News for Authors

Using Social Media Interactively with Instagram’s Poll Sticker

by Casey Blue James and Neda Dallal|June, 2018

Authors who use Instagram are uniquely positioned to engage and interact with their followers in more ways than ever. In addition to racking up “likes” on posts and connecting via comments, you can communicate with followers using Instagram’s new poll sticker.


Introducing Instagram’s “Poll Sticker”

In October 2017, Instagram rolled out the “poll sticker” feature. Instagram users posting on Stories can customize both sides of a two-option sticker and ask their followers to vote. Once the post is live on Stories, viewers tap the option they want to vote for. The poll provides live results to voters in percentages; on the back end, the poster can see both the number of people who voted and which users voted for which option.

Instagram Stories polls can be a fun, quick, and easy way to touch base with your audience about what kind of content they’d like to see—both from your social media posts and in the books they read.


How to Poll Your Instagram Followers

Authors using Instagram Stories might consider using the poll sticker to crowdsource ideas for character and plot development, to build relationships with their community, or just for fun!

To make your own Instagram poll, follow a few simple steps (also detailed here):

  • Open Instagram and tap the camera in the top left-hand corner of the screen. This takes you to the Stories feature.
  • Take a photo, preferably of something that illustrates the topic of your poll.
  • Swipe up from the bottom of your screen and select the Poll option.
  • Type in your question and the possible answers, then hit “Your Story” at the bottom of the screen.
  • View your Story to watch the results come in!


Using the “Poll Sticker” to Inform Future Content

Marketing teams from Penguin Random House use the poll sticker to promote book launches, giveaways, and sweepstakes by asking users to vote on literary and pop culture content (e.g., “Which character is your favorite?” “Would you rather X or Y?”). Polls are also a great way to introduce readers to new authors and series. One social media manager said, anecdotally, “Polls seem to get viewers excited. They like actively participating in the Stories and are more likely to click on links at the end of the Stories.”

Take a moment to reach out to your followers, as we’ve done in the images above, and ask a few questions to see what they like, what they want to see more of, and what you shouldn’t worry about. Here are some fun question ideas to get you started:


  • “Anyone want a sneak peek at my writing station? (It’s a mess!)”
    • Yes | No
  • “Which of my posts do you like better?”
    • Book Pics! | Puppy Pics!
  • “Are you ready for my cover reveal?”
    • YES!!! | Obviously!!!
  • “What should I have for dinner?”
    • Sushi | Burgers


As you can see, the possibilities are endless. Compared to Facebook and Twitter, Instagram has always made it slightly harder to have a dialogue with your fans. That said, they’ve made great strides recently, encouraging comments and messages while also adding the ability to reply to comments. But the improvements to this polling feature create a unique opportunity for you to get instant, informal feedback about anything.


Getting the Most out of Instagram Stories

Instagram has also made their Stories feature more interactive than ever, and updates are coming quickly—so keep an eye out whenever Instagram notifies you of an update. Beyond the normal two-option polls, you can now add a sliding emoji scale to your posts.

You can use the new emoji scale to inform your posts—but since it’s brand new, you might want to do some testing to see if your followers have caught on. For example, you could take a picture of a book you recently bought and ask, “How beautiful is this cover?” with a heart eyes emoji sliding bar. See what responses you get!

If you are not an Instagram user, there are other ways to incorporate interactive quizzes for your audiences. Twitter and Facebook both have prominent polling systems that allow for similar connection to audiences. Email marketing platforms like MailChimp also offer the opportunity to include polls or surveys in your email newsletters that go out to fans and readers.


With the addition of GIFs, more stickers than ever, and new augmented reality filters, Instagram makes it easy for authors to stand out to (and have fun with) their readers. The poll sticker is a new feature that can be a fun way to make readers feel like part of your writing, editing, and publishing process. Additionally, it gives readers another level of connection to the authors, books, and characters they love.


Casey Blue James is Senior Manager, Business Development at Penguin Random House.

Neda Dallal is Coordinator, Publishing Development and Author Platforms at Penguin Random House.