Hey, hey! It’s Christina Kaye. I’m your host here at Write Your Best Book, a weekly podcast that addresses all sorts of issues authors face daily from the craft of writing to publishing and even marketing your books.
Well, folks. I have been promising to read your comments live on-air since we started, and we finally have enough to start doing just that. So, I’m excited to read our very first review right here, right now. It’s not the first review, it’s the first one that I’m reading out loud. The first one is from LC Writes. This first one we are reading doesn’t have a city or state or anything it just says LC Writes. And LC says: “Christina keeps it real! I am really loving this new podcast, and it’s great to watch it grow from episode 1! It’s got a great guest lineup so far, and I can’t wait to see what’s around the corner!” LCWRITES
Thank you, LC for that great review! And y’all keep ‘em coming, if you will leave reviews I will do just like I did today and read your review live on-air!
Okay, now, while I tend to focus heavily on the craft of writing itself during this podcast, I am super excited about today’s episode. Today, we’re going to talk to you about how you, as an author, can up your Instagram game, create a better bio, increase followers, and increase engagement with readers. And I’m even more excited to be talking with our guest for today’s episode, Stephanie Asher of SelfLoveWithStephanie!
I’ll be the first to admit, my Instagram game is not on-point at all. I struggle on both my accounts (my author account and my Top Shelf Editing account) with getting more followers and posting things that get higher engagement with the followers that I do have. Recently, I was griping about this to a colleague, and she told me I HAD to get in touch with her friend Stephanie, which is how Stephanie and I met. So far, I’ve had two consultations with her, and I was pleasantly surprised to see a very quick improvement in my Instagram followers and engagement. But, admittedly, I need to spend more time with Stephanie and learn more about practical, everyday tips and tricks. So when I realized there was a need to discuss Instagram for authors, I didn’t even think about bringing anyone else on the show.
Stephanie Asher is a self-taught Instagram guru who dove into learning the ins and out of Instagram in 2017 to figure out how to make it an enjoyable yet profitable way of marketing for businesses. Since then she has helped over 50 small business owners master Instagram, by teaching them how to grow, maintain, market, sell, and engage with their ideal clients.
Her own account @selflovewithstephanie went from 0 to over 44k in three years. Which is why I knew she would be the best person to talk with today about Instagram for authors.
Before we dive into our conversation with Stephanie, let’s get to this week’s book plug, shall we?
Lorelei Watson’s AINT’ NOTHIN BUT THE DEVIL is a new adult contemporary romance perfect for those who love to read about billionaire bad boys and the women who love them.
Here’s the blurb:
Nothing about my life is as it seems. From the inside out it looks perfect, like a real-life fairy tale. But the truth is…it’s not.
Being married to a billionaire is not a one-way ticket to happiness like most people would think. Behind closed doors and away from the limelight he’s not the man he pretends to be.
My marriage is failing. My heart is nothing but broken pieces of pain and disappointment. My mind has become the battlefield of the war between me and the depression threatening to end my life.
I knew this day would come—the day I stood on the ledge, every fiber of my being urging me to end it all.
But there’s this tiny flicker of hope that’s keeping me from taking that fatal leap. His name is Adrian…and he’s my brother-in-law.
Sounds intriguing, right?
Well I have personally edited Lorelei’s work before. And I can tell you, she is a beautiful writer. She has a very great prose, a great turn of phrase. You definitely want to check this book out if it is your kind of book. Again, it is called Ain’t Nothing But the Devil and it is available on Amazon and I will add a link directly to purchase the book in the show notes. So go over to the show notes, click the link and pick up your copy.
Now, let’s dive in feet first with Stephanie Asher and talk about Instagram.
Are you ready? I know I am! Here we go.
CK: Hi, Stephanie! Welcome to the podcast.
SA: Hello! Thank you so much for having me today! I really appreciate it.
CK: Well I appreciate you being here. I am super pumped about this episode. I know a lot of authors are struggling with the same things I struggle with- you know and I struggle with this is my Instagram account and so I am really excited to share this information with my listeners. But first, why don’t you tell us all about you and your company, SelfLoveWithStephanie, right?
SA: Yes! So I actually started SelfLoveWithStephanie after years of trauma and I just realized that my life purpose is to share what I have gone through and to be able to help other women to feel love and compassion and learn how to forgive. And through that journey, I was like how the heck can I get Instagram to work for me? Facebook is not my best friend by any means. We are like long distance cousins we barely talk. I’m never on Facebook. But Instagram, at the time, it was 2017, and I had read that Instagram was the fastest growing tool for small businesses, and more sales were being placed on Instagram. So I thought, well how the heck are they doing this? So I dove into months and months and months of learning the ins-and-outs and really trying to figure out in a bunch of trial and error- oh my gosh so much trial and error- of how to make it work for a business. And after I did that, I started reaching out to some of my friends who had small businesses and I helped them grow their accounts and their businesses to make better sales, get more better connections with their ideal client, all through Instagram. So it has kind of evolved in a fun silly way, but, in the end I did end up on Instagram and I freaking love it for marketing for my business. That’s what I want to talk to you guys all about. How to grow your Instagram to ultimately grow book sales, to grow your individual businesses as well.
CK: That’s great! So, I think that one of the most important things, though, we should talk about- because I think it’s the starting point for most people. Because believe it or not, there are people that just today are starting up their Instagram and there will be in the future. So the first thing you do is set up your bio. Can you give us some tips and tricks about how to make bios more effective, especially for authors?
SA: Yes! So I feel like your bio is kind of the “why should someone follow you?” So first and foremost you can have unlimited followers, so an unlimited amount of people can follow you. But you personally are only allowed to follow 7,500. So, with that being said, every time someone follows you, they are making a direct conscious decision to say: “I want to follow this person, I see the value”. So, your bio is kind of the summary of why that value is there. First and foremost, I think EVERYBODY needs to change; it’s really rare when I see it happen, but your name and username are both searchable. So what I mean by that. If you go in settings or edit profile, depending on how your account is set up, whether it’s a business or a personal account; once you go into that and edit your profile, your name and username are both in bold black and they are both searchable. So an example is if you went to my account, and I’m SelfLoveWithStephanie, and Stephanie is ph, if you go in and see that my username is SelfLoveWithStephanie and the name, the first name that shows up in bold is Stephanie Asher, coach and optimist. And that is because if anybody types in Stephanie Asher, they find me. If they type in SelfLove, they find me.
CK: They find you, yeah.
SA: So many people put the exact same name for their username and name. So make sure that those are different and both things that you believe your future customer/client already…
CK: Naturally search for?
SA: Yes! Yes. So you definitely want to make sure that those are different and are searchable and your ideal clients are looking for.
SA: The other thing in bios is what do you do and how do you serve people? So I would kind of ask the questions of: How? How does following me serve them? What, why and where. So not all of these apply. But the “how” is, “how am I going to benefit them?” I am a comedian. I am a self love coach. I am an author for fictional books. The next question you want to know is what. What are you selling? What are you offering? What are you- what is the benefit of them following you? And why should they follow you? Are you going to add humor to them every single day? Are you going to give them copywriting tips? Are you going to give them an insight into each chapter? Are you going to give them a fun weekly dive-in to your new book. Like little previews. What is the value that you are giving to them? And the “where”? Where can they buy your book? Where can they find you? So through Instagram you can plug in a clickable link. That can be your website, that can be an Amazon link. If you have that as an empty space, you are losing so much good real estate. You can add a freebie at that stage and you can have them sign up with their email and then you can email them when your book comes out. You can give them previews of your chapters. That is an amazing, creative way to get engagement with your audience.
CK: Great! Okay, so now let’s talk a little bit, switch gears, about hashtags. Most authors are familiar with, you know in our little industry we kind of know some of the hashtags and my listeners want to know, #writingcommunity, #amwriting, we know which ones to use in our niche, but we are not really sure how to use them properly in posts. Are there any things that you could tell us about that?
SA: Yes! Okay, so there is such a big controversy in my world, in the Instagram world: where do you put them? Do you put them in there after the post will they be seen? Or if you put them in your comments will they be seen? And the answer is that you can place them wherever you want to place them. If you like it better in your comment, put it in your comment. If you want to put it in your caption, you can put it in the first part of the caption or the last thing in. But as long as the hashtags are on your post, those hashtags will be linked to that post. Does that make sense?
CK: It does. And it’s funny that you say there’s some controversy cause I have been instructed both ways from people that I have tried to get help from. So yea, there are. Some people say to put it in the first comment, like post it and then open up a new comment and post your hashtags then. I don’t like that, I put it in my post, but…
SA: Yes, and it’s totally a personal preference. I have done both and I have never seen any difference in my engagement, it’s just how you like it visually.
CK: Right, cause it doesn’t really…
SA: Nope, the algorithm does not care. At one point it did care, but Instagram popped in and was like “well, this is just silly. Let’s stop confusing everyone and making it harder so we will just make it either way.
CK: Use them in the post or as a comment, however you want to use them.
SA: Yes and please, please, please, please use thirty hashtags. I know that it seems like so many but please use thirty. And that is 30 opportunities for free marketing every single post. So what I mean by that is that you can put 15 hashtags, and your ideal client might use one of the hashtags that you would have put on but were like “oh, it just seems too long”. So they are opportunities every single time. And it’s thirty opportunities. And the other kind of weird thing is that Instagram, I think that it was November or October of 2019. They changed it so that if you have repeating hashtags- so let’s say you post, and in every single one of your Instagram posts you use the same hashtag, lets say the hashtag is “self love” for example, Instagram is going to mark that as a banned word for you because you are using it too repetitively. So it’s no longer an account for you. And/or they can block your posts from going up at all. So what I personally do is I make notes on my phone and I have all my posts that go up on specific topics. So I have like 5 different topics that I always talk about and I have different hashtags for each of those posts. So I do the work once, throw it into notes, and then copy and paste when I actually do post.
CK: Yep, you taught me that!
SA: Yes, and it’s so gold. And it’s definitely gold now that they have changed the algorithm to catch if you use the same hashtag multiple times.
CK: So what they’ll do, what you’re saying is, they’ll ban you- will they ban you from Instagram or will they just ban that one post or- what are you saying there?
SA: You’ll get a kick-back and it’ll say “unable to publish”
CK: Oh! So it’ll at least let you know.
SA: Yes. But it won’t let you know why.
CK: Oh, well yeah, I wouldn’t… we couldn’t be that lucky!
SA: Right, right, cause sometimes when you have 31 hashtags it won’t let you post.
SA: Or if you have repeating hashtags it won’t let you post. Or if your- something popped up for me recently and I believe that it was my formatting was off and it wouldn’t let me post.
SA: So that patts a little bit trial and error, that’s why I have everything in my notes. Everything is set and ready-to-go, so that I don’t have to count “well how many hashtags is this? Is this the same hashtag from two posts ago?” So it kind of makes it a little bit easier
CK: Ok, when it comes to things we post, aside from hashtags we just talked about, can you give us some thoughts on content we can post that is engaging? Now, obviously not specifically. We don’t have to have you making up a bunch of posts for us, but in general, what kind of content should we as authors be thinking about posting?
SA: I think this is where a lot of people are super confused or they see it as so overwhelming that they just kind of throw in the towel. And probably about five years ago, people wanted pretty pictures. So what they are looking for now, I believe, is authentic, real and true value in the post. The fluff is gone. Everybody is over it. So when you are creating posts, I think, the main thing is think about is: how are you serving them? How are you serving them as customers? How are you serving them as education and how are you also serving them as a business? So every time you do a post, I would come from a place of what is the value of this? Is this humor? Is this education? Is this community? Is this… ? The list kind of goes on and on. And also ask at the same time, how is this benefiting my business? Cause lets say your business is writing romantic novels, and you do a huge engaging post about the divorce rate.
SA: Cause that’s personally going on in your life, or you know someone, so it’s so relevant to the world. But how does that serve your business? You might get great engagement, but, you could be like “oh I’m going through a divorce, I’m going these things.” BUT does that post relate back to the book that you are writing?
SA: And it totally could! It could be….
CK: If it was a central part of the story maybe that would work.
SA: Yes! But if you are just putting it out there because you are just like “oh I just need to put something out there that is going to get people engaging with me” but it has no tie back to your business and it has no tie back to help them in the long run, that is where I think that a lot of the posts are going wrong. Cause they are just posting to post and not thinking about how it can benefit your business or how it can benefit your audience.
SA: The other thing is asking questions. I think so often we just throw stuff up there and we are just like “please like it. Please just click the button, please click the button” and Instagram has set up the algorithm in that way that the likes are no longer counting as much for the engagement and it’s your comments that are bumping you up in the news feed.
CK: Oh! That is interesting!
SA: Yes! So you can get 3,000 likes on your photo, but if you have no comment you are still buried. And that it- really really poopy sometimes I have to say. So what I do is I kind of ask like a basic question and the other little trick- Instagram is so tricky- is, you have to have at least 5 words in the comment for it to count. So if you tell everybody “What’s your favorite day?” and they write “Thursday” and the nex person writes “saturday” so all of those comments would be a waste!
CK: Oh Wow.
SA: Where instead you can say….
CK: Maybe a more open ended question
SA: YES! And it really gets that engagement going and you, it gives you an opportunity to write back and when you write back make sure that you are hitting over five words as well. So if someone says “thank you so much! This was such an amazing post! I really resonate with my writing days are Sunday and I love it because X,Y, Z.” Then that gives you an opportunity to be like “oh, I’m so glad, I’m glad this opened your mind to….” or however it works. Every time that you respond, respond with more than five words and your response will also count to the algorithm to keep putting your post higher up in the newsfeed.
CK: OK! Ok, that is real- that is gold! That’s really good! I did not know the 5 word rule either, so that is really good. Stephanie, we are going to take a quick break and hear from our sponsor for this episode and we will be right back with you.
I want to talk to you about an amazing website I have come to love and use every single time I write. I don’t’ mean every time I start a book, I mean every time I open up a page to start writing I open up this website. It’s called OneStopForWriters.com. It’s run by one of my prior guest hosts, Angela Ackerman and her partner Becca Puglisi, who will be on the show, as well, very soon. You guys, this website is by far one of the best tools for authors and it helps them with every aspect of the craft of writing a great novel from creating a compelling setting to story arcs to plotting and structure to emotional reactions to my all-time favorite tool, the character development tool. Guys, this thing walks you through each and every step of creating your main characters, and even your secondary characters, by helping you develop their backstory, their reactions to events that occur in the story, and even their motivations for their own actions. You cannot NOT use this tool guys. AND there’s a free version but the full access is less than $10 a month to have full access to each and every resource and tool these ladies have spent countless hours developing just for you. So head on over to OneStopForWriters now and tell ‘em Christina Kaye sent you!
Now, let’s get back to our discussion about Instagram with Stephanie Asher.
CK: Alright Stephanie, do you have any secrets that you’re willing to share with my listeners on how to increase their followers on Instagram? I think a lot of people struggle with this. You’ve got over, what, 44k followers I believe, so you clearly have the secret sauce.
SA: Okay, so my best advice is stop caring about the number.
CK: HUH!?!? Give it to me, guys.
SA: That’s it! Don’t care about the number. Because I could have 44,000 followers, and maybe six of them engage with me. That would mean maybe, MAYBE six sales. So the number doesn’t actually mean anything if it’s all fluff. If you are spending all that time and all that money and all the energy to get random followers that do not convert… it’s wasted time and money.
CK: So quality over quantity.
SA: Oh HELL YES! And I think that the best way to do that is to- I have some silly ones-
CK: I’m all about the silly! Bring it.
SA: If your account, if you are a business owner, most people are like, “oh, I’m a business owner, I should have a business account.” Instagram has changed it so that if you are a business you have to pay to play. So they are going to bury you. So if you have a private account, and you’re like “oh I’m going to post a picture of my cat. So cute. Brighten the feed” But if you are a business, they are like “oh, they are going to want people to see that, so hopefully they pay for an ad to get more views on that post.
SA: Yea, so if you have less than 10,000 followers, I would move your account to personal.
CK: That’s great!
SA: That’s the first one. To be seen a little bit better.
CK: So let me ask you this, I hate to interrupt you.
SA: No you are fine.
CK: We talked about this in the first session you and I had. What about if, if you move to personal you can’t do ads. Is that correct?
CK: Okay, so as long as you’re okay not doing ads, move it over to personal.
SA: Yes. And the reason that I say the 10,000 is because that’s when- once you hit 10,000 you get the swipe up feature.
CK: Yea, yea
SA: So to me- I’m getting buried like snot right now- the engagement on my average post was about 3,000 and now I’m getting like 300. And nothing changed with my audience, it was just all the same people, BUT Instagram is burying me. And I really had to sit with it and say “well, okay, that’s the situation and I don’t want to pay.”
CK: Yeah, yeah
SA: So, I’m going to switch it over because I do have the swipe-up which really does benefit my business in the long run.
CK: Right. It’s back to quality over quantity. That works better for you than worrying about-
SA: Yes. Yes. I think that one of the great features that are happening and a trend that we are seeing is getting people to engage on your page. So that would be through your podcast, for example, saying “hey, if you found value in this please take a screenshot of this and put it up in Instagram stories, tag me.” And the more that people do that, the more people are saying “oh, well who is this page? oh I want to see” and you are getting more views on you by organically asking other people to post.
SA: And they want to do it because they want to be engaged because They know you and like you and trust you after all of this time. So that could be anything.
CK: Yea, I actually heard this just the other day. I heard one of the podcasts that I listen to. I think it was “Screw the Nine-to-Five” and they said “take a picture of you listening to this episode or where you are when you are listening to this episode and hashtag us and add us and all of that stuff…”
CK: “…enter to win this or that” or whatever it was. So.
SA: That’s actually the next- that’s actually a great intro for that- what I want to talk about. A lot of people do giveaways.
CK: Yes. I’m interested in learning more about that.
SA: I would just be very cautious with doing giveaways. And my one point with that is, make sure you are doing your giveaway that are going to get you quality followers. They were doing something super general like a gift card then anybody or everybody who does not care about reading at all, she just want to listen to movies on TV or whatever it is, which is not your ideal client- she’s going to enter because she just wants that giftcard.
CK: Yea. And she’s never going to buy into your services.
SA: No, and she’s just another person who’s going to unfollow you and it’s wasted effort.
SA: So my suggestion is, if you do a giveaway, maybe look for someone to partner with. It can be about your new book. It could be something that goes along with your book, it could be about giving away services, if you are service based. Like, I know that you do copywriting, I think you can do a giveaway that is specific to your brand and that is where I think you will see the gold. And those followers will come in and they are quality followers. You can run giveaways on Instagram pretty easily. You can do it where they have to follow you and then tag three people. They might have to take a picture with your book, you can get really creative with this! But just make- what I do is I screenshot them, everybody that comes through, and then when I go to choose some, I have an album with all my screenshots, and I just scroll, close my eyes and pick one. So I don’t lose anybody, cause sometimes if you keep them just in your DMs, they will get lost or out of order. So that’s how I do it. There’s probably more efficient ways to do it, but that’s how I do it. And I don’t do giveaways very often.
CK Yea, ok, and how about stories? We barely touched on them a moment ago. How can we use stories to bring- the Instagram stories- maybe you can start off by telling us what the stories are and how we can maybe use those to bring more attention to our books?
SA: Yes. So I Hate to be the bearer of bad news, or the bearer of great news, depending on how you feel about stories, but the majority of stories are being seen over posts.
CK: You mean more stories are being seen than posts are?
CK: Well I have heard that lately.
CK: Actually, yea I have heard that
SA: So I kind of saw posts and stories as the post is the professional side of your business and can give good content and then the stories is more the everyday, they get a good feel of who you are as a person so they really get to learn about you, impressed with you, and so it doesn’t feel so much, sales pressure it feels like. And the other great things about stories is they are super quick and easy, they only last fifteen seconds and they stay up for 24-hours. So if you posted a picture in your stories, and all you have to do to get a story going on your Instagram is in the left hand corner of your app you’ll see your icon and little blue plus. You just click on that and you can either upload an image, you can take a quick picture right then and there, you can write words on top of it, you can do quick videos, you can even do lives through your stories. And stories are great because every time you add a new story, it pops up as the little face bubbles at the top of Instagram so the people who are really, really engaged with you, your face pops up over and over and over. So if you happen to have a business account or your account is not getting much engagement and it’s being buried in the newsfeed, this is a great way to have your beautiful little face or your beautiful logo pop-up and them be like “oh yes, how are they, what are they doing? I want it now?” That’s why stories are so great! As well as, they only last for 24 hours unless you keep them in your highlights, but that’s a whole different…
CK: A whole notha’ thing!
SA: Yea, a whole notha’ thing! So, they can be personal, they can be business related. Let’s say you are on a train and you see your book sitting on a chair, you can take a quick picture of it and say “on the road, so glad to see everyone is enjoying the book!” Or you could take a picture with someone, or you could be grocery shopping and see a brand of bread that you like. And if you feel like that has good purpose, then you can post it! Because your stories are a little bit more of an insight of who you are.
CK: Okay, that is interesting!
SA: And, I would use your stories. I kind of touched based on how to increase your followers, is really asking people to use their stories to plug you. So tag you. You can make a unique hashtag just for your book. And the more engagement they have with you: the more they are talking about you, the more they’re putting you in their Instagram stories, their friends, their family, the people who are following them are going to want to know who they heck you are. And they are going to come to your page, look at your bio, look at your page, look at your stories and see “is this a person of value that I want to follow?” Yea, and at the end of the day that is what we want, we just want people to figure out: “am I a good fit, or am I not?” Cause we don’t want everybody! We want-
CK: Yea, right we don’t want everybody cause everybody, like we said earlier, is not the right fit for you. Not your ideal client avatar or whatever.
SA: Yes! Yea!
CK: Okay, this has been great so far. I mean it has been very insightful. In just a few minutes we have already learned- I have already learned even more- but you also work one-on-one with people to help improve their Instagram presence.So why don’t I give you a second to plug your work and tell my listeners how they can work with you one-on-one, and most importantly, how they can reach you.
SA: Okay, so I work with small business owners, I do have a couple major companies that I work with, and I just want to give them the information and education at their pace. So it’s not a course, it’s nothing like that, it’s just working with me one and one. And for your direct questions so that way we are getting the engagement but also the excitement and putting the work into Instagram. Cause if you absolutely hate it, that’s going to be an issue long-term. Instagram is still one of the number one social media platforms and more people are buying from it than ever, so my goal is to help companies and small business owners really be able to utilize it in a way that is beneficial and enjoyable for them. So that is kind of a brief overview of what I do, and if you are interested, feel free to send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also find me across social media platforms with the exception of Facebook and I am @selflovewithstephanie. And I also do have a podcast coming out, hopefully within the next few weeks, and that is Self Love With Stephanie as well. Yay!
CK: We will definitely keep our ears open for that! I’ll put all of your hashtag-gy contact information in the, in the show notes folks, so that you will be able to reach out to Stephanie and work with her one-on-one. I’m assuming Stephanie that you could work with some authors, too? Maybe even on their Instagram accounts?
SA: Yes! I would love that! Because there are so many creative things that we can do that people just haven’t thought about yet. And that’s one of the things that I love, going a little bit- thinking outside the box. Really how to make sure that companies are standing out.
CK: Well, okay, great! Well it has been a pleasure, it’s been an honor, and I can’t wait to talk to you soon!
SA: Yes, yes! Thank you so much again, and I hope that everybody has a wonderful day!
CK: Sure thank you Stephanie!
Well, that’s all the time we have for today’s episode, folks. Thanks for tuning in. Be sure to subscribe to this podcast so you can be notified each week when a new episode drops. Next week, we’ll be talking to Bestselling author Elizabeth Spann Craig about how to make time to write in your busy, hectic, chaotic life. I know I, personally, can learn a thing or two from her on this particular issue.
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