October 8, 2020

I posted on Instagram for 90 Days. Here’s what happened.

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How I pushed through self-doubt, insecurities, and general indifference to create a social media calendar –and follow-through with a social media marketing strategy.

 

PART ONE: WHAT IF NO ONE WANTS TO HEAR FROM ME?

I don’t consider myself a social media marketing expert.

In fact, I don’t even enjoy posting on social media.

I was the girl wayyyy back in 2007/2008 in university who refused to sign up for Facebook, even though that’s where all her friends were posting about the cool weekend parties…just because I didn’t see the appeal.

Join something that’s trending? That will probably go away in a few years?

Yeah, well, eventually I caved and now social media is part of my everyday life, in one way or another.

My personal Facebook profile is reserved for large life announcements and my former post-mortem posts…and that’s about it.

I don’t feel the need to share my life. Like, who cares what I do in my spare time, right? My life doesn’t belong to strangers on the internet. Someday, when I’m dead and buried and important enough to warrant such treatment, you can read my published journals, Lucy Maud Montgomery style.

As for Instagram, I had willful ignorance, saying things like, “I’m not very good at it. I don’t understand it. I don’t need it.” I would make jokes about being an older person in a young person’s body. It was funnier and safer for me to remain in this space, where I didn’t have to worry about taking pictures and making posts for my audience. It just seemed like a waste of time to me.

However…

I say all this…but I would scroll through my feeds and think, “How can I make what I do interesting to people? How can I use this platform to my advantage?” Because to me, I sit at a computer and spew words on a screen and eventually, it’s a book or a blog post or whatever. Visually speaking, it’s not that engaging to document my professional life.

(She says, as she decides to create an entire blog about documenting and deconstructing her professional writing and publishing life…)

To me, because I didn’t care, no one cared.

When was the last time you heard about something ONCE and remembered the details?

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When you work for yourself and sell your own art, you have to be your own champion. For a long time, no one will care more than you was my motto. Still is, in a way. If you are publishing your own books like me, or if you have little marketing support, you are responsible for your own success. You have to have a lot of passion AND know how to funnel that effectively if you want to sell books to your audience. Random strangers outside your community will likely not care about your book until you are able to direct your passion towards marketing activities that speak to them.

You know what the problem is with being the #1 advocate for yourself?

Somewhere along the line, this mantra morphed from “No one will care more than you” to “No one cares.”

When you are #1, everyone else is #2. When you start comparing your effort and passion to everyone else’s, it seems you care a lot and everyone else cares very little.

Which means, when it came to carrying out marketing activities, I was faced with a problem.

I’d ask myself:

Should I post about my book on social media?

The answer would be: “No, no one cares.”

I also feared that people didn’t want to hear from me. I didn’t want to bother people with my little business. I thought if they wanted to know something about me, they could visit my website. Or look at the ONE Facebook post I dared to make.

But when was the last time you heard about something ONCE and remembered any details?

Do you see how easy it is to get trapped in your own thoughts?

I write about this because these are the problems no one really talks about. The self-doubt. The insecurities. The fear of being seen. If you don’t have the right mindset going into this—if you don’t face and push through these fears—you’re going to have follow-through problems. I know, because I could never follow through or even begin to conceive of a social media marketing plan before acknowledging my contempt of the platform and insecurities swirling around in my brain.

At the beginning of 2020, before the pandemic, I realized that I needed to take control of my online marketing in a whole new way. Hence, my social media marketing strategy journey was born.

If you're new here...

Hey there! Welcome! My name is Clare, I’m the author-publisher behind the young adult science fiction & fantasy publisher, Faery Ink Press. 

Each month I blog about a specific behind-the-scenes project or campaign I carry out on my very real publishing company—and share all the messy feelings and results with you, the creative reader.

I don’t think you have to be an expert to plan and use a social media platform. It does pay to do research and lots of trial-and-error testing of content on your account to see what will work for you.

That’s the purpose of me attempting this long-term social media marketing strategy experiment.

I wanted to know, conclusively, if:

  • a concrete social media marketing strategy involving Instagram and Facebook would actually translate into online sales,
  • if it’s a small piece of a larger puzzle
  • or a complete waste of time altogether.

I already know that not paying attention to it only gives me a looming sense that I should be doing something about it. So why not actually…you know, do something?

Instagram 101

If you’re totally new to the idea of posting on Instagram – welcome.

Instagram, owned by Facebook, is a visual social media platform. Users post images, with captions. Other users can comment on your images, follow your account, and send you messages. This is similar to Facebook, with a key difference: Instagram doesn’t allow you to post clickable links with your content. The one link you’re allowed goes in your profile.

Why is that an important distinction? It shifts the dynamic.

While you want them to click and access your website via your profile link (called colloquially, “link in bio”), the value of Instagram interacting directly and building a relationship with your followers/audience. By showing up on Instagram for your audience, you are providing a platform for them to interact with you, get to know your content, and hopefully if they resonate with your offerings, buy your products/services. It’s not always about getting people to click through for quick sales. It’s about nurturing genuine connections with your audience, which if your offering is right, will lead to long-term sales. This is true of most social media platforms, but it’s especially true for Instagram.

The following are assumptions, questions, and theories I’ll be exploring as I continue my Instagram and Facebook social media marketing journey.

Starting Assumptions and Questions about Social Media Marketing

  • Does posting on Instagram (and by extension, Facebook) bring more traffic to my website (and therefore, more sales?)
  • Does it matter what I post – so long as I’m posting consistently?
  • Can I maintain or develop a regular posting schedule?
  • Is there a “tipping point” of engagement with the app where suddenly, I’m getting lots of traffic to my site? AKA: do I have to be using it in the “right” way for X amount of time before I see the results I want?
  • Does MY engagement with the app affect my audience’s engagement?
  • Do specific kinds of content drive higher conversions (videos vs regular images, carousels vs stills, regular posts vs stories).
  • Will all this hard work translate into sales?

PART TWO: SO WHAT DO I POST ABOUT?

As I was planning my yearly goals in early January in my bullet journal, I felt annoyed. Here I was, a year later, making near-similar goals as I was to last year.

My bullet journal with the words "2020: Take control" surrounded by colourful washi tape and stickers. The word "plan" is cloud-circled.

2020 had to be different, I told myself. I had to take control of my planning and my execution so I could reach my far-off, large goals of earning six figures and having tens of thousands of people on my mailing list. Going to trade shows was great and all, but if I wasn’t supplementing that with a social media marketing strategy, then I was potentially losing the opportunity to engage with my audience AFTER the shows were over.

I attended Jasmine Star’s webinar back in early 2020 (as part of her promotion for Social Curator, her membership, which I didn’t join). I’d seen Jasmine Star speak in person at Amy Porterfield’s Entrepreneur Experience event back in October 2019. She was one of my favourites: a no-nonsense speaker who thankfully wouldn’t tolerate long-winded audience questions. She gave inspiring and practical advice about posting on Instagram/building a following.

Once you get past the “What if no one wants to hear from me” hurdle, you reach the next biggest problem about posting on Instagram, or any other social media platform:

The dreaded: “What do I post today?”

In Jasmine Star’s webinar, she gave a strategy to answer this very question. Her response: categories. Come up with 9-12 different subjects to speak about on social media that relate to you and/or your business. Cycle through them, and bang, you will always have something to post about.

This was extremely helpful. Of course! It seemed so obvious. Following the webinar, I wrote down ten topics I could speak about that I felt were related to me as an author and business activities: book quotes. Stationary. My cats. My podcast. Behind the scenes writing. Nerdy stuff. Etc.

Something nagged me about this list—but it was a start. I decided to post for at least 30 days and see what category topics performed the best.

PART THREE:  INSTAGRAM POSTING ROUND ONE – The First 30 Days

My initial one-month stint was from January 20 to February 20. Using my ad-hoc list to guide me, I posted something almost every day.

Excerpts from my upcoming book release, flat lays of my bullet journal planner spreads, and yes, even pictures of my cats. After all, that makes me relatable, right? Cute pictures of my two kitties?

I even planned and executed countdown posts to the cover reveal for The Midnight Tablet. It had been so long since I’d done anything remotely special for a cover reveal. I felt proud. Accomplished.

An Instagram screenshot of a promo post for the cover reveal of The Midnight Tablet, one of my fantasy novels I released in 2020. It says "Rise. That's what my heart tells me. But to fight our many enemies and finally unite my people, I must destroy what I've become." The blue fox eye peering out is kind of spooky!

I didn’t understand Instagram insights at the time so I didn't record any notable ups or downs. And hashtags? Just throw ‘em in! Whatever!

I thought, Instagram Stories? What’s that! I don’t know!! Just post on your feed anyway!!!

People commented and interacted with my in-progress book excerpts. They were looking forward to my next book release. I couldn’t believe it. They wanted to hear from me.

An early excerpt from The Midnight Tablet. It reads: "Our relationship is real! I will not barter you to a stranger in exchange for..." The words died on my lips. For peace. It would keep my people safe. All I'd have to give up was my love. The love who no longer knew my name.

I had dozens of likes on my bullet journal flatlays. I felt like I was inspiring people to write down and think about their goals!

An Instagram screenshot of a flat lay of my weekly bullet journal spread. It's very bright - pinks, light greens, yellows, oranges. My pastel markers attempt to cover the page. At the top I've written, "Don't let the fear win. I am a big deal."

The post above? It has the HIGHEST impressions so far in 2020.

Every day, there was a slight pressure to come up with something new, within my self-determined parameters. The posts weren’t perfect. I really didn’t know what I was doing. But day after day, I checked off the “posted-on-Instagram” box in my bullet journal.

Yet the nagging feeling that this was All Wrong remained. And as a reader, maybe you’ve already spotted the issue. Keep reading—I’ll catch up to your big brain eventually. 😉

After the initial 30 days, I continued to post with sporadic regularity. The initial round had instilled the habit—or at least, a sense that I should say something to my 200-ish followers. I even managed to create Instagram and Facebook posts for The Midnight Tablet pre-order event at the end of May 2020.

I’d passed the “What if no one wants to hear from me” and “What do I post about?” milestones. What was the next level?

What do I do now?

Near the end of July, a switch flipped inside me.

Every Sunday, I would review my business goals in my bullet journal. Since the pandemic, I’d become extra-focussed on where I was currently, and where I wanted to be in three to five years.

I realized:

I had planned and executed an entire online pre-order event.

I had already posted on Instagram for 30 days, and then some. Imperfectly, but I’d done it.

But what if I could plan my Instagram feed the same way I planned my weeks? My months?

What if I took my strength—planning—and applied it to my current weakness: Instagram and Facebook?

That clawing dread or hopelessness surrounding my cobwebbed, struggling social media accounts began to dissipate. I had the opportunity to improve and leverage them for my success.

It was time to stop messing around. I had to get serious about my Instagram marketing strategy.

Specific Challenges

I want to post on Facebook and Instagram (and eventually, other accounts) on a regular basis. Besides setting aside the time to do so, here were my remaining mental blocks to getting started:

1

My business accounts are also kind of my personal accounts.

Sure, I have a personal Facebook profile. But I don’t post a ton there. I’ve never had a personal Instagram with my name on it. My business is my life. Where is the line between Clare the Author and Clare the Person, and how do I decide what content goes into what bucket?

2

My business account is not based on my name.

I’m a publishing brand. I’ve always marketed myself this way (instead of as an author) because I believe long-term, it will be easier to invite more people to the table. I will have to figure out how to convey the person behind the brand while also maintaining the idea that I’m essentially an artistic ecommerce store.

3

It seems so easy to create social media posts for non-fiction/informational content. How can I do this for my fiction products?

Selling a book about writing? Post information about writing. Do you draw art? Post your art and people immediately know if they like it. With novels—you DON’T know if you’ll like it, not right away! The cover art can be good, the sample chapters could draw you in, and you could still end up giving it one stars on Goodreads. Buying a new author is a risk for some readers because there’s a time cost to the acquisition, as well as a financial one.

How do I convey what my books and other content are about in a non-sales-y way to a stranger, day after day?

PART FOUR: GETTING SERIOUS – CREATING A SOCIAL MEDIA MARKETING CONTENT CALENDAR

Download the worksheet! Want to create your own social media marketing calendar? Get started with my free worksheet.

I decided I’d post for a concentrated 60 days on Instagram—with about a 7-10 day repost of more or less the same content to Facebook. I wanted to challenge myself to carry out a consistent social media calendar—a real calendar, not just a post-it note of general topics.

I went back to what worked and what didn’t work about my initial 30-day stint on Instagram.

What worked: Categories. Giving myself a limited scope of topics to post about meant I had something to draw upon.

But the categories I’d initially picked? They were all wrong for Faery Ink Press – the brand that sells YA books. They were Clare categories. My publishing brand isn’t selling me the human. I’m not an influencer or a service provider or coach. I’m a brand that sells a creative product. My publishing brand is selling books. Marketing products is different than marketing yourself as a service provider.

Now, this seems like a Very Obvious Realization. But when you’re in the middle of your own creative muck—you can’t see the obvious.

What didn’t work during my initial 30 day stint? Facing the question, “What do I post today?” every day, and having to come up with content on the spot.

I opened a new Excel document. I refused to be burdened with the question anymore.

I am a planner and I was going to make a social media calendar.

How I Made My Social Media Marketing Calendar

After furiously googling about social media calendars and finding a lot of surface-level fluff (and for-sale calendars with built-in daily prompts, mainly targeting service providers and online course sellers), I threw my collective knowledge into a pot and cook up my own calendar.

Follow along with this homegrown recipe and hopefully, you too will be on your way!

Download the worksheet! Want to create your own social media marketing calendar? Get started with my free worksheet.

1

Step 1 - What am I always promoting/selling?

Let’s start off easy. I’m always selling/promoting:

  • The current books in my catalogue. I have quite a few of them.
  • Wingtorn, my free fantasy serial podcast.
  • I have a quiz on my website that helps recommend you one of my books.
  • I also have quite a few blog posts with evergreen advice.

Don’t be shy—write down everything you have that could be of value to someone, free and paid.

This content belongs to cmarshallpublishing.com.

2

Step 2 - What sales/limited-time events will I be promoting within the next 6 months?

I wrote down three dates/date ranges I wanted to plan special sales/events for between August and December.

3

Step 3 - Put the social in social media marketing

Here’s the trickier part – and don’t skip it, because it’s the most important one.

How do you sell on social media without actually selling? Or put another way: how do you pull off a soft sell versus a hard sell?

A hard sell would ONLY be posting about the first two steps. “Buy my book!” or “I’m holding a sale!” But that would make for an obnoxious profile, right? Who would want to follow THAT?

And that’s the key takeaway here.

Why DO people follow you—or anyone?

Social media accounts of all kinds are doing a combination of:

  • Educating/teaching the consumer
  • Engaging with the audience on a personal level
  • Offering a relatable personal perspective through the lens of the business/product

For me, I sell books I wrote through my website. A hard enough task in person, at trade shows. But I’ve put in my time—I know how to talk to my potential audience, to warm them to the idea of buying from the creator.

But how can I translate that to a social media profile?

3a

Step 3a - Write down topics you can educate or inform your audience about, as related to your creative product. 

At my comic cons and craft shows, people were always asking me about writing and publishing. We live in an era where people want to know what happens behind the scenes. They want to know a little bit about process. They want to sneak a peek behind the scenes.

But there’s also the stuff that they don’t want to know about but NEED to know about. How to purchase from my website, for example. What if they don’t know that I offer free shipping if you order more than $$? What if there’s a question your audience is asking over and over again?

You don’t want to go overboard with this. This is just a little taste, remember.

I wrote down commonly asked questions I wanted to highlight, ideas for showcasing the website, writing tip ideas, and other informative topics I felt comfortable talking about.

This content belongs to cmarshallpublishing.com.

3b

Step 3b - How can I engage with my audience and get to know them as human beings? 

One of my favourite parts of selling in person was actually talking to my customers. I don’t mean small talk. I mean, actually speaking to my customers as human beings.

I went through old social media posts of similar authors and looked up common “get to know me” questions for inspiration. You don’t want to be overly personal—because ultimately, you’re going to answer these questions too. Questions like, “What are you doing this weekend?” are fine and casual, but I wanted to go deeper. “Do you have a personal mantra?” and “If you could go back in time, where would you visit?” are a few.

This isn’t about mining your customers for pain points or personal information. Don’t do that. This is about taking a real, genuine interest in your readers and showing them that you’re a human being behind the screen too.

You also want to relate it to your “genre” of product, if you can. I tried to spin the questions to be a little nerdier—so I asked about magical powers, aliens, and time travel more often than the general “What are you up to this weekend?” conversation-starters.

3c

Step 3c - What can I share about myself that’s [somewhat] relevant to the brand or industry? 

This was the hardest category for me. I don’t love sharing information about myself. As stated, I don’t even like posting about myself on social media.

So, why complete this step?

My audience buys my books from me because of me. I am a big part of that sales factor. It’s not because of my attractiveness or my youth—it’s about me forging a creative path that some people only dream about.

I wrote down the top personal questions people used to ask me repeatedly in-person (“Where do you get your ideas from?” and “Are you from (insert city here) originally?” and “How long have you been writing?”).

For this step, you might find it helpful to write out your “origin” story. How did you get started on your creative path? What’s something you wish you had known X years ago, that you know today—that might help someone out there, right now?

4

Step 4 - Organize your prompt questions, sales events, and products/promotions onto a calendar

I created an ugly ad-hoc calendar in Excel and blocked off the sales promotion dates. For example: in August, I ran a birthday sale for 5 days. I blocked off those five days as well as two days before the event, and one day after, to thank people for participating. That’s already EIGHT days of special sales content to create, just for this event.

Then, I revisited my promotions/products list. I have a fantasy series, a science fiction series, my podcast…the list goes on of products I want to promote or talk about on a regular basis.

The real questions are: how often should I talk about each one? And: which is the MOST important for me to post about, at least for the next couple of months?

I selected one promotion and decided, every 7-10 days, I would post about it.

I blocked it off on the calendar.

I selected another product from the list and decided, I’ll post about you every two weeks, give or take a day or so.

I blocked it off on the calendar.

I did that for every book/promotional offer I had written down. It’s not going to be perfect, and that’s okay. You don’t want to fill your calendar with promotions and hard sells, remember? But prioritizing them means putting a stake in the ground and committing to writing about them on social media, to let your audience know what they’re about—and the fact that they exist.

I still had quite a bit of space at this point—which is good. Because the rest of the calendar is for all the content you generated in Step 3—your Informational, Engaging, and Personal Share content.

You can fill your calendar how you want with this. I did fairly equal thirds of each to fill in the rest of the space, with slightly more preference to my teaching and engaging content.

I also went through and marked any important holidays, and shifted the content accordingly.

So, what was that you said earlier? About having nothing to say? About having nothing to post about?

Look how wrong we were!

Look at everything we have!

I couldn’t help but feel a sense of pride as I reviewed my list. I had so much to offer. I had sabotaged myself by holding back before.

I DO have a lot to say. And I bet you do too.

 

But Clare – won’t people notice I’m always talking about the “same” things?

Maybe. But counter-question: when was the last time you looked at a brand you follow and admire and thought, “Wow, ABC Makeup Brand keeps talking about their eyeshadow palettes, they posted about that purple one a few weeks ago. That’s so annoying!”

If you admire the brand, it’s likely you’ll enjoy the content they post. You may even think, “I own that purple eyeshadow palette and I love it!”

On the flip side: it’s also possible your audience won’t notice you’re talking about the “same” things. Our lives have never been more full. Our feeds have never been more stuffed with content. Even if you have one book you’re talking about in the midst of your other social media content, and you’ve posted about it for weeks, it may be the FIRST time a NEW person sees it—or it may be a second, third, or fourth REMINDER for someone else.

Like I said at the beginning of this post—when was the last time you heard about something once and remembered all the details?

All I recommend here is to think of different ways to speak about your promotional content. Different angles and stories you can share. This is where the real work of creating content for social media comes in.

It took several hours, but I finally had the foundations of a social media content calendar for the next six months.

Yes, that’s right, six months of potential social media marketing content—at my fingertips.

But more than that: I had a system I could replicate to create content to promote my brand. I had taken control of my calendar.

A small screenshot of how I laid out my social media marketing calendar. In Excel, I created square blocks.   The first column has dates starting with August 1.  The second column has the content category: ENGAGE, WINGTORN (my fantasy serial podcast), and PERSONAL SHARE are pictured.  In the third column, I made little notes about what I would say or create for that particular content category/topic.

Now, for the real test. Could I follow through and actually make the content for the calendar?

Would it actually result in website visits and sales?

Would people even NOTICE my hard work?


PART FIVE: SOCIAL MEDIA MARKETING CONTENT IS CONTENT…THAT I HAVE TO MAKE NOW.

Have you ever spent literal hours designing Instagram and Facebook posts?

Because I have.

After creating my calendar, I had the odd realization that I actually don’t have a ton of pictures of my books. I mean, I have book covers…but I had no lifestyle photos.

So I went to work.

Creating The Content

An instagram screenshot book flat lay of The Midnight Tablet, the fourth book in my YA fantasy series, next to a pretty purple flower with blue at the centre. There's a large candle to the right of the book. It's all laying on my brown wooden table and a grey-and-white striped under-cloth.

When it comes to promoting books on Instagram, it’s all about that sweet, sweet #BOOKSTAGRAM. You can’t just throw up a book cover and call it a day. The image has to be thoughtful. It has to evoke a feeling. Like coziness, for example.

I’m not an expert at taking pictures. My phone sucks. I also had no idea what KIND of picture would work best. "Best" in my case, I decided, was decided by Profile Visits and Impressions. AKA respectfully: the number of times someone clicked through the picture to view my profile (and hopefully go to my website) and the number of times my content was seen by accounts.

This post below? Had the HIGHEST impressions of any of my specifically book-themed posts in my final 60-day stint:

An Instagram screenshot of the four books in my fantasy series, spine-up, on top of a purple shipping envelope on a black table. There are some pens splayed to the right.

Meanwhile, this post below? So pretty, I thought. I was sure this was going to out-perform every post. Nope. Middling results at best. Possibly it's the lighting:

An Instagram screenshot of The Violet Fox Series spines (YA fantasy series) propped up with white candle tealights, surrounded by my purple and blue flowers and a grey mask, situated on a white tablecloth. It kind of looks like the books are getting married.

I found myself scheduling in time for mini photoshoots almost every weekend. I set aside 20-30 minutes to take pictures. Each time, the flat lay - the decorations around the book that create the "scene" - got a little more intricate.

The more I did it? The better I got.

And you know what? It was fun.

I’m still not great—but I’m okay with sucking a little until I can achieve that perfect #bookstagram picture eventually.

The second type of Instagram posts I created were designed and photoshopped to (hopefully) convey the brand. These were easier in one sense, but still time-consuming. I reserved these for my carousel posts - my informative or highly designed personal posts that educated my audience about me, the brand, or taught a specific skill.

An example below is from my "get to know the author" series. Highly designed, multiple-image posts that impart personal information based around a specific question ("Where do you get your ideas?" etc) and created to start a conversation. This post was highly interacted with, spurred profile visits and had a ton of impressions.

An Instagram screenshot of Clare, the first in a carousel post (multiple images). I'm looking excited to be photoshopped on a lilac-coloured background. Next to me on a dark purple background the text says, "Hey, I'm Clare, and I write and publish YA science fiction and fantasy books". At the top it reads, "Get to know the author."

But I still don't know HOW to use Instagram!

Once I started to come up with ideas for Instagram posts within my newly defined categories, I realized I still didn’t know a lot about Instagram itself. So I scoured YouTube. Within seconds I was watching various takes on the best “strategies” and “hacks” to “grow” my Instagram account. And…yeah, it was a lot of garbage. Not to mention, any video that was over a year old, I didn’t want to watch, since that information could be wildly out of date.

Like I mentioned at the beginning, I literally didn’t know anything about Instagram. I had dabbled, gotten comfortable with the basics, but in terms of optimizing my profile, posting best practices, and like, Instagram stories, what the heck do I do there?—I was completely lost.

If you’re like me, I suggest watching all of Vanessa Lau’s videos. I found her information to be insightful, precise, and eased me into thinking about Instagram as a strategic platform—not just a place to dump cat pictures. Bonus, she’s Canadian!

Watching her, I had a profound realization. She kept talking about making content for social media. As you may have noticed in this post, that's how I'm talking about it too. 

Content.

To me? Blogs were content.

As I began creating my own images and write-ups for Instagram, however, I started to internalize what she meant. Social media content…IS content. I can write a five paragraph caption on an Instagram picture and impact my audience. I could post a pretty picture and end up having an insightful conversation. 

Social media content is content.

It’s the door to your deeper stuff. Except…it’s maybe more important than the deeper stuff. Because that might be my audience’s first touchpoint with me. Maybe they’re looking at my Instagram and Facebook feeds to see if I’m a real person or a real business that’s still operating.

It’s proof that I exist.

Putting it all together

You've designed your pictures, you've come up with some prompts and fleshed them out. Now it's time to schedule it all in!

I signed up for Later, because there was no way I was manually posting content every day. Their free account was plenty for me to get my feet wet, as they offer 30 free posts on a connected platform per month. (I've since upgraded to a paid account!)

I was doing it. I was taking control.

As I was relishing this challenge of tackling and learning about Instagram in a deeper way, scheduling my newly created posts, a new doubt crept in:

What if someone notices how active I’m suddenly being on Instagram and Facebook and they think I’m posting because I’m desperate for sales?

I played out the scenario, over and over in my mind, as I scheduled in my posts. I imagined someone messaging me, being annoyed at my sudden uptick in social posts, “yelling” at me for…

For what? 

For being consistent on social media for once?

For actually making an effort?

For putting real work and strategy into FREE platforms?

For trying to connect with my audience in a time when human connection is hard to come by?

Writing about it in this way makes this fear look silly. But you never know when you’re going to sabotage your efforts. If someone out there was wrinkling their nose in disgust at my newfound attempt at social media prowess…well…they never complained about it.

On August 1, I rolled out my new social media calendar in a whole new way. And I haven't looked back.

This content belongs to cmarshallpublishing.com.

PART SIX: SOCIAL MEDIA MARKETING: THE RESULTS

My results at a glance

I created and maintained a social media content schedule

In my initial 30-day+ stint at Instagram, I managed to post daily, even though the content wasn’t always strategic. In the final 60 day stint, I created and executed a plan. I only missed 2 days on Instagram and 6 days on Facebook. On Facebook, I’m not sure it matters as much, though on Instagram my engagement level was far lower on the days I missed.

My followers grew by about 8%

In my final 60-day stretch on Instagram, my followers grew from 220 to 237. That’s somewhat significant. My Facebook follower count remained more or less the same. Follower count isn’t as important to me as profile visits and website clicks, but followers are the ones who are more likely to see me in their feed.

People ACTUALLY engaged with me!

They responded to my questions and interacted with my content! To me, this is a huge win. It means my content is worth their time.

I had website visits, but I can do better here.

I had the most visits when I gave specific directions (Take my quiz, download the freebie, etc…) over something more generic (“Check out my fantasy series…”). For Instagram specifically in the final 60-day period, I had a conversion rate of 20% from my profile to my website. I have no idea if that’s normal, but I think I can do better.

Going through the questions I asked at the beginning of this article…

Can I develop and maintain a regular posting schedule?

This is a RESOUNDING YES! What a difference a social media scheduling app made as well. I can batch-schedule a ton of content and then not think about it until I have to. Yay!!

Does posting on Instagram (and by extension, other social media platforms) bring more traffic to my website (and therefore, more sales?)

According to my analytics…I did get SOME new traffic. Most notably, the traffic from Instagram, while spotty at best, was qualified traffic. They spent far longer on each page visited and visited more pages than my Facebook traffic. I can see why Instagram traffic is coveted—these are people who have a direct line with you and have the potential to interact with your site in an intimate way.

I’m excited to see how these numbers change and evolve during the next 90 days.

Does it matter what I post – so long as I’m posting consistently?

What I’m posting does seem to matter, as certain content resonated more or got more engagement.

For example: I noticed in the first 30 days of my final 60-day stint, my most engaging posts had either white backgrounds OR they were vibrantly coloured/styled. Anything solidly dark-coloured or a less-than-stellar lit image didn’t perform as well. I also noticed that you reeeeeeally have to know how to put text on an image for it to perform on Instagram—otherwise, just…don’t.

I’ve already tweaked some of my Instagram post templates at the 30 day mark and as I’ve just passed 60 days, I’m going to be making another round of adjustments.

Do specific kinds of content drive higher conversions (videos vs regular images, carousels vs stills, regular posts vs stories)?

Overall, content that had my face in it had the highest engagement and profile visits. At first, I thought that carousels (multiple images in one post, where you swipe to see the next sequential image) were outperforming all other content. But no—I had several single-image book flat lays that I thought were “okay” that completely outperformed my more “beautiful” arranged flat lays. This requires more testing to figure out what exactly is making them resonate.

Videos (aka, my audiograms—audio excerpts of my podcast with a pretty waveform over a still image) didn’t outperform any of my regular images.

I didn’t dive into Stories in a meaningful way during my final 60-day stint.

Does MY engagement with the app affect my audience’s engagement?

This does seem to be the case. When I started my final 60-day stint, I had a regimented routine of liking, following more hashtags related to my account, and doing a bit of commenting. I upgraded this later to 20-30 minute focussed engagement time, where I'd just BE on Instagram: liking, commenting on similar accounts, and following more hashtags. But I found this really difficult to keep up and justify. It didn't seem to matter how long I spent on the app engaging - only that I did some kind of interaction. This, however, needs further study.

Major Takeaways

Here are my top learnings from my Instagram marketing deep dive.

On #bookstagram and related hashtags, it's not always about talking about books, or even the book IN the image.

Engaging with the community was the most important aspect of the Instagram book community, and Facebook, by extension. You're not really there to sell. It’s like wearing the most flattering dress you own and then walking into a party. If you picked the right outfit, if you're rocking it with confidence, you’re going to get compliments and it may even be a conversation starter.

I need a better camera

I’m due for a new phone anyway, so as I shop for a new phone, I’m going to prioritize a good camera so I can improve my images.

I can change the calendar to suit my needs.

Over two months into the calendar, I’m ready to switch up some of my topics. And that’s okay! Now that I have data to show me which kinds of posts are performing well, I can adjust my posting schedule to do more of what works and less of what doesn’t.

Sometimes, you just have to try something for a while, gather data, and evaluate if it’s resonating with your audience or not.

Actionable Future Improvements

  • Optimize the Instagram profile to increase website click conversions
  • Bake captions into videos for my audiograms
  • Get better at remembering to write image descriptions
  • Do more research so I can properly leverage Instagram Stories

Questions that I still need to explore throughout my social media journey:

  • Is there a “tipping point” of engagement with the app where suddenly, I’m getting lots of traffic to my site? AKA: do I have to be using it in the “right” way for X amount of time before I see the results I want?
  • Does MY engagement with the app affect my audience’s engagement?
  • What specific content is resonating the most with my audience, long-term?
  • Will all this hard work translate into more sales?

If there’s one thing I’ve learned this year, from organizing and carrying out my pre-order event and coordinating my social media effort, it’s this:

How you show up when you’re NOT actively promoting a sale or a launch is just as important, if not MORE important than when you ARE actively using social media marketing to further your goals.

It took me nearly 10 years to care about social media in this new way. And if a stubborn young woman like me can find a way to organize her Instagram and Facebook profiles, so can you.

That’s why I’ve created this Social Media Marketing Calendar Worksheet, free for you to download.

This content belongs to cmarshallpublishing.com.

Download the worksheet to create your first social media marketing calendar!

Let me know where you'd like me to send the worksheet.

If you are struggling with getting started organizing your Facebook and Instagram feeds, this worksheet will help you outline your first social media marketing calendar—so you can get busy engaging with your current and future audience!

Will I continue to post on Instagram and Facebook? Absolutely! I’m genuinely curious what my business will look like a year from now and if my efforts bear fruit. Stay tuned for FUTURE POSTS as I refine my craft.

I’ve also started implementing a Pinterest strategy—but that’s a whole separate post. (Hint hint...early 2021!)

Let me know in the comments:

  • Did you find this content useful?
  • What’s your biggest block to marketing your books on social media right now? 
  • What’s your biggest hurdle to marketing your creative work in general?

Until next time!

Hey, I'm Clare!

Clare C. Marshall is the author/publisher behind Faery Ink Press. She blogs monthly about writing, publishing, marketing, and productivity at cmarshallpublishing.com.


Want to know more? Learn about the journey here.

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