Hi all! This is a post in a series of posts called BOOKSTAGRAM 101. I'll be sharing tips, advice, and insights about my experience on bookstagram in these posts. To check out all the posts, click here.
I recently hit my one year mark on #bookstagram. If you had told me a year ago that I would have an account with 8,000+ followers, be working with publishers, and creating beautiful photos while I was at it, I would not have believed you. I've said it before, and I'll repeat it: #bookstagram is genuinely the best corner of the internet, and I am so happy that I am part of it.
Okay, rewind. A year ago I decided, on a whim, to start my account. I had stumbled across a few book themed Instagram accounts, was reading books I wanted to share with everyone and was looking for a creative photography outlet during the depths of a New England winter. On a random Wednesday, I said "why not?!" and my account was started and my first photo shared. Here are some tips on how I got started and continue to stay inspired (though we all have our slumps!)
1. Connect with others
I cannot emphasize this tip enough, especially in the beginning when you are starting out. The only way to build an authentic and genuine following is to connect with others in a meaningful way. This means finding accounts that you admire, hitting that follow button, and then interacting with their content. In my personal experience, genuinely commenting or responding to their stories is the best way to do this. It's hard to form a connection when you are just 'liking' a photo, so if you have a thought about their post, let them know! I don't comment on every single post I come across, but if the caption resonates with me or I think the photo is pretty I usually leave a comment. This makes Instagram more fun because it also allows you to start to get to know people.
It's essential in the beginning because it can help get your account noticed. When I have people that consistently comment on my content, I usually will at least click over to their profile to see what they are all about and if I'm interested I'll follow along! I have found some great people through this. The more you get your name out there via comments, the more exposure your account is going to get.
Once I started connecting and following other people, I found that my account began to grow quite organically. There are undoubtedly other factors at play - time, quality of your content, type of material you are posting - but I find that if you are genuine and kind on #bookstagram, you will start to see followers trickle in. The more that I started connecting with other people on the platform, the more they were sharing my posts or feeds to their own stories which also helped with exposure.
2. Learn all that you can
This may feel overwhelming in the beginning, but it is something that is worth 100% investing in, in my opinion. I spent a lot of time (and still do) reading up on how Instagram works, social media strategy, tips for creating a cohesive feed, and so many more topics. Hopefully, I can pass some of that wisdom along to you in future posts in this series. But the critical point is to start googling and dive into the topics, then take some of the things you learned and apply them to your own account. This has helped me stay inspired because I'm continually trying new things and then seeing the outcome. Finding new hashtags, trying to post at different times, and going with varying themes of color in my feed have all been tests of different strategies. This helps keeps you inspired and not feeling like you are just posting the same thing day in and day out. One of my all-time resources for Instagram tips is Sara Tasker. I highly recommend reading every single one of her Instagram Advice posts and challenge you not to feel super inspired afterward.
Also, noting what others are doing is a great way to learn. Pay attention to posts that catch your eye and try to figure out where the common connection between the photos are. Does your eye always stop at a particular type of photo? What hashtags are other people using? How are they interacting on the platform. There is a lot to be learned from the people who are already #bookstagram stars. To that effect, don't be afraid to ask questions. Obviously, if you don't know the person at all it probably won't come off in the best of ways if you start asking them for help. But if you're friendly with them (connect!) then I think it's okay. I remember seeing someone who I was friendly with post in their stories about receiving an advanced reading copy of a book I was interested in so I messaged them and said "Hey, do you mind if I ask how you went about receiving this?" and they shared their process, which was a super helpful learning moment for me!
3. Stay true(ish) to your bookish tastes
One of the most amazing benefits of being on #bookstagram is that you have a never-ending source of inspiration for what to read next and your TBR grows to be seemingly 1,000 books long overnight. While it is fantastic to discover new authors, genres, and books through this platform, I think it can also easily lead to burnout. About six months into starting my #bookstagram I was bookmarking so many books to read and always convincing myself that I had to read the book that everyone was raving about. I went through a book slump where I was consistently reading books I was giving 2-3 stars and I felt...bored...by most of the books I was reading. I was struggling to post because I didn't feel connected to what I was reading and didn't really feel like I had much to say about it.
I took a step back and got back to my 'reading roots' and have kept that in focus since that reading slump and it's helped so much with my inspiration. I feel inspired to pick up my book (or empowered to put down a book if I recognize it's not for me), I feel inspired to take lovely photos of it, and I feel inspired to post about it because I want to share my love of these books with everyone! So, instead of picking up what you *think* you should read, pick up what you actually *want* to read. I will note it's still important to explore new topics, themes, authors, genres because that helps you grow as a reader but, for me, it's also important to balance that with what I know I enjoy.
I hope this post helps you and inspires you to play around with your own account. I'm really excited to share more posts in this BOOKSTAGRAM 101 series in the coming weeks...so keep an eye out for tips on photo editing, working with publishers, growing your account, and more! Have any other topics you're curious about? Leave a comment!