SPS-252: How to Get Organic Traffic on Instagram – with Hanna Sandvig

Every social media platform has its own quirks. Hanna Sandvig has made it her mission to connect with other bookstagramers and grow her reading audience that way. She has a new book, called Instagram for Fiction Authors, that shows other authors how to do the same.

Show Notes

  • On the support Hanna received for her first book launch via Instagram
  • The demographics of the Instagram audience
  • On the dangers of using a scheduler with Instagram
  • Instagram’s growth as a platform and how it’s gathering users from other apps like TikTok
  • Using video as well as still photography on Instagram
  • Tips for more engagement which will feed the Instagram algorithms

Resources mentioned in this episode:

PATREON: Self Publishing Formula Show’s Patreon page

MERCH: Are you a ligneous beetle or a yawning hippopotamus? Get your SPF hoodies and t-shirts in the brand new SPF Store.


SPS-252: How to Get Organic Traffic on Instagram - with Hanna Sandvig

Speaker 1: On this edition of the Self-Publishing Show.

Hanna Sandvig: You want to make Instagram a platform that you are engaging on and trying to grow. I think that you can post once a week and have a good place for fans to find you, but if you want to use it as a way to reach new readers, I think it's better if you can post every day.

Speaker 1: Publishing is changing. No more gatekeepers, no more barriers, no one standing between you and your readers. Do you want to make a living from your writing?

Join Indy bestseller, Mark Dawson, and first time author, James Blatch, as they shine a light on the secrets of self-publishing success. This is the Self-Publishing Show. There's never been a better time to be a writer.

James Blatch: Hello and welcome to the Self-Publishing Show with me, James Blatch.

Mark Dawson: And me, Mark Dawson.

James Blatch: Oh, Mark, I think only I can see your blue socks. They're slightly disturbing. I think the shot you have for the viewing public on YouTube is not inclusive of socks, is it?

Mark Dawson: No, no. I wouldn't show any viewers socks or anything otherwise. This is a strictly waist-up shot only. Knit wear.

James Blatch: There's no need for that. So we recorded this last week on the day before the US election, and we're now recording this... What day is this Thursday? It's Friday isn't it?

Mark Dawson: Friday.

James Blatch: So four days, three days after the US election. And I did sort of half joke, saying you wouldn't know, necessarily, who's president, but that is the case as we sit here. Although, it very much looks like Joe Biden is going to take Pennsylvania, which will make him a new president. So all change in American and then three months of court cases and all that stuff going on.

But, from an awful point of view it's been quite disruptive without us necessarily knowing it, because I saw some figures the other day from Depesh Mandalia, the man we used to run our Facebook Ads account, about the sheer billions of dollars that have gone into social media advertising over the last six months. That has had to have an effect on the price we pay for ads, and some of the fallout of the almost neurotic level of intervention if they think ads aren't suitable, and we'll come onto that again in a moment.

But, I'm quite pleased that the election is at an end in America.

Mark Dawson: Oh, sure. You are not the only one. I thought pretty much everyone in America is probably pleased that the election has come to an end. And everyone over here as well. Well, everyone around the world, generally. Yes, it's been very addictive.

My productivity this week has been shocking because I've had refreshing things, variously, and had CNN on in the background and it's been a bit of a distraction. So, hopefully, as you say, I think it is quite close now to being called and everyone can move on. Move on and sell some books and if everyone would be nice to each other, would be nice.

James Blatch: I do like watching American politics. And we have the luxury of not living in the country and feeling the anxiety levels. I think people on both sides feel it this time, and I know what it's like in the UK, if you get particularly emotionally bound to one side or the other it can be quite a rough period. So, take it easy out there.

But, watching American news channels, and I've hopped between them. Hopped between Fox News and CNN and ABC, and they're different sorts of channels in America. CNN has its side, Fox News certainly has its side, and they present the news in a slightly different way than we're used to consuming it in the UK, which has been interesting as well.

Anyway, let's part the election, who knows what state it'll be in this time next week or by the time this goes out, which is Friday the 13th of November. We have a couple of things to say, to talk about.

I just want to go back to the Facebook Ads point of view, because I talked about the fact that my Facebook Ads account for Fuse got suspended at the end of November, had to go through the appeals process, it was something to do with payment, and it got reinstated with me doing nothing, by the way. Not changing the credit card or anything. And then, I think the day after we recorded last week it got suspended again. The gap between is just over a week and I was just very, very frustrated. We got a new offer coming on board, just starting to get his campaigns running.

But the same thing again, it was almost identical, got hold of my rep who eventually, he took a day or two, but he did get back to me. Then I did another online chat with the support and eventually it came back. I think this time it was four and a half days. So it has been frustrating. And then last night, just as you were dropping off to sleep...

Mark Dawson: Yeah, I woke up this morning about a quarter to six and there was a message in our Slack channel from Depesh who, as you said, does the SPF ads, and "Urgent, I can't disable the..." I checked in the email, my email, and lo and behold there was an email from Facebook disabling the account for policy violations. Obviously, we haven't done anything differently in the ads that we run, and we've also, over the course of the last four of five years, we must have spent a million dollars with Facebook. I don't know, it's a lot of money in terms of the advertising. So, it's not like we're a new account with no history, we're a very well established account.

Depesh was telling us we need to appeal, hit this link. And I was just kind of waking up and I looked into our Slack channel and the account manager who runs the ads from the agency said, "Don't worry, it's been fixed." And I went over and checked and it had been fixed. So, I didn't have to do anything. I think we said last week that in all the years I've been running Facebook Ads I've never had an account shutdown, so this was a first. I said I did anticipated that at some point it would happen, but was a bit surprised that it happened quite to fast.

I think this one was a big glitch, because some of the other groups I'm in with other Facebook advertisers, not just selling books, multiple, multiple people had problems. And there was a post that went into the SPF Mastery group last night, again, multiples of us had their accounts disabled and then re-enabled. So, it was obviously an engineering error, but Facebook is a very wonky platform at the moment. So, you just got to hope that now that things are calming down and they're probably a bit less neurotic about the content of the ads, that that will become as stable as it always has been again.

James Blatch: And it's hard when you rely on running those campaigns from your income, because it's inevitably going to cause some stress when this happens.

Mark Dawson: Absolutely. I was thinking, actually, whilst I was looking at the message this morning, that if the SPF account got shut down, SPF would have some very tough decisions to make. Because if we can't advertise to, spread our message to new officer coming on board, eventually we wouldn't be able to do half the things that we do. So, it would be a... We'd have to think about... I don't know what we'd do, we'd have to have a think about it, but there would be very significant consequences for the people who work for us, for students, for us. It would be really a difficult thing to negotiation.

Obviously very pleased to see that come back again. But it does just demonstrate how much we've come to rely upon those ads as sourcing new members of our community, and that doesn't even take into account book sales, which is another can of fish all together. But, yes it was a thing.

James Blatch: Yeah, the SPF Facebook community, and others such as 20Books, are very important at moments like these to try and correlate with other people, see what's going on. If you realise it's not just you, you're part of a glitch, that will make you feel a little better.

Mark Dawson: That helps.

James Blatch: Good. Okay, well my account got restored yesterday, which was good. And now I've got one little technical question for you. I should ask this... I should email Peter, my rep, about this. I do enjoy the dynamic creatives, I like writing five different versions of the top line, five different descriptions, if you have two of them that are mutually exclusive, at least in theory mutually exclusive. For instance, if you, say, love Jack Reacher, you're going to love Harry Donovan, as your top line, but you also have a similar version of that in your, I can't remember what they call it now, the display heading underneath it.

Mark Dawson: Yeah, they can both be picked.

James Blatch: Love Jack Reacher. They could both me picked. So the AI's not smart enough to spot that they're the same-

Mark Dawson: No, of course not.

James Blatch: But it would work out that they're not performing very well as an ad?

Mark Dawson: Yeah, probably would do. But I mean, the thing you need to do is just be a bit more creative and don't allow it to duplicate that. It's not hard.

James Blatch: What do you mean, don't allow it to duplicate? You mean just don't have two of them?

Mark Dawson: Don't give it the choice. If you want to have the line, love Jack Reacher, and we can talk about whether you should do that, which is a separate conversation, but if you're going to have that in the headline and in the description, there is a chance they might duplicate it. The only way you can prevent that from happening is not to give it the choice to duplicate it.

James Blatch: But the other thing that occurred to me, is that it's often surprising what does work. Something that looks wrong or clunky to you, strangely seems to gather-

Mark Dawson: Yep, that's very true. I've seen some ads recently by authors who are doing exceptionally well. I mean, exceptionally, exceptionally well. And I would have said that their ads were absolutely dreadful. Dreadful. I would never run them. And those ads are performing ridiculously well for them. So it just goes to show, number one, don't listen to anything I say. Number two, I'm not the audience. And number three, who knows what is happening in the back end.

Facebook might be, for some reason we can't divine, be serving those ads to a really avid section of the audience. Who knows why that might be, but it is entirely possible that there are things that we don't understand and won't be able to understand. So it is, it's testing. It's always testing.

James Blatch: Yeah, and it's a really good idea to keep abreast of the ads that are working on Facebook.

Mark Dawson: Yes, yeah that's a nice try there, James, to segue into something we're not quite ready to announce.

James Blatch: Something's happening in the background, which you'll be the first to know, I'm sure, dear listener.

Okay, I do have something good to say, some really good news if you are depressed or whatever about anything. And that is that our foundation programme for authors who can't afford the money at the beginning to get their careers going, which would be our courses, would be money for editing and covers and so on. So we have foundation grants available which you can apply for via our website. And we have a new sponsor, the new sponsor's name is Thibault Mauricie, I think I've said that correctly, and he's sponsoring a self-help place on the foundation. So these will be books aimed at self-improvement, so non-fiction self-help books.

Now that brings to how many. We now have 10 foundation spots, and we'll give a big shout out to the sponsors of those slots. It costs them $2,500 per slot, per year. So we want to say a huge thank you to Marc Reklau, who is also non-fiction, bit broader non-fiction, Lucy Score, the superstar romance author, Dawn Brookes, cozy mystery, Tony Moyle, multi-genre, and Written Word Media. In addition to that, of course we ourselves make up the difference up to those 10 slots. And Reedsy.

Reedsy who are a key sponsor for all of those and great partners with us. It's a great thing that Reedsy do and, well, it's a great thing I think that SPF does as well. So you can apply for that on the foundation page, if you go to the Self Publishing Formula website,, you'll see SPF foundation on the top right, go through that process. We tend to do our selections towards that end of the year and announce them in January. I'm not sure if we're going to do this one early or, I don't know. We'll try and find out. But anyway, we'll keep the web page updated.

Good, I think that's probably what we have to talk about today. So, with lots going on in the world, we have, by the way, been locked down again in the UK, although it doesn't feel, judging by the traffic on the road around my house, quite like the lock downs of yonder. But we are confined to barracks as it is at the moment. The last time it happened was good for reading in the UK, for book sales and for authors. And in the combination of all those billions of dollars no longer circulating in the social media advertising space, this could be a good run-up to Christmas for us, as well. We'll see.

Now, one of the platforms that we talk about from time to time, we keep coming back to it, is Instagram. For me, it's a slightly, and I do say this to our interviewee, Hannah, I have not quite gotten my head around Instagram, apart from enjoying it. I enjoy posting pictures of my dog walks and nature, and I enjoy looking at people's pictures on it, but from a professional, commercial point of view, I've yet to fully understand its role with us. Which is why we revisit this every now and again.

But there are one or two authors, people like Stewart Grant and Hannah today who are very, very keen on Instagram, and they believe that it's a platform that we should be properly taking advantage of for our careers.

So this is Hanna Sandvig, she comes to us all the way from Canada. Hanna's going to have a chat with me and then I will be back with Mark to have a chat off the back.

Hanna, welcome to the Self Publishing Show. We are here to talk about Instagram, a platform that I don't know a huge amount about. We've talked about it quite a lot and I still haven't quite grasped it or how to employ it accurately for authors. So, I'm quite excited about learning from you today. But, why don't we start off by learning a bit about you, Hanna.

Tell us who you are and a bit about your writing.

Hanna Sandvig: My name is Hanna Sandvig. I live in BC, in Canada, and I write fairytale re-telling. I'm still new, I've got one full novel and two novellas out so far, and I have just found a great community on Instagram that has really supported me with the launch of my first couple books. So, I love it so much that I'm just trying to learn as much as I can and I'm putting a little book together to help other authors so they can actually figure it out.

James Blatch: Great. Yeah. Just tell us about your books again, what you're writing?

Hanna Sandvig: Right, so they're fairytales. They're sweet, young adult, romance, fantasy kind of thing. My first one is the Rose Gate and it's a Beauty and the Beast retelling.

James Blatch: Okay, so you got into it that way and Instagram has been quite an important part of your launches and your promotion.

Hanna Sandvig: Yeah.

James Blatch: So just tell us how that works.

Hanna Sandvig: I joined Instagram a couple years before my first book came out. Well, a year and a half. I just started writing it, and I'm also an illustrator, I do book covers, so I thought that I could use all that kind of together to try and gain a bit of a following. And I just started posting about, mostly, other books that I thought were similar to my book that I was writing. So things that hopefully people that would like my book would also like these books. And books that I honestly enjoy, right? Because I'm a reader. I'm posting about books and I'm posting pictures of my art and just slowly gaining relationships with people who also love the same sort of books that I do.

James Blatch: So keeping every post close to a kind of brand, if you like. A single topic.

Hanna Sandvig: Yeah.

James Blatch: Okay, quite an important part of it, I think, is that rather than getting carried away with your whim of the week, but keeping an account that becomes a consistent place for the, sort of, material that a certain group of people want.

Hanna Sandvig: Exactly. I did get a little distracted sometimes, I love science fiction, I love other stuff, but 90% of it trying to aim for that young adult fantasy market. Which then, people started to follow me who liked the same books I like, because they want to talk about those books with me. And it's a community around that so that when I started talking about my book, then people... And there was also already a following who was interested in that sort of thing. So definitely not everybody, but when I started asking, like, "I've got this book coming out. Does anyone want to beta read it for me?"

Obviously people trying to ask, how do you get beta readers, how do you get beta readers that actually read the kind of book that you're writing? And that's how I went about it. I just posted on my Instagram and people who thought, "I like fairytales, I like the books you've been posting." They offered to beta read for me. And I got about 10 beta readers before I had a book out even.

James Blatch: Wow. Okay, so, you got beta readers and also you're somehow building an audience, potentially for your book of course, at the same time.

Hanna Sandvig: Yes.

James Blatch: And let's just clarify, this is all organic?

Hanna Sandvig: Yes. Yes, completely.

James Blatch: You're not writing any Facebook ads or Instagram ads?

Hanna Sandvig: No ads, no nothing. Nope.

James Blatch: Okay, and how successful was it?

Hanna Sandvig: It was pretty good for a first book, I think. I had a hundred people on my newsletter list before I had a book out, so they were just... And that was all from Instagram. I just had the link up and whenever I mentioned it I'd be like, "And you can join my newsletter if you want to know about the launch." And then when I launched it I had... What did I have? I had about 35 ebook pre-orders before I launched and then about 20 paperbacks sold the first day.

I'm not going to tell you I made my millions on my first day of my first book. But nobody knew who I was. No one had every heard of my anywhere else, so I felt really supported by it.

James Blatch: And it gave you a bit of a platform to build on with everything else.

Hanna Sandvig: It did.

James Blatch: Okay, so your Instagram account, before you started the writing, did you have one? Did you have a presence on Instagram? Did you have followers to start off with?

Hanna Sandvig: Maybe 100. I had been using my Instagram for my art and then trying to gain a little bit of traction that way and just hadn't been finding that I was getting anywhere. I didn't really have a good plan, I don't think, then either. I was just like, "If I put stuff up, people will find it and then..." That's not how it works. So I didn't get serious about it until I started writing.

James Blatch: And it was, obviously, you're YA.

Hanna Sandvig: Yes.

James Blatch: And we should say that Instagram, I think, skews younger than, certainly, Facebook.

Hanna Sandvig: I would say my audience is like 20 to 40 and mostly women.

James Blatch: Okay, quite wide.

Hanna Sandvig: So it's not teenagers.

James Blatch: Right.

Hanna Sandvig: But definitely, I think that over 40 they're more likely to be on Facebook. But a lot of the people I talked to on Instagram, when I told them that I have a Facebook page, they didn't even care. Because none of them were on Facebook.

So I do think it's a separate audience, for sure. And it definitely seems to work best for books that women between 20 and 40 love. I think YA does really well and romance does really well, and I've seen thrillers start to do better and better, as well.

James Blatch: Okay, and this is all organic you're talking about?

Hanna Sandvig: Yes. It's all about the community on Instagram. These are people who, you use the right hashtags and you become part of the community and they're sharing books all the time. So those are the sort of books I'm seeing shared, are YA, romance and thrillers a little bit more.

James Blatch: Well, there's nothing better in the world than people doing all that for free for you than having to pay per click.

Hanna Sandvig: Yes, yes.

James Blatch: And of course, a personal recommendation for somebody, even via social media, has a value attached to it that we can't really get when it's a promoted placement.

Hanna Sandvig: Yes. And like I said, I'm seeing traditional publishing doing this more and more. They're doing book tours on Instagram, they're reaching out to the top influencers and mailing them books for free, just to get all those eyes on their book that they want. And you can do the same thing as an indie. If you've got a good book with a good cover, you can reach out to the people that have 50,000 followers and see if they're interested in showing your book. They don't usually read it and review it, but they will often post it and share it with their audience.

James Blatch: Okay, so that's definitely worth doing. I think some people might consider it a fruitless task, trying to get the big audience members, promoters-

Hanna Sandvig: Yes, yes.

James Blatch: But, you're saying it does work?

Hanna Sandvig: It does. And I think that my goal is not to get 50,000 followers on Instagram. I think to do that I would have to make that my full time job. These people are posting three times a day, usually, they're on there engaging all the time, they have a big schedule of all the books that they're doing, and it is like a part time job for them. Which I don't recommend for authors because we're supposed to be writing, right?

But if you can get to know those people a little bit or just politely talk to them, a lot of them will share your book with their audience if they truly believe its something that their audience will like. And then you can get your book in front of those 50,000 people without building that audience yourself.

James Blatch: Okay, well let's talk about content a bit then. So you talked about the pros posting three plus times a day.

In terms of frequency, what sort of rate are you at and what do you recommend?

Hanna Sandvig: I post every day. Just once a day, which I think is a good amount if you want to make Instagram a platform that you are engaging on and trying to grow. I think that you can post once a week and have a good place for fans to find you, but if you want to use it as a way to reach new readers, I think its better if you can post every day. I don't take pictures every day. I take pictures, a couple times a month I take a whole bunch, and then I just schedule them out every day. So, I definitely don't want to spend my whole life doing it.

James Blatch: No. And here's the big question really, is about content. I think people do struggle thinking of something every day, so what's your advice? What are your tactics there?

Hanna Sandvig: A lot of it is, again, my book is a bookstagram account, which maybe you've heard about. And that is mostly people who are sharing other books. So I would say that three quarters of my posts aren't about my books. A quarter of them are because I want people to really know who I am and what I'm about. But three quarters of them are other books that I enjoy so... And you can post about the same book once a month or so, because people still love it. And you're not saying, "I just read this book." You're saying, "This is a cool book that I love, and I took a fun picture of." So it doesn't have to be new, new, new all the time.

James Blatch: I think you should explain, perhaps, what bookstagram is.

Hanna Sandvig: Right, so bookstagram... I mean, simply, it's a hashtag. If you look up hashtag bookstagram you'll find it. But it is a community within Instagram. It's mainly that YA romance audience I was talking about of women, and it's just people sharing books they love. When I found out about it I was amazed. I was like, there's a whole place on Instagram where people just talk about books all day and take pictures of them. And I love photos and I love books and I thought it was perfect.

You go into it as a reader and you're talking to people about the books you love, and that's how you kind of build those relationships. It's not talking down to them like, "I am an amazing author and this is what I do." It's a little bit more, "I love these books, do you love these books?" And we chat back and forth about it. So, generally those accounts are at least 90% pictures of books.

James Blatch: So, it's about being part of an enthusiastic community, and getting that tone right I imagine is important.

Hanna Sandvig: Yeah.

James Blatch: I do see on Twitter every now and again, just people constantly retweeting how great their book is and probably not going to appeal to many people. But getting that tone I think is important.

And you're talking about sharing an enthusiasm with like-minded people who happen to be readers.

Hanna Sandvig: Yes, exactly. I do think some people do well setting up what I call an author account, which is a little bit more like a celebrity account which would just be about you and your life and your books and that sort of thing, but I do think that you do have to have a certain amount of following to pull that off. Otherwise, people just don't care about you. If you're not a big name, nobody... It's just not as big a deal, right?

James Blatch: No.

Hanna Sandvig: You're more likely to get a connection with people, if you're at a more beginner stage, if you're talking about books they already know about and love.

James Blatch: And in terms of translating this into sales then, is this something that you hope naturally happens organically? Because you don't go out there saying... Or can you use it as a platform say, "Hey, guys I've got a 99 cent offer on for the weekend." Or whatever.

Hanna Sandvig: You completely can. You just can't do that all the time. Today, actually, I have a book launch with some of my friends. We put together an anthology and we are pushing it today, so all of us are posting... Well, this week. All of us are posting that we've got this book up, it's 99 cents for the first week, and we have a team that we've set up, a launch team for it, who are all also posting about it today and posting that it's 99 cents. We're doing a giveaway with it to try and push it a little bit further, but we are hard selling today. And we can do that because we don't do it all the time.

So the people who follow us are invested in us and they want to know that we have a new book coming out and there's something exciting happening, because they know that we're part of their community, so they love it. But if you're doing that all the time then you're not giving them much.

James Blatch: And this is working for you?

Hanna Sandvig: It is. Yeah, I have steady growth on my newsletter and when I post about my paperback I almost always sell one. I have a paperback that's illustrated, because I'm an illustrator, so it looks pretty in the photos and I can always track back and tell I've sold a couple every time I show it. And it's just slow, slow growth.

So, it's not an overnight thing, but the people that have found me there have been very dedicated fans. And I love that people are willing to, again, share your stuff on their platform as well, so you can get a much wider reach within the community than you can do on your own.

James Blatch: And there must be a reasonable number of members of the audience there who will never join your mailing list but exist on Instagram.

Hanna Sandvig: Oh yeah, for sure. And I have found too, that some of them, they're on my mailing list, but when I put out a call for... Because I get my beta readers, my ARC readers, and typo hunters all now through my mailing list, but I'll post it on Instagram as well and I know there's people on my mailing list who only talk to me on Instagram, because it's easier. I'm like, "I know you saw that on my mailing list, though."

James Blatch: Yeah, because we know everything, right?

Okay, well let's talk about the book. I think you're putting a lot of these nuggets down into a book. Just tell us about that.

Hanna Sandvig: Yes. It's Instagram for Fiction Authors. It's going to be coming out November at the latest, I'm hoping for October. I've got the first draft done, but the key thing I'm trying to do is I'm working on getting as many interviews as I can from other authors to include in the book. Because I feel like, if it's just me it's just my perspective and what's worked for me, and that is interesting but it's not nearly as useful as getting a broader community approach to it. So, I'm working on getting at least 30 interviews, I've got about 15 so far, and including all those in the book.

But it's going to be very practical. It really goes through things as broad as how to gain an audience and as narrow as how to figure out how to use hashtags and what exactly you should post about and what are good props to use in your photos and how to ask questions to get good engagement. I really want it to help people craft good posts and just see growth in their accounts.

James Blatch: Yeah, those content tips are worth their weight in gold, I think, for people who want to do it.

Hanna Sandvig: Yes.

James Blatch: Do you, just on the practical side, one practical question, we'll talk more about the book in a moment.

Do you use scheduling software?

Hanna Sandvig: I do not. Instagram doesn't like it. So, a lot of them go against their terms of service. You have to look at it, but you have the potential to get your account banned, which I would not mess with. I use Facebook Creator so I can post on my computer, which I find helpful because I don't take my pictures with my phone, I take them with my camera. So, I edit on my computer and then post there. They have a scheduling thing and it's glitchy. So I don't bother. I have my photo ready ahead of time, but I post when I post.

James Blatch: And do you post at the same time every day?

Hanna Sandvig: I try to. If you use Facebook Creator and you have a Instagram Business account, it actually shows you what times of day your followers are online, so you can pick a time of day to post that will hopefully hit the most people. So, I've been trying to post at about 11:00 to try and hit kind of that peak point when there's most people online. I mean, then you never know, Instagram might show it to them three days later, it's a bit of a crap shoot, but-

James Blatch: Yeah.

Hanna Sandvig: It's what you aim for.

James Blatch: And of course, some people are five hours ahead like I am, or eight hours ahead probably, if you're in BC.

Hanna Sandvig: Oh, I know. Yeah, my friends in Italy were talking about that. They're trying to post at the right time of day but they figured out it was three in the morning and they were like, "Well, guess I can't."

James Blatch: Yeah, some of the scheduling programmes do have a time... Automatically will post at the best time for regional audiences, but there you go. As you say, it doesn't like it.

Let's talk about the book again. So, you're doing these interviews and the people you're interviewing, are some of these people, is Instagram their main go-to place for marketing for books?

Hanna Sandvig: Yes, definitely. Some of them it's not as much, but I'm really trying to aim for people who don't just have a big audience, because they could just have a big audience because they're such well known authors, right? But trying to find people who are really using Instagram to be selling their books, and using it as a place where they gain an audience.

James Blatch: And again, so far, this is all organic. There's no one you know who's running paid ads on Instagram, or are you going to cover that in the book?

Hanna Sandvig: Yeah, no. I'm actually not going to be talking about ads in the book because I haven't found anyone who's really doing amazing at it. If this goes out before my book goes out and you are doing amazing at Instagram ads, please send me a message.

James Blatch: Well, I haven't heard anyone yet, so.

Hanna Sandvig: No, it seems really tricky. I have some friends with some theories that are trying to test stuff out, but it's not converting like it is other places.

James Blatch: No, no. And I think if there was some success we would know about it-

Hanna Sandvig: I think so.

James Blatch: Simply because it's so... If you're running Facebook ads it's so easy to include Instagram in your distribution. And so far, the advice we give, that Mark gives, is to switch that off and just concentrate on the newsfeed on Facebook.

Hanna Sandvig: Yeah.

James Blatch: Okay, so you haven't finished the book yet. You've got your interviews to do, you've got your draft done and you're hunting around, I mean maybe there's someone listening to the interview today who might be a candidate for your interview.

Hanna Sandvig: Maybe. Also, if there's anyone out there who is not a white woman please let me know, if you're doing well on Instagram. Because I'm telling you, there's so many of us.

James Blatch: Do you find it's not a particularly diverse place, Instagram? Or do you think it's the particular writing community you're in?

Hanna Sandvig: I've been having trouble figuring that out. I do think that bookstagram tends to be mostly those younger women, there are some men on there, but they tend to be men who like the same books that the younger women like. So, it's a little bit tricky. I'm trying to branch out and see. I think more people who run author accounts outside of the Instagram community do sometimes do well, they're just getting followers more from the general population and not from that community of bookstagram.

James Blatch: And in terms of growth, I guess Instagram's growing at the same rate that most of the social media platforms are growing. But, I looked at the figures the other day for Facebook and people think Facebook's had its day a little bit, but it certainly hasn't. It's gaining hundreds of millions of new followers, active followers, every month.

Instagram, I imagine, is probably growing faster than that.

Hanna Sandvig: I think so. And I think Instagram is really aggressively trying to eek out other social media platforms. They came up with stories to try and take out Snapchat, which I think they succeeded in the large extent, and now they've come out with reels in the past couple of weeks because they're trying to contend with TikTok and trying to see if they can get TikTok's audience over, which TikTok's had some controversy, so I think they might succeed in doing that as well. So, I think they're really trying to get that younger market by being an alternative to the other apps that they don't want you to use.

James Blatch: It's funny how these platforms, they work technically slightly differently and they present themselves slightly differently, but tonally, they can be very different. Facebook feels very different from Instagram, and TikTok, frankly, feels a world away from Instagram. And I'm slightly obsessed with TikTok, but I am the only person I know of my age group who's on it. My kids are on it, but I find it very funny and a great place for creativity. But Instagram is creative but in a different way from that. I'm not sure about that audience crossover, unless there's a part of TikTok I'm not seeing, but.

Hanna Sandvig: I don't know. Well, it's because they've come out with reels. And reels are pretty much a little app inside of Instagram that works exactly the same way as TikTok-

James Blatch: Like a one minute...

Hanna Sandvig: Yeah, they're only 15 seconds on Instagram. But, I haven't been on TikTok, but from what I've heard, the interface is very similar and that, I mean, they're obviously trying to get that market. So, I don't know if they'll succeed or not, but.

James Blatch: That brings me onto video. Do you use video at all? Do you recommend using it?

Hanna Sandvig: I do use it quite a bit. On my main feed I use almost all still photography because I'm very conscious of trying to make it all aesthetically pleasing and beautiful and matching and all that.

But I use my stories for video quite a bit. And for those, I just pick up my phone at any time and just chat with my audience, give them updates, show them what's going on, and they're very unpolished and just quick communication.

I love that because I do think you build more relationship if you use video. And if people can hear your voice and see you talk, they start to feel like they know you. And it's those relationships, to sound mercenary, but that is how you sell books, right? You get people who feel invested in you and they want to support you because they feel like they know you, and then they go after your books. And also how you build community, there is a big author community on Instagram, so we're also trying to make connections with each other, I think, quite a bit, which is wonderful. It's easier with video.

James Blatch: Definitely what we talk about with video on the other platforms, as well. Whatever you use, when you have that it's the next best thing to being in the same room as somebody and they are more likely to feel loyal to you as a result of that.

So when can we expect the book?

Hanna Sandvig: November at the latest. I will have a pre-order up before this interview goes live, so. It'll be up on Amazon.

James Blatch: And just to reiterate in terms of the technical side of it, this is a book that a beginner, somebody that's starting on Instagram, will be able to use?

Hanna Sandvig: Yeah, I'm not going to over quite the exactly how to technically set up your account and things like that. So if you don't know how to make your own Instagram account, I would suggest doing a more beginner thing. You can do it just starting out.

But I do think if you're further along, you'll also find benefits from it. Because I really have tried to gather all the nitty gritty little details, and it's stuff that's easy to have missed if you're not going through it all that might optimise and actually help you start gaining followers if you're having trouble getting your Instagram to gain traction.

James Blatch: Yeah.

Hanna Sandvig: So both sides.

James Blatch: For people who are on Instagram and are trying to make it work for them, do you have one takeaway tip for them, the sort of common mistakes you see people making?

Hanna Sandvig: My number one tip is to start every single caption with a question, and put it right at the top. A question for your readers. Something that they really want to answer. To start with, you get comments right away, which will help the algorithm realise your post is fun and more people will see it. But it also, again, getting them to talk to you builds that relationship.

And it can be as simple as like, "Do you drink coffee or tea?" Or it can be, "What have you read recently that you like?" Anything, it has to be pretty quick to answer because they're scrolling and they don't want to sit and think for 10 minutes about your question. But just start with a question. You have to put it right at the top, because Instagram cuts everything from that first line down, so when they're scrolling they need to look and go, "Oh, I want to answer that."

James Blatch: How many characters do you get that show in vision?

Hanna Sandvig: I don't know exactly how many characters it is, I should check that.

James Blatch: Okay, but it's not many.

Hanna Sandvig: It's not many.

James Blatch: Okay. Yeah, so I can see now. You get the word "more", "... more", after. Yeah.

Hanna Sandvig: Exactly.

James Blatch: Not that many. Yeah, I'm just having a look at the bookstagram hashtag actually.

Hanna Sandvig: There you go.

James Blatch: Yeah, okay. So that's a good tip. The other thing, I think you mentioned earlier that you use a camera rather than you phone for photography.

Hanna Sandvig: I do.

James Blatch: Which is pretty outstanding in this day and age, that somebody's got an actual camera. But that reminds me that Instagram is an aesthetically pleasing environment. And it doesn't matter so much with Facebook and Twitter, and obviously TikTok works in a different way with video.

But for Instagram, the aesthetics do matter.

Hanna Sandvig: They really do. I was a portrait photographer before I started doing this, so I had all the gear. You don't have to have all the gear, but I do think you should be real about yourself if your camera phone is actually terrible. Some people are like, "It's good enough." But some of them aren't. Some of them are really good. But you do need to have a well-lit, clear photo, and it does help if you have a bit of a theme running through it of common colours, you edit them or use a filter in a similar way so when people look at it they can kind of get a sense of a mood of what your account is about.

I always say that people will like a post, but if they go to your account, then they look at the feed, and then they decide if they're going to follow you. They're just going to glance at those top nine to 12 photos and go, "Oh, yeah. That looks pretty fun." And they'll follow you or not. But if it's just a mish mash, then they can't really get an idea of what you're about and they probably won't bother.

James Blatch: Yeah, brilliant. Well, Hanna, thank you very much indeed for joining us. If people have been sparked into thinking, "Do you know, I think I could do an interview. I'm doing well on Instagram." Or maybe even that holy grail of Instagram ads, how do they get in touch with you?

Hanna Sandvig: They can get in touch with my on Instagram, I'm @HannaSandvig. Or you can have a look through my webpage. is a place you can get a hold of me, that's where I do all of my map work out of and it's got a contact form, or on, which is my author site.

James Blatch: Superb. Well, Hanna, thank you-

Hanna Sandvig: But yeah, send me an email.

James Blatch: Yes, I'm sure they will. Thank you very much indeed for being with us on the show. I think Instagram, it's an area that I've struggled with a little bit in the past, and the more we talk about it the more I realise that it's somewhere that, certainly for me, interested in aviation and aircraft which fits in with my books, is a really obvious thing for me to do and I need to spend more time doing it. So, once again, found something else to fill up my already busy day, thank you. Anyway, and yeah, thanks for joining us and I hope that smoke that's blowing up from California starts blowing the other way at some point.

Hanna Sandvig: Couple more days they say, so hopefully...

James Blatch: Okay, good luck with that. Thanks Hanna.

Hanna Sandvig: Thank you so much.

James Blatch: There you go. Hanna Sandvig on Instagram. And I know you're not really an Instagrammer, you're not a grammar school boy.

Mark Dawson: I'm no grammar. I'm not that old and I don't feel it. Ho ho. I think my view on social media's you have to pick a couple that you're good at and more interested in. And for better or worse, it's Facebook and Twitter for me. I do have an Instagram account and I think I have... Actually, there's a counter with about two and half, three thousand followers on Instagram. But it isn't something that I've really made a big focus on trying to develop. But I have seen authors do very well and sell lots of books by using their photographs and images and things like that, so I know that it works. It's just not one that I have the time or really the aptitude for. So, it's not my kind of list.

James Blatch: I know your wife's quite a keen grammar.

Mark Dawson: She is with horses, yeah. She has a whole channel about her horse riding which I know she has lots of fun with.

James Blatch: And my feeling is that romance would do quite well, it does quite well. They seem to be better at it, the romance authors, on Instagram. Not sure about mine, not sure if my demographic would be there or the thrillers.

Mark Dawson: No, I think this is slightly anecdotal on my part, but I think I would not be surprised if Instagram skews quite heavily towards a female audience. Obviously there are plenty of male audience members who use Instagram, but I think it's got to be, although I'm just guessing, I'd say 70/30. That would be my guess. So, those kinds of genres that are likely, I would have thought, to do better. I'm prepared to be corrected on that, but that would be my feeling.

James Blatch: Of course, on the Ads platform you can exclude women, you can target to men over the age of 55, for instance, and you can choose Instagram right there in your Facebook Ads platform. Not something we recommend at the moment, but would be interested if people want to do some experiments, and the results, you could post that in the comments either on YouTube or into our Facebook community group. I may even have a Flutter, who knows? I'll have a look.

I think that is it. Mark, I've got my running t-shirt on, which means I might even go for a run on this glorious autumn day, now that we can't do anything else. I've got my golf setup in the garden, I sent you a picture of that yesterday. Quite difficult to know how well or how badly you've hit it though, that's the problem. I need some technology.

Mark Dawson: I can show you some very expensive solutions to that problem if you've got a spare 20 grand knocking around.

James Blatch: Some of those setups indoors.

Mark Dawson: I know.

James Blatch: Well, you've got space for that. You can set all those up.

Mark Dawson: Possibly.

James Blatch: Surely this is going to be really boring, I'm not going to go on about it. But I'm just wondering whether that technology that traces the ball is one that sits sideways on and sees the flight for the first couple of feet and deduces everything from there, or whether it has to watch the ball sailing off?

Mark Dawson: No, the expensive ones are sideways on. And there is, apparently, a pretty good iPhone app that does it from behind and slightly from the side. Talk to me afterwards, I'll tell you what it is. But, I've seen some good reviews for that.

James Blatch: You know Mark and I are going to mention golf in every podcast. Until we eventually hate the game.

Mark Dawson: We'll have no audience left, so let's not do that.

James Blatch: Good, I'm pleased this is right at the end. There's nothing more of value.

Mark Dawson: No one is listening at this point.

James Blatch: No.

Mark Dawson: It's just us.

James Blatch: Just carry on, couldn't we? We could announce a secret prize. Okay, look, thank you very much indeed and for Hanna Sandvig for taking part in this episode. Thank you very much indeed for listening or watching. Hope you have a great week. All that remains for me to say is this a goodbye from him...

Mark Dawson: And a goodbye from me.

James Blatch: Goodbye.

Mark Dawson: Goodbye.

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