you can engage with people and grow your following. You have Instagram posts, stories, IGTV, and so many fun features like polls, stickers, and filters.

But I think the best part, especially for what we do as writers, is that there is an entire community of writers and readers on this platform that is insanely huge. If you look up the #Bookstagram, you'll see over 3 million posts by writers, readers, and everybody else in between.

So it is fabulous for writers to be on in order to establish their brand, grow their community, and really market themselves well.

So how do we writers take advantage of Instagram?

There are 3 things to remember when you're using this social media platform.

Engagement is key. Instagram is not the place to do the hard sell aka the “Buy my books” posts all the time. Engagement means asking questions, sharing other people's posts, commenting, joining book challenges, and tagging your tribe in stories.

All of that engagement is the lifeblood of this platform, the magic that makes the Instagram world go round in this place. It’s key to finding your readers, growing your community, and making meaningful connections.

For example, while planning the book launch for Macario’s Scepter, I wanted to get some great bookish swag made. I immediately went to Instagram and reached out to a fellow writer friend I made months before who had a shop. We partnered together and offered some really fun t-shirts and mugs for my book launch. If I wasn’t engaging with people on Instagram, I probably would have never made that amazing connection.

Visuals are super important. In order to start up these important conversations and grow your community, you have to catch their attention, right? With over 3 million posts you have to be able to stand out and it all starts with great photos.

Now it’s not about having super professional photos. Getting great bookstagram images comes with a lot of time and practice. Great visuals start with making sure your photos show off your brand, tell your story, and connects with your ideal reader. Someone coming to your Instagram page and know right away what type of writer you are and the stories you create.

The same way you plan out a blog post or video, you have to think about what types of photos you're going to put out on Instagram.

Hashtags equal visibility. So you have great visuals and are ready to engage with your community. But in order for the right people to see those visuals and connect with you, you need to use relevant hashtags. Making sure that your posts, stories, IGTV captions, etc. have those hashtags your ideal reader will use to help them find and follow you.

Now that we’re familiar with Instagram and how it works, what should we share on this social media platform?

One type of content that is huge on this platform, and for a very valid reason, are beautiful images of books. The term Bookstagram refers to these kinds of pictures, complete with fun props and backdrops that really speaks to your author brand.

I’ll be real with you, this is not something that you're going to nail right away. And that's okay! I've gone through three different types of Instagram photos before I really landed on a style that really spoke to me and to my brand. And there’s still a lot of trial and error that goes on behind the scenes.

So don't feel like you have to be perfect out the gate. You’ll find your groove the more you do it. A good place to start when you're trying to figure out what those images should look like is your brand.

From picking props to figuring out filters, make sure that whatever you choose backs up what you want to be known for as an author.

Now along with that image, you're going to need that engaging caption. What you write should connect with those ideal readers. That can be in a couple of lines or in a couple of paragraphs. It just needs to be something that your ideal readers would be happy to read. Make sure to encourage them to comment and get those conversations and connections going.

Finally don't be afraid to use Instagram Stories. They don't have to be perfect. They don't have to be planned. They can be totally spontaneous if you want them to because, at the end of the day, they disappear in 24 hours.

They are great for showing off your personality and what you do on your off days. You can document your adventures, travels, or what you’re binge-watching. The point is to have fun and show a different side of yourself as a writer.

Are you on Instagram? What types of content do you share on there?

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© 2019 by Margaret McGriff