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Getting Around The Algorithm: 5 Tips To Increase Your Instagram Visibility

In today's virtual world, it's almost impossible to sell books without utilizing the internet. Whether you publish traditionally or self-publish, writers must learn how to market themselves effectively on social media. With digital reading devices like the Kindle and the connectivity of the internet, being able to draw attention to one's book and use social media, like Instagram, to promote yourself as a author is crucial.

Ever since Instagram ended its reverse-chronological feed back in 2016, there's been a lot of confusion about how the new algorithm works. The truth is that Instagram decided to switch to Facebook’s algorithm, which orders posts based on the viewer’s presumed level of interest. This means that the more interest (likes and comments) a post has, the more likely it will appear at the top of the search menu, etc. It also means that whatever you like the most, is what you'll see more of. Thus it has become harder and more competitive when it comes to getting creative content noticed. Bottom line: It doesn't matter how much you post. If your audience isn't responding to your material, you'll be at the bottom of the slush pile.

If you've experienced a dry spell in your engagement recently, it's likely this algorithm, and your strategy, is to blame. In this guide, you'll find 5 tips to increase your visibility on Instagram and beat the algorithm.

1) Visual Appeal

Instagram is a visual world. This stands to reason that any post that's garnering a lot of likes usually has two things in common: 1) It's visually stunning and 2) The image is of good quality.

When a photo is visually striking it means that it stands out. It uses bold colors, breathtaking landscapes, has symmetry, or some other visual element that grabs your attention. It could be a clean logo, a memorable hairstyle, an out-there pose, whatever it is, it has to be memorable. Better yet, when you utilize your brand appropriately other users should be able to associate you with your posts by visuals alone without reading any of the text.

To up your game, consider hiring a professional. This doesn't mean you have to break the bank. A single photo shoot broken into posts over a long period of time with other content in between is a great way to get value for your dollar. Plus, it provides continuity throughout your feed as the same props you use will appear more than once.

Should your budget not allow for a professional shoot- don't worry! There are tons of resources to help you make your photos look like you paid someone else to take them. If you need a photo shop experience without the expense, check out the free version Adobe Photoshop Express Editor. Take care of issues like red eye, lighting, and color correction without the price tag. Canva is a great free online site that allows you to use templates and free photos to create everything from social media covers to newsletters, presentations, and more. For all your resizing needs, check out Instasize.

Finally, use those filters! Not only do these give your photos that professional edge, but they also help improve your chances of being seen on Instagram. Studies show that “filtered photos are 21% more likely to be viewed and 45% more likely to be commented on” than those without filters. The most effective photos are those with a “warmer” temperature, higher contrast and higher exposure, as they receive the most attention. Bored of the ones on Instagram? Try the ones provided by VSCO, a free photo editor that also utilizes the power of the filter.

2) Quality Content

It's not enough to have stunning images, you also need to have quality content to go with it. What do we mean by quality? Strong, original branding, visual aids, and compelling captions.

Any time you're delivering information over Instagram, whether its an update or a short story, you must consider who your ideal audience is. This is especially true when it comes to promoting a book. Your aim is to make sure that the people you interact with online are also buying your product at the end of the day.

Having a strong brand for your author Instagram is a good way to capture people's attention. It speaks to who you are as a person and a writer, provides continuity, and also allows people to recognize your posts so they can associate them with your book or projects.

Using visual aids to display information is also useful. This comes in handy for longer paragraphs or heavier numerical information, breaking it up so it's easier and faster to read.

Compelling captions tie the package together. Whether its witty or precise, your titles and captions matter.

Above all, remember who your audience is. They are the most important part. By making your posts personal and tailored to them, you guarantee that your content will succeed. You should always put yourself in their shoes and ask yourself: What would I like/share? Whatever your answer is, follow it.

3) Target Audience

Once you understand who your target audience is, it's time to do the research. Why does one post get 200 likes while another gets 800? Find a few examples of this and compare them. What makes one more successful than the other and why? Is it the filter? Hilarious caption? The image? Or the personal connection? Once you identify what it is, you can drive engagement by using that knowledge to your own advantage.

Use hashtags to find your ideal reader. You can search through the different ones and see what people are attracted to, where your material will best fits in, and what hashtags you can use to help yourself stand out from the crowd. You can also use them to observe who is using/following said hashtags. This is your potential reader.

Once you find your ideal reader, you can switch gears and check out the competition. Find accounts similar to yours or ones that you admire. See what tricks they're using and who they're following. It'll give you insight into what you should be doing to be equally as successful. To this end you should also follow Influencers outside of your field who inspire you. You can use what you see there to give you new ideas on how to refresh your own feed.

Don't forget to reach out and build relationships with your ideal readers and peers. Community and personal relationships is what Instagram is all about. Meeting new people within your industry can lead to so much more than a "like" on a photograph. Make sure you're making the most out of what the #writergram community has to offer. Talk to people, join chat groups, challenges, follow loops- there's no telling where these opportunities will lead you.

4) Time Matters

Time plays a key role in visibility. One of the easier areas to fix, you'll want to make sure you're doing the following in order to maximize your chances of being seen.

  • Post during peak hours

  • Post frequently/consistently

  • Publish consistent stories

All of the above will help you to beat the algorithm. Though its not direct, what it does is ensures that you have a captive audience. The more attention you get and the more you retain said audience, the greater the chance that even more people will see your material.

To help you manage all the traffic, consider these:

  • Follow a posting schedule/plan ahead

  • Batching

Following a posting schedule guarantees that you never have to scramble for material to post the day of. This means your quality control will be better and your content will be more valuable overall. Using a batching system such as Planoly or Later will help you keep track and plan ahead.

5) Generate Excitement

What makes you click on a post? More often than not its because you thought it was exciting, entertaining, or there was the promise of a freebie. Generating excitement is a key element of expanding your audience.

There are three great ways to do this: 1) Publish video content, 2) Go live often, and 3) Host contests and giveaways.

There's no faster way to share information and connect with your audience than by releasing a video. When your media is film, you get to show the audience who you are and what you're like without ever having to leave the comfort of your own home. The other bonus? It almost always makes people stop and pay attention when they scroll.

Going live often plays less to beating the algorithm and more to playing the numbers game. The more you share, the more your story appears in the forefront of your audience's highlights. This practically guarantees you an audience since your content will appear before anyone else's, similar to how the first five links on Google receive the most traffic.

Hosting a giveaway or a contest generates the most excitement of all. This one is pretty self-explanatory, and probably the easiest way to gain some new followers/subscribers. Offering things like signed copies of your book, book-related accessories, bookmarks, candles, Amazon gift cards- the sky and your creativity is the limit. Just make sure that whatever is promised is followed through on.

Using these 5 Tips To Increase Your Instagram visibility will help you beat the algorithm and gain more followers, help you expand your reach, and will hopefully lead to more book sales in the near future.

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