This blog is part of a four-part series of bookstagram tips, split up from my original post on this topic for easier readability. This third post focuses on bookstagram engagement tips.
My goal with bookstagram is to make genuine friends to chat books with, and to share my love of books. But it is so easy to put pressure on yourself to grow.
There was a period of time shortly after I joined bookstagram where I felt like I needed to focus on growing my followers. To the point where I was spending more time (still genuinely) engaging with others to try and grow posts than I was actually reading, reviewing, and chatting with others. And then I asked myself “what am I doing this for?” When the answer was “to grow followers,” I asked myself again. And the answer was “so I might be more likely to get a free arc or two?” and that really put into perspective that I was mostly wasting my time.
My view is: you do you. I don’t think followers matter unless your goal is to be an influencer or you’re only on bookstagram to get free books. And again, whatever sprinkles your donut—there’s no “right” way to be in this space. But for me, the appeal of bookstagram is the community and the various ways to chat and share about books. At this point, that’s all I care about.
Here’s the deal. It’s highly unlikely that the number of books you will receive for free will outweigh the amount of time you spend trying to grow to get those free books. So put your energy in the place that makes you happy.
But, if you’re just starting out or you’ve hit a slump, I do have some tips for growing your engagement. These are the things that helped me grow from 300 to almost 2,000 followers in less than a year.
1. Hashtags. Choose a mix of 10-15 relevant hashtags for each of your posts, and vary your hashtags from post to post. Try to pick one that’s unique to you, a few in the 100s-1,000s range, and some in the 50-100,000 range. You can add the big ones with millions, but these won’t help you much most likely. According to an Instagram webinar I attended years ago, this will help your posts be seen by more people. If you get a lot of engagement quickly, it will rise up higher in the “top” posts of those hashtags. And you’re more likely to rise in a hashtag with fewer people than millions. But you also want it to be a hashtag that people are following/seeing, if that makes sense. If you need hashtag ideas, I love this hashtag resource of bookstagram hashtags when I’m feeling stuck.
2. Capitalize words in hashtags when you’re sharing multi-word hashtags. This is more accessible for screen readers since it indicates separate words vs. words smashed together. Ex: #BookstagramMadeMeDoIt instead of #Bookstagrammademedoit. This extra bit of effort makes bookstagram more inclusive for all readers.
3. Include image descriptions. You can do this in the caption itself, or by editing the alt text to be more specific to your photo. This makes your post more accessible to people who use screen readers.
4. Having a regular cadence to your posts helps. A lot of people post daily. I found that too much to keep up with. My advice is to find the balance that works for you. The Insights feature helps you understand the best times each day to share your posts based on when they’re seen. Again, that’s available in Creator and Business accounts, not personal accounts.
5. Make your posts readable. Wondering how people get line breaks and bold text/ italics in their post? Instagram now allows you to do this right in the app. Simply hit enter/ return 5 times in a row after finishing a sentence, and when you post the photo, you’ll have a line break there instead.
6. Tag publishers in positive reviews you post. It gets you noticed, and they might re-share your post if they like your review.
7. Include a question at the end of your post. It gives people an opportunity to respond and connect with you in a genuine way, and starts a conversation.
8. Spend time genuinely connecting with others. If you see a new bookstagram account you love, like a few of their photos and follow them. Consider leaving a genuine comment on a recent post, too. If there’s a review you’ve seen that you really loved, a question in someone’s post that resonates with you, or a person you want to connect with—comment a genuine comment of 4+ words (not including emojis) on their post. Don’t just say “love the photo” or “nice photo” – that doesn’t start a conversation. Instead, share why you also loved the book, etc. You can also respond to peoples’ stories when the resonate with you. Be you, and be genuine. This is how you build connections and how I’ve found some really fabulous book friends through bookstagram. This takes time, but it’s the best way to organically grow.
9. Participate in photo challenges, or host your own. You’ll see these in your feed or being shared by people you follow from time to time. Photo challenges are a fun way to shake up your feed. And sometimes people hosting the challenge will share posts they love with their followers. Have a fun idea for a challenge? Create your own, or buddy up with a friend to co-host one. Start to promote it a week or two in advance so people have time to prepare to join in.
10. Join a buddy read (or host one!). This gives you an opportunity to read and chat about books—what we’re all really here to do! And can be a great way to make new book friends. If someone you follow shares a book they can’t wait to read that’s on your TBR, don’t be afraid to reach out to them and ask if they’re interested in a buddy read. Just don’t be offended if they aren’t – some people read at their own pace and don’t like buddy reads). Some of my favorite buddy reads have been spontaneous ones.