Help! How Do I Grow My Bookstagram? (& Other Great Questions TheRusticWindow Answers)

Help! How Do I Grow My Bookstagram? (& Other Great Questions TheRusticWindow Answers)


By Cici Ford (@therusticwindow)

It is no secret that bookstagram is this awe-inspiring and continuously burgeoning community that’s changing the face of the publishing industry. The community is indisputably restructuring the old pub business model all the while opening doors of opportunity for those who choose to be active members of it. Although bookstagram is made up of a myriad of bibliophiles from all different backgrounds sharing a vast profusion of authors and stories, one resounding sentiment remains the same. People want to know exactly how they can grow their following so that Mrs. Opportunity can come knocking – however that’s defined for them.

Being a bookstagrammer is NOT without benefits. Who wouldn’t want paid advertising, sponsorship, the chance to be a brand rep, free goods and services and, the crème de la crème, FREE BOOKS. Open doors that were once reserved for fashion, beauty and travel bloggers are now being awarded to book bloggers as well. Not only are there monetary and career benefits in addition to the probability of moving up the good old influencer ladder, but there are more emotional benefits as well. There is nothing better than connecting and building genuine friendships with people when there are so many shared commonalities.  However, whether someone is in it for one reason or another there are these questions and thoughts that often become the elephants in the room.

There are several topics that cause much grief, frustration and even a little dissension in the community among many – advertising/sponsorships, aesthetics and the BIG ONE, beating the algorithm. I am no booksta guru, but I used my own recent post to get a few of my followers to contribute some burning questions. I will hopefully give a bit of hard truth, and insight, through my own experiences as a bookstagrammer here. I hope you take something positive away from it that will help you figure out this wild but lovely and imposing booksta life. Let’s dive right in, shall we!?


HOW DO I GROW MY INSTAGRAM?

(from @theswash.buckler @hollydunndesign @ninetieslibrary)

Here is the hard truth about growth that no one wants to talk about. This is the most pressing question I get in my DMs. There is actually no real way to gauge growth, unfortunately, and there is no way to “grow fast” outside of purchasing followers, and as we know that isn’t authentic growth nor does it reflect a person’s willingness to work hard and let it happen naturally. Please never ever purchase followers, okay? However, hold your head up with hope because I put together a list that isn’t iron clad, but may help.


1. THEME

(Note: I am a fan of them ALL; messy accounts, themed accounts, colorful accounts, artsy and photography accounts.) However, themed accounts tend to grow at a more rapid pace than accounts that are not. I am in NO WAY telling you, your account HAS to be themed. You have to do what feels right to you, but you don’t have to take my word for it. Check it out for yourself. Simply expressed, having a theme is eye candy. People often think “theme” just means the same filter for every photo, but having a messy account is a theme. Only taking photos in coffeeshops or libraries is a theme. Frolicking {no pun intended} in the forest for every shot is a theme. Only posting flatlays and book stacks, even if they don’t match in color, is a theme. My wonderful friend Haley @mylittlebooktique asked if my account has always been the same sense I started. The answer is yes. My theme has never changed. I just improved my sub-par editing skills. Brown is my favorite color, so I knew my feed would reflect that.

It didn’t cross my mind that something that was true to me would get me massive followers. I created what felt right although the majority went in another “aesthetic” direction at the time. I have so many screenshots for inspiration from when I started three and a half years ago. You’d be surprised. People have deleted their old photos so anyone new entering the community wouldn’t know what their original feed looked like, but I do because I am a bookstagram maniac and take inspiration from everywhere even from feeds that look nothing like mine. If your goal is growth, figure out what you like and stick to that, pay attention to your faves, be inspired (without copying) and think about feed consistency whatever that looks like to you.


2. ENGAGE

Show that you have an interest in what’s happening with others. Give hearts, participate in their QOTD’s (Question of the Day’s}, leave comments, join challenges, buddy read, respond to comments when/if you can. This does not mean every day or all at once. Engagement, of any kind, is a HUGE factor in growth. Human beings in general want feel connected so if people in the community view you as being open to exchange, they will follow you. Note: Some people have social anxiety, that includes online as well so keep that in mind before writing them off as just not wanting to respond.


3. POSTING

I am a proponent of taking social media breaks as it can become incredibly overwhelming in many aspects. However, if we are telling the flat-out truth, in order to grow you have to post almost daily. Missing a few days will not put a sizable dent in the number of people that unfollow you IF they unfollow you at all because we all know that life happens, but please keep in mind that going on a month to two-month hiatus absolutely will.  It’s unfortunate, but true.

The way the current algorithm is designed requires that you keep up. I recently took an unplanned hiatus from Instagram, just about a month, During the time I went from 46K to 45. That’s a thousand followers. It doesn’t affect me the way it affects others, but I want to be open in case these are things you’re thinking about.


HOW DO I BEAT THE ALGORITHM?

(from @theguywiththebook)

My answer to this is connected to the aforementioned. The way the algorithm is designed, and the simplest explanation, is it pushes the most popular content to the very top and smaller accounts are basically shadowed. It is no longer in chronological order, and the sad truth is that it probably will never be again. Chronological order is an afterthought in comparison to advertising dollars and popularity. The hard truth, you can’t beat it. There are far too many unique users on Instagram to do so. However, dry those tears because there are things you can do within the bookstagram community to make sure your friends see your beautiful pictures. 

1}Posting daily, even twice a day. Some people post three to four times a day, but I DO NOT recommend that. It has to be the right balance.

2} Previously you needed an app to find out your best posting time which is determined by your time zone and the time zone of your followers. You don’t need to download any additional apps in your phone because you can check that within your Instagram insights now. My peak posting time is between 11am and 3pm. I know if I post between those times my engagement will be better.

3} Have giveaways (firstly because you want to give) and challenges. Challenges are not only fun, but using whatever the accompanying hashtag is will bring people to your page.

4} Speaking of hashtags, use them whether it’s one or the full thirty. Believe it or not, people actually do search hashtags pertaining to their interests. No doubt, they are unsightly but the work. Make sure you don’t use hashtags like #book or #read which will shadow ban your photos. These hashtags were used inappropriately by a naughty few, so they’re ruined them for everyone.


WHAT ABOUT ADS AND SPONSORSHIP?

(from: @dappledpages @literarylifeofk @never_too_many_books)

This is one of those topics I have to tip toe lightly on. Admittedly, I straddle the fence when it comes to ads and sponsorship. As I thought about what I wanted to say, I realized that I feel more strongly about the pros although I do acknowledge the cons. I think it is so wonderful that you literally have the opportunity to build a career or at least make income just from the content you post. As a reminder, Bookstagram is not only changing the way pub houses market books, but bookstagram has a voice, a very powerful voice of influence. You may think you need to have a massive following to get sponsorship, but you don’t. Let’s outline the pros and cons and where there is opportunity for you.

PROS
  • You do not need to be a “big account” to connect with brands or publishers. It varies, but publishers started reaching out to me around 8K. That’s relatively small. From a business perspective, companies and publishers want you to have a reach, but I think they care about your ability to connect, your engagement and if you are posting consistently.
  • Even as a small account you can reach out to your favorite brands. I have never reached out to a brand, but would do so if I really believed in their product and did not want to wait for them to find me.
  • Bookstagrammers should be paid for the amount of free advertising that takes place. I don’t know why being paid is incredibly taboo amongst bibliophiles. Not only do you have the opportunity receive a few of your favorite things, but be properly compensated for your marketing efforts.
  • Building positive relationships with brands will help you to grow your own.
CONS
  • Bookstagram is still a community people frequent simply because they love reading. They look for new authors and new genres to explore so it is natural to feel frustration when you are scrolling and over half of it is ads. Understandable. Do you like watching an amazing show with commercials every 5 minutes? Of course not. 
  • The allure of receiving things often surpasses the foundation of why you started your bookstagram account in the first place. It happened to me, and I had to get comfortable with saying no and taking a step back making certain I connecting with brands I was passionate about while also staying true to what I love: reading.

Getting sponsored or being paid to post ads does not make someone less of a reader, but in hindsight there is a fine line that will continually be up for debate.  I hope you were able to take something away from this piece even if it’s simply a new thought. The best advice I have is to do what feels right to you. My good friend @brisnibythesea asked about having a bookstagram vs. a personal account or having both. My answer is post it all. Be authentic and true to who you are. Bookstagram is such a magnificent community filled with wonderful people to connect with and the opportunities are endless. The point of it all is to enjoy.

@dappledpages literarylifeofk @never_too_many_books want to know about ads & sponsorship…

This is one of those topics I have to tip toe lightly on. Admittedly, I straddle the fence when it comes to ads and sponsorship. As I thought about what I wanted to say, I realized that I feel more strongly about the pros although I do acknowledge the cons. I think it is so wonderful that you literally have the opportunity to build a career or at least make income just from the content you post. As a reminder, Bookstagram is not only changing the way pub houses market books, but bookstagram has a voice, a very powerful voice of influence. You may think you need to have a massive following to get sponsorship, but you don’t. Let’s outline the pros and cons and where there is opportunity for you.

PROS
  • You do not need to be a “big account” to connect with brands or publishers. It varies, but publishers started reaching out to me around 8K. That’s relatively small. From a business perspective, companies and publishers want you to have a reach, but I think they care about your ability to connect, your engagement and if you are posting consistently.
  • Even as a small account you can reach out to your favorite brands. I have never reached out to a brand but would do so if I really believed in their product and did not want to wait for them to find me.
  • Bookstagrammers should be paid for the amount of free advertising that takes place. I don’t know why being paid is incredibly taboo amongst bibliophiles. Not only do you have the opportunity receive a few of your favorite things, while also being properly compensated for your marketing efforts.
  • Building positive relationships with brands will help you to grow your own.
CONS
  • Bookstagram is still a community people frequent simply because they love reading. They look for new authors and new genres to explore so it is natural to feel frustration when you are scrolling and over half of it is ads. Understandable. Do you like watching an amazing show with commercials every 5 minutes? Of course not.
  • The allure of receiving things often surpasses the foundation of why you started your bookstagram account in the first place. It happened to me, and I had to get comfortable with saying no and taking a step back, making certain I was connecting with brands I was passionate about while also staying true to what I love: reading.

Getting sponsored or being paid to post ads does not make someone less of a reader, but in hindsight there is a fine line that will continually be up for debate.  I hope you were able to take something away from this piece even if it’s simply a new thought. The best advice I have is to do what feels right to you. My good friend @brisnibythesea asked about having a bookstagram vs. a personal account or having both. My answer is post it all. Be authentic and true to who you are. Bookstagram is such a magnificent community filled with wonderful people to connect with and the opportunities are endless. The point of it all is to enjoy.