August 8th, 2016

The Power of Instagram – Marketing Tips for Indie Authors

51EH+JrU+rLPenny Sansevieri

Instagram has seen staggering growth since Facebook purchased it. And every day, more authors are beginning to use it, with great success, to engage their readers, build their fan base, and sell books. And here’s why:

First, it’s simple to use. Second, it’s not nearly as ad-driven (yet) as Facebook, despite being owned by them. Third, Instagram is visually-driven, so it’s much easier to engage someone than it is on Facebook. Plus, it drives far high per-follower engagement than Facebook or Twitter, 58 times and 120 times more respectively.

Anyone can create an Instagram account, and there’s lots of information available on how to do so. So I’m going to go beyond the obvious tips like adding a good profile picture, and remembering to add your bio and your site URL. This is certainly important, but it’s not going to drive goal conversion (namely building followers and selling books) to the level that most indie authors prefer. So I’ve pulled together some tips on how to develop innovative Instagram marketing for whatever it is you’re promoting.

Creating an Instagram Theme

Again, anyone can create an Instagram account. But, lots of people post anything that comes to mind. What happens when you do that, is that your posts tend to be all over the place instead of following a marketing-driven plan. It makes it confusing for users to follow and people may not be as engaged.

So before you even set up your account, consider what kind of theme you want to utilize as you post. A theme can be anything – from variations on core messaging, posts with a particular color or look and feel. Whatever you decide, let users know right up front what they can expect, and then follow through on it by posting clear, consistent content.

Examples of Instagram Themes

Discussing themes on a high level can be overwhelming so I’ve drilled down to a few examples for how you might determine your theme.

If you’re promoting a book in the historical fiction genre – you might want your theme to have a vintage look and feel. There are a number of routes to achieve this – whether by using Instagram’s image filters or posting pictures that correspond with your book, like settings, clothing, food, quotes, etc. Another idea is to post images in blocks – one week you could include images from a specific category, and the next another. Or you can choose seven categories and feature a different category each day of the week.

For authors of business or non-fiction books, quotes perform really well. You can select quotes you love as well as those from your book. Or, if you’ve got some early reviews rolling in, incorporate them into images.

Who Are You?

Although it may be tempting to feature your standard bio, it’s a good idea to get creative here. Consider updating your bio to help drive attention to your book, website, service, whatever you’re promoting. For this reason, I recommend that you change up the URL in your bio as well and invite followers to click on the link in your bio.

A Few Notes on Linking

Include your link in every post, whether as a link in the description of each photo as you post it, as a watermark on your photos (which is a good idea to do regardless), or by adding a comment to the photo after you’ve posted it. Commenting is a great way to build your marketing efforts. You can use it to add additional hashtags or drive traffic to your URL, so it’s a great way to boost visibility of your posts, and get people to visit your website. (Note: Instagram users are almost exclusively mobile, so any websites/web pages you send to people should be mobile-optimized to get maximal engagement. )

Using a Posting Strategy to Grow Instagram Fans

After you’ve got a great theme and bio planned, the next step is creating a posting strategy. Since the average person gets distracted in 8 seconds, it’ll be important to use images that are eye-catching, but that don’t require a lot of thought. Meaning you want them to be interesting, inviting, and completely lacking in complexity. In part this relates to the fact that most of your fans will be mobile, meaning that small screens have some limitations.

Most interactions will happen within about 30 minutes after you post – so to build engagement, be sure to have your Instagram at close hand so that you can interact with anyone who comments on your post! And, the more you post, the more quickly your Instagram fan base will build. At minimum, you should post once a day, but the most popular accounts post every 2 hours or so (or about 4 to 10 times each day).

If you’re stuck on what to post, take a look at what the trending posts are, and then use those hashtags to take part in conversations!

Using @Mentions to Boost your Engagement

By tagging other Instagram users in your post, you can get up to 56% more engagement (Simply Measured)! To do this, use @ + their username. You can also tag them in the comments if you like. Instagram is cracking down on the over use of this feature, so it’s a good idea to use this technique sparingly instead of tagging anyone and everyone. Instead, if someone is authentically connected to whatever it is you’re posting, or has mentioned interest in a specific topic, then it’s definitely a great idea.

Make the Most of Hashtags

Hashtags are basically a requirement if you’re going to build your Instagram audience. Posts with at least one hashtag see 12.6% more engagement according to Simply Measured. And, what’s more, since you don’t face post length limitations like you do on Twitter, you can add lots of hash tags – as many as 30! The sweet spot seems to be 11 hashtags, and if you feel that including them in the photo caption is too much, you can also add them to the comments.

If your posts are going to become a series: develop a single hashtag to utilize the entire series. A series can be anything you deem it to be – some ideas might be quotes from your book, character info, or rare/important information, but you’re not limited to that at all. As an example of a series, when I post in my How to Sell Books by the Truckload on Amazon series, #truckload or #Amazonbestseller are hashtags I could use. That hashtag is part of each post I make for that series. People who are interested can use that hashtag to go down the rabbit hole and see other posts that include the same hashtag.

Hashtags are fun, and there really aren’t any hard and fast rules. So be creative and play around with them and see what works best for your Instagram account.

Add a Location

We’ve talked about hashtags and @mentions, but have you ever shared your location as you post? If not, think about turning this feature on and making the most of it. The simple act of adding a location can boost engagement by as much as 79%.

Finding Instagram Accounts You Love

To keep your account fresh, instead of reusing the same memes, keep finding new accounts that you love! You can search hashtags or trending topics you love, or you can use the activity/notifications area of the app. Here you can see who likes your posts, who has tagged you (and where), and what your followers are liking.

Tune Into Your Followers

Instagram is currently chronological, so as people you follow post new content, it posts to the top and pushes the older posts further and further down. (Incidentally, Instagram is planning to move to a feed that’s based on what’s popular.) If there are some people whose posts you don’t want to miss, you can turn on notifications by clicking the three-dot icon on their profile. Now you get an alert whenever they add new content, and if you follow Kim Kardashian, you’ll never miss a butt shot (she has the third most-popular Instagram account).

If you’re looking to market anything, definitely consider adding Instagram to your marketing plan! You can grow your audience and even move into new demographics. And with so much room for creative license, it’s a fun marketing endeavor that can drive some powerful conversions if you use it in a meaningful way. So definitely, give Instagram a shot – and see what it can do for your marketing efforts.

Okay, Writers in the Storm readers, what Instagram tips do you have to share with us?

About Penny

Author MarkketingPenny C. Sansevieri, CEO and founder of Author Marketing Experts, Inc., is a best-selling author and internationally recognized book marketing and media relations expert and an Adjunct Professor with NYU. Her company is one of the leaders in the publishing industry and has developed some of the most cutting-edge book marketing campaigns. She is the author of fourteen books, including How to Sell Books by the Truckload. AME is the first marketing and publicity firm to use Internet promotion to its full impact through online promotion and their signature program called: The Virtual Author Tour™

To learn more about Penny’s books or her promotional services, you can visit her web site at To subscribe to her free newsletter, send a blank email to:

Copyright @2016 Penny C. Sansevieri

Top photo credit: MariaGodfrida – Pixabay

13 comments to The Power of Instagram – Marketing Tips for Indie Authors

  • I haven’t ‘gotten’ Instagram yet. I mean, I have an account, but couldn’t figure out what to do with it! Now I have a theme Idea, thanks to your post, but I have a question…

    I’m using BlueStacks on my PC, because it’s not an Apple product. It works – except I can’t seem to get to my folder on my computer where all my photos are! Also, I can’t find my profile to change it…

    Any Ideas?

  • Fae Rowen

    I’ve read a lot of articles on Instagram. With your post, Penny, I think I’m finally ready to jump in. I spent most of the day yesterday going through all my photos for the past four years and picking out ones that I think will be good to share, that will build my brand, on Instagram. Thanks!

  • What if you are unpublished? Where would someone figure out how to begin? I have a blog that’s terribly neglected because I have no clue what to blog about. Marketing is going to be my weakness once I get closer to the published stage.

    • Fae Rowen

      I’m unpublished, C.K., and when we started Writers in the Storm, I had no idea what to blog about. I’d been writing for years, but since I wasn’t published, I didn’t think I had much to share about the craft. I wrote about being a writer and looking at my life through a writer’s POV. I read articles and attended classes and wrote about what I was learning.

      It is important to build your marketing platform now. Your future agent and editor will want to see you are “out there.” Read a lot of writing blogs, see what you feel comfortable with, even if it’s posting just once a week, and commit to that. You’ll be surprised how quickly you “pick up” the blogging skill! Best of luck!

    • Fae is right — start now, even if it’s just focusing on your genre. So posting pix of your book process (screenshots of your manuscript) – things like your fav writing tools, maybe writing place, great writing quotes, book quotes, etc.

  • I’ve heard that Twitter is slowly declining. Does that mean that it’s better to put my efforts into Instagram and let Twitter go? I don’t feel like I can do it all properly, I’d rather focus on two or three social media avenues.

    • Fae Rowen

      Every marketing workshop I went to at RWA 2016 said to concentrate on two or three social media platforms and do them well. But, if you’ve got Twitter already up and running and you enjoy it, I’d stick with it. Personally, I’m not good at Twitter (and that’s being generous!), so I’m relieved to get to “go” somewhere else. You’ll have to decide whether you’d rather tweet or post pictures.

    • I would recommend looking at what’s driving traffic to your website. So check your Google Analytics to see where people are coming from. That will also tell you where you might want to invest your time!

  • […] Aside from newsletters, there are other avenues to reaching readers. Angela Ackerman tells us how to find and reach influencers to help promote your book, and Penny Sansevieri discusses the power of Instagram. […]

  • Very informative, Penny. Thank you. I already enjoy an Instagram account and have made better contacts using it than Facebook. I’ll put the information you’ve included to good use!

  • I have instagram and twtter but like u mentioned above, It boggles! I’m on it, and still don’t really get it!

    I haven’t done much with instagram yet, but your tips will help. And I might just bail out on the tweets altogether.

Leave a Reply