This is the second in a six-part series on social media best practices for libraries in 2022. Learn about best practices for Facebook here. In the weeks to come, I’ll be sharing the latest best practices for YouTube, LinkedIn, Pinterest, and Twitter. These are the top platforms used by libraries according to a survey I conducted. Tips for using TikTok for libraries can be found here.

Instagram for libraries

It probably won’t surprise you to learn that the number of Instagram users grew nearly 23 percent in 2021, according to Omnicore Agency. Most of those users are in the United States and India. And unlike other platforms, Instagram users are nearly evenly split by gender.

Here are some really interesting statistics about Instagram to inform your library work.

  • The average user spends 30 minutes a day on the platform.
  • 50 percent of people visit a website after seeing a product or service on Instagram. This is relevant to libraries because our collection, services, and events are our products and services. Promoting those offerings on Instagram can drive traffic to our library websites and catalogs.
  • Engagement rates are highest on accounts with fewer followers! According to Data Portal, the average engagement rate for an account with fewer than 10,000 followers is 1.11 percent. That’s twice the engagement rate of accounts with 100,000 followers or more.
  • Instagram is no longer the social media platform of choice for teens, according to a study released just a few days ago from Forrester. But is it popular with people ages 25-34 years.
  • Fun fact: The most liked photo on Instagram is a photo of an egg.

Instagram algorithms for 2022

Instagram uses algorithms for the Feed, Stories, and Reels.

The Instagram Feed algorithm ranks your posts using the following criteria:

  • The past behavior and interests of your followers. People who like and comment on posts featuring libraries, books, reading, or related services will also get shown your Instagram content.
  • The frequency of your library’s Instagram use. Instagram pays attention to how often your library posts as well as how often your library interacts with other people’s posts.
  • The number and types of accounts your library follows.
  • The timeliness of your posts. Instagram will give your content more organic reach if your posts are about a topic that is seasonal or popular at the moment.

The Instagram Story algorithm ranks your content using the following criteria:

  • How recently your Story was posted. This means your library should post a few slides to Stories at different times of the day, rather than all at once, to ensure your Story keeps showing up in your followers’ app.
  • How many creative tools your library uses in your Stories. Using stickers, creating polls, or adding links will all signal Instagram that your content is worthy of higher reach.
  • How often your library goes live on Instagram. When you use Instagram’s live function, your stream is pushed to the first slot in the row of stories.

The Instagram Reels algorithm ranks your videos using the following criteria:

  • How often people like, comment, or share your library’s videos. To help boost engagement, share your Reel to your library’s Instagram Story and Feed.
  • Whether your library uses relevant hashtags.
  • Whether your library uses a trending audio track.
  • Whether your library’s video is high-resolution.
  • Whether your library’s Reel contains a watermark from another platform, like TikTok. If it does, you’ll get lower organic reach.

I know that’s a lot of considerations for the average library staffer. I want to make this as easy and effective as possible. With all those algorithm considerations in mind, here are three ways to boost the reach of your Instagram account in 2022.

According to the Head of Instagram, the platform is shifting its focus to video. This change comes because of the growing popularity of videos online, as well as the threat of competitors including TikTok and YouTube. Instagram will give more visibility and engagement to videos in 2022.

Some great library examples are:

  • Cascade Public Library, which created a short video to promote a program and included emojis and behind-the-scenes info in the caption.
  • Oceanside Public Library did a hilarious video to remind patrons to turn back their clocks for Daylight Savings Time.
  • Glenthorne Library reposted an author’s video and got great reach.
  • Clifton Park-Halfmoon Public Library used a trending audio track with this Reel, which they then shared to their Feed.

In addition, studies have shown that carousel posts, which contain more than one photo, get about five percent more engagement than single photo posts to the Feed. And carousel posts that are a mix of photos and videos get even higher engagement, with a median of 26 comments per post!

Some great library examples are:

Think about how to mix your content up on your library’s Instagram Feed. Posting a carousel of a few short videos, perhaps pulled from your Story or Reels content, as well as a few relevant still photos will result in the highest engagement for your library’s Instagram account.

Post to Instagram stories every single day (and cross post your Story content to Facebook Stories).

Stories are the most popular feature on Instagram. And your library should post at least one slide to stories every day, even on the weekends.

Set your Instagram account up so that your Story content also posts to your Facebook Stories. I don’t normally recommend posting the exact same content on multiple channels. But this is the exception. Audiences who watch Stories on those two partner platforms are different, so it’s a good use of your time and energy.

To maximize the engagement of your Story content, use the following tips:

  • Post no more than five slides each day. Engagement rates drop significantly for most accounts on Stories with more than five slides.
  • Create tutorials to help people use your library’s services.
  • Share library testimonials and user-generated content in Stories.
  • Add links to your Stories to make taking an action easy. Instagram introduced Story links in October 2021. To add a link, click on the stickers icon. You’ll find the link button in the options.
  • Use stickers to get your audience to interact. You can ask questions, create polls, and encourage viewers to comment and send you related photos as a response to your Story.
  • Experiment with creative tools like added music or the boomerang and multi-capture functions to make your Stories stand out.
Windsor Public Library posts to Stories using hashtags and animated stickers.
Austin Public Library did a Story series on a weekend to celebrate the unveiling of a sculpture.

Use Instagram’s live scheduling function to promote your virtual programs.

In October 2021, Instagram rolled out a new feature that allows accounts to schedule and promote live broadcasts on the platform. You can do this up to 90 days before an event.

Instagram allows you to control the audience so that it shows your event promotion to followers and non-followers alike if you want. Your audience can sign up for reminders and be notified when you are about to go live.

Here’s how it works.

Click on “Live” from the drop-down posting menu.
Click on the Calendar icon at the bottom of the left-side menu.
Give your live event a title and set the date and time.
Once your live is scheduled, click on “Share as Post” to share on your Feed. Then go into your Feed and share your post on your Story.

How often and when to post on Instagram

Post on Instagram Stories every day.

Post to the Instagram Feed and/or create Instagram Reels no more than two to three times a week.

There is no consensus from any of the experts on the best day and time to post on Instagram. The most practical thing to do is to check the insights on your library’s account. Post when you notice your followers are engaging most often with your content.

You should check insights once a month to make sure the optimal time and day of the week to post for your followers haven’t shifted.

How much text should be in an Instagram post?

According to a study by Socialinsider and Sked Social, which analyzed more than 102 million Instagram business posts, Instagram Feed posts should be less than 10 words for the highest engagement. For video posts, captions of 30 words or more are most engaging.

There is no recommended amount of text for Stories or Reels. The more text you type, the smaller it will get. Try to keep your text short and easy to read.

Instagram image best practices

The perfect image size for the Instagram Feed is 1080 x 1080 pixels or 1:1 aspect ratio.

The perfect image for Instagram Stories and Reels is 1080 x 1920 pixels or a 9:16 aspect ratio.

Measuring success on Instagram

If your library’s Instagram is listed as a personal Instagram profile, you’ll need to convert it into a Business Profile to see metrics.

Tap on the menu icon in the top right corner of your profile, and then click on the Insights tab. Or you can tap the Insights button on your profile page.

From there, you can see which type of posts have performed best. You can also filter by metrics such as likes, reach, and comments. And you can see what time of day and day of the week is the best time to post for your library’s audience.

One note: Instagram will only show you analytics for content you create after you convert to a Business profile.


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Two Brilliant and Easy Ways to Get More Reach for Your Library’s Instagram Account

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