SVT2015~ By Sarah Vance-Tompkins

In vain I have struggled, it will not do. My feelings will not be repressed. You must allow me to tell you how ardently I admire and love you…and the photos you post on Instagram.

Social media is a key element of any author’s marketing plan, but the popularity of social media platforms change as often as Fanny Dashwood changes the ostrich feather plume on her hat. Unless you’re in junior high school, it’s difficult to stay on top of the latest trends.

Social media is social. You must interact with other people. It’s a task that can be daunting for introverted writers. Using and downloading new apps and new technology can also make you feel as irrelevant as Emma’s Miss Bates, especially when you can’t figure out how to save pictures on instagram.

In a previous post (What Would Jane Austen Tweet?), I focused on how authors can use Twitter to enhance their brand. This time I’m shining the spotlight on Instagram.

Pinterest, Instagram, Google+, Tumblr, and to a large extent — Facebook — all attract attention through graphics, pictures and illustrations. Instagram pics can establish and enhance your brand image. For authors writing contemporary romance, Instagram is a great way to reach new readers (especially younger readers who are more likely to use Instagram and Snapchat than Facebook.)

So…how would Jane Austen use Instagram? Here are my five tips for romance authors.

Make sure your photo is visually intriguing. Use lighting and filters to highlight your best feature.

It is not what we say or think that defines us, but what we do.

Riding with Captain Wentworth in his new barouche can be all kinds of fun, but the blurry photos and video you post of your ride down a bumpy dirty road may not be as delightful. When you’re posting selfies, make sure the pics feature you at your best. The same goes for your books. Use filters that make your book covers look best. You should also note photos that feature faces and are in focus are more likely to attract attention.

Camera phones are amazing. If you haven’t updated your phone in awhile, now may be time. Photographs captured on a phone can be easily posted directly onto Instagram through the app, but no matter what, the higher the resolution photo you use, the more eyes you’re going to attract.

Grab your reader’s attention and use key words and phrases to be persuasive. Ask direct questions and have a clear call-to-action.

My affections and wishes are unchanged, but one word from you will silence me on the subject forever.

Remember Mr. Darcy’s first proposal to Elizabeth? Remember all of the prejudiced assumptions he made about her family that he thought would be so glaringly obvious to her? Remember how that worked out for him? Yeah. You don’t want to make the same mistakes.

Ask direction questions. Use the five most persuasive words — “You”, “Free”, “Because”, “Instantly”, and “New” — to tell your followers exactly what to do. Make your call-to-action super obvious. Because hyperlinks don’t work in the comments or description on Instagram, make sure you have a link to your website in your bio. Or you can edit your bio to include a buy link when your Instagram post is about a specific book on your list. Make your call-to-action direct and to the point in the comments.

“Click the link in the bio to buy my new book!”

Use hash tags in moderation.

It is very often nothing but our own vanity that deceives us.

Hash tags can be deceptive. Originally conceived as a method to find social media posts regarding the same topic, they’ve evolved to mean something else. The word “hash tag” has become a part of contemporary slang when we want to call attention to what we’re saying.

Using more than one hash tag, and hash tags that become run-on sentences can be confusing to your followers. A lot of hash tags taking up valuable space on Instagram posts are like vanity license plates. They aren’t serving the purpose they intended, and their overuse may be damaging the poster’s brand. Remember a clear call-to-action is more important than an abundance of hash tags.

Two of the most popular hash tags on Instagram are #catsofinstagram and #dogsofinstagram. If you are a cat or dog aficionado, try using the corresponding hash tag the next time you post a photo of your pet. You will be surprised at the number of responses you get from new followers…who could be new readers too. Post a photo of your pet lounging on or near your book with the hash tag and make sure you edit your bio to include your buy link.

Respond to all questions and comments in a timely manner.

If I loved you less, I might be able to talk about it more.

Let’s face it. Social media is a time suck. I’m not going to lie. I would hesitate before recommending Jane Austen (or any writer) check any social media account for responses frequently or repeatedly. For a writer on deadline, social media can become a really bad excuse to avoid your current work-in-messy-progress. You’ll become as neurotic and emotional as Marianne Dashwood waiting for word from a wayward Willoughby.

Instead set the preferences on your Instagram app to notify you when you get likes and comments on your post. Turn off the ringer on your phone and get back to work on your current project. You can respond and interact with your Instagram followers when you’re done writing for the day. A response within twenty-four hours is perfectly acceptable. With this being said, just because you may not have as many followers as you would have hoped, it doesn’t mean that you cannot achieve this. The reason why sites such as https://buzzoid.com exist is for this reason in particular. As long as you are engaging with an audience and creating content that you are proud of, that’s all that should matter.

What do you like about Instagram? Anything you find difficult? Particularly fun? Leave your thoughts and tips in the comments!

* What would Jane Austen tweet? Find out here.

Sarah Vance-Tompkins (Instagram: SarahVanTom) is a social media consultant for small businesses. She earned an MFA in Film Production from the University of Southern California and worked in feature film development. Prior to her attempts at writing fiction, she has been paid to write everything from obituaries to the directions for use on bottles of personal lubricant. She is a member of YARWA and CRW-Online. She welcomes your questions and comments. Sarahevance@gmail.com

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