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Instagram vs. Twitter Advertising for Indie Authors

For those interested in using the microblogging platform Twitter to hone their craft, let me refer you to my two-part series: Twitter Fiction an Option for Self-Publishing Authors?  However, with over 284 million active monthly users you might also think about using Twitter to advertise your work.  But don’t stop there, because Instagram is in… [Read More]

Instagram vs Twitter Advertising for Indie Authors

For those interested in using the microblogging platform Twitter to hone their craft, let me refer you to my two-part series: Twitter Fiction an Option for Self-Publishing Authors?  However, with over 284 million active monthly users you might also think about using Twitter to advertise your work.  But don’t stop there, because Instagram is in the fight for your advertising dollars as well.

Social Media in general has added a new dimension to the marketing game, not just for the big brands, but for small-to-midsize [SMBs] as well.  In the case of indie writers, this holds a lot of weight when you consider our usually less-than-beefy budgets.  (We shared some ideas on advertising on Facebook in our prior series on advertising strategies for indie authors. You can catch that here.)   In today’s post, we’re going to zero in on how two social networks are upping the ante to target self-publishers with some unique advertising opportunities that are cost-efficient.

Instagramming Your Ad Message

As Facebook’s plum acquisition of 2012, you have to believe that Mark Zuckerberg and his team are deploying many of same successful advertising tactics that were first tested and vetted on the Facebook platform.  This month Instagram announced it has over 200,000 advertisers.  To put that into context, they have overtaken the much-older Twitter, hovering around 130,000.

It’s hard not to go with a winner, and since it’s parent has shown its mettle for some time now, it’s logical that Instagram would be a good bet as well.  This has also been proven out in the financial arena where Facebook has a stellar performance record. In comparing both network’s stock tickers, the evidence is fairly clear.  Facebook is currently at $109 [as of this post] and Twitter has been struggling long and hard just to get back to its IPO opening share price of $26.

Indie authors who advertise on Instagram alone have the potential of 400 million users – and by utilizing Facebook’s ad technology, writers can easily choose whether or not to advertise on both platforms.

James Quarles, Head of Global Advertising at Instagram, said: "Having 200,000 advertisers gives us an ability to better tailor the ads that people see to their likes and interests."

"The Facebook relationship has helped us grow our user base and attract advertisers," Quarles continued. "People can be creative in using the two together and run things across both platforms. That really hasn’t existed much in the marketing world."

How to Create an Instagram Ad

Facebook makes it fairly easy to set up a campaign on the photo app, as long as users have already created a “Business Facebook Page” and are using the Google Chrome browser.Instagram vs. Twitter Advertising for Indie Authors

On your “Business Facebook Page,” click Settings on the upper right of your page.  A drop-down within Settings will appear in a column on the left side of your page.  There you will see “Instagram Ads.”  To start, simply click on this tab and connect your Instagram account to your Facebook page.

As the next step, it’s important to note that instead of using “Facebook’s Ads Manager,” you download their “Power Editor” tool instead.  It is found at the top of the page, under the Ads Manager platform.

From that point forward, Facebook will prompt you through all of the remaining easy steps that are necessary to create your campaign.

Why Spend Money on Instagram?

Many indie authors are already on Instagram and are self-promoting their work for free by simply posting regularly and building a following of fans.  So, why start spending money advertising?

Mainly, because Instagram ads are inexpensive and can generate targeted traffic to your website.  But there are other reasons, too.  For instance, Instagram posts don’t allow a website link in the body of your posts.  But Instagram ads do.

With a minimal $100 a month budget, you can easily test the waters.  Just make sure you set clear goals and always include a “call to action” – whether that’s to sell books, build mailing lists or promote a new discount that only Instagram followers can benefit from.

A Salesforce report last October revealed the following stats:

  • The overall click-through rate on its clients’ Instagram ads over was 1.5 percent, versus Facebook’s first-quarter-2015 figure of 0.84 percent.
  • Instagram’s global cost per thousand impressions was $6.29, about 90 percent higher than Facebook’s first-quarter CPMs.
  • The cost per click was $0.42 for Instagram and $0.40 for Facebook.

Tweetable Ads

With Twitter, indie authors can choose from five advertising options:

  1. Grow Followers
  2. Website Clicks or Conversions
  3. Engagements
  4. App Installs
  5. Leads

Which one you choose depends mainly on your objectives.  For instance, if you don’t have a current book ready to publish but you’d like to build a readership audience, you might want to select “Grow Followers.”

The basic tool to create a Twitter ad is the “Website Card.”  Like the example shown here for author Paul Channey, the card is a kind of digital billboard where a book cover, call to action and link can be added.

Instagram vs. Twitter Advertising for Indie Authors

Like all tweets, the ad will be subject to Twitter’s 140-character mandate, at least until that tweet size is increased [see my previous post pertaining to Twitter’s CEO Jack Dorsey discussing increasing that limit to 10,000 characters.

There are four criteria by which an author can specify his target audience: 1] “Interests” (350 are list); 2]“Followers” (identified by interests or similarities with other users); 3]“Keywords;” and 4]“Television” (yes, there is a whole criterion devoted to TV).  Additionally, authors can better define their reach by selecting specifics pertaining to geography and language, gender, and computer device.

Case Study of an Author’s Spend on Twitter

In a recent Publishers Weekly report, a Twitter advertising case study showed author Donna Fasanot using Twitter to promote her work: “Following His Heart.”  Investing only $50 over the course of the campaign’s four-day run, she received nearly 22,000 views and more than 250 engagements, making her cost-per-click come in at $0.20 [lower than the Instagram average I noted above} with an engagement rate of 1.15%.

What Will Work for You?

In an ideal world, authors should probably consider advertising on both Instagram and Twitter to get the biggest bang for their buck.  But if the two combined are going to break your bank, some critics would suggest using Instagram’s platform, due to its larger user numbers and ease of use.  On the other hand, while Instagram may garner more engagement on their platform-proper than Twitter, on the microblogging platform you can actually build engagement outside of their social network.  Whereas authors and readers can easily share a blog link from Twitter on other social networks and in blog posts, Instagram doesn’t offer the same functionally.

A big piece of the Twitter vs. Instagram debate emanates from the fact they both have very similar audiences.  When you look at their demographics, you’ll notice both match up similarly according to age, income, education level and even locations.

So at this juncture, the jury is out on whether or not one truly noses out the other.  By advertising on both, tracking results and making assessments over, say a three to six month time period, you will be in a better position to make a much more informed decision.  In so doing, dear readers, please report back to BookWorks and tell us about your success stories in either arena, or both.  We’ll be following up with deeper dives on this topic in the future, and would be interested in including your feedback.


Readers & Writers: I look forward to your feedback, comments and critiques, and please use BookWorks.com as your resource to learn more about preparing, publishing and promoting self-published books. My blogs appear bi-weekly on the 1st and 3rd Fridays of each month.


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4 thoughts on “Instagram vs. Twitter Advertising for Indie Authors”

  1. Joan Stewart says:

    Great research has gone into this article Ron, thanks so much, great ideas for authors.

    Personally both options are good, by using the correct sizing of images, together with hashtags, the content should be found. Posting at the right times and availing oneself to reply to comments one should get the most ‘bang for the buck’.

    1. Adam Kru says:

      Instagram is definitely the best value network right now. There is too much noise on Facebook to reach even your own page fan base. For this reason people are moving away from the “feed”. Twitter is a little better with hashtag search functionality, but Instagram is built to follow hashtags specifically. However, the bulk of the demographic there is under 25 yrs old. This is nice because there aren’t many baby pictures, but it doesn’t help if the younger folks are not your target market.

  2. While advertising on either may be cost effective, it’s no substitute for being there and engaging with prospects.

    Advertising algorithms are never 100% in relation to whom they convey their message; in contrast, hosting a Twitterchat not only has an engaged audience in place and on topic, but they’re ready buy in with the simplest of mention from the host and their guest(s).

    The article contains great facts and figures in relation to the subject, just as long as we realise that the ‘click-thru’ rate is only the start of the conversation.

    1. Profile photo of Ron Callari Ron Callari says:

      Agreed Jason – engagement is the key on all social networks – but targeted advertising can be a solid reinforcement of that engagement when done right. Thanks for the feedback!

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