Instagram is a popular social network with over 1 billion active users on the platform each month. Of those, 500 million use the Instagram stories feature every day. Similar to Snapchat, Instagram stories let users capture and share photos, videos, text, and other features that can be viewed in a slideshow format. These stories appear at the top of users’ Instagram feeds and disappear after 24 hours unless the creator saves them to their profile as a “Highlight.”
Authors can take advantage of this engaging feature to reach readers who enjoy scrolling through stories (as opposed to just their feed). With over 32 million posts tagged #bookstagram, it’s clear that Instagram is a social network that authors can use to connect with readers! We recommend experimenting with the many different ways you can use stories to learn how best to engage with your audience. To give you some ideas on the types of stories you can create, we’ve compiled a list of how authors are using Instagram stories in creative ways.
1. Promote a post from their main feed
Using Instagram stories to promote posts is a common strategy. Since posts don’t always show up right away in users’ feeds due to Instagram’s algorithm, a story can help redirect that traffic back to your post.
Here, author Leigh Bardugo is promoting a post from her main feed about new artwork for her series. The caption covers part of the image, enticing her followers to view the post.
2. Run book giveaways
Giveaways are a great way to engage with your audience on Instagram. Not only will it incite engagement from your following, but it can attract readers from all over the platform! Typically, accounts running giveaways will have someone enter by either reposting the story or tagging a friend — both of which share your story with a wider audience.
Here, Debbie Macomber uses her Instagram story to point out a post in which she’s hosting a giveaway. This effectively points users to her feed — and it also reminds them to enter the giveaway.
3. Share behind-the-scenes looks at their writing process
One of the perks of social media is being able to share more of what happens behind the scenes during the writing process with readers. Instagram stories is a great place to do this, as it is an accessible way to document the process without making a dedicated, highly polished post about it.
Kerri Maniscalco documents the behind-the-scenes elements of her writing and, in the process, shares a lot of pictures of her cat. In this story, she shows how having a cat can be a bit distracting to the writing process.
4. Get BookBub followers
Getting BookBub followers gives you access to a whole network of avid readers looking for new books, and getting 1,000 followers unlocks Preorder Alerts! Reminding followers on Instagram that you are on BookBub will give readers another way to engage with you online.
Here, author Taylor Jenkins Reid is directing her followers to her BookBub account, utilizing the swipe up feature for direct access. (This feature, however, is only available to users with a business profile and more than 10,000 followers.)
5. Share your followers’ posts
Featuring your followers’ stories and posts in your Instagram stories helps create a connection between you and your readers. Many authors use this strategy in order to show reader appreciation, fostering goodwill.
Here, Adam Silvera shares a post by one of his fans displaying their extensive collection of his books.
6. Promote an ebook discount
Instagram stories are useful for amplifying your price promotions. Boosting ebook discounts on your Instagram stories can garner more clicks and attention while reaching a wide array of users.
This story by Alyssa Cole promotes an ebook discount on one of her novellas by sharing one of her fan’s stories. This strategy allows her to self-promote while also engaging with readers.
7. Share sneak peeks of an upcoming book
Sharing sneak peeks of an upcoming book can generate buzz and excitement among readers. Using Instagram stories to share these sneak peeks is effective as it drives users to your profile and keeps them coming back for more.
Marie Lu has been posting quotes from her upcoming book, Rebel, on her Instagram stories. These continuous postings and sneak peeks drive traffic to her account while generating repeat impressions for her upcoming release.
8. Recommend another author’s book
Recommending another author’s books can grow your audience and create meaningful engagements between you and your readers. Not only will this build trust between you and your following for book recommendations, but you could potentially earn a shout-out from that author, exposing you and your books to a new audience.
9. Link to your newsletter
An easy way to make sure your Instagram followers stay up-to-date outside of the platform is by linking to your newsletter. This simple act can grow your mailing list and keep fans reminded of when you have new books coming out.
In this example, Jenny Han uses a graphic to showcase her new newsletter. She also uses the swipe up feature to direct users to the sign-up.
10. Share highlights from an event
Not only can you promote upcoming events on Instagram stories, but you can share highlights from the event as well. Sharing photos and videos of the event can spread awareness of it (which is useful if you’re on a tour, for example) or just make readers want to attend the next one. It also lets readers feel like they’re participating even when they can’t attend in person!
Nicole Dennis-Benn shared a story from her event at BookPeople in Austin, Texas. By doing so, she is both supporting the bookstore and making her audience aware that she has events happening.
11. Share fan art
Sharing your followers’ fan art is a way to connect with readers while also promoting your own work. By sharing this to your story, you can show your appreciation for the piece.
Sabaa Tahir posted a screenshot of a reader’s fan art to her story, giving credit to the artist. This simple act creates a genuine connection between her and the reader.
12. Start a hashtag for your readers
Starting a hashtag for your readers can help them connect with each other as well as with yourself. It creates a community within Instagram for fans of your work to interact, and it also makes it easy for you to find posts to share to your stories to show your appreciation — all you’ll have to do is see who’s using that hashtag!
Karin Slaughter started the hashtag #SlaughterSquad and uses it to share stories from her readers. Typically, this hashtag is used to show readers enjoying Karin’s books.
13. Ask for your readers’ opinions
Social media is all about interacting and sharing opinions, and Instagram stories have features that make it easy to ask for readers’ opinions. You can use the question and answer function, or even just run a poll! It is an easy and engaging way to get feedback from readers.
Beth Revis posted this photo of a book to her Instagram story with the poll feature, asking her followers whether or not they had read this book.
14. Share your achievements
Platforms such as Instagram are made for sharing your life with your followers. Using Instagram stories, you can show gratitude and recognition for your achievements, big or small.
Here, Kwame Alexander shared a post from Mary Rand Hess about their book Swing being featured in the Young Adult Library Services Association’s “2019 Amazing Audiobooks for Young Adults” list. Not only is Alexander congratulating Mary, but he’s also sharing a piece about why readers should give their audiobook a listen.
15. Host a read-along
To engage on a more intimate level on Instagram, try hosting a read-along! This will allow you to develop closer relationships with your followers by bonding over this shared reading experience.
In this Instagram story, Erin Bowman posted a countdown to a read-along discussion of Contagion, the first in her YA sci-fi duology. She timed this right before the release of the sequel, and hosted an Instagram Live at the end to continue the discussion.
16. Create a highlight
One of the most useful features on Instagram is the ability to save stories to your profile. While most stories disappear after 24 hours, you can choose to have them stay on your profile in a highlight.
Here, author R.S. Grey has a highlight sharing the reading order for her books. This is a useful resource for anyone visiting her profile.
And these are what the highlights look like on her profile page (the second icon is the highlight shown above!):
Are you on Instagram? How have you used Instagram stories to connect with readers?
Want to share this post? Here are ready-made tweets:
Click to tweet: Do you use Instagram Stories to connect with readers? There are some great ideas here. https://bit.ly/2xGGlwr
Click to tweet: Ideas for using Instagram Stories to connect with readers:
✅ Run book giveaways
✅ Share behind-the-scenes looks
✅ Share followers’ posts
✅ Show sneak peaks of new books
✅ Recommend books
✅ Show off fan art
Plenty more ideas here! https://bit.ly/2xGGlwr