Marketing is essential for anyone seeking to gain a social media following, build a reputation, or sell products and services. For some, it is the equivalent of a nightmare set on repeat.
Instagram (IG) is often the lesser evil of social media for creatives (particularly introverted creatives), to break through the cycle of horror. After all, snapping a picture of your book and posting it to IG isn’t so scary, right? Minimal time commitment, too, come to think of it...
I’m with you but hear me out.
If every IG post on your account is a picture of your book, you aren’t going to build anything with your followers other than annoyance. As William Cowper said, “Variety’s the very spice of life, That gives it all its flavor.” Followers of a ho-hum page may stick around if they are not part of the “follow to unfollow” crowd, but they will never be excited to do so. And someone who doesn’t engage and thinks your posts are an indication that you organize your safety pins by size (just an example—this is a judgement-free zone), won’t invest in you or your brand.
So, how do you keep your posts fresh and relevant to your followers? How do you attract like-minded folks to not only visit your IG account, but hit that “follow” button and actively engage with your content?
The short answer is by providing content that inspires positive feelings. That doesn’t mean every post must be upbeat, it just means that the more positive experience you can provide, the better. In marketing, the term “delighted” is the end-goal for the customer experience. You accomplish this by offering quality, utility, continuity, and follow-through in every facet of your business.
I’ve gathered the following information to help guide you in this endeavor. (Skip to the Relevant Hashtags heading if you know how hashtags work.) For everyone else: A hashtag is using a pound (#) sign along with a word or short phrase (with no spaces) to identify or categorize information. This makes it sortable and searchable on certain platforms. Simply typing #authors in the IG search bar, for instance, will sort through the billions of posts made by users who used this hashtag. You can then click to view them, or you can scroll through the drop-down list of other hashtags that contain the same search term. As of today, the second hashtag listed after #author is #authorsofinstagram. The number of posts associated with each is displayed beneath it. Currently, #author has 11.6 million posts!
With billions of posts on IG containing up to thirty hashtags, it can be daunting when figuring out which hashtags will get you the best results for your marketing efforts. The following lists show thirty common writer and reader hashtags, separated into top (10 million + posts) and mid-range (1-9.9 million posts) tables. Below those are ideas for finding more niche-specific hashtags to zero in on your target audience. Note: An effective strategy isn’t about using the most hashtags or only the most popular, but rather, using the most relevant to your message and brand.
(10 million + posts)
# of Posts
(As of 10/31/2021)
(1 million + 9.9 million)
# of Posts
(As of 10/31/2021)
You made it this far (that was a lot of hashtags!) How about some bonus ones? #amreading #lovebooks #igbooks #bookobsessed #booknerdigans #bookgram #bookrecommendations #newbook #readers #readersofig #romancebooks #kindleunlimited #instaread #instareads #indieauthor #bookshelves #nonfiction
Now that you have some universal hashtags to get you started, let’s move onto the next part of your IG marketing plan: finding your segments and identifying opportunities for niche targeting. In any market, but particularly in heavily saturated ones, it is imperative that you stand out from the competition.
Finding your specialized market is as simple as starting with your broader segments, such as fiction or nonfiction, and narrowing it down further to which genre, like romance or self-help. Romance novels break down further by subgenres (i.e. romantic suspense) while self-help books can trim down to psychology. How far down you go is really up to you. Consider researching the following:
Demographics - this will require statistical research. Get to know your audience (or preferred audience.) Are they your age? From your region? What are their religious preferences? Disposable income level? It can seem invasive and labor-intensive but knowing your audience means you can avoid things that could unerringly damage your relationship with them.
Like what? If you’re writing or reviewing clean and wholesome novels for high school-aged girls, then posting racy memes is something to steer clear of. Or, if your brand’s focus is on diversifying the typical hero and heroine in fiction novels, you want to avoid promoting books with cookie cutter character’s as this will likely confuse and alienate your followers.
Individual experiences - Did you wander the globe? Grow up in unique circumstances? Prevail through impossible odds? These life events can set you apart from your peers and help establish you as an expert in a niche market. Who better to help lift someone from a cycle of poverty than someone who has done it themselves? Or show a budding traveler the common pitfalls you wish someone had shown you?
Interests, hobbies, and skills - Perhaps you are talented with photo editing or staging photographs. These skills can go a long way in helping you stand out in the appearance-driven world of Instagram. Your only limits are your imagination in creating unique, vibrant content that will help define your brand.
Speaking of limits of your imagination, it’s time to dive into the final topic of this month’s blog. Now that you know your target segment, have identified any niches, and researched your audience, what content should you post?
You’ve introduced yourself to your audience, ensured your branding is consistent across your channels by staying true to your message and target market, and now you’ve run out of fresh ideas to propel your business forward. What do you do now?
1) Get used to the ongoing need for research. Trends change, new competitors enter the field, and even the freshest ideas eventually grow stale. Knowledge will always be your best weapon.
Along the same vein, performing research into new product developments can offer a dual potential benefit. Perhaps you find new software that claims it can cut one of your most time-consuming tasks in half. You decide to research it and then give it a trial run. You discover it does everything it claims and then some! You can now use your findings to offer the same benefits to your audience. To extend the value, you reach out to the software company and ask if you can get an affiliate link. They not only say yes, but they offer you a discount to pass along to your audience.
2) Know that even if you are not a planner, you can gain better control and present more consistency if you create content weeks or months ahead. It doesn’t do you any good to realize National Authors Day is on November 1st on the night of October 31st. Trust me on this. <Ahem> Moving on...
3) Make a master list of all relevant events, holidays, and national celebrations. Then, research the related causes that support them (along with their preferred hashtags), and use them to make informed, high-value content for your followers.
4) Don’t be afraid to normalize mental health breaks. Running a business is a lot of work. It often requires extraordinary (and draining) effort and it’s OK to take a step back when you need to. Sharing that human moment with your audience can be an uplifting, positive experience for them and for you.
Learning how to navigate Instagram as an author or reader can seem like a terrifying challenge. However, when approached in a way that respects your audience, clearly identifies and consistently represents your brand, and helps you play to your strengths, you will have a better chance of turning your target audience into the “delighted” customers all businesses strive for.