We take a look at the Instagram strategies of various Indian & Global book publishers to decode practices that help them strengthen their commercial prospects.
Hardcover on the couch, earplugs against the window seat, paperback in a room full of people or scrolling through alone under a tree — they can take numerous forms and be enjoyed in multiple ways — books are a peculiar product. They can be marketed with the best strategies in the world but would be a hard sell unless there is a community of those who love to experience worlds by the book. More often than not, they are sold among niche, to people with similar interests. Some are meant for the masses. Either way, they are a visual treat — something book publishers have been leveraging on Instagram to reach people with a variety of strategies.
Instagram works as an excellent tool for book publishers because apart from marketing initiatives and shopping features, they are also able to harness the power of user-generated content — readers’ love for books. While links continue to be shared in bios or via Shops — Instagram is largely a platform where these ‘silent salespersons’ nudge more people to be interested in the work and purchase these recommended books.
They can use this as part of social listening and tweak their strategies accordingly. Curating books as per themes and occasions is also a common tactic that can be seen on the Instagram presence of publishers. This is where book clubs are formed, giving publishers a chance to display the variety of books they have in their product portfolio.
As for influencers, there are plenty — avid book readers who dedicate their feeds (and lives) to introduce more people to book, as well as authors who work on their level reach more people, engage with them, and pretty much ask (well!) people (read: fans) to buy their books. This helps in organising meet & greets too — converting social media love into offline events, getting people to visit stores and buy books.
Books, Book, Books!
Books are at the heart of everything publishers do — even on social media. Profile feeds are full of images of books against different backgrounds, every picture standing out and yet a part of the bigger narrative. These posts are composed in a manner that they reflect the core messaging of the product they are promoting. Sometimes, elements such as bookmarks are prominently used in these pictures — promotion of a related business.
After books, the second most important part of a publisher’s social media presence is the authors. Some posts feature multiple works of an author, sometimes media coverage of a new book is shared. During the pandemic, there was a visible increase in author-reader or author-host interactions on Instagram Lives, which were later shared as posts. Pictures depicting the writing process of these authors are used in a way that cuts across the promotional posts and brings forth a very humane perspective.
Book recommendations are perhaps the most powerful tool in a publisher’s kitty when it comes to driving social media engagement. However, increasingly, they are using more candid ways to garner attention with their posts. This includes nudging people to share and express more. Something as simple as using an emoji to describe a reader’s mood to sharing a crossword with names of books to find and linking it to a resolution for the new year — publishers are indeed expanding the fold of engagement possibilities on a daily basis.
Book Displays & Stores
Interesting book displays and stores are key attractions for readers. Book publishers often focus on these aspects of their Instagram strategies. They share details about book stores, creating narratives that make them an absolute visit — boosting commerce in those spaces. This helps publishers build reader communities on the ground. It also documents the heritage on small bookstores. Sometimes, people associated with these book stores make an appearance, to share views and recommendations.
Memes & Trends
Arguably speaking, and since they have been around for much longer, one can call book publishers old school. They have seen an era where social media didn’t exist, nor did the internet. Now, they are making their way through to this new world, one post at a time. One of the most striking features of their growth on Instagram is the presence of memes and trending posts — something that seems to be more common and prominent among Indian publishers than their global counterparts.
Instagram & Takeovers
Instagram is home to several features that can be exploited by book publishers for growth, as part of their social media strategies. These include, but are not limited to Stories, Stickers, and Live. They are used by book publishers to engage with readers. Instagram Takeovers is a format that helps publishers leverage the audiences of well-known authors and newer authors to make the most of the publisher’s audiences on the platform. Here, publishers also get a chance to release their own Stickers, which can be used to promote the publishers’ portfolio of books, reading habits, or even specific books.
Publishers often create digital initiatives to promote either their entire portfolio of books and the habit of reading or a specific book that’s in the pipeline or has just been released. This can be done via digital shows or periodical posts. Often, influencers and celebrities are a part of such initiatives, adding value to the content as well as its packaging. These could also be a part of a bigger promotional activity for a book — a part of a campaign that is being run on multiple levels.
Brand Partnerships & Sales
E-commerce platforms often organise big sales on a regular basis and books are considered a major category of offering in such instances. To promote these sales, publishers and authors are included in the strategy as they can directly talk to their readers, nudging them to buy books — at discounted prices. It also adds value to the sale and the platform that is organising it. To promote new products, book publishers sometimes partner with content publishers on Instagram to reach their/newer audiences, which have a higher chance of being interested in buying the new book or at least know more about it.
Podcasts & News Letters
Podcasts help publishers and authors go beyond the contents of the book and the promotional matter to really connect with readers in a candid fashion. Here, they get a chance to explore the topic and touch upon more current aspects, which the author might not have gotten to include in the original work. These conversations are uploaded on IGTV and promoted using Posts and Stories. Recommendation emails and newsletters have been around a long time — Instagram is perhaps just another platform that can be used to promote them and reach potential subscribers.
Instagram has created a space where people can share pictures of the books they are reading, even excerpts, can talk about their experience. They can share good parts and recommend these books or talk about the bad and warn others. More often than not, the former option is chosen. Some people, with enough expertise, review books for a living. They share their thoughts, which are later used (and re-shared) by publishers as marketing material — complete with an expert’s seal of approval.
Twitter Meets Instagram
Sharing screenshots of tweets on Instagram does three key things for a publisher: The visual doesn’t take extra effort to create (as they are sharing screenshots of already crafted tweets), they are able to drive people to their Twitter presence where chances of public engagement are higher, and it’s something that a lot of people, influencers and content pages already do — it’s an acceptable format that’s also very relatable.
Promoting Different Formats
As much as people continue to love paperbacks and hardcovers, books are changing. They are adapting to the needs of the consumers today — they are taking the form of audiobooks and e-books. This is something publishers have to include in their communication, irrespective of how aesthetic books make their profiles look. It’s a business after all, and given a huge chunk of the demographics on the platform, Instagram is perhaps an easy platform to put forth a narrative that does justice to both — both paper and the digital world.
Book publishers on Instagram have various strategies — each their own. However, there is a healthy overlap, giving rise to the trends that have been listed in this piece. Ultimately, all these efforts are expected to result in sales — something that can be observed if one were to follow the hashtags and see the organic reach of these publishers and their books, both old and new.