Instagram for Dummies

Just a few weeks ago I began my first real foray into the world of Instagram for my art work (BTW I’m @clangleyhawthorneart if anyone’s interested:)) and I feel like I’m definitely in the ‘Instagram for Dummies’ phase! Bizarrely – since I’m only focusing on my art there – I seem to have discovered a whole lot of book and writing related pages so rather than being focused on my own work I’ve been salivating over beautiful photographs of libraries and book covers instead:). As with any new social media experience, I’m still in the throes of wonderment (which won’t last long – no doubt I’ll soon be getting the trolls and the weird follows from fake men!) but also in the thick of trying to work out how the heck to use it. So far I’ve really only managed to upload photos…

I’ve already noticed that some of my favorite authors seem to have a much larger Instagram presence than other social media platforms, which was kind of surprising but also not surprising given the toxicity surrounding much of Twitter and Facebook. Instagram is a very visual platform – which is why I decided to focus on it for my art work rather than my writing – but using it has made me wonder about its value as a potential author social media platform. As with any social media platform, the key is providing consistent content that provides value to your target audience. From what I’ve read, however, Instagram has a higher level of user engagement and also offers potentially much greater visibility compared to other social media networks. Given I’ve only just started using Instagram in a semi-professional capacity, I really don’t have a good sense of whether this is true or whether there really are any benefits to using Instagram compared to other social media platforms… but the potential has me intrigued… It also got me thinking more generally about social media in the post-pandemic era (whenever we actually get there…) and whether authors will find it easier (or harder) to market/gain visibility in the digital arena.

So TKZers, are any of you using Instagram for social media related to your writing? If so, what has your experience been like? If you’re focusing on other social media platforms, have you considered Instagram as an additional resource? And, when thinking more generally about social media in the future, do you think the pandemic has altered your reliance or use of these platforms in your marketing/publicity or writing process?

I certainly don’t have any real sense of how I might use Instagram as an author yet, let alone how it’s going to pan out for my art work – but I’ll keep you posted! In the meantime, feel free to check out my art on Instagram and I look forward to getting your feedback on Instagram on the writing/book front!


36 thoughts on “Instagram for Dummies

  1. I can’t be much help here.
    I used to use Instagram because it was a place where people shared photos, and if I was out and about, and I took a picture I could also share it to my Twitter and Facebook accounts at the same time. Travel pictures, food pictures, dog pictures. It was where I was “me.”
    Then, Instagram and Twitter–turned into marketing platforms, and I stopped posting. And, because it was (probably still is), predominantly cell-phone based, I stopped looking.
    I sit behind a 27-inch monitor most of the day, with a second 21-inch screen alongside. Why on earth would I want to deal with a teeny phone and impossible “keyboard”?

    • Instagram definitely still feels very visual and photo based – so far I haven’t seen the comment horror often witnessed on Facebook and Twitter when people go for the jugular…but I fear all social media sites go toxic at some point!

  2. Instagram is tough, Clare. Actors & singers dominate, but I’ve seen artists do well, too. From what I’ve observed, authors with a big following lean heavier on Stories and Reels, it seems. I share blog posts, book launches, and the occasional sale. Other than that I share videos/pics of my guinea pigs or funny memes, but I have much more engagement on Facebook and Twitter. Though to be fair, I don’t spend much time on Instagram.

    • Sue, I was surprised to see authors on there but they do skew YA and fantasy so maybe the visual aspects make it more appealing. I’m certainly not expecting much in terms of traction but it’s always interesting to see what famous authors choose to focus on when it comes to social media. Of course I have no idea how to do stories and reels on Instagram but maybe I need to learn ?

  3. I’ve heard that Instagram is moving away from still images and focusing on videos. Which means their algorithms are going to show videos first. A lot of artists are returning to Twitter because they feel more people will see their work.

    Me, I missed out on Instagram when it first came out because my Blackberry was incompatible. Now that I have an Android, I just don’t have the energy to learn a new social media.

  4. I must confess I don’t feel I have the energy to learn it either – but at least with my art it feels less pressured than if it was my writing! I have noticed video feeds but haven’t really paid attention as much as I should…

  5. Thanks for talking about Instagram, Clare.

    There is an offshoot called Bookstagram that I understand is very popular with young readers. A couple of years ago, I heard YA author Jeff Giles give a talk about it. He mentioned a high level of reader engagement where kids would read one of his books then put together backdrops that might be related to the setting or plot. Then they’d “pose” the book against the backdrop, and post photos of that on Bookstagram. Or they might dress up as a character and pose for a photo holding the book.

    Interestingly, he noted many YA readers prefer print books to electronic.

    I thought that was a great visual way for readers to show their enjoyment rather than writing a review.

    As you say, YA and fantasy authors and readers are drawn to Bookstagram in higher numbers than other genres. Since my demographic is older and technologically impaired, it probably doesn’t make sense for my adult thrillers. But for a YA author, it sounds really promising.

    • I can definitely see some fun YA book accounts with lots of luscious covers (going to be dangerous as I’ll end up ordering way more books!) I can definitely see Instagram as a YA author option.

  6. Can’t offer anything on the Instagram angle, Clare. Nor on Pinterest or almost all SM. For me, it’s Facebook for laughs and Twitter for sharing. I’ve never found any direct book marketing value through SM. What works for me is building a backlist, paying for ads, and my mailing list. And blogging. Blogging has the best overall ROI for a lot of reasons.

    • You get laughs out of Facebook?! Just kidding…interesting that blogging gets more ROI for you, Garry, but it is a great way to add value and content. Social Media is much harder (tends to get more controversial too).

  7. Interesting post, Clare, and a good reminder for me to revisit IG. I actually have 51 followers (not sure how), and have only used it—sporadically—for posting personal images but also news about my books: releases, inside jokes, etc. Maybe I should revisit it.

    Note that I’m a 27-inch desktop kinda guy, so I have to “emulate” the phone to make it function right, but that works OK.

  8. Hey Clare, 2018 called and wants its blog post back. TikTok is the new thing! You need to take a vid of yourself doing the Whole Shack Shimmy if you want to sell books.

    Sheesh…I’m with Garry, in that the ROI for any of these platforms is not high. Keep writing, keep building that list…and shimmy in private.

  9. Thanks, Clare. I’m with Garry, Jim, et al. but it’s always nice to know how these things work.

    • Joe, I don’t think any writer can completely ignore social media so it’s always good to look at options:)

  10. I use Instagram, Clare, but only about 10% of my posts are about my books. I also post about other authors’ works and add some personal photos now and then. (You just got a new follower on IG.)

    I don’t care for videos posted there. I usually just skim past them. I love the bookstagram posts, though. Some of the library photos are gorgeous.

    Like others have said, I don’t know that any SM platforms provide much in the way of book sales. However, it is a way to make one’s presence felt, and it’s nice to connect with folks.

    • Some of those library photos are gorgeous – definitely has me book envious! Thank you for the follow too! I think any medium that helps connect people with the books or art they love is great – though it’s definitely more about connection than sales!

  11. I use it, Clare, but I think I’m rowing the same canoe as you. I do post there a lot, but in some ways it’s not as user-friendly as FB. For instance, not planting my website link as a link and having to add “link in bio”. And I hate not being able to post from my laptop. I do like the FB/IG link-up, though.

    I’ll be interested in seeing other comments.

      • Thank you, Deb! And yes, it’s a challenge getting used to Instagram but I do like how you can easily cross post to other platforms, though I don’t tend to do that too much. I worry I’ll get repetitive and also have art/writing/personal overlap that gets me muddled!

  12. I gave up on Instagram. I found I can do so much more with Twitter and LinkedIn. I think you hit the problem in the last line, which I’m also uncertain how I can make it work for me. The other problem I found is that there were too many people following me there for reasons that seemed like scams. Just too damn hard to make good connections.

  13. Instagram for Dummies–Finally a TKZ post with my name on it! 😉 I use Instagram, but post from my computer using PromoRepubic. I can schedule a post there as well as FB, Twittter, Pinterest and a couple of other places. Much easier than my phone. And I mostly post photos I take along with sales of my books. Sometimes a book trailer I make a Bookbrush.

    I agree that SM is not great for selling books, but it is for connecting with readers. And readers buy books. lol

  14. I seem to be the outlier here because I DEFINITELY recommend Instagram for writers. As several people mentioned, there are hundreds of readers who bill themselves with the hashtag #bookstagrammer and they are very active reviewing, featuring, buddy reading, and posting about books. I have around 2000 followers and post at least once a day. I am a very visual person so I view this as “fun” not a chore and I’ve set up particular things I post about on certain days – #1linewednesday is a featured line from my debut, on Mondays it’s cover comparisons of other books (hardback vs paperback, which one attracts you more), I did a series on “notes to my younger self” – mostly I post about books, other authors, on weekends occasionally about “non-writing things” like gardening, pets, travels. You can find me here: @maggiesmithwrites. I will say that I started less than two years ago and one of the bigger name authors I know almost exclusively through our interactions on IG recently did a blurb for my debut. So it’s not just meeting readers, but also other writers and supporting their careers as well. It’s fun, visual, not snarky like Twitter and not convoluted like Facebook.

Comments are closed.