So, Instagram is a thing. A REALLY BIG THING.

700 million active users each month.

400 million active users each day.

250 million active users of Instagram stories each day.

4.5 billion photo likes each day.

59% of internet users between the ages of 18 and 29 and 33% of internet users between the ages of 30 and 49 use Instagram.*

In the crowd of millions who use and love Instagram, there are tons of library lovers, particularly in the younger demographic. There is huge potential for libraries on this platform. I’m not saying you should ignore other social media platforms and switch all your focus to Instagram. But libraries aren’t using it enough, and that’s a missed opportunity. We should focus more on Instagram!

I really love the Cincinnati library account but I cannot take any credit for it. It’s managed by two people in our marketing department–our social media specialist and our assistant, who happens to have a great eye for art and photography. Our staff talks about our social media platforms, our strategy, and goals once a month and we are always looking for ways to improve. We’ve used these three easy tips on our Instagram to improve our posts and get more engagement and they work. Now I’m sharing them with you so you can have success too.

Start using Instagram stories. At our library, we noticed that organic engagement of our regular Instagram posts is tied to our use of Instagram stories. The more we use Stories, the more people see our regular Instagram posts. We have noticed that you don’t have to use Stories every day, but you do have to use it a few times a week to see better results in your organic posts. And it is a chance for you to exercise your creativity!

If you use Snapchat, you’ll be able to jump in and create Instagram stories right away–it works nearly the same way. If you’re new to stories, start small and be positive. Stories are a chance for you to be creative. Think of something you’d like to tell your customers and break it down into three or four sections. You can even plot out your idea using a storyboard or an outline to help you save time when you start shooting. An easy story idea is the journey of a book from the stacks into the hands of a cardholder.  Shoot the book being taken off the shelf, rolling on a cart, going through the processing line, and then popping up on the holds shelf. How about a behind-the-scenes look at your drive-thru window? Or a peek at how your materials and selections department buys a book? There are so many interesting stories at your library and most of them can be broken down into three or four pieces of interesting video.

Don’t use your stories feed to talk directly to your audience… in other words, don’t post headshot after headshot of someone talking into the camera about something library related. Instagram is not the place for talking heads. The audience wants feel-good, “the world is a beautiful place” stories. Focus on showing your customers what makes your library and its workers and customers beautiful and different.

BONUS TIP: I’m a big fan of redistribution of content–who has time to shoot video more than once? Save each section of your Instagram story on your camera roll and then upload them to a folder on your desktop as soon as you get back to your desk. You can use a simple editing tool (here’s a great list of free video editors) and put together a longer piece to post later on YouTube, Facebook, or your own library website.

Really research your hashtags. Many library marketers feel lost when it comes to hashtags or they don’t spend enough time thinking about them. But they are the one tool that will help people who don’t know you’re on Instagram to find you. They’ll also help your avid fans see more of your posts.  My favorite free hashtag research tool is Hashtagify. The easiest way for me to explain how it works is to show you an example. I did a search of Jane Austen and got this great graphic, which shows me all the top related hashtags I can use in a post about my favorite classic author.

 

I would suggest that you keep the number of hashtags you use to five or less. The less cluttered your caption is, the more engagement you’ll get. You should also check each hashtag before you use it to get a sense of how “crowded” it is. I like mixing my hashtags up with a few popular and a few rarely used ones. This helps increase the chances that someone will be able to find your photo!

Think through your caption. There’s no right or wrong length. You can take up to 2200 characters so if you have something really fascinating to say or a big announcement to make, you don’t have to limit yourself. You really need to focus on providing context about the photo. It’s okay to write out your caption before you post if it helps you to think through the process. Stay within your library’s brand voice and use conversational words, not library industry language. You should also experiment with emoji’s, which help to communicate the mood or feeling of the photo and are eye-catching!  And if you’re talking about a follower or another organization in your caption, be sure to tag them for extra reach and engagement.

Do not use a call to action in your caption every time you post… I think doing that makes you seem pushy. But sometimes it makes sense, like in this recent post by my library for National Library Card Sign-up month.

Have you seen a library account doing great things on Instagram? Are you really proud of what your library has done on Instagram? Let me know about them in the comments section for a future post! For more inspiration, I found this in my research for this article. 12 Must follow Library Instagram Accounts.

*Thanks to Omnicore for these stats. See more here.

Subscribe to this blog and you’ll receive an email every time I post. To do that, click on “Follow” button on the bottom left-hand corner of the page. Connect with me on Twitter and Snapchat–it’s where I talk about library marketing! I’m @Webmastergirl. I’m also on LinkedIn, Instagram and Pinterest. Views in this post are my own and do not represent those of my employer.

 

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