Social media can be hard to crack, and one of the platforms I’ve seen authors and bloggers struggle to get the most traction on is Instagram! While I’m no expert, I have been seeing a steady uptick of followers, likes, and comments on my accounts. My personal Instagram just reached 6,064 followers with under 500 posts. Today I’m going to give you some tips on how to grow your Instagram audience, what to post, what to include on your profile and more!
Sprucing Up Your Profile
The first thing you want to do is look at your profile page. Once there you’ll find two very valuable pieces of your Bookstagram success puzzle!
Making Your Name Count
First, there is your name. The spot for your name on Instagram can be utilized to include some keywords about your profile. I like to put a little separator after my name like this: | Then I type something which is important to my account. My account is all about reading books and being an author, so I put Author and Blogger after my name. These are two things users can expect from my posts, and by putting them beside my name, I am helping boost my search results when others use the search terms: author or blogger. This helps me get discovered, which is one of the main struggles on Instagram.
You can also sprinkle in some hashtags that pertain to your profile inside your bio!
Jumping The Link Hurdle
Another struggle of Instagram is the fact that hyperlinks do not work on the platform. You can type a link, but it is not clickable. Many people combat this obstacle by putting an important link in the biography section of their profile. You’ll see many examples of posts that say “link in bio” relying on the person who views the post to know to go to the poster’s profile and click on the link provided there. The problem with this that every time you want to post a new link, you have to change that link in your bio and old posts will no longer be valid. This is why I use a nifty little website called LinkTree. There’s also a new site I’m trying out this month called Fuzed Link. Both of these websites act as a landing page where you can direct users with the one link in your bio to a whole page of links with custom thumbnail pictures and text, so your user knows which links to look for. The pages are constructed in such a way that most people don’t even know they’ve left Instagram. It looks very organic and helps you share multiple links with ease! You can also customize and change these links at any time! Here are some screen grabs of my Fuzed Link and LinkTree accounts.
One of the things I see people not taking advantage of enough are hashtags!
More is Better
Did you know you can use up to 30 hashtags in each post? So why not use all 30 instead of one or two? Instagram is a platform where hashtags are more important than ever. Unlike Facebook and Twitter, which generally frown upon using more than a handful of hashtags, Instagram uses hashtags heavily in their search function and base their algorithm off which hashtags users are viewing the most. The more hashtags you use, the better the chances that your content will be seen!
The Right Stuff
Not only is it good to use the maximum number of hashtags but also the right ones! There are specific hashtags you should avoid, like generic and overused hashtags such as #books #adultlife #teens #woman #women #like and #humpday. These have been used so many times it’s like throwing your post out into the void. You’re not going to get traction from it because there are so many posts with these hashtags and there is also a theory that generic tags like this are shadowbanned, though no one has come up with a solid answer on if that is true or not. Better to just avoid them altogether. Here is a list of some potentially shadowbanned hashtags!
So what hashtags can you use instead? There are literally thousands, but here are some of my most used hashtags!
#bookstagram #bookworm #yafantasy #igreads #bookgeek #bookgram #bookdragon #totalbooknerd #bibliophile #bookish #epicreads #igbooks #booknerdigans #instareads #allthebooks #bookstagramfeature #ilovereading #bookcommunity #bookaddiction #bookobsessed #goodreads #instabooks #bookblogger #readersofinstagram #ireadya #youngadult #yareads #yalovin #booklife #bookstagrammer #bookaholic #instabook #booknerd #booklover #bookphotography #bookworld #greatreads #toread #becauseofreading #booksofinstagram #bookishfeatures #authorlife #authorsofinstagram #bookmail #yabooks #yalit #timetravel #bookshelf #bookishlove #readabook #readerslife #readersgonnaread #booknerdigan #tbrlist #bookishdelights #tobereadlist #readingtime #readingpile #bestreads #bestbooks #epicbooks #bookpages #fantasybooks #scifibooks #epicfantasy
Make It Snappy
Typing out 30 hashtags can be very time consuming, especially if you’re trying to remember the best ones to use. One trick I use it to put my favorite hashtags in a note on my phone. I use Color Note, but there are plenty of note-keeping apps on both Android and iOS to choose from. I put my favorite hashtags in a note and then copy and paste that into my post. Viola! Done!
Where to Hashtag
One debate that has arisen in recent years is where to stick these hashtags after you’ve cultivated them. Some people like to put hashtags in the first comment of their post to keep the post caption looking cleaner. Most studies have shown that putting the hashtags directly inside the post is the most effective way to get your post noticed and that is what I recommend. If you don’t want the hashtags to show when your caption is displayed, just space down a few lines and they’ll be under the cut.
Content, Content, Content
None of these tricks or tips I just taught you will be any good if you’re not focused on creating the right content.
If you’re going to be taking your own pictures (which usually convert better than anything you make in a graphics program), you need to know how to take the best photos. Instagram photos especially usually focus on using natural light. Taking photos in the morning or afternoon, usually, give your content the best lighting. If you can’t take advantage of natural light, try to take your photo in an angle that doesn’t leave looming shadows over the items you’re photographing.
Some people say they don’t have the time to take Instagram pictures. I get it. We’re all busy. One thing I like to do is take several photos when I do have the time so that I can save them on my phone and use them later. I try to take these on the weekends when I have a bit more time on my hands. Try scheduling a day to take photos. Thirty minutes to an hour of your free time can save you loads of time later in the week when you don’t have time to drag props out. And in case you don’t have time for even that, be spontaneous! Sometimes I just take pictures by throwing a book (very gingerly) into a pile of leaves, against a tree, or even in snow one time! (Yes, my neighbors think I’m insane!)
Prop It To Me Baby
Another obstacle that many face is where to find props. I have taken advantage of items from book box subscriptions, bookmarks I’ve collected over the years, presents, and even everyday objects for some of my shoots. Mostly, I use nature. Most of my photos are taken outside on my lawn, in front of one of my trees, and even on the pavement! You can also pick up some cheap props from flea markets, craft stores, Wal-mart, and dollar stores! You can use posterboard, other books, blankets, tables, old slabs of wood, just about anything for a background. I also love to use fake flowers in my posts. I find these on sale for $1-3.
Color Me Red… Or Blue…Green Maybe?
Color is another factor in making your Bookstagram pop! I’ll often get props, bookmarks, candles, and just books with the same color scheme to create a beautiful color-themed post.
Here’s a purple-themed post and it just happens to be one of my favorites! I made this one with a poster board, one book, one candle, and two purple and blue fake flower bouquets!
Caption Me This
You may think that the photos are all the matters content-wise and you’d be wrong. While the photos get people to look and to like, to get comments on your posts, you want to ask engaging questions. You can give an opinion: I love books with purple covers. Then you want to follow up with a question to get input from your audience: What book cover colors are your favorite? This encourages audience participation, which is key to building a successful Instagram. The more people interact with your posts, the more they will see the posts. This trains Instagram’s algorithm to show your posts to the most engaged users!
A Present To Be Present
The biggest mistake most people make is posting on Instagram sporadically at best. They’ll make a post, then you won’t hear from them again for six months. This is a big no-no and probably an indication that Instagram may not be the platform for you. It’s definitely a platform that wants a commitment to keep you relevant! I try to post every day or every other day so my content stays fresh! Going long periods of time without posting anything at all can kill your reach.
You should also go through the people you are following from time to time to make sure they are still active on Instagram. If they are and you find yourself still enjoying their content, make sure you like their most recent posts and leave a comment on at least one. This will train Instagram to show you more of their posts and it may also remind them to check out your content.
I try to take a few minutes every day that I would normally just scroll to pick a few posts to comment on. This helps you grow real relationships with other Instagrammers and also helps train the algorithm!
I see a lot of authors participating in follow for follow threads. Unless you’re in a very specific group of people, like a group for your genre, you probably don’t want to participate in these. Following another author is not going to help you sell books or bring the right people to your content. I only follow other authors if I am generally interested in their work, or if their posts are visually pleasing to me because I like the genre they write or post about. It’s good to support others when you can, but if you’re not their typical fan and you’re just following them for support, you’re training the algorithm based on factors that aren’t typical and therefore polluting their organic reach and yours too.