Writers in the Storm

A blog about writing

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September 22, 2017

5 Easy Steps to Hone Your Instagram

It’s Autumn (finally) and for me, that means a time of reflecting. I like to take the first weeks of September and look back over my organizer and see where I need to make improvements in the new year. Last year it was learning to use Instagram, which I’m happy to say I’ve been doing much better at.

If you aren’t using Instagram as an author, you are missing out on what is quickly becoming the go-to social media site. Statistics tell us that not only are the users primarily women in their mid-twenties to mid-thirties (which happens to be my primary reader demographic) but that it’s growing quickly, and is now in fact the second largest social media site in terms of active users (edging out Twitter earlier this year with over 300 million users). It has a number of advantages over Facebook as well, the most profound being that it still has great organic reach, unlike Facebook who has moved toward a heavily monetized system. If you have 800 followers on Instagram, ALL 800 will see your posts in their feed, unlike Facebook who only shows your posts to a small percentage of followers. Also, Instagram has the same live chat features as Facebook, making it a wonderful platform for things like live author chats and sample chapter readings. It also gives high priority to Instagram Stories, a snapchat like option that shows your stories in the very top of every follower’s feed for 24 hours then disappears.

I’ve had an Instagram account for about two years now (maybe a little longer) and I honestly never gave much thought to whether or not I was using it to its full potential. But as a very wise friend reminded me, a writer’s time is valuable, and any time we are spending promoting and marketing online should be done with both a plan and a goal. Using Instagram is no different. Taking that advice to heart, I made it a goal to double my IG following in 2017, and I’m happy to say I did. While I still have a long way to go, I want to share the steps I took to make that happen.

  • Be constantly aware of your BRAND.

What am I offering my followers? What am I hoping to get from them?

I’m a huge believer that social media doesn’t sell books, but it’s a great resource for building brand awareness and exposure. With that in mind, how is what I’m posting relevant to, and how does it reflect me as an author and my brand as a whole?

This first step I accomplished by simply adjusting my bio. I wanted people who saw my page to immediately know three things.

  • Who I am
  • What to expect from my page
  • What is in it for them

Who am I? Sherry Ficklin, Author, book lover, history nerd.

What can they expect from my page? I chose to use #LifeBetweenThePages because it’s an underutilized hashtag that both gives me a lot of content control and also immediately tells the reader what sort of posts to expect from me.

And finally, what’s in it for them? This is the carrot I offer to get them to follow me, visit my website, and my ultimate goal of getting them to sign up for my newsletter, putting them in my sales funnel. Get 5 free books… not a bad offer, right?

  • Keep your content on target.

Yes, I will occasionally post personal photos, quick snaps of odds and ends. Some fans what to see those things, but they should not be part of your static page. Remember, Instagram is basically a one page magazine of your brand. Cluttering it with cat pictures and such isn’t really delivering an on-brand message. Save those things for your IG Stories, since they vanish after 24 hours. Or, post in your feed and then after a day, archive them. But strive to keep your page as relevant as possible to you and your work. That doesn’t mean only post book covers and BUY ME ads. It does mean that readers aren’t looking for what you ate today when they are searching for new authors to follow. People who are already fans will see your IG stories and your one day posts in your feed, people not yet following you will only see your static page, the bio and magic 9. Which brings me to step 3.

  • Be Visual.

Instagram is a visual medium, and in today’s 30 second world, visual is prefered over any other form of communication. Look at your magic 9, that is the nine images that appear on your page when you open your instagram (they will be the most recent 9 posts). Does the composition look balanced? Do you have lots of images that look the same or similar or do you have varriation? Do your images tell a story, and are they indicative of you and the online presence you want to convey? Would someone looking at them know who you are and what you do? When you post, take a moment to go back and look at your magic 9. If the post doesn’t work within the storyboard you’ve created, consider archiving it or post it as an IG story instead. Remember, instagrammers want ART. It’s your job to give them ART WITH INTENTION.

If you’re unsure what message you want to send with your Instagram account, consider this; what are 5 things your brand represents? For me, those are:






If I’m conveying any of these things with my images and the text I assoiate with it, then I am doing my job.

  • Cultivate New Fans.

Instagram is one place where finding new fans can be as easy as effectively using hashtags. When you begin a hashtag in your post, IG will automatically open up a suggested list based on the first few letters you type, and more than that it will tell you how many others are also using that hashtag. You want a good combination of very popular hashtags and smaller more specific ones. #Bookish may have 300K users, and #HistoricalFiction may only have 3K. Those hashtags show your post to everyone else looking at those hashtag feeds. Consider also using a few what I call ‘discovery hashtags’ like #BookClub and #NewReads. Use genre and theme specific hashtags as well.

Another way to find new followers is to search those hashtags yourself and interact with others using them. Cross networking is always a great tool for building followers. Also, be sure you have a way for people who visit your website to easily follow you on Instagram (and all your social media pages, for that matter).

  • Post Often.

Like any social media site, it’s all about using it often and effectively. If you are only posting once a week, it’s going to take you a very long time to gain new followers. Post on your IG stories daily, to keep those already following you engaged, and drop a post at least a few times a week to draw in those new followers. It seems like a lot of work, but remember that IG will allow you to cross post to your other social media sites with each post, so save some time and dedicate a few days a week to really targeting your IG account. I promise it will be well worth your time!

I hope this is helpful to anyone who (like me) struggles with new social media.

I’m curious how you plan to improve your IG usage and if you found these tips helpful, let me know in the comments!


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Sherry is a full-time writer from Colorado and the author of over a dozen novels for teens and young adults including the best-selling Stolen Empire series. She can often be found browsing her local bookstore with a large white hot chocolate in one hand and a towering stack of books in the other. That is, unless she’s on deadline at which time she, like the Loch Ness monster, is only seen in blurry photographs. She is also the managing editor at Changing Tides Publishing and works as an author consultant with Author branding Essentials.

Her newest novel, THE CANARY CLUB, releases 10/16 from Crimson Tree Publishing.

29 comments on “5 Easy Steps to Hone Your Instagram”

  1. Oh Sherry, You are clearly the Instagram queen! You know how they say do whatever social media you're good at? Yeah, that would not be Instagram for me. All my photos and memes are on my desktop, which isn't a Mac. I've tried the band aid programs that try to make it work with Instagram, but it's clunky, and lame.

    Besides, if I'm not on it, interacting, it's just pushing, and that's irritating. Think I'll stick to FB and Twitter, which is where my peeps are.

    1. That is a great point, while it's always good to learn new platforms, if you aren't comfortable with it, it shows. It's better to have nothing than to have something awful.

  2. Just read Laura's comment. I, too, wonder how to get meme's and pictures I design on my desktop to Instagram. Now that I think about it, that's why I don't use Instagram much.

    1. That's pretty simple, use your smart phone, navigate to Facebook and your memes, save them to your camera roll, then head over to instagram and share them from your library. There are also some really fun apps that can turn static images to moving videos. Things like Ripl which is a free, easy to use download.

  3. Awesome insights. You gave me some lightbulb moments...that I'm going to go test right now!

  4. Very intriguing. I am a baby when it comes to anything other than FB and Twitter. Thank you for sharing with us all you have learned about Instagram. I'm going over to your IG page and see how it is used. I thought hashtags were only for Twitter. So much to learn.

    1. The best part is, Facebook actually OWNS Instagram, so they work really well together. With one click, anything you post on one can be shared to the other. If you use FB ads, you can also use those same ads on Instagram.

  5. Sherry, as a lapsed IG user who just went back to it, this post could NOT have come at a better time, wow. So informative! Thank you!

    1. Absolutely! I lapse from time to time myself, had to add it to my daily checklist. I'm just forgetful like that. 🙂

  6. Thanks, Sherry! You've given up great tips. I am repeating 100 times today: I will start posting and using my Instagram account.

  7. I view Facebook as a necessary evil and though I do like Twitter, Instagram is just plain fun. Thank you for this!

  8. Thank you, Sherry. i opened an Instagram account many months ago, and have done absolutely nothing with it because I had no clue where to begin! I think you may have given me the courage to make a start!

  9. Such an illuminating blog. I didn't even realise I had a page for Instagram. You've made me re-think and now I'm going to remedy to "improve" my brand. So much to learn. But, isn't that great? All good stuff to keep the "little grey cells" growing instead of atrophying. (Is that a word?) Thanks! I have shared three-ways.

    1. Im glad you found it useful! Honestly, sometimes I wonder, do they already know this? Am I just telling people what they already know? But I figure there's always room for learning new things if not! 🙂

    1. Agreed! And I tinkered with using FB ads to run advertising just on Instagram, it got me a nice chunk of new follows. The ROI was a little lower than FB, but the follows were really good, in target demographic, so not too much complaining to be done. 🙂

  10. I have a personal instagram account; I just don't have a public one. I get so many troll requests on my private account. I guess if I had a public author account, I wouldn't get requests to follow, they'd just follow.

    1. Yeah, the trolls arent too bad on a public page, but I do warn authors against setting up their IG Author Account as a "business page". That smells like heavy monitization to come, imho. And you dont get much in the way of extra useful features. But a second account is great (I have a public and private one myself).

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