Instagram is fast becoming the most-used mobile social media site, hitting 600 million users in December 2016. It represents a different medium to reach our audience, using not text, but photographs. Still, with over 300 million daily active users, Instagram for authors is a marketing tool they cannot live without.
Instagram in a Nutshell
Instagram is a social media site where users posts photos. It’s intended to be a mobile-only solution, with limited functionality available on the desktop site. Instagram also connects with Facebook (who owns it), Twitter, Tumblr, and more for easy cross-posting of content. Content is displayed to users via an algorithm–the more times a user has interacted with your content, the more they will see your posts in their feeds.
Instagram functions differently than Facebook and Twitter in several different ways. On most social media sites, content remains forever. You can use search features to find content from way back to 2013 and even 2005 for Facebook. The most successful Instagram users, on the other hand, keep their feed to under 100 photos, deleting older and lower-performing photos and keeping the ones that fit their “aesthetic.” An aesthetic is a je ne sais quoi, or the overarching thematic elements of a photograph. Grouped together in a profile, these photos have common colors, angles, etc.
Some common aesthetics for authors include showcasing what you’re working on, such as your Scrivener word count or computer screen, photos of what you’re reading, or your book, or even just having the same filter for every photo to keep the colors the same.
Now, not every Instagram user implements an aesthetic, but having a common visual theme is important to finding new followers. Users want to see visually appealing content, although the occasional dog/cat (or, in one author’s case, ferret) photo is also welcome.
Instagram for Authors
For authors, Instagram provides another avenue to be creative, although for some, switching from word to photos is a bit of a stretch. All you need is your smartphone, a setting, and maybe some small items to stage the photo with. You can even take a few photos at once and schedule them using your favorite content scheduler (more on those in a few weeks).
Once you’ve got your photo, use your phone to upload it to the site and add a filter. Then you’ll need to add some text describing the photo. You can either go short and sweet or long and descriptive. Both options work!
If you decide to go long, Instagram removes carriage returns (line breaks) without text. As well, some users like to “hide” their hashtags at the bottom of their posts so they don’t clutter up the important text (or they add it as a comment).
For both, you’ll often see users add:
[Text text text]
[more text or hashtags]
Unlike Twitter, which recommends one or two hashtags per tweet, or Facebook, where hashtags never took off, Instagram is an app that thrives on hashtags. You may use up to 30 hashtags, and if you’re looking to boost engagement and reach, you should use every single one.
Some of the best are below:
Instagram Stories is a new(ish) feature introduced by Instagram that favors Snapchat’s formula of instant photos with text and drawings that disappear after they’ve been seen. For Instagrammers, especially those who want to keep their profiles to under a hundred photos, Instagram Stories provides an opportunity to showcase more than your aesthetic. You can post behind-the-scenes, short videos, and even advertise your new posts to show them to users who might have missed them. Unlike photos on your main feed, all stories are shown to all users.
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