A. L. Hooke
How To Create Engagement on Your Author Instagram Account
Social media is a key component of any author platform. I posted to Instagram every day for a month to build mine. Here's what happened.
Every resource about self-publishing that I’ve consumed has shared a version of the same message – the key to long-term success hinges on two things: writing lots of books and building an author platform. If of those two things building an author platform sounds like the easy part then you’re probably doing it wrong. One of the fundamentals of content marketing is that you should spend at least three times as much time promoting your content as you do creating it. For those of you who have published books, that statement probably sounds absurd, but I promise you that it’s not.
What is an Author Platform?
Your author platform is essentially everything you do (online and off) to create awareness about who you are and what you do. It refers to your brand visibility – and the more visibility you have, the easier and faster it is to get your books into the hands of your target audience.
The most common components of an author platform for self-published authors these days are:
A catalog of books (the more the better I’m told)
A website (this is your marketing “home base”)
A healthy and growing email list (the marketing holy grail)
A social media presence (at least one or two platforms with an engaged following)
Of course, this isn’t all there is to it. The more marketing-savvy and prolific authors will expand this into other online and offline ventures – things like guest blogging or podcasting, influencer marketing, online courses, brick and mortar efforts, events, and more.
Now can you see how this can be so time-consuming?
I Posted to Instagram Every Day for a Month. Here's What Happened.
To solidify my new goal, I decided to join the #WriterFriendsChallenge in January. The challenge is a monthly effort spearheaded by the lovely and talented @susanleighneedham and @thatsarahelynn designed to help writers socialize and grow their community on Instagram.
I posted every day for 31 days. Here’s what happened:
My audience grew.
Not by leaps and bounds, but I earned 34 new followers in one month. Given that I now have a total of 144 followers, that’s significant. Even more significant is that by posting every day and engaging with a specific audience, I earned 31% more followers in January than I did in December. If you’re totally unimpressed by my whopping 144 followers, I don’t blame you. But something to note is that nearly all of my followers are engaged. They aren’t bots or empty accounts, they’re real readers and writers – 144 humans who actually care what I have to say (and aren’t immediately related to me). That’s something.
I reached more accounts.
By growing my audience I also reached more accounts. When someone engages with me on Instagram, my account becomes more discoverable by their network, and so on. So I earned 34 new followers and I reached 383 total accounts. That’s a 91% increase in reach over December.
People actually engaged.
Impressions, views, reach – whatever the metric is called and on whatever platform you're using – it’s a vanity metric. It’s nice to have a ton of eyeballs on your content, but ultimately that’s all it is. What matters is how engaged those eyeballs are. Are they liking, commenting, following, sharing? As a writer and a marketer that’s what I’m most interested in. You know those 383 accounts I reached? 165 of them actively engaged with my posts. That’s a 48% engagement rate (which is bananas, in case you were wondering.) And the kicker? Engagement in January was up 345% over December. Those 34 new followers look a little better now, huh? That is the power of an engaged audience on social media.
I learned what to post.
Not only did I post to my feed each day, but I also built a month long story and highlight using the same content from the challenge. 94% of my engagement for the month was on the posts themselves, with a measly 6% on my story. In fact, after the first week people didn’t engage with my story at all. Of the 32 posts I published for the month, I received the most engagement on those where I let people see “behind the curtain.” Glimpses into my writing process, my goals, and my challenges. Why? Because people like to engage with people, not with brands. Also, photo posts were alarmingly more engaging than branded artwork or stock photography.
I know how to improve in the future.
The #WriterFriendsChallenge was an exercise in commitment, in building my audience, and in learning more about the best times to post on my account for optimum engagement. I was intentional about my post timings across the days of each week to test when engagement was highest. Throughout the month I posted at least once in the morning, afternoon, and evening each day of the week.
Best Day to Post: There isn’t one! Engagement was consistent 7 days out of the week. I didn’t think this was right, but according to my followers creativity never sleeps.
Best Times to Post: 9 am, 12 pm, and 3 pm EST were all high engagement times for me - and this held true for every day of the week, including weekends.
I’m walking away from this challenge with a bigger, more engaged audience and a ton of new insights into what people want to see on Instagram. So, I’m going to call this a resounding win. But there is plenty I have yet to learn about this weird and wonderful platform – specifically, the impact of video. You’ll notice that I didn’t even dip my toe into that ocean with this challenge, and that was intentional. I wanted to establish a baseline, learn the basics, and only test a few things at a time. The next time I participate in this challenge (and there WILL be a next time) I’m guessing you already know what kind of content to expect.
To Join the Writer Friends Challenge:
Follow the hosts: @susanleighneedham & @thatsarahelynn
Like, save, and share the month’s prompts post
Follow as many prompts as you want, using the hashtag #WriterFriendsChallenge
It’s never too early to start building your author social media profiles
Pick one or two platforms to really engage, don’t try to be everywhere and don’t waste your time on platforms where your readers aren’t looking for your work
I’ve identified Instagram as the best platform to reach readers of my action-adventure and sci-fi novels, as well as other self-published authors with my book marketing advice
A small, engaged audience is better than a huge, but silent one
Even small gains in your audience can lead to a massive increase in your reach and engagement
There is no one best day to post to Instagram, but people are most actively engaged between 9am and 3pm (EST)
Being yourself > being your brand every day of the week. (Literally. See last bullet point.)