WHAT IS #BOOKSTAGRAM?
#Bookstagram is a popular hashtag on Instagram for the bookish community. People post photos featuring their book reviews, TBR (To Be Read) shelves, monthly wrap-ups, current reads, etc. Some post simple photos of a book by itself, others create elaborate flat lays with props, bookish products, artwork, and more!
I actually began my #Bookstagram journey very recently. Originally I used my business Instagram account (@royalsocialmedia) for behind the scenes photos, inspirational quotes, project features, etc. When Instagram first came out, that’s what you did… I became extremely busy and eventually began to neglect this account. These types of posts were no longer relevant, so I let my Instagram fall by the wayside.
I’ve become increasingly more involved in the book community since I became a book blogger a couple years ago, and I’ve been working with authors more frequently on their web design, social media strategy, newsletters, etc. Instagram is a platform my clients were asking about more and more as it gained popularity.
I ended up spending quite a bit of time on Instagram during the last 3 months of 2015 for a retail client and I began to notice an overwhelming trend on social media (not just on Instagram) towards flat lays.
A thought popped into my head: are book bloggers doing this with books?
Sure enough, I stumbled on 3+ million posts with the hashtag #Bookstagram (Warning: the #Bookstagram community is a vortex which will suck you in for hours).
I seriously began to drool…
I made the decision that it was time to shift my account to all things bookish and in January 2016 I began to test the waters… my Instagram account would become a creative extension for my book blog, as well as a way to build a new community of bookish influencers.
I’m not the best photographer, but I do happen to be quite handy with Photoshop. So I decided to do a little experiment with creating flat lays using digital props to pair with my book reviews. Within 2 short months my account had gained over 1,000 new followers, and I was averaging 100+ likes per post.
Sure the mini ego boost every time someone likes a photo is nice, but what I find even more satisfying is the variety of new relationships I have formed with readers and authors, alike. This is one of the kindest, most thoughtful, and supportive group of individuals I’ve ever encountered. I’ve connected with people from all over the world, who I might never have had a chance to meet if not for the time I spent on Instagram this year.
If you love books and you’ve got a creative side (even if you don’t know it yet), this is a community worth joining! Not only will you see some stunning artwork, you will also discover some amazing new reads! Don’t worry if you don’t have a professional camera or a bunch of fancy props–I’ll teach you some great tips and tricks to create your very own style. More on that later…
Not sure where to begin? I’ve put together a comprehensive guide to getting started. I’ll cover everything from the basics of setting up your account, to accounts to follow, various styles, tools you can use, etc. Don’t see something you want to know about or have a suggestion for a topic? Leave me a comment and I’ll get you some answers!
Let’s get started…
HOW TO JOIN INSTAGRAM
Download the Instagram app on your smartphone or visit www.instagram.com.
Sign up for an account with Facebook OR with your name and email address. I connected my account to my Facebook because my friends received a notification that I joined Instagram (built in followers/friends).
1) YOUR USERNAME
If you’re already on social media, try to pick the exact same username (if it’s available). This will make it significantly easier for members of your existing online community to find you.
Make sure to pick something relevant. I’d recommend either using your real name OR something bookish that relates to your blog (if you have one) or your love for books. Popular terms people use in their names are “books,” “reads,” “biblio,” “bookworm,” etc. I’ve had a much tougher time getting new bookstagrammers to follow me because they see the username “@royalsocialmedia” and they don’t realize I’m part of their community.
2) YOUR PROFILE PHOTO
Either use a photo of yourself OR something bookish. You could even do a combo (i.e. you holding a book)! I’ve noticed a significant uptick in new followers since I changed my profile picture to one of my book flat lays. Although my username isn’t obviously bookish, my new profile photo helps let people know I’m a part of the bookish community.
3) YOUR PROFILE & BIO
Name: If you chose a username that doesn’t have your name in it, I’d suggest including your first name in the profile name area. Example: “Caitlin, Royal Social Media”
Bio: Try to match this to your Facebook and/or Twitter bios (if applicable). You only get 150 characters, so try to be succinct. This a chance for us to get to know you! Show some personality and be sure to answer some of these questions: Who are you? What do you like? What do you do? What are you currently reading?
Let’s break mine down:
- Who Am I? My nickname is the “Queen of Social Media.” This tells you I’m social media savvy.
- What do I do? I’m a Designer & Book Blogger.
- What do I like? YA Fiction & Wine! ?
- What am I currently reading (“CR”)? Nevernight (book name) by @misterkristoff (Instagram handle for author Jay Kristoff—if the author isn’t on ig, then hashtag their name instead: #JayKristoff).
- #RoyalReads is my token hashtag (not necessary, but cool if you can find a way to own your own hashtag)
Here’s an example for my author friends out there. Check out @authorcagray:
- Who is she? She’s a YA Author of 2 trilogies—notice how she used the relevant hashtags for her books?
- What is she selling? She mentions the name/hashtag of her newest release: #TheEdenConspiracy
- CTA (Call To Action): She features a strong CTA telling her followers to click the URL in her profile to download a FREE book. She requires users to join her mailing list at this link in exchange for a free book (fantastic way to grow your mailing list & reach new readers).
URL: This is the MOST valuable piece of real estate that you own on Instagram. DO NOT WASTE IT!!! Some suggestions:
- The most obvious: Your website URL (www.RoyalBookReviews.com).
- Something more specific: A link to a recent blog post or another social account (can be handy when you are posting book reviews, giveaway links, etc.)
- For businesses: Use it for a Call to Action (like we mentioned for Author C.A. Gray above).
If you’ve already joined Instagram, then you’re already ahead of the game! However, you may want to give your account a bit of a makeover, so make sure to consider some of the steps above. If you think it might be beneficial, go ahead and change any or all of the following: your username, profile picture, bio, url, etc. If you want to shift your feed to all things bookish, you can delete some or all of your old posts, OR post 3 blank photos with the caption “New Theme” to provide a clean divide between your old and new feeds!
Try to find accounts which are relevant to your niche (aka: book accounts). I’d suggest trying to follow 50-100 accounts to get started. There are a couple of different ways to find people. I’ve put together a list of 25 of my favorite #Bookstagram accounts (in no particular order) to get you started… FYI: This is seriously only a handful of accounts I love—there are WAY too many for me to list here, but these are a fantastic place to start.
- @the_ya_gal (This author is absolutely killing it—she totally gets how to use this platform!!!)
- @newleafwriter (Sarah is one of my all time faves—I’ve learned a lot from observing her feed. Plus she’s really sweet about answering questions via DM.)
- @foldedpagesdistillery (Golden standard for the amazing bookish flat lay.)
- @eviebookish (Evie has been one of my favorite bloggers for years now. She has recently transitioned into a fantastic bookstagrammer, as well.)
- @lifeinlit (Drool…..)
- @theliteraryllama (Her sketches are AMAZE!!!)
Once you’ve followed the accounts above there are a couple additional ways to find additional accounts to follow…
If you’ve got a new account, go to your home feed and you may see a box with “Suggestions For You.” Take a look through these accounts to see what you like. Otherwise you can click the compass icon in the upper right corner of the screen (on desktop) and it will take you to a page titled “Discover People” (www.instagram.com/explore).
Another way to find new accounts to follow (or content to like) is to search via relevant hashtags. Here are 5 popular hashtags to get you started:
The last way to find new accounts to follow is to look at the “Followers” & “Followings” of the people you now follow. I like to start with the “Following” of the most popular accounts, because they’re usually very picky about the types of accounts they follow (aka: high quality content). This takes a bit more time, but will likely provide you with highly targeted & quality accounts to follow.
The best test for success: After you finish following some new accounts, scroll through your new feed. If you see photos you want to like or comment on, then you’re on the right track. If not, these may not be the right people for you to follow.
OK! So now that you’ve signed up, created your profile, and followed some relevant awesome sauce accounts, you are ready to begin your #Bookstagram journey! My next post will cover some of the basics: liking, commenting, posting, etc. Stay tuned…