Hello guys! You probably weren’t expecting a blog post about Instagram on a book blog, but hear me out. Whether you’re a foodie, a globetrotter, a gym bunny or an avid bookworm, Instagram has a huge and thriving community for your niche. Get involved, and you can find your next read, share your views, experience the crazy creativity of Bookstagram, and meet new friends who share your love of books.
I think I get most of my book recommendations from Instagram now, or from the book bloggers I’ve met on the platform. Most of my blog traffic comes from Instagram, and actually, without it, I wouldn’t even be a blogger. I started out as a bookstagrammer, micro-blogging about my books via photos and captions on Instagram. My following grew more than I ever thought it would, and it inspired me to set up this blog because I knew there was an engaged audience who would read it.
A year and a half down the line, I’m at almost 3.5k Instagram followers. I know that’s not a huge amount compared to others, but in that time period, with the majority of it being when I didn’t really know about Instagram, its algorithms, key posting times, the importance of engagement, and other key elements needed to grow a community on the platform, I think it’s a pretty good number.
Instagram has been a huge help for my blog, has challenged my creativity and helped me grow as a photographer, and has brought me opportunities from representing brands to receiving free books, tea, wine, candles, subscription boxes, Funko Pops, bath and body products, perfumes and more. It’s a great platform for anyone, no matter your niche and regardless of whether you have a standalone blog or not.
So how do you grow an engaged following organically, in any niche? Read on to find out!
Tip 1: It’s a marathon, not a sprint
I know that’s probably not what you want to hear, but overnight success only comes to a lucky few. For the rest of us, we have to put a bit of elbow grease into it! There’ll be days when you get a bunch of new followers, and days when you just get unfollowers. You just have to roll with the punches. Instagram is constantly updating its algorithm, and this means your likes and engagement will often suddenly rocket up or spiral down with no warning, regardless of what you’re doing. You just have to brush it off and accept that it’s just a little dip and it will go back up, especially if you keep at what you’re doing.
Follow my tips, work out what works best for you, and just remember – you might feel disheartened one day and not see much growth, but it really does all make a difference. What you put in is what you get back on Instagram, and when you look back, you’ll only see improvement and growth.
Tip 2: Engage!
It is a social media platform, after all! But seriously, engagement is key. Why would you interact with someone who you’ve never spoken to, who doesn’t bother to show any love to your work when you could spend your time engaging with someone who regularly likes and comments on your posts, and has built a relationship with you?
As your follower number grows, it can be daunting trying to keep up with everyone. When I had a smaller number, I would go into my most recent post’s likes and return the likes and comments to all those accounts before posting the next one. However, when you’ve got 400 odd likes on some posts, this can take a substantial chunk of your time! What I now do is try to like a significant number of those I see in my feed, comment on those that always comment on mine, and try to return the likes on a post with a high number of likes at least once a week. Yes, it takes time, especially as I’ll try to like at least 3 of each person’s to make up for missed time, but it’s worth it as people know you’ve not forgotten them, and you are appreciating their content.
I also find it works well to post an Instastory with a poll saying “Have I missed your posts recently?” with the options of “Yes, show me some love!” and “Let’s catch up on each other’s!”. That way, you’re directly engaging those who are interacting with you, and people also realise they haven’t caught up on your posts in a while and will return the favour.
Similarly, make sure you respond to comments and messages. If people have taken the time to talk to you, continue the conversation. With comments, it’s best to reply as quick as you can as Instagram favours you if you respond within an hour, but that’s not always possible! Just respond when you can.
Remember, it’s just as important to engage your audience as it is to grow it – people can and will unfollow, but if you’ve built a relationship with them, they’re less likely to do so.
Tip 3: Reach out, and be genuine
It’s nice to have new followers who have found you by themselves, but to grow, you do need to put yourself out there too. I like to go into the “Suggested for you” section at the bottom of my notifications, and like, comment and follow accounts I like from there. I also like to go into the follower lists of accounts in my niche and do the same to their recent followers.
When commenting on potential new followers’ accounts, don’t just say “What a beautiful photo!”. It may well be, but bots will comment generic stuff like this – you need to show your personality and make them want to check out your profile! Comment something that shows you’ve read their caption and are interested in what they have to say. Something like “I love this book series! I’m glad you’re enjoying it too. Have you tried x book by the same author? I think you’d like it if you like this one! Btw, gorgeous shot :)” will always go down better than “Nice photo!”
Tip 4: Write engaging captions
View your caption as a shop window. You have to catch people’s eyes long enough to make them want to enter your shop, which here is clicking “see more” on your caption! Therefore, make your first lines punchy and engaging! I always do a question of the day. They’re sometimes book related, sometimes silly, sometimes related to current events. People enjoy being asked what they think and engaging in something fun, and in return, you’ll get a boost in comments and likes which means Instagram will favour your post and serve it to more people. Emoji games also go down well – something like “Your last three emojis are your first actions as president. What are you doing?!” It’s always fun and you can have a laugh with your followers whilst reaching new ones!
Also, you can further engage your audience by taking part in or making your own tags, and tagging people in your photo to let them know they’re tagged to try the challenge! This can be things like #spellthedayinbooks or #top5favouritebookcharacters, or you can make your own up, as I’ve done many times!
Can’t find any for your niche? Pioneer it!
Tip 5: Stick with your niche
Imagine you’ve subscribed to Cosmopolitan magazine and one month you open it up to pages of features about cars and motorbikes. Would you unsubscribe? Definitely! That’s not what you signed up for. Instagram is pretty much the same! If you’ve followed an account because they clearly post content about books, then that account starts talking about gym wear, it might be a turn off.
That’s not to say box yourself in and only talk about one topic forever. As I touched on before, I’ve represented brands in the past, covering everything from tea to candles and bath products. How do I get around it? I make it relevant to my audience! What’s a perfect reading companion? A cup of tea and a beautiful scented candle. Where else do you read? Kicking back in the bath with a nice organic bath bomb…see where I’m going with this?!
I’ve even done posts about skincare that I’ve made relevant to literature, by giving out tips that fictional characters might use! (You can check that out here if you want a live example). I also collect Funko Pops, which often pop up (no pun intended!) in my photos. This again works well though, because the Pops are usually from books, or books that have been made into TV shows/films, so they can accompany the books in my shots!
So stick to a niche, but be creative. Bear in mind why your audience followed you, and make sure what you’re posting is relevant to them.
Tip 6: Build your identity
This takes some experimentation. When I first started, I for some reason really enjoyed using the Gingham filter on Instagram and basically making my images look washed out and grainy. Here’s a cringeworthy example of some of my very first posts:
Ugh, why?! After experimenting, learning to use a camera better (!) and being inspired by other Bookstagrammers, I began to realise I liked bright colours, clean white backgrounds, sharp images and contrast, and flowers! Here’s a look at my feed as of now, which is much more me, and much more likely to be identifiable as me when popping up in people’s feeds!
Tip 7: Hashtags
Find the hashtags that your audience is using. To do this, use hashtags relevant to what’s in the photo, and use the tags that successful people in your niche are using. Equally though, smaller hashtags are important because you’re more likely to be seen in that area. It’s kind of like setting up a market stall in central London on a bank holiday. Sure, there’ll be higher footfall, but there will be more stalls and people are more likely to have tired of shopping, found another product (or blogger!), or got distracted before they get to you. On the other hand, if you set up a stall in a village fete, there’ll be a much smaller number of people, but they’re much more likely to find your stall and engage. See what I’m saying?
I have a little note on my phone with a bunch of hashtags saved there so I can pick and choose each day. I used to just copy and paste from it, but I heard Instagram can think your account is spam if you continually use only the same hashtags, so mix it up a bit!
Tip 8: Find your key posting time
It’s crazy how much this matters. If I post 20 mins outside of my peak time, my engagement really takes a hit. I more often than not post between 2pm and 2:40, or if it’s been a busy day, I post around 7:30pm. Times before and after that fall pretty flat for me! I used to post at 12pm thinking I’d land on people’s feeds during their lunch break, but through life making me post late and some experimentation, I’ve realised that the 2pm window works better for me. This could be because I have a lot of American followers, and they might be checking their phones on the way to work or while doing the school run, and also because a lot of people have their lunch a bit later. Who knows? All I know is that’s the time that works best for me!
At the weekends, I can afford to post a little outside these times as people aren’t so bound by rigid lunch breaks at work etc.
Tip 9: Post consistently
I know it can be daunting to post every day, or even every other day like I do. But there are ways around it! I live with my boyfriend and his parents at the mo, so the only place that I can really spread a load of books, flowers and Funko Pops everywhere is our room! Being at the back of the house, the lighting can be hit and miss, so what I do is take a load of photos when the lighting’s good and basically stockpile them into my Instagram drafts so I can still have a presence when I’m out and about or the weather isn’t cooperating!
Are you thinking “but if I post more often, I won’t have enough to say”? Don’t, because you totally do! You can try tag challenges like I mentioned in tip 4, emoji and question of the day captions to get people involved, direct people to old blog posts they might have missed, or just tell them what you’ve been up to and open up the conversation for them to engage.
Tip 10: Use Insta Stories
It’s a great way of reminding your followers you exist if they haven’t seen your post! Share your recent post to your stories, take snaps of recent purchases, engage them in fun stuff like polls and quizzes (there’s some Insta story templates on my Instagram profile, and I take requests!), and help yourself to improve by asking your followers’ opinions on your posts.
Plus, it’s just a nice way to show the person behind the account – give them snippets into your everyday life and they’ll relate to you more, and probably be more open to engaging with your content. I have a small army of people who now ask me for Insta stories of my dog!
Tip 11: Host a giveaway
This is a great way of boosting engagement! You can offer to pay for a small item e.g. a book or a bookmark from a certain shop, or go bigger and offer gift vouchers depending on your budget! To enter, people have to like your post, comment with if they’re international or from your country, and tag three friends. Extra entries can be added for sharing a screenshot of your post and linking to your account in their stories, etc.! You choose the rules, you set the budget, and be as creative as you want!
Tip 12: Geotag your photos
Taken a great snap whilst on holiday? Or maybe you’re just chilling at home? Tag the town you’re in and you’ll gain local exposure as well as the exposure your hashtags gets you! You might even get to meet some of your followers if you’re posting live 🙂
What are your top tips for Instagram? Leave me a comment and I might create a blog post of tips from you guys, linking back to your chosen channel!
I’m continually learning every day, and I bet you are too! I hope this post helps. Let me know if it does!