Instagram for Indie Authors – Creative Marketing Strategies

by | Aug 11, 2016 | Book Marketing Basics, Social Media for Authors

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Even though Instagram is fairly new, it’s still hard to remember a time when we didn’t have this social media site. Part of the reason for this is its staggering growth. In 2012 when Instagram was acquired by Facebook, it had 100 million active users, now that number is up to 400 million. More and more, authors are heading over to Instagram to engage with readers, build their fan base, and sell books.

Why Instagram?

instagram logoAside from the growth this social media site has seen, it’s pretty simple to use, which is a big plus when it comes to social networking sites. Though owned by Facebook, it doesn’t have any of the complexities that Facebook does since it’s not as ad-driven (yet). Since Instagram is visual, capturing someone’s attention on Instagram is much easier than on Facebook.

Instagram posts generate a per-follower engagement rate of 4.21%. That’s huge! It means the app is delivering 58 times more engagement per follower than Facebook and 120 times more engagement per follower than Twitter. We simply cannot ignore stats like these when considering which social networking platform to use.

Creative Account Strategies

There’s a lot of basic information out there on how to set up an account. Add a good picture, make sure you remember to add your bio and a link to your site, and more things in that vein. But I’d like to take this a step further. Because if you’re going to drive fans, having a solid bio and a good picture will only get you so far. Also, make sure that your Instagram account is connected to your Facebook account and share your posts there as well (you have the ability to do so from within the app). Instagram photos posted to Facebook directly from the app, have been shown to get higher shares.

Before we get too far into some of the ideas, though, keep in mind, your Instagram page can and should be completely different from your Facebook or Pinterest page(s). In fact, it’s always a good idea to not duplicate too much content between the three. You can certainly rotate things – but as a general rule you want your Instagram followers to know they’re getting something unique.

What’s Your Theme?

Instagram has a lot of room for creativity, but one thing that tends to work really well for indie authors is the use of themes, or a set plan for what you’ll post.

Before you set up your account, think about what kind of theme you’ll utilize as you post. Accounts that have a theme-based strategy tend to do better than those where users post “anything.” Often I see Instagram accounts that are all over the place. To be candid mine was that way, too, a bit haphazard and likely harder to follow because I posted, well, “anything.” It’s because I started the account way back before I had an actual plan, more out of curiosity than marketing strategy. What happens when you do that, meaning create an account for the sake of creating it, is that your posts tend to be all over the place.

Instead, think “theme.”  By sticking with a single theme, or even slight variations on your core message, you’ll not only pull in more visitors but keep them as well.  What will yours be? Will it be a consistent message or will your theme have a color? Let users know right up front what they can expect. Within the theme that you’ve picked, you could also do color themes – by week or month or per twelve images. So your block of images, the ones that show up under your profile, carry not just the theme of your account but also a color theme that aligns with what you’re sharing.

But regardless of whether you focus on a color scheme within a theme, you should focus on posting clear and consistent content.

Examples of Instagram Themes

Talking about themes is great, but it can be a little bit abstract, so let’s look at some practical examples of how a theme could be put into action.

Let’s say you have a historical fiction book – you might want your theme to have a vintage look and feel. You can achieve a vintage look by using the image filters that Instagram filters has built right into the app. Another route to accomplish this might be to post pictures that correspond with your book. Settings, clothing, food, quotes, etc. And you could, for example, dedicate a week to each of these. So one week you focused on clothing, the next food, or settings. Or you could devote a day each week to sharing a specific type of image – Food Friday, Words Wednesday, etc. You get the idea.

If you have a business or non-fiction topic, quotes perform really well. You can select quotes you love as well as those from your book.  (We’ll discuss how to create images with words a little later in this article.)

Instagram BioYour Instagram Bio

The bio is another great place to market creatively. While you may be tempted to use your standard author bio, I would encourage you to think outside of the box. Meaning that you’ll want to drive attention to whatever it is that you are currently promoting – featuring a new book, product or service can help to drive traffic back to your site. 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

As you post, remember to use 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 proving to be quite an effective marketing strategy. Whether you’re adding additional hashtags or inviting folks to click your URL, it’s a good opportunity to get more eyes to your post, and ultimately to your website.

Make sure that any pages you send people to have been optimized for mobile browsing. Instagram is almost exclusively used by mobile users, although you can browse accounts from a computer. So if your website hasn’t been optimized for mobile viewing and that’s the primary place you’re sending your Instagram friends, you may want to reconsider your linking strategy.

Your Posting Strategy: Growing Your Instagram Fans

Once you determine your account theme and have a solid bio, it’s time to develop a posting strategy. Since the average person gets distracted in 8 seconds, it’ll be important to grab them quickly with clear images that don’t require a lot of thought. Meaning you want them to be interesting, inviting, and completely lacking in complexity. Again, the majority of your followers will be tracking you from their phones, so remember that certain limitations come with a small screen

I talk a lot about not posting and ditching on sites like Facebook or Twitter, and the same rings true on Instagram. In fact, most posts get likes within 30 minutes so once you post, stay on the site because interaction happens quickly.

If you’ve really decided to kick it into high gear on Instagram, then consider this: the more you post, the faster you grow. In fact, some of the biggest, most popular accounts post every two hours or 4 to 10 times a day. If that seems daunting (and you have other sites you need to post to, or are otherwise limited on time) then do what you can, however you should, at a minimum, post once a day. If you’re not sure what to post, look at trends —- look at newsfeed “trending” then you can jump into bigger conversations.

How @Mentions Can Impact Your Post

While the length of your photo caption doesn’t impact your engagement, by including another users handle @mentions, posts can receive up to 56% more engagement, according to Simply Measured. Keep in mind that you don’t want to overdo this as Instagram will deactivate any account seen abusing this feature. That said, using @mentions to tag other Instagram users who are authentically connected to your post is a great idea.

The Magic of Hashtags

Instagram Marketing Strategies

While hashtags on Twitter are recommended, they are practically mandatory on Instagram if you want to get views to your post. In fact, the more the better. A study by Simply Measured found that posts with at least one hashtag got an average of 12.6% more engagement.

Many Instagram experts say that 11 hashtags is the magic number, so that’s 11 hashtags per post with a max of 30 hashtags per post. Keep in mind that you don’t have to slam them all into the photo caption, you can and should also add them to the comment section just like you’re doing with your URL links.

If you are posting pictures that are part of a series, whether it’s sharing book snippets or educational information, try to pick one hashtag that will represent the entire series. So for example, if I am posting something in my How to Sell Books by the Truckload on Amazon series, I might use #truckload as a hashtag, or #Amazonbestseller. You get the idea. That hashtag will now be part of every post within that series that goes live. Additionally, you can search the hashtag or click on it to see other Instagram posts with the same hashtag. This also helps people identify and follow a series.

Have fun and be creative with your hashtags… beyond the fact that you should be using hashtags, there are no rules here. If you’re looking to create some new audience conversions, then consider adding a hashtag that has only a limited relationship to what you’re promoting and you just might get some comments or some fun new followers.

Location Sharing Boosts Engagement

In addition to hashtags and @mentions, adding a location to your post drives 79% higher engagement. By using the Photo Maps within Instagram, you can boost the attention to your post by giving users an additional way to find your account. This feature needs to be manually turned on, as it’s off by default.

How to discover interesting Instagram accounts

Rather than continuously tagging the same recycled memes again and again, it’s sometimes refreshing to find more original accounts to follow. Thankfully, the Activity button — aka the heart at the bottom of your Instagram homepage — allows you to see not only who “Likes” one of your posts and when a friend has tagged you, but also what the people you follow “Like.” Simply select the Following option at the top of the screen and let the Insta-creeping begin.

Or type a hashtag into the search bar and find photos from others who have used the tag, and start following them…. And on down the rabbit hole!

Know your followers’ every Instagram move

If you have a lot of followers, it’s easy to miss their posts as they get pushed down and buried in your feed when new posts arrive (although that’s changing: Instagram is planning to move to a feed that’s based on what’s popular, instead of chronological). If you have favorite followers, turning on Notifications will alert you whenever said followers post new content. To activate this, go to the follower’s profile page, tap the three-dot icon at the top-right, and select Turn on Post Notifications. Now you’ll never miss a butt shot from Kim Kardashian (who has the third most-popular Instagram account).

So ultimately, Instagram is a great place to be for anyone looking to market anything! It’s a spectacular tool for reaching new audiences and new demographics. Plus, there is room for so much creativity and out of the box thinking. I have had a lot of fun with it, and made some great conversions too. So definitely, give Instagram a shot. With a little strategy and some great photos, see what it can do for your marketing efforts.


  1. iprism

    Thanks for sharing such a great, very informative and useful article to Instagram marketing tips for small business.
    Keep it up.

    • Penny Sansevieri

      Thank you so much for your input! If you come across other Instagram tips that have worked for you, I would love to see them!



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