Social Media 101: Instagram Updates

What’s New?

With over 800 million monthly active users (users returning to the application each month), Instagram is one of the most popular social media platforms in the world (Dustn.tv). This application is beat narrowly in web traffic by Facebook and Youtube, which you can read about in our recent post. Instagram didn’t earn its massive audience overnight -this social media staple has been around over nine years- so what’s new with Instagram updates since its launch?

Instagram Stories

Following the example of Snapchat, Instagram rolled out its story feature in August of 2016. Almost half the app’s following use this Instagram update daily (Hootsuite).

  • How to use it – You can either tap the camera icon at the upper left-hand corner of your app, or, if you haven’t already added content to your story, the plus (+) sign at the bottom edge of your photo in the story bar. This bar borders the top of your feed. Via either option, a camera view will fill your screen. You can select from several options in a scrollbar at the bottom of this screen, which we break down below:
  • Type is the brass-tacks option among the story features. This is a text-only post that allows you to choose from “Modern,” “Neon,” “Typewriter,” and “Strong” as themes at the top of your Story window. Type excludes the extras available in other Story features including filters, stickers, etc.
  • Music allows users to search from Instagram’s library via query, or by “Popular,” “Moods,” and “Genres.” Once you’ve chosen your song, you cut a clip of your choosing (up to 15 seconds in length for copywrite purposes) and post away. You can also use this feature second-hand in other Story features to give your content the perfect ambience.
  • Live allows you to interact with your audience in real-time. Once you hit “Go Live,” a feed of your viewers’ comments will begin. You can also invite any viewer to join your live -eager fans or fellow authors can really liven up your stream and build great relations between you and your following.
  • Normal is the option your Story camera defaults to. You can tap the circle, center-screen, for a photo and hold for a video. Like the other features, you can add a filter to your photo or video by tapping the sparkling smiley icon at the bottom right hand corner of your screen. After a photo or video is taken, you can add a filter; sticker (this includes location, @mentions tagging other users, hashtags, and even music just to name a few); drawing, and/or caption.
  • Boomerang uses an app that you download externally to access via Instagram. Boomerang is the trendy app that allows you to take a short video and turn it into stop-motion, repeating piece of content. Whether it’s opening your newest book or sipping a cup of coffee, Boomerang can add a modern edge to your Instagram story.
  • Superzoom is a feature that gradually focusses on a face throughout a video, as it is video only. While Superzoom focusses on the targeted face, background objects and people are blurred. You can select from five different filters to add the right mood to your post. Superzoom also excludes the extras available in other Story features.
  • Focus is similar to superzoom in the way that you target a face with your camera as the centerpiece of your content. The major difference between these two features is that you can make Focus a photo or video. Focus also excludes the filters available in superzoom, as well as the extras that other features include.
  • Rewind is another video-only feature that simply plays the content you record in reverse.
  • Hands-Free allows you to record a video without holding down the center button. Otherwise, for the features including video mentioned previously, you must hold down the center button to record. Releasing the button ends the video you’ve started -excluding the Live feature.

The Instagram Story is a great way to generate quick and consumable content for your audience without much planning; one in five Instagram stories get a direct-message response. This feature can tap into the potential audience you’ve been missing all along!

Instagram TV

IGTV was launched June of 2018, a function inspired by Snapchat and adopted by Facebook as well. Essentially, this Instagram update provides a host of channels that cable networks can’t with this innovation. Each show stars a celebrity or person of interest and lasts only minutes. IGTV not only introduces a new set of outlets for you to plug yourself and your book, but you can also create your own channel.

  • How to use it – By tapping the television icon in the upper-right-hand corner of your app, next to the direct message icon, the IGTV feed will open. There you will find a cog; upon tapping the cog a prompt to create your own channel will appear. You can either upload videos from your mobile library or record one from the application. There is no landscape layout to this feature -vertical videos only, making it optimal for mobile use. IGTV is great for users who want to publish videos longer than a minute to their Instagram audience.

If you find yourself struggling with these new Instagram updates, don’t panic. We have an infographic that breaks down the basic functions of Instagram for beginners.

Stay posted for more great information on social media for authors!

Social Media 101: Snapchat and Instagram Stories for Authors

SnapchatInstagram and Snapchat are popular social media platforms for influencers, especially those who are celebrities or are in the fashion industry. The various Kardashian women are perfect examples of Instagram influencers—follow their accounts to get a rounded grasp of how useful Instagram Stories and Snapchat can be for public figures.

Snapchat and Instagram tend to skew young in terms of who is using these platforms, from teenagers to millennials in their mid-30s. As an author it can be useful to tap into these age groups to cultivate a new audience for your books and/or brand.

How both Snapchat and Instagram Stories work is that you take a photo of something (yourself,your dog, something cool you saw) and it disappears after 24 hours of your posting of it, unlike regular Snaps or Instagram posts. Regular Snaps to friends disappear after they are viewed (if not viewed, then after 30 days); Instagram posts are there permanently unless deleted by the user.

Here are 5 tips on how authors can use Snapchat and Instagram Stories:

Use them for exclusive content. Are you in the middle of writing a new book? Snap or Insta-story a line from a chapter you just wrote. Are you writing a short story for a new anthology? Snap a photo of yourself with one of the other authors or editor with something along the lines of, “Meeting with so-and-so today. Can’t wait to show you our latest project coming soon!” Creating some mystery and suspense will excite your followers.

Snap an immediate and intimate glimpse into your life. We all want to know what our favorite celebrities are doing – and snapping photos of themselves cooking food, out to dinner, enjoying a concert, or reading a book achieve that aspect of making followers feel like they are included in their lives. You can do the same thing as an author by taking a video of a book you are reading or a new recipe you are attempting to cook.

Show off your fun side. With all the funny and cute filters available (making your eyes huge, face swapping, giving yourself dog ears, etc.), showing readers how you can have fun will make you more personable.

Hold a contest. Gain followers on Instagram or Snapchat by holding a contest–with the winner receiving an advanced reading copy of your upcoming book, a box set, or a signed copy of your newest release. Hold the contest only on Instagram or Snapchat, but announce it on your Facebook page or Twitter so that you drive new people to your Instagram or Snapchat usernames. For example, post on Facebook: “New contest on Snapchat that I am announcing in five minutes! Go to [username] to see what I’m giving away this week!”

Engage your followers. Because people can message you back on your Instagram stories or Snapchat stories, post a question: “What are you reading today?” or “What are you doing today?” to engage your followers by having them respond in a message. Respond back so that they can feel that you are engaged with them as well.

Even though Instagram stories and Snapchat are similar, you may find yourself inclined to use one more than the other, and that’s fine. Just make sure to use whichever one you favor on a daily basis so that your followers don’t lose interest.

Read more beginner’s tips for social media here.

Book Marketing 101: Create Visibility for Your Book with These 5 Tips

You’ve written a book and published it — but the sales just aren’t happening. The biggest likely reason for this is that no one knows that you or your book exists, even if it’s been uploaded to Amazon. There are thousands of authors on Amazon vying for people to buy their books. That’s why authors need to create visibility so that they can stick out from the crowd.

It can be really tough to put yourself out there and talk about yourself and your work, but if people don’t know who you are, then they won’t buy your book!

Here are some ideas for authors to create visibility for their books:

  1. Visit your local bookstore, retail stores, or library. Dropping by and leaving a copy of your book for the bookseller or librarian will help them learn who you are as a person and give them the chance to look at your book before deciding to purchase. Many indie authors shy away from selling books on consignment, but sometimes it’s the best that your indie bookstore can do, especially if your book is not available through the proper distribution channels or is unavailable for return.
  2. Have a release party or event. Invite friends and family to celebrate your new book at your house, and have them purchase copies there. Or you can have it at a restaurant where you can incorporate the plate price with the price of the book, so everyone who comes is guaranteed a copy. You can also see if your local bookstore will have an event for you, if you are positive you can get enough attendees to come. (Read more about authors events in this blog post.)
  3. Ask family and friends to review on Amazon or BN.com. Supposedly, those with more reviews on Amazon are more likely to be included in the company’s email newsletters and receive more visibility overall–although to be honest, nobody but Amazon knows how their algorithm works. It’s still worth having friends and family post reviews so that it will generate interest for others to read your book. Books with no reviews whatsoever will likely be passed over by shoppers.
  4. Put yourself out there at festivals and conferences. Start visiting local book festivals and writers conferences and hand out cards or copies of your book. See if any of them will put you on a panel. Many festivals have the option for author signings, although you most likely have to pay for that privilege, at least in the beginning.
  5. Make sure it’s easily accessible for purchase. Even though Amazon is the most popular online outlet to purchase books, readers do have other shopping preferences–whether it’s a local store or a Barnes & Noble. Make sure that your website, blog, and social media pages have links to these sites and to Indiebound, so that your audience can purchase through their favorite indie bookstore.

It’s important to get yourself out there in some way, shape, or form to create visibility–whether it’s by putting yourself out their physically or through online channels. You may not sell hundreds of copies at first, but you’ll be on your way to make yourself known. The readers will come–you just need to put your foot out the door.

If you’re an indie author, do you use any of the above ways to create visibility for your books? Tweet about it to us @McKinneyPR!

Social Media 101: 4 Reasons Why Buying Followers is a Bad Idea

buying followers
This office dog is confused and upset about why he is seeing so many disturbing spam followers on a Twitter account that is supposed to be family friendly!

A recent article (February 1st) on BuzzFeed said that the Newsweek Media Group has been buying followers and manipulating traffic on some of their websites, and that they are being accused of ad fraud.  The ad fraud part of this story is not my area, but I do have something to say about the other part—buying followers—as it relates to marketing and branding using social media platforms.

There was a time when having 200,000 Twitter followers looked impressive to the naked eye, but those days are long gone.  Now it isn’t very difficult to look through someone’s following on various platforms to find out that many of those 200,000 are spam bots and other kinds of cheap “friends”.  In fact, the people who have more modest numbers of active followers, who engage with them, and build more solid relationships over time, could have the upper hand in social media marketing.

Here are some reasons why buying followers is a bad idea:

  1. The internet is not an alien universe.  The people using the internet and social media are just that—people.  And the rules of engagement apply just as they would at a cocktail party or a business conference.  If you want to grow as an influencer on social media, your audience needs to feel like you are a real person —not a virtual identity with no substance, which brings me to the next point.
  2. Trust is more important than ever. The internet, the very tool you want to use to market your products and ideas, has eroded trust in its own population.  This is partly due to the “bad apples” in the bunch who have figured out how to buy and sell cotton candy entities and canned content.  If someone takes more than a cursory look at who is following you and they find porn (true story) in the form of bots, it will not make a good impression (unless that is what you are selling).
  3. Relationships rule! When there is trust, the chance for a relationship to grow increases.  In a relationship with good communication, the other person believes what you have to say, appreciates your advice and counsel, and may even talk about you with others in a positive way.
  4. Protect the brand. Would you wear dirty clothes to a job interview?  Why sully your brand with ineffective and questionable marketing practices, like buying a fake community?

Perhaps we think that, because we are typing on a keyboard or a phone in our own private spaces, that our anonymity allows us to behave in any manner we want.  Well, it doesn’t.  Companies who engage in buying followers or traffic in order to beef up their potential advertising power may not be doing something illegal, but it is certainly unethical.  If an individual wants to be an influencer, it needs to be clear that community and engagement are a priority.  If bots are all we see, we assume that you aren’t real either.

Check out our other social media blog posts here.

Book Publicity 101: 5 Reasons Press Releases Still Matter

I have heard directly from book review editors that they toss the materials that come with review copies.  I have also had a radio producer chastise me for mistakenly not sending a press packet with a book.  Clients have asked me if press releases matter anymore: “I mean does anybody really read those things?”  The short answer is “yes”: there are media, booksellers, librarians, academics, etc. who actually do pay attention to an old fashioned press release, and you have no way of knowing who is going to insist on having one and who isn’t.  So in my opinion, I wouldn’t sacrifice this tool just yet.

Here are five practical reasons why:

  1. The Core Message: Press releases are different from any of the other copy you will use to market your book. Some of the words may be the same as what you have on the back of the jacket, but the release is supposed to achieve a few things including delivering the newsworthy or unique aspects of what you are presenting; giving the reader an idea of why you would be a good interview subject; and a relatively brief synopsis of the best points of the book (or product depending on your industry).  If you want to read some examples you can check out these links on our website:
  2. Press Approved Copy or When Your Words Come Back to Haunt You: This is my favorite.  First of all the copy on your release is assumed to be vetted and usable for the press.  It is likely that one outlet or another will actually lift the synopsis or even the entire release and reprint it online or in the newspaper.  The first time I saw this it was a little weird, but the words on the release, by the very nature of what the document is, are fair game for repurposing.
  3. SEO Optimization: Having the release available on your website, your publicist’s, publishers, etc. gives you more real estate online and can offer more search results. You will notice a search for your book brings up Amazon.com and other big properties first, your publisher, and even our website can appear on the first or near the top of the second page.  It gives you more power online when there are more references to you and your work.
  4. The Pitch Package: So many people interact primarily on email these days, so there is a bit more “room” to present the best aspects of your book. As a standard practice we write pitches according to which people we are sending them, and we paste the press release below so the media contact can choose to learn more.  In the past we would send a cover letter with the press kit which constituted the pitch, and I know that today all of those pages won’t get read in a mailing.  The release is an informational supplement that provides another tool for marketing.  If a contact only wants to read three sentences, fine.  If more is desired, it’s all there in the email.
  5. Standard Practices: More people want to see a release than not, and it’s part of the public relations/media relations process. In addition, your booksellers, event coordinators at higher end venues, librarians—they want to see the meat of what you are selling without having to read the entire book.  Having a press release gives you a more serious, professional persona when you are marketing your book.  It says, you mean business and people should pay attention to you.  Don’t sell yourself short.

The other more esoteric reason for the release is that it is an opportunity for you and your publicist to come to an understanding of what your intention is about your book and its relevance.  You may also discover some things that are unclear about your work, or an interpretation that is not at all what you meant.  It’s important to come to terms with how the book will be presented and what the selling points are.  It’s super competitive out there, as you know, and you want to make sure your work is getting the attention it deserves.