Growing your Bookstagram numbers can seem impossible sometimes. No matter how many pretty photographs you take or posts you like, you’ll always find someone who’s doing better than you. True, the algorithm is unpredictable, and there are elements which can definitely influence behind the scenes. I’ve tried all sorts of things in the past, and there aren’t any quick wins. BUT there are a few things you can try to boost your Bookstagram account. Here are some key things to experiment with if your engagement is lagging:
1. Apply or Change your Grid Filter
Take an honest look at your grid. Are the tones consistent? Is your feed appealing? If not, it’s time to change your look. If you’ve never experimented with filters before, it’s best to start with a free one on Instagram, your phone or Snapseed. Use a free planning tool like Preview to draft a couple of layouts and ask your followers to vote for which one they like most then trial it for a few months. If in doubt, always run with a theme. People like to know what to expect (I’m terrible at this).
Tip: Avoid shooting in artificial light. If you have no option, then take the yellow out by adjusting the white balance setting.
2. Post about popular books
I’m not suggesting you sell your soul here, but the truth is that well known titles tend to receive more engagement on Bookstagram. Take a look at the large accounts that regularly post shots of classic reads, or bestselling YA novels and see how they set up their images.
Stacks and flatlays of famous titles can be even more effective because they offer users increased opportunities to spot something they’ve read. Remember it’s all about connection and if you’re looking for a wider following, then you need to think about appealing to the majority.
Tip: Harry Potter is a perennial favourite, as is anything by J.R.R. Tolkien.
3. Participate in tag challenges
When I started on Bookstagram almost 2 years ago, I found the best way to meet other bibliophiles was to join in with the many tag challenges on the platform. Popular tags include #meetthebookstagrammer #5thingstobehappyabout and #last5reads . The best way to get involved is to look out for bookstagrammers who extend an open tag invitation (most do this) and jump right in. Not only will it generate new ideas for posts, it will also help you to mingle with new crowds.
On an even wider level, Instagram runs a Weekend Hashtag Project (#WHP) challenge every weekend (the prompt is announced on their main page on Fridays). Competition is fierce, but if you use the unique hashtag for that particular week, it can lead to more exposure.
Tip: Not everyone plays the tag games so don’t get disappointed if someone doesn’t respond. It’s not personal.
4. Team Up with Another Bookstagrammer
Many of the successful Bookstagram accounts are collaborative – either through shared posting or via mutual promotion. If you have a friends who are also struggling to increase their numbers, then why not team up? Here are some ways in which you could work together:
- Organise a buddy read
- Start a book club
- Create a unique hashtag and offer shout-outs for the best submissions
- Host a giveaway
- Set a thematic challenge
Even just an agreement to shout-out each other on a regular basis can help to boost your Bookstagram account.
Tip: Unless you know someone very well, it’s best to avoid shared posting.
5. Post more frequently
Like all of these ideas, this won’t guarantee more traffic but Instagram does appear to reward regular activity especially for new accounts. Once a day is enough despite some recommending posting multiple times per day. Of course this is up to you though. Just don’t let quantity undermine quality.
Tip: Try to post at the same time each day so that your followers know when to expect to see you.
6. Use Stories to Enhance Visibility
The algorithm no longer guarantees that your followers will see the images on your main grid so ensure you also update your stories to let them know that you’ve shared content. It’s a good idea to keep this little area well-stocked anyway because some users prefer to see authentic shots. Plus, it’s much easier to share quick snaps than highly-edited photographs.
Tip: The ideal way to announce a new post is to offer another angle on the content – maybe through a poll, a behind-the-scenes shot or a short clip.
7. Find Instagram Followers on other social media platforms
This method isn’t discussed very often, but it can be an effective way to boost your Bookstagram account. If you have a book blog then make sure you create a widget so that your Instagram photos feed through. That way, readers can easily find you. There are regular callouts for Bookstagram follows on Twitter too. I’ve found a completely different book crowd on there and the majority are really supportive.
Tip: If you join in a Bookstagram follow on Twitter, remember that these are intended to be reciprocal.
8.Review Your Hashtags
Are you using the same ones every time? Maybe it’s time to mix them up. Don’t go for massive ones like #bookstagram or #read because your content will get lost. Instead, keep an eye out for 4-5 figure hashtags that other bookstagrammers are using successfully. I’m deliberately not making any specific recommendations here because hashtags change rapidly, but it’s worth keeping tabs on them.
Tip: As an extra bonus, use hashtags that do well for posts with a similar aesthetic to your own.
9. Reply to Comments
This isn’t always easy if you’re short on time, but it’s really important to value the people who reach out to you. If you’re treating Instagram as a head-counting exercise then it’s unlikely that you’ll get the best out of the platform. When algorithms change, it’s those with the strongest relationships who remain stable.
Tip: If you can’t respond straight away then leave a like and return later. That way followers know you’ve acknowledged their comment.
10. Take a Break
Yep you read it correctly. Sometimes taking a rest can be the best way to boost your Bookstagram account. The reasons are twofold. Firstly, the time out will allow you to put everything in perspective. Secondly, it will free up your mind so that you can view your approach with fresh eyes. You might return feeling ready for action. On the other hand it may be that you end up channelling your energies elsewhere. I wrote about my own experiences of having lower reach recently.
Tip: Keep other projects on the go so that you’re not fully reliant on one platform.
All the ideas here aren’t a failsafe, but if you have a go at them with no expectations, you could surprise yourself. After all, Bookstagram is supposed to be FUN! Even if your account doesn’t grow, you need to ask yourself why you started it in the first place. Was it to talk about books, make friends or simply to improve your photographs? Focus on those things and posting on the platform should become a lot more enjoyable.