Many authors adore Instagram, but for every author who loves it, you’ll find one who stares daggers at the app icon on their phone. From what I’ve seen, a lot of the frustration seems to come from authors not quite sure how to use it or where to post. Knowing what to post on Instagram is an entirely different episode.
First things first, it’s important to know that there are two primary places to post content within Instagram. The traditional part of Instagram is often referred to as the feed. Think of that like your library. When you post to your feed, they stay there forever (unless you delete them). People can scroll back and look at your posts, like your Facebook or Twitter profile. They’re showing on your profile in reverse chronological order.
While the feed is permanent, Instagram stories, or InstaStories, are temporary. Think of those like your revolving stack of magazine subscriptions. You throw out last month’s magazine when this month’s arrives. Stories disappear after 24 hours, unless you add them to your highlights section. Don’t worry, I’ll talk about the highlights section in a bit.
The feed is what scrolls up and down, with the large, square images and videos. It’s what you see when you tap the little house icon in the bottom-left of your app. You can find the stories, when you tap the same house icon. They’re hanging out across the top of your screen. You’ll see circles and the profile pictures of people you follow, all lined up in a row.
Instagram has hopped on the whole “we know better what you want to see than you do” bandwagon and nothing is chronological. That includes the stories you see. But the more you interact with an account by liking posts or watching stories, odds are you’ll start seeing that account early in your stories list.
I’ve heard some authors say that you only need to use stories or feed, but not both. I disagree. They serve different purposes and complement each other.
Before following an account, most people will take a look at the feed but not stories. Your feed is important real estate for increasing your following and is often your first impression.
Quick assignment: head over to your profile and take a quick glance of the top posts. Don’t scroll more than twice. What do those posts say about you and your author brand? Do you think the balance of posts there convey who you are and your author brand to someone new to you?
The posts on your feed are also the searchable part of Instagram. Specifically, the hashtags you use and the caption you write for posts can be searched.
For many authors, the feed is more carefully curated and branded, while stories are more of a behind-the-scenes look at your daily life.
Stories are a great way to better connect and engage with your current followers. Instagram has added lots of neat features to stories like polls and questions. It’s also easy to jazz up your stories with gifs and stickers.
It’s great to pop on stories every day and just talk to your audience. I know that putting your face in front of the camera can be challening, but it’s important.
Readers don’t just connect with your books, but they connect with you. Social media has created and environment where people expect to quickly and easily connect with others, including brands and celebrities.
If you’re building a long-term career, it’s safe to say you’re hoping that your readers stick around beyond your most recent release. The best way to make sure that happens is to build a relationships with your readers. Get them to want to know what you’re doing in the months, or years, between releases.That’s the beauty of social media. You can get readers to keep watching what’s going on with you, so when you do have that next release, they’re there to see it.
InstaStories has made it easy to help your readers connect with you. With one press of a button, you can make a quick video or snap a photo and decorate it up with gifs. The best part? They disappear after 24-hours. If you pop in stories and make a few brief videos talking about your hectic day, you don’t have to worry that people will watch that a month from now.
But you’ve given your readers a glimpse into your life and a way to connect with you on a personal level. Leaving them with a warm and fuzzy feeling about you.
I want to give you a couple of examples of how your feed and stories could work together.
Let’s say you have a book launch party coming up this weekend. On your feed, you could post a graphic promoting the event and share a beautiful picture a bookstagrammer has done with your book. After the event, you could share a few photos that a friend or loved one took of you with readers.
On your story, you could talk about how nervous or excited you are for the event the day before. If you’re making swag bags, take a couple preview pictures of what people can expect. Just before you’re about to go out and talk to the crowd, you could do a quick post for those who couldn’t be there. If you’re feeling sassy, you could even take a video of the crowd during your event and have them say hi to everyone who couldn’t be there.
Another example. It’s a random Tuesday and you you’re plugging away on your WIP. On your feed, you could post a picture of your adorable ginger cats chasing each other through your home. While on your story, you could do a boomerang – which is the feature showing a short video going forward then backward repeatedly – of you pouring coffee into your favorite mug with a caption about how it’s your second pot of the day to help you reach your word count goal.
I hope this helps you envision how the two spaces complement each other. Frankly, I like to think of feed and stories as two different platforms when I’m planning.
Alright, a quick word about highlights. I hope you didn’t think I’d forget to come back to that. When you take a look at an Instagram profile, highlights appear between someone’s bio and the start of the photos or videos in their feed. They’re circles and will have a brief description underneath them.
When you post something to your InstaStories and go back to view them, you’ll see an option on each post that says “highlight.” Tap on that and follow the prompts to add it to your highlights. Or, head your profile and look at the highlights section. You should see a button that says “new” with a plus sign. If you tap that, it will show your recent posts to your story and you can select which ones you want to appear in that specific highlight.
Think of them like themed collections. You could have a highlight for upcoming live events or the reader order of your books or inspiration for your characters or even a series of posts about your pets.
Highlights can be a great tool for people who don’t already follow you but are taking a peek at your profile. Use them to share information you’d want new-to-you readers to know. Not that many people go back to look at the profile of someone they’re already following, unless they haven’t seen posts by them in a while and wonder what they’re up to, or they’re looking for a specific post. So, odds are, your highlights videos will usually be seen by newbies.
Okay, one last thing. Instagram live. You can go live on Instagram, just like on Facebook. It’s a live video feed where you can talk or show something, or even invite another Instagram user to have a conversation with you. Going live can be a great way to give something big an extra boost because Instagram will often send a notification to some or all of your followers when you go live. I recommend using this sparingly, like for big announcements, live events or something extra fun.