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What is Instagram?

(Mostly relevant for children and YA books...)

What's this thing called "Instagram", that all the cool kids seem to be completely obsessed with lately? Well it hasn't been around for too long, so don't feel embarrassed to ask. According to Smart Insights, Instagram is one of the TOP 5 social media platforms today.

Instagram is a social networking app made for sharing photos and videos from a smartphone. It can be viewed from a PC, typing in, but you cannot physically interact with accounts/post photos from a computer. It is essentially a ‘mobile-only’ app.

Similar to Facebook or Twitter, everyone who creates an account has a profile and a news feed. When you post a photo or video on Instagram, it will be displayed on your profile. Other users who follow you will see your posts in their own feed. Likewise, you'll see posts from other users who you choose to follow.

Why Use Instagram?

We know what you’re thinking… Not another social media platform! BUT Instagram isn’t new anymore. Instagram launched in October 2010 and has steadily grown in membership since then. This platform is tried and tested. It’s getting bigger and better and if growth is any indication, it will be around for a long time to come. Here’s three reasons to add Instagram to your toolkit:

  • ‘It’s where the kids are!’ – many of them use Instagram because their parents and grandparents aren’t on there, like they are on Facebook. And guess where the kids used to be? Facebook. It’s an evolution. The younger generations find the sites and make them popular. Slowly, everyone else catches on and they become mainstream for other generations as well. Instagram will likely be the new popular platform.
  • It’s all about the photo – think about your Facebook feed. Which posts do you tend to stop and look at more closely? Those with text or those with photos?
  • Drive traffic to other platforms – whilst you cannot add clickable links in the text of your photo, you can direct readers to the link in your bio (homepage). Whether it’s to your home page, your blog tab, a contest page, an opt-in form, or another page of your choice, putting the right link in your bio can drive traffic where you want it to go. You can also change this link as often as you like. This allows you to strategically utilize posts to drive your audience in whichever direction you choose.

Creating an Account on Instagram

Instagram is a FREE app. You can sign up via your Facebook account or by email. All you need is a username and a password. You may be asked if you want to follow some friends who are on Instagram. You can also customize your profile by adding your name, a photo, a short bio, and a website.

Using Instagram as a Social Network

Instagram is all about visual sharing. Every user profile has a “Followers” and “Following” list, representing how many people they follow and how many other users are following them.

Every user profile has a button you can tap to follow them. If a user has their profile set to private, they will need to approve your request first.

Interacting on posts is fun and easy. You can double tap any post to “like” it or add a comment at the bottom.

If you want to find more friends or interesting accounts to follow, use the search tab (marked by the magnifying glass icon) to browse through tailored posts recommended to you. You can also use the search bar at the top to look for specific users or hashtags.

Applying Filters and Editing Your Instagram Posts

When you tap the middle Instagram button, you can select the camera or video icon to let the app know whether you want to post a photo or a video. Capture it through the app or tap the photo/video preview box to pull up a previously captured photo/video from your folder.

Instagram has up to 24 filters you can choose from to apply to photos, and 13 for videos. By using the icons just below the preview of your photo or video, you can adjust the brightness, cover frame if it’s a video, and editing features.

Sharing Your Instagram Posts

After you’ve applied an optional filter and possibly made some edits, you’ll be directed to a tab where you can fill out a caption, tag other users to it, and simultaneously post it to some of your other social networks such as Facebook or Twitter (note that the image will not show up on your Twitter page, only the text and a clickable link to your Instagram account).

How to Use Instagram as an author/publicist

If you are thinking of setting up an Instagram account for your book, author or one of the imprints, here are our TOP TIPS to best maximise traffic to the site:

  • Upload the Instagram Photo Feed App to the Facebook Page. You will then have a continuous photo stream on the page.
  • Link the appropriate Facebook and Twitter accounts to Instagram so that whenever you post a photo, it will upload to both social media pages automatically. Once your image has been shared on Facebook, go in and tweak your hashtags on Facebook (‪#‎instabooks, for example, won't serve a purpose anywhere other than on Instagram).
  • Add your authors/publishers (if they are on Instagram) by using the ‘@’ button followed by the authors/publishers username. Like their photos and tag them in your author/book-relative photos.
  • Instagram, alongside Twitter, is THE home of the hashtag, so don’t be afraid to use them. As well as including hashtags for the authors name and the book title, popular generic ones are:

#instabooks#‎booksofinstagram #‎bookstagram #‎booksigning #‎ilovebooks #‎newbooks #‎bookselfie #‎freebooks

Of course, there are heaps of genre specific hashtags which you can find easily by typing in # followed by an appropriate word to search what hashtags exist and which ones are used most frequently.

Instagram + Book Giveaways/Competitions

Instagram is a great way to increase followers and to get traffic headed over to your other social media platforms and/or website. For example, for #WorldBookDay2016 JHP Children and Young Adult Books offered readers the chance to win an entire collection of Relax Kids books in exchange for image likes and RT's (which inevitably leads to page likes).

We created a series of 4 images in total and altered them to fit the exact image sizes for Facebook, Twitter and Instagram (stops any squashing/cropping of images across the platforms).

We simply posted an image once a day, tagged #RelaxKids in each post and used appropriate hashtags to get the images shared across as many pages as possible without being spammed (i.e. ‪#‎BookGiveaway & ‪#‎competition are considered spammy on FB but are dynamite on Twitter & Instagram).

Here are the results from our 3-day campaign:


186 NEW Followers, 5,300 post views, 248 RT's, 94 Mentions (@JHPChildren), 436 Profile Visits


46 NEW Likes, 8,849 Post Views, 826 Post Clicks, 85 Shares

INSTAGRAM: 22 NEW Followers, 59 Likes

If you are looking to increase followers’/imprint readership quickly, a sizable competition such as this one may work well for you.


  1. Piggybacking onto an international/National holiday works best as hashtags are already circulating the Social Media Networks (‪#‎WorldBookDay created over half a million Tweets in 1 day).
  2. Start your campaign ahead of the actual date (we started ours the day before but it could have started a good week in advance to create even more momentum).
  3. Know your Hashtags for each individual platform. For example, they don’t work particularly well on Facebook as they use Edgerank, an algorithm to determine what your audience sees, meaning that posts can be quashed rather than spread according to what FB consider 'newsworthy' posts. Twitter & Instagram however... go hashtag crazy without losing the posts main message.
  4. It's all about the images. People will RT or share a post if it looks pleasing and they want to see it on their own pages.
  5. Like people's related comments, tweets and posts and RT where possible. Stay on top of it during the competition.

As with all social media platforms, you have to input considerable time (certainly at the start) in order to get anything out of it. Simply creating a profile, uploading pretty photos and hoping people will discover you will not work. Follow people, like others people’s photos, and leave a comment from time to time—“Great photo!”—and you’ll soon start to see other people reciprocating the favour.

How to Increase Your Followers & Interaction

You’ll notice that many of the ideas below are focused on increasing engagement (likes and comments), and that’s because lasting engagement naturally leads to followers.

As you implement the strategies below, keep in mind that there’s no substitute for regularly posting engaging, creative, and relevant images that your audience loves.

  • Use hashtags that are known to help increase followers: #FF (Follow Friday), #instafollow, #l4l (Like for like), #tagforlikes and #followback ALSO use #FF on Fridays to promote another person/book/account that you like. Promote others and they are more likely to promote you back.
  • Like hundreds of random pictures from people in your target audience.
  • Hold a contest on Instagram. One of the easiest ways to do this is to post an image promoting the contest and then ask people to like it in order to enter.
  • Promote your Instagram account on your other social media accounts and profiles. Tell people what they can expect once they’re following you (e.g. behind-the-scenes photos, sneak peeks, book giveaways etc.).
  • Like and comment on other users’ photos. This is the most natural way to gain new followers.
  • Use popular hashtags as well as book related hashtags so that your images get found in searches. Some of the most popular ones are #love, #instagood, #tbt (Throw Back Thursday) and #photooftheday.
  • Make sure your bio is complete. Include relevant keywords and hashtags, and a link back to your site. Above all, don’t be spammy; this is a guarantee that no one who reads your profile will follow you.
  • Ask questions in the captions of your photos. This is a great way to increase engagement.
  • Post on Sundays: Sundays see the fewest images posted, so posting then may get your images more visibility.
  • Be consistent. Know why you’re posting, and who you’re posting for. Be consistent about how you use the platform and your follower count will grow organically.
  • Tag people in your photos when relevant. This ensures those photos show up in those users’ feeds, and makes it more likely they’ll share them.
  • Create a branded hashtag. Come up with a hashtag and encourage your followers to use it. This encourages your fans to engage with your book/profile, and increases your visibility at the same time.
  • Follow all your Facebook friends on Instagram, and many will follow you back. To do this, simply go to your Instagram profile and click on the 3 dots icon on the top right of your screen. Select ‘Find Friends’ and then ‘Find friends on Facebook’.
  • Plan, prepare and then act. As with most things in life, being intentional is your best chance at success. Make a plan for how you’re going to use Instagram, then create a schedule to keep yourself on track.
  • Post image quotes or ‘memes’. Image quotes on social media are huge. Overlay motivational, inspirational or humorous quotes over your images using a tool like Canva.

Remember that having a large number of followers is useless if you don’t take the time to really engage and interact. And in the end, converting followers to customers is the real goal.