Readers who’ve been following Lectito for a while will know that I’m a major Instagram and, more specifically, bookstagram addict. I can (and do) spend hours drooling over fellow readers’ gorgeous bookish pics, and I love the creative challenge of snapping my own. What’s more, Instagram is my biggest traffic source for my blog after search engines.
So today I thought I’d share my five biggest bits of advice for those bloggers and bookworms out there looking to boost their Instagram game:
Do not, I repeat, DO NOT, pay for likes or followers or use a bot to like, comment, follow and unfollow on your behalf
A lot of Insta users want to make money or at the very least earn themselves some swanky swag by becoming brand reps and promoting products in their posts. But brands (and publishers dishing out ARCs) want to know that those posts will be seen by large audiences. Other ‘Grammers just want to look popular, or think that if they have lots of followers, real users will think they’re cool and follow them too—it’ll help them get to that next level. So I understand the temptation to buy followers and likes. But these aren’t genuine followers who will see and engage with your posts. And if you take this approach, not only are you being dishonest with your existing and potential brand partners, you’re also undermining the hard work and reputations of your fellow Instagrammers who have put in the effort to cultivate genuine, engaged followings.
And if you think you won’t get caught, think again. First, when someone has eleventy-squillion follows but their posts only get a handful of likes, it’s pretty darn obvious that there’s something fishy going on. And if that weren’t enough, there are plenty of apps and tricks out there that brands can use to tell if you’re inflating your stats.
Also, if Instagram catches you using bots to up your engagement or follower count, you run the risk of having your posts ‘shadowbanned’. Now, there’s some discussion about whether or not ‘shadowbanning’ is a legit thing or Insta urban legend, as is explained in this Business Insider article, and Insta is notoriously close-lipped about how its algorithm works, which leads to lots of gossip and speculation. Earlier this year, many high-performing users complained that their posts were no longer showing up under hashtags or on the ‘explore’ page. Rumours spread that Instagram had ‘shadowbanned’ these users, meaning that only their followers could see their posts. Instagram later confirmed that this was a bug, and the bug was supposedly fixed in April. However, some users continued to see their posts’ reach restricted. It’s now believed that Insta might be putting the restrictions in place for users who are seen to be overly active, as extreme levels of activity, such as exceeding or continually coming close to exceeding the app’s limits for how many likes, comments, follows and unfollows it permits within certain time frames, can indicate that you’re using bots or posting via third-party apps, which are big no-nos.
Use relevant hashtags to find your tribe
There’s a lot of talk about Instagram ‘pods’ at the moment. ‘Grammers let their pod know when they’ve put up a new post and everyone in the pod likes and comments on it ASAP in the hopes that the Insta algorithm recognises it as a high-engaging post and boosts its reach by including it in more users’ ‘explore’ pages.
I’ve never been part of a pod. I’ve heard they work, but it feels a little like cheating and I’d rather spend my time commenting on posts that genuinely spark a response.
But community is important on the ‘Gram. And communities rally around hashtags. There are a bunch of hashtags favoured by bookstagrammers, from the general: #bookstagram, #booknerdigans, #readersofinstagram #bookphotography, #readmore, #bibliophile, etc. And these are great, but they’re also extremely broad with thousands of users posting under them. To find people who share your specific tastes and interests, you need to get a little more specific. For example, I love talking with other Australian bookworms, particularly fans of YA, so I spend most of my play time on Instagram hanging out at #AussieReaders and #LoveOzYA—and I’ve made a bunch of wonderful, supportive friends in these spaces, without the icky pressure and sense of obligation that comes with being in a pod.
Use a scheduling app
If you’re like me and post a lot but don’t always have the time (or inspiration) to create new images each day, a good scheduling app is your best friend.
I’ve recently started using the free version of Planoly, and I’m 100% in love with it! It lets you schedule your posts and draft captions in advance and pops them in a calendar so you can see at a glance what you’ve got planned. It won’t post for you, which is a good thing because Instagram doesn’t like you using third-party apps to post on your behalf, but it notifies you at the scheduled post time and makes it easy to publish your post in a couple of clicks.
I do the bulk of my blogging on the weekends, including taking the feature images for each post. I then use Planoly to schedule these images as Insta posts for the same day the content goes up on my blog. It saves me the hassle and stress of trying to come up with an image to share with my blog post on publishing day and frees up more time during the week for checking in with my Insta buddies and creating more personal, non-blog related posts.
…But leave room to be spontaneous
While scheduling apps are great, Instagramming can start to feel a bit remote and a whole lot less fun if you’re creating and scheduling all your content ahead of time.
So while I use Planoly to schedule pics spruiking my blog posts, I still create the bulk of my Insta snaps ‘in the moment’. I enjoy the creative challenge of improvising and it can be a lovely little break from whatever else I’m working on. It also keeps my feed a bit more personal as, even though I’m the first to admit that my Insta style is pretty stagy and edited, I love setting up little tableaux that share something about my day, how I feel about what I’m reading, what I’m working on, etc. I also find it’s just good creative practice, in general, to give yourself the immediate challenge of composing a shot or finding a new perspective on a scene as it unfolds. And these are still by far my best (and most engaging) pics!
Keep it fun
I’m convinced that the reason I’m waaaaay more successful on Instagram than other social media platforms is because it never feels like work. Earlier in the week, I wrote about creative ‘passion projects’, and that’s what Instagram has always been for me. I don’t have any training as a photographer, I haven’t invested in any expensive equipment or props, so there’s no pressure. If people like what I post, awesome! If a post tanks, no biggie.
This lack of (unrealistic) expectations is incredibly freeing, and I have a sneaky suspicion that it makes my account a million times better than it would be if I were to devote a heap of time to devising a complex Insta strategy, being rigid about what I post when and trying to emulate the mega-popular accounts.
At the end of the day, you can sink a whole lot of time and money into making your Instagram account a viable traffic source for your blog, or as a way to make money from paid posts and commercial partnerships. And maybe that approach will work. But I still reckon the best way to get the most out of Instagram is to approach it with genuine enthusiasm.
Looking for some gorgeous bookstagram accounts to follow? I have a series of posts featuring a bunch of my faves over on my Meet the Bookstagrammers page!
Over to you
Do you bookstagram?
What tips would you offer to bookworms looking to up their Insta game?
Are you interested in writing YA? I’ve teamed up with Kill Your Darlings to produce ‘Introduction to Writing Young Adult Fiction’, an online writing workshop designed to equip aspiring YA writers with the skills and support to hone their craft and get to work.
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