As comic creators we work in a visual medium. And thanks to that, highly visual mediums like Instagram can be a very powerful social platform - if we use them properly. Unfortunately, most of the time, we don't.
We don't take the time to learn how to make better use of the platform, thinking that social media is something we can just do half-heartedly.
But, that's a terrible mentality. Instagram has 400 million monthly active users, receives 3.5 billion likes daily, and has 60x the per-post engagement of Facebook.
Which means that there's an audience on Instagram - one that is not composed only of comic readers - that's highly engaged on the platform. This is mainly because the Instagram feed has no content filtering yet, so users have access to their entire feed, rather than being subject to an algorithm's whims like on Facebook.
So if you learn to use Instagram well and stop making the same mistakes as everyone else, you can expand your readership and develop a highly engaged core of fans there.
1 - Keeping Your Account Private
You'd be surprised how often I see this.
If your account is set to private, people who don't already follow you, don't have a chance to see your feed and decide to follow you.
For a personal account, this is fine, but if you want to build an audience on Instagram your profile has to be set to public.
2 - Posting During Work Hours
That consensus states that any time at off-work hours is a good time to post, but Mondays and Thursdays tend to work particularly well.
Of course, with a smaller audience, your numbers can vary greatly so it's up to you to experiment - but this is a useful reference to go by.
3 - Posting Too Often
So, in some respect, it makes sense to post frequently, to not only try to get your signal through the noise, but to hit other time zones.
Reach is the great advantage of posting often, but it comes at the cost of less engagement. This isn't good or bad. Posting often is a tradeoff, and it really only becomes objectively bad when you trade frequency for quality.
You should only post as often as you have something great to post.
Of course, you should try to post as frequently as possible, within this parameter.
4 - Not Being Social
If you want to grow your following on Instagram and make the most of your time there, you need to follow other users and like and comment on their pictures.
And of course, this extends to responding to your own comments and - to go even further - commenting on your follower's photos. If they engage with you you should engage with them.
The key is to be proactive.
Search hashtags for terms related not only to comics, but terms that might be tangentially related to your work. Search for artists beyond comic artists.
And if you want to promote your book, find people who might be sharing pictures related to your book in some way - for example sharing military pictures when you have a military character.
When doing this, it should be clear that your story features a character like this from looking at the first five pictures on your account.
5 - Not Making Full Use of the Link in Your Bio
One exception here is the link you can put in your profile bio.
I see a lot of people on Instagram trying to point their audience somewhere outside the platform with vague directions or an un-clickable link in the caption of their picture.
Instead, it's much more effective to replace your bio link with the link you want to point people to and in the caption of the photo you're using to promote this latest post saying "link in the bio."
For a quick guide on how you can use Instagram to engage your audience, just hit the button below.
6 - Overlooking the Caption
But it's very important to do just that. A caption should tell the story behind the picture and shed light on who you are and the photo's context.
7 - Hashtagging Poorly
But, beyond that, there's no good excuse for not using hashtags. They're a key feature to the platform and ignoring them is a great way to not reach anybody.
You don't want to overuse them, of course, so a good general rule is to have no more than 5 per post - far fewer than the 30 Instagram limits you to.
If you want to take things further, a great tactic for reaching new users is to look at trending hashtags and create content around those. You don't always have to be reactionary like this, but it can be a useful tool to employ from time to time.
8 - Linking the Account to other Social Platforms
By linking your Instagram to other social media accounts - like Twitter for example - you're going against this core marketing principle.
If you want to share the picture on Twitter, you should re-upload it there. Of course, I understand wanting to drive people to your Instagram account, but creating a specific Call to Action around that is often better than sharing content that attempts to casually break your followers' native experience.
The exception with Instagram is Facebook, because photos there show up natively - as if they had been directly uploaded to Facebook.
9 - Not Trying Video
If you want to try increasing your engagement, it's probably worth it to spend some time and come up with a quick 15-second video (that's the limit) that you can upload to and share on your Instagram account.
10 - Only posting your own work
To combat this - or just to generally expand upon what you're sharing on your account - you can always use your stream to curate other people's work.
If you share other art, or photos & videos related to your own follower's interests, then you can establish your account as a place with not only your own interesting content but a wider range of content that is all compelling to your core audience.
In doing this you should always make sure to tag the person you're sharing within the photo, and attribute it properly in the caption, too.
11 - Not Learning from Others
But just because they aren't within the world of comics, that's not to say they don't have anything to offer you. In fact, it's because they're outside that world - and using Instagram with a different perspective that you should pay attention to how they use the platform and see what you can learn.
For example, one great writer on Instagram is Bryan Young. There's still stuff he could improve upon as per the mistakes listed here, but he does a great job of demonstrating how a writer - a role most people consider inherently non-visual - can make use of the platform.
12 - Not Providing Something Special
Of course, it's difficult to be unique to everything and everyone else that's already there, but a good first step is to offer something unique from what you're already offering on your other social accounts.
This gives your existing followers a good reason to follow you on Instagram, too, in addition to your other platforms. If you're only reposting the same content they can find anywhere else there's no point for your audience to follow you on multiple channels. And the more you engage with them across multiple channels the more chances you have of deepening your relationship and turning casual followers into lifelong fans.
How to Use Instagram to Engage Your Audience
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