June 14, 2018

June 13, 2018

Now, I cannot claim Instagram expertise, but I do know some things.

Nine months ago, I rebranded my Twitter and Instagram to match the YouTube channel I was launching: MargaretTheWordN3rd. (Have you checked it out yet? You should check it out.) Since then, I've watched videos and read blogs posts, trying to figure out what makes Instagram tick. As far I can tell, no one really knows the answer (including the company themselves, to all appearances).

I was tired of the lackluster response I was getting to my photos, so I wanted to know what I could do to grow my following and increase engagement. The answer, for me, was two-pronged: I need to take better pictures and I needed to be better at Instagram. I'm still working on both of those, but I wanted to share some of the things I've discovered.

Today, I'll be sharing five things that I think have helped me jump out of the rut I was stuck in and grown my average likes from the mid-twenties to nearly sixty.

Tip #1: Pick a theme
When I first started arranging my pictures, I tried to theme the entire picture -- from props to backdrop -- to the book I was photographing. Because I don't have a lot of bookish props, that ended up making my feed look messy and inconsistent. And building each photo took forever. So I decided to choose a theme for each month. For me, that means choosing a color scheme each month (purple for May, yellow and orange for June) and buying flowers and props that fit into that spectrum. It allows me to add in other props if I have them while maintaining a cohesive feed. This is probably one of the biggest factors in the increase I've seen in engagement. My photos just look better now.

Behold how sad my pics used to be
Voila! Much better!

Tip #2: Give your days a theme
Whether you take photos every day or you knock a whole week's worth in one go, I think you'll agree choosing which books to feature is the hardest part of bookstagram is figuring out which books to take a pic (or, restraining yourself from posting twelve pictures of the same book). Themed days help me narrow down my choices. For example, I turned Fridays into #freshreadsfridays (an original hashtag thank you very much), for books I read recently and loved. Some Wednesdays I take advantage of the already established #writerwednesday to talk about some of my favorite writers. When I'm not doing a challenge (we're getting there), having themed days are invaluable to planning my feed.

Tip #3: Find your hashtags
I am not a big brand, so hashtags are the main way other bookstagrammers can find me. For each type of photo I do (reading or writing), I have a list of twenty hashtags saved on my phone's clipboard. It hits all the big points but leaves room for me adding specific hashtags for whichever book or quote I'm posting. I do include a few big ones (#amreading, #amwriting, #yabookstagram), but those tags are far too crowded to be of much use. So I find tags where I have a shot at landing (and staying) in the top posts. I did this by searching the larger hashtags and then checking all the related tags until I found a good few that met my criteria.

Tip #4: Interact with people
Hashtags are great, but they only get me so far. I've found the more I engage in the hashtags I'm using, the better response I tend to get. So I always take a few minutes to pull up my most recent post and scroll through a tag or two, liking and commenting as I go. I try to make each comment meaningful. I answer questions if they ask them. Compliment the photo. Gush about the book. I try to dish out the kind of engagement I'm looking for. I also switch over from top posts to recent posts. Partly because I know I'm more likely to have meaningful interactions with bookstagrammers closer to me level. And partly because it's easy to feel unseen when you're smaller (like me), so I make sure to support the little guy.

Tip #5: Join a challenge
Bookstagram challenges provide prompts for each day of the month, making scheduling your feed easier and boosting your engagement. If you're curious what this looks like, check out #BookQueensJune18 and #AllTheBooksJune18. Those are just two of the challenges I'm participating in. I look for between four and six challenges to participate in because I don't do every day for each challenge. Sometimes it's because I don't find a prompt inspiring. Sometimes because I don't have a book that matches that prompt. Either way, don't feel you have to participate in every day to reap the benefits. And once I've posted, I make sure to use Tip #4, it's probably the other big factor in my account's growth over the last month or so.

There you go. That is everything I have learned recently about upping my bookstagram game. It really helped be get out of the rut and improve my engagement with my followers, which is what Instagram is ALL about. Below, you'll find some YouTube videos about this subject that helped me and please, if you've found any tips that work, drop them down in the comments. I'm always looking for ways to improve my feed.

Resources that helped me:

General info- Bookstagram on a Budget 

On recent algorithm changes- Bookstagram Beware

Finding hashtags- Instagram Hashtags

Getting followers- 25 Tips to Get More Instagram Followers

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