Photo courtesy Cincinnati and Hamilton County Public Library

This is the fifth installment in my series on social media best practices for libraries in 2023. The complete guide includes tips for:

The final installment on December 19 will cover Twitter. These are the top platforms used by libraries according to the 7th Annual Super Library Marketing Reader Survey.

Instagram for libraries

Instagram is the fourth most active social media platform, behind Facebook, YouTube, and WhatsApp. However, Instagram is second only to Facebook in the number of users who log in daily. That’s why it’s been a successful platform for many libraries.

Here are some statistics to consider as you plan your library’s social media marketing for 2023 according to and

  • The average Instagram user spends 30 minutes a day on the platform.
  • Most Instagram users are between the ages of 18 and 34. In fact, this demographic makes up nearly 62 percent of Instagram’s total audience.
  • Instagram users remain evenly split down gender lines.
  • Gen X men are the fastest-growing demographic for Instagram!
  • 62 percent of Instagram Story users become more interested in a brand after seeing a product or service on Instagram. Remember, your library is a brand.
  • Engagement rates continue to be highest for Instagram accounts with fewer than 10,000 followers. So don’t worry about your follower count!
A very successful collection marketing Feed post by Multnomah County Library.

Instagram algorithm for 2023

The Instagram algorithm is the most sophisticated of all the social media platforms. No two users will see the exact same content on any portion of Instagram

The Instagram Feed and Instagram Stories algorithms work in the same way. Users only see content from accounts they follow. And that content is subject to the algorithm, which serves up your library’s posts based on the following criteria:

  • Past account interaction: Instagram will show your content to followers who have engaged with your posts in the past, especially in the recent past. Conversations on the Feed and in Stories play a powerful role in this calculation. Instagram considers DMs and responses to comments in its algorithm calculations.
  • Past user activity: Instagram will show your content to followers who have interacted in the past with the same type of content you are posting.
  • Other factors: The Instagram Feed and Instagram Stories will show your content to your followers based on how popular your posts are, how closely you follow best practices for text and images, and your location in relation to your followers.

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

  • Past user activity: Instagram pays attention to what Reels users have watched in the past, and they’ll continue to show them similar content. So, if someone is really interested in manga, and your library is posting Reels about manga, they’ll likely be shown your Reels.
  • Past interaction history with non-followers: Instagram will show your Reels to people who aren’t your followers if they have interacted with your Reels in the recent past.
  • Reel information: Signals about the content elements in a Reel, like audio tracks, creative elements like stickers and captions, and popularity are factors in the Reels algorithm.

Here are four ways to boost the reach of your library’s Instagram account in 2023.

Reels get more engagement than regular videos posted to the Feed. That’s because Instagram is in competition with TikTok. So, the algorithm will place emphasis on Reels over other content.

Milwaukee Public Library‘s social media team has garnered a lot of attention for its creative Reels videos. They also pin posts to the top of their Instagram profile (see tip #2).

You can take any video you’ve created, as long as it doesn’t have a watermark from another app (like TikTok) and upload it to Reels. If it’s longer than 90 seconds, you’ll have to trim it. But that constraint is good: it forces you to be creative and boil your message down to its most interesting parts!

Add captions, a sticker or two, and a great description before you publish. Remember, every word you use in the description helps the algorithm to understand the content of your Reel so it can show it to the right users.

Neptune Public Library‘s use of the word “joke” in this caption likely triggered the algorithm to show this Reel to more people, resulting in fantastic engagement.

You can now pin up to three posts to the top of your profile grid. Pinning ensures that your followers see your most important posts.

To pin a post to the top of your profile, simply pick the post you want to pin, tap the three dots, and select Pin to your profile. Pinning posts will send a signal to Instagram that this content is important and worthy of being shown to more followers. Plus, platforms love it when you use their features.

Set a schedule to check your pinned posts once every few weeks so there is always new content at the top of your profile.

Add hashtags for visibility, not engagement.

In mid-2022, the head of Instagram revealed in an interview that hashtags on the platform don’t increase engagement. Instead, the platform uses hashtags to analyze your post and determine where it will be shown.

And in fact, Mention analyzed 114 million Instagram posts and found that posts with only one hashtag got the highest engagement. Their analysis has some interesting findings, including the fact that none of the ten most popular posts in their study contain a hashtag.

Northern Kentucky University’s Steely Library saw high engagement on a post with no hashtags but lots of information in the description that helped the algorithm to serve it to the right users.

With that in mind, this year, you’ll want to focus on using the right hashtags for your target audience, to ensure your posts are seen by the people searching for the topics your library is covering.

And the most recent advice is to forego using popular hashtags, like #SummerReading. Instead, focus on niche hashtags because they communicate the topic of your content clearly to the algorithm.

One final note: hashtags must appear in the Instagram caption, not the comments. 

Keep an eye out for new features coming in 2023

Instagram is currently testing a host of new features that will likely be released in the next 12 months. These new features will improve the user experience both for your followers and for you! When they are released, you’ll want to use them.

Among the possible features to watch:

  • A new option that would enable your library to share your latest post with connections via Direct Message.
  • The ability to let users repost other users’ Feed posts and Reels to their feed. Currently, users can only repost to Stories. This would be a great opportunity for library influencers and partners.
  • The ability to add multiple links to an Instagram bio. This would be a game-changer for libraries.
  • Native scheduling in the app for the Feed and Reels. This new element would enable your library to set a date and time for a Feed post or Reels video to go live without a third-party social media scheduling app.

How often and when to post on Instagram

Post on Instagram Stories every day.

Post to the Instagram Feed and Instagram Reels two to three times a week.

The experts agree that engagement is highest on Monday and Tuesday, between 11 a.m. and 1 p.m. There is also increasing evidence that posting on Sundays is good for engagement.

But as always, 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.

And as always, being consistent is key. Pick a schedule that your library staff can stick to.

How much text should be in an Instagram post?

The Instagram feed allows up to 2,200 characters in the caption. But the ideal length is between 138 and 150 characters.

Fun posts should have shorter captions. Information or educational posts should have longer captions.

But the content of your library’s post description is more important than the length. Like hashtags, the description helps the algorithm determine the content of your post. And that decision helps the algorithm decide who should see your posts.

Instagram image best practices

Instagram recommends several specific image sizes for Feed posts, depending on the photo.

  • If your photo is landscape: 1080 x 566 pixels.
  • If your photo is portrait: 1080 x 1350 pixels.
  • If your photo is square: 1080 x 1080 pixels.

The Instagram feed works well with aspect ratios that range from 1:91:1 to 4:5.

The optimum Instagram Stories and Reels image size is 1080 x 1920 pixels or an aspect ratio of 9:16.

Measuring success on Instagram

Instagram metrics are available on the mobile app or from Meta’s Insight page. And if your library’s Instagram is listed as a personal Instagram profile, you’ll need to convert it into a Business or Creator account to see metrics.

To view insights on Instagram:

  • Select the Insights action button on your profile. Or you can go to the three-line symbol in the upper right-hand corner and select Insights.
  • Next, select Metrics under the Overview section.

You’ll only see insights for the content your library has posted since converting to a business or creator account. And compared to other platforms, Instagram’s insights are not robust. But any data is good data!

Check your account once a month to make sure your Instagram account is doing what you want it to do for your library.

👏 I do a lot of bragging about libraries. But I can’t see everything everywhere, and I’m certain I’m missing some of the best #LibraryMarketing examples. So I need your help! You can share anonymously if you like. Thank you!

More advice

Was It a Fluke? What a Viral Instagram Video Can Teach You About Library Social Media Promotions

An Academic Library Increased Their Instagram Reach by 1149% in a Year! Learn Their Secrets for Success

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