by Andrea Grigg with Belinda Pollard.
I’ve enjoyed Instagram for a while now. I like looking at photos and quotes and videos and find it’s not as time-consuming as Facebook. As some of you know, I’m using Instagram as my platform of choice for my Year of Gratitude project. Every day this year I’ve put up a photo of something I’m grateful for, and then linked my posts to Facebook and Twitter. I decided to do it not only because the idea intrigued and challenged me, but also as an experiment. And because I’m still bumbling along, I thought I’d interview someone else who’s further along the Instagram track than I am, a lovely lady by the name of Belinda Pollard.
Belinda welcome to ACW. Before we get onto the questions, please tell us a little about your background and what you do.
Hi Andrea – thanks for inviting me to the blog.
I began with a journalism degree way-back-when, and worked in radio and television news. Later, I did a second degree in theology, and veered into book editing. Nowadays, I’m a publishing consultant, book editor, speaker and blogger at smallbluedog.com. I love books and book people.
Awesome! Could you please tell us about your writing journey so far?
It took me 20 years to complete my first novel, because I wouldn’t give myself permission to write it – too frivolous! I finally introduced deadlines into the equation by entering competitions, and the old journalist in me rose to the challenge. Poison Bay, Book 1 in the Wild Crimes series, was published in 2014.
You are one busy person! Anything else you’d like us to know?
I’m that rare beastie: an extroverted writer; social media has helped keep me sane(ish). I am chief ball thrower for a beautiful, socially-awkward red and white dog named Rufus. My house never seems to be tidy, even though I clean it every six months.
Totally understand you J Perhaps we’d better get on with the questions.
1. What do you think about Instagram as a promotional tool? How does it compare to Facebook and Twitter?
Everyone’s experience will be different. Personally, I see Facebook as a place to meet readers, Twitter as a place to meet other writers and editors, and Instagram as a place to meet people who think visually. The biggest benefit to my author platform from Instagram has been the ability to share original content direct to my Facebook page. Instagram and Facebook are BFFs – it’s simple to share to Instagram and Facebook simultaneously.
2. Is it worthwhile for authors to use?
Yes and no. If you expect to follow a few people, share a few pics, and sell a thousand books, you’ll probably be disappointed! My suggestion would be that if you’re a visual person, it’s a nice place to hang out and meet people with similar interests. Be genuinely social. Comment on their images. Reply to their comments on your images. I wandered onto Instagram and experimented. (I’ve outlined some of my experiences in this post: http://www.smallbluedog.com/instagram-for-authors-my-first-6-months.html ) I’ve met bookstore owners and journalists on Instagram, and those connections have turned out to be strategic, but to be honest, I’m there to look at pictures and connect with like-minded people. Any “career” benefits are almost just side effects. If you’re not a visual thinker, you will probably find Instagram hard work, or annoying, or both. But I have found it enjoyable and valuable.
3. Should I use my real name or a nickname like I see so many people doing?
I use my real name, and in the same format as on Twitter… @Belinda_Pollard. Everyone must make their own decision of course, but I don’t see the point of using a nickname, since the goal of all author marketing is surely to get name recognition. As people scroll down their feed, quickly double-tapping photos to “like” them, I want it to be my author name that is being gently reinforced in their memory, rather than a cute nickname.
4. What kinds of photos do you suggest I use?
Work out what is visual about whatever it is that you write. I share nature photos, which harmonise with the wilderness themes in my novels. I also share pics of my dogs, since I write about dogs. And I share the occasional writing workshop or author milestone, such as when my book arrived from the printers. I do take some trouble with my pics, trying to be creative or artistic in the way that I frame the shots. I’m no expert, though. I just enjoy nice photos!
5. How do I get followers? Should I follow someone if they follow me?
As with Twitter, if you follow people they will often follow you back. And there are also a lot of spammers, as on Twitter. If your goal is to get followers, try following people who are interested in the same things as you, and who have smaller followings. People with large followings may not notice that you’ve followed them. Personally, I decided only to follow those whose photos I genuinely want to look at. So there are people I follow who will never follow me back. I just like to look at their pics! And I don’t follow-back spammers. I suspect that a small, engaged following can be more rewarding than a huge following of people who aren’t really paying much attention…
6. What’s the story with hashtags? How do they work?
Hashtags seem to be the heart and soul of Instagram. People really do use them to find pictures they like, and many people use lots of hashtags on each pic. For example, my dog is a red heeler mix, so I’ll use hashtags such as #heeler #heelergram #heelersofinstagram on my pics of the pooch. That way, owners of similar dogs will see my pics and “like” them, and some will leave comments or follow me. And by tapping on those hashtags, I’ll see pics of other people’s dogs, and comment on them and follow them. When you start typing in a hashtag after your image description, Instagram will offer you a list of similar hashtags, and a number after each hashtag showing how much it gets used. I tend to choose ones with larger numbers (but not always).
7. And a paragraph to sum up?
There’s a lot of buzz about Instagram being the fastest growing social platform, and a lot of pressure to join. The truth is, we can’t be on all the social platforms all the time. I suggest that people find two or three social networks that really work for them, and focus on those. And my motto for all social media applies just as well to Instagram: make friends, not sales. Experiment, and enjoy it! Form genuine connections with other human beings, and you’ll be surprised what might emerge.
Great advice, Belinda, and thank you so much for sharing your insights concerning the wonderful world of Instagram.
Belinda Pollard is an award-winning Australian mystery author and former journalist. A specialist book editor since 1995, she has steered more than 60 books to publication for both traditional and independent publishers. Despite bad knees and a fear of heights, she trekked New Zealand’s Milford Track as research for her debut novel, Poison Bay. Her light memoir, Dogged Optimism: Lessons in Joy from a Disaster-Prone Dog, has been an Australian Amazon bestseller since its release in December 2015. She hates housework, but loves trees, dogs and chips.
She blogs writing and publishing topics at smallbluedog.com and Real Life on a Beautiful Planet at belindapollard.com Connect with her on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn and Google+