Maybe you’re like me. Maybe you’ve been oohing and ahhing over other people’s bookstagram from the outside. I see posts every day saying “I finally decided to join in!” on the first photo of a new account. I know the feeling! I finally gave into the same feeling almost exactly a month ago. Getting into something as aesthetic and virtual-community based can be a little intimidating, and I had questions. Where do I start? Are there rules to this thing? While this may not be necessary, I’m a total researcher. I feel better about things when I am informed. So, naturally, I looked to the place where I learn everything: Pinterest (But don’t tell gradschool I said that…)
You can find my Pinterest Board of Bookstagram inspo and articles here!
Here’s some of the things I learned from my research and my first month (along with photos of some of the feeds that I love and friends that I’ve made along the way!)
If you’re thinking of starting a new account, it’s so much easier to begin with a few accounts that capture something about what you want to accomplish. This starts as research! Search the tags you like, find accounts, stalk their feeds, and stalk the hashtags they use. Note the differences and what seems closest to what you might want to go for.
I’m not saying copy what everyone else is doing, but it helps to check out the styles and content before getting started. Do you like feeds with very consistent themes? Light or dark colors? Minimalist or busy? And more than that, do you like reviews? Selfies? Quotes? There are so many options.
I figured from the beginning that I wasn’t going to be someone who stuck with a consistent theme. It just isn’t in my nature, and I tended to be drawn to feeds that had a little more variety. I like to see readers in action more than posed photos. You can essentially create the image that you want.
But like… then what happens?
There ends the extent of what I knew about bookstagram starting off. I noticed pretty quickly that there’s a few really popular ways to get introduced to other accounts and users. I’d noticed from my stalking that a lot of the users seemed to be friends, which struck me as weird at first. The more I felt the love, the more I started to love it.
I found myself becoming much more likely to engage with people on this account. I like to answer people’s questions or comment on the post. I used to think people just did that to get followers, but it’s really not the case. In a community of people with similar interests, why wouldn’t you want to reach out and give feedback? Maybe even make some interweb friends! Comments are the new likes, people. Tell people why you like their stuff. Be nice to each other. Ya dig?
Booksta is FULL of shout-outs. It is truly adorable. I noticed a ton of stories with pictures of other feeds and the tag to their account. That’s how I found a TON of accounts to follow. Sometimes people do these randomly, sometimes to bring attention to new users, or for SFS posts (shout-out for shout-out). Typically, if someone is hosting a SFS session, there will be a cute photo with a caption on how to enter. After tagging a friend and sharing their feed in your story (or whatever it tells you to do), that account will do the same for you. It felt weird doing something like this at first, but it was actually fun. I found a ton of inspiration that way.
I also did some initial random shout-outs of accounts that I had really loved, even though I had so little followers to shout-out to. I realized it’s not about getting followers, but about getting exposed to new accounts and cool people! It’s always a good idea to throw a little unnecessary love out there, you know? People appreciate it, and it’s a great way to make connections.
Giveaways work pretty similar, except you follow the rules to get entered into a contest for a prize. The first one I entered was for @eternalbooks, who responded to my comment on a different photo and told me to enter. I would probably not have entered if she hadn’t done this. And I actually won! Since then, she became one of the users I talk to the most. We tag each other in a lot of stuff and I can always count on her to answer my QOTD (question of the day) when no one else does. It helps to make a few mutual friends off the bat if you can.
When I got the giveaway prize in the mail, I did something I never thought I would do. I DID AN UNBOXING VIDEO. WHO AM I. I was in my jammies and felt super awkward the whole time, but it was also kinda funny. I just set up my phone and recorded myself showing the goodies! I didn’t want to, but it seems to be the thing to do to show how much you love your prize. Yes, I had to rewatch it and listen to my lisp and resist smashing my phone into pieces. But, you know what? There’s nothing wrong with doing something very un-you JUST BECAUSE IT’S FUN. Throw on your best customer service voice and do the dang thing. I actually got several encouraging messages the next day about it (that I so appreciated), so maybe it wasn’t as terrible as it felt.
Another fun thing I didn’t know existed are booktags. They’re just a bunch of questions that you answer in your caption and then tag people in. Kind of reminiscent of MySpace surveys? Are you kids too young to know about those? Anyway, they’re fun little thangs. I try to switch up who I tag in them so they aren’t bombarded by them, though. I’m a little behind because I don’t like posting them on every caption. Still, they’re a fun little way to engage with people.
I also opted into a challenge for the first time ever. I used to totally think these are stupid, but I found it helpful in my first month to kind of shake up what I posted and get ideas for material. It’s easier to come up with new ideas when you have a prompt. It’s also a good way to get out of too many flatlays, too many posed photos, that kind of stuff.
Plus, it’s really fun to see what everyone else posted! Going through the #12daysofinstagram tag, you could see everyone posting the same prompt in such different ways. So many book recommendations and new accounts to find and fall in love with! Plus, it helped me have to plan ahead rather than just posting whatever I felt like. By the end, my feed looked so much more full. Despite the variety, it still looks more cohesive than it had.
Definitely the coolest part of making a bookstagram for your blog is the fact that almost everyone else is also a blogger! And you just can’t be a blogger who doesn’t read other people’s blogs. That’s why I made this in the first place!
I spent this month building the booksta, and now I’m trying to build my place into this blog that I’ve had so long and invested so little into. This month I’m really trying to build connections on here, so please feel free to reach out! I want to follow ALL the blogs.
So, if you’re just getting started, here’s my advice:
-Do your research. Find out what you like and don’t like. Comment on things, get involved with users before you begin.
–Take your photos ahead of time. When I started, I had a small amount of photos from my sister. I sort of improvised the first two, but without more planned, I had to use a bunch of those initial photos up in a row. Unfortunately, they all look pretty similar. I should have spread them out, since I don’t have one of those themed accounts. Don’t think you can take your photos as you go unless you live in perpetual good lighting and do nothing else with yourself. I take a small batch of photos once or twice a week and that’s been working well.
–Do you (Duh). Read the books you want to read, even if you don’t think people will care about them. Someone will. I’m currently on a mission to make bookstagram fall in love with short stories. Share a little of yourself with your posts. Everyone loves looking at a gorgeous, perfectly placed flatlay, but after a while those start to look the same. What you have to say about a book or whatever piece of your life you decide to share is far more interesting to readers.
–It’s more than books. (I mean, if you’re trying to be a book or writing blogger, than it should probably be mostly books). I know, the aesthetic, blah blah blah. But I would much rather share life as it comes at me and make it a little cohesive than have everything I do look exactly the same. This goes against all the branding advice I’ve ever seen, so if you’re here for a following and a bunch of rep gigs, maybe ignore me. I just know that my goal is to use this as a motivational tool and a way to get my writing out.
-Make friends. Self-explanatory?
-Let it motivate you. This seems like it will take up so much time, but it doesn’t have to. It’s all just a matter of taking a minute to plan what I would otherwise waste tons of random time on. Since starting, I have found myself twice as motivated to squeeze in writing (on both my blog that needs love AND the stories that I need to be writing), to finish my required books faster on the off chance I can fit in a non-required read, and far less distracted by personal social media. In my experience, it just gave me more motivation to get things done more efficiently so I can balance it all. I have been significantly more productive since paying more attention to my blog and this bookstagram account. It’s good to have projects. It’s good to care about things. It makes you want to get the less fun things out of the way faster.
-Jump in! Don’t waste time being embarrassed. Take that photo of your book by your brunch. Tag people that you want to get to know. Ignore follower count. Don’t let hiding your hobby keep you from taking advantage of natural lighting. JUST READ BOOKS. The other people that read books will be happy to have you.
And finally, let’s be friends! I want to know know how it goes once you go for it!