With over 800 million users, Instagram is a massive marketplace that writers can’t afford to ignore. A solid Instagram following means more readers, more book sales and stronger connections with your audience.

So how do you grow your Instagram following? Here are 11 top tips that will help you grow your influence and reach more readers.

Focus on your target market – The number one rule of all marketing is to focus on your target market. Your content, your photos, your outreach should all revolve around your target market. Before you post anything ask yourself two questions: Would my target market find this interesting? Is it appropriate for my author brand?

Be consistent – There are plenty of authors who come out with a bang, posting four times a day then find this isn’t sustainable and drop off the radar a month or two later.  Pace yourself and make it manageable. Pick a posting schedule that you can sustain long-term. This doesn’t have to be rigidly set in stone. It simply needs to be a guide for when you aim to post. It can be as simple as every Tuesday and Thursday in the evening. Look for those times that fit best with your audience. A general rule of thumb for the best time to post is on weekdays is around lunch time (11am-1pm) and evenings (7-9pm), but look for what best suits your audience. At what time are you getting the most interaction on your posts?

Use relevant hashtags – Hashtags are how users search for content on Instagram. You get 30 hashtags per post and studies have shown that posts with 11 or more tags get the highest rates of engagement. If you are going to use over 5 it’s best to put them in the comments so they don’t look messy and get in the way of your message. Keep them simple and relevant. Look at what hashtags your target audience is using and use this as a guide. Some hashtags are designed to bring writers together (such as #writing community or author challenge type tags) these can be fantastic for connecting with other authors and those in the literary industry.

Get your free Hashtags for Authors Guide here

Check out successful authors in your genre – Pay attention to what successful authors in your genre are doing. What content are they posting and what sort of content is getting the best engagement with readers? What hashtags are they using?

Make it visually appealing – Instagram is a visual social media. It is all about pretty graphics, flat lays, and videos. You might want to consider using a color scheme or sticking to a number of preferred filters to give your account a unified feel. There are several apps to help you plan out your content in a visual grid prior to posting, including Preview, Later and Planoly. Before you post something ask yourself – will my readers find this visually appealing?

Keep it relevant –Please don’t post a thousand photos of food unless you are a food writer or it is somehow relevant to your work. Your social media posts are part of your author platform.  Someone should be able to glance at your social media accounts and formulate an idea of who you are as an author and what you write about. It’s fine to have some personal and off-topic posts there IF it is something that appeals to your target audience.

Post a variety of content. Change up your posts and keep it interesting for your followers. You can make some fantastic graphics and quotes on apps such as Canva, Typorama and PicMonkey. There’s also Boomerang videos and time-lapse effects.

Use Stories – Stories are 24-hour images or videos displayed on the top of a user’s Instagram feed. They can be a fantastic part of your profile, providing little snippets for your readers into your daily life. You can add a sticker hashtag to your stories to increase their visibility and swipe up links to parts of your website or book buying sites. Stories can also be highlighted to become a permanent part of your profile and some Instagrammers have started using these highlights to strategically show off business services. Authors can use story highlights to showcase books, behind the scenes clips, to build anticipation with a work in progress or promote limited-time price offers.

Go Live – Going live is great for increasing visibility and communicating directly with your target audience. Consider what topics you can bring to a live recording– a Q & A session, a book reading, or an educational insight on a topic. Schedule it, let your followers know, make it interactive and fun and don’t forget to share it when you are done.

Include a call to action in your posts. Make sure your posts lead your followers to your site. You can only post one link on Instagram in your profile but you can change that link as often as you like to reflect new blog posts, current book promotions or events. Another option is to create a landing page displaying links to relevant parts of your website. Apps that simplify this include LinkTree, Lnk.Bio and InstaPage.

Clean up your Instagram account - From time to time delete inactive followers. There are several free apps available to help you with this including Ig Analyzer and Cleaner for IG.

Use Instagram Analytics – Analytics is a free tool for Instagram business accounts. Pay attention to what content is getting the most engagement and click-throughs. Then do more of what is working and eliminate what isn’t.

If you want to know more check out our 7-day Social Media Boot Camp for Authors a day-by-day action plan to whip your social media into shape in a week.