Bookstagram 101: How to Start + Tips to Grow Your Following

Whether you’re thinking of starting a bookstagram or you recently started one and are looking for tips to grow, you’ve come to the right place!

Now, I am by no means an Instagram expert, but these are the exact strategies that I used when I first started my bookstagram and for the first 6 months, I grew at about 1,000 new followers/month. Since then, my growth has slowed significantly, but what can ya do.

SO…for the purpose of this blog, I’ll be discussing why you should (or should not) start a bookstagram, the easy steps to get started, and 11 tips to grow your following!

Is Bookstagram For You?

If you’ve been wavering on whether or not to start one, hopefully, this next section will help!

For total newbies, let’s start with the basics. What is a bookstagram?

It’s an online community on Instagram that is filled with authors, writers, readers, and book-lovers. Our accounts are filled with pretty book photos, reviews, recommendations, and more!

If you want to find some accounts and see photo inspiration, a simple hashtag search for #bookstagram is a great place to start!

So before you dive into starting your own bookstagram account, make sure to read the section below to ensure that this is the right venture for you.

If you’ve already started yours and are looking some tips for beginners, you can skip ahead!

Why You Should Start A Book Account

  • You love reading. I mean, this is what the entire community is about right? It’s a cumulation of people who genuinely love reading books. Trust me, it’s super easy to spot the fakes out there and they do exist.
  • You want to share your passion with a like-minded community. Maybe you don’t have a lot of friends and family that read or they don’t read similar genres as you do. Bookstagram is a space for ALL genres and it’s pretty dang easy to find other book-lovers that you can totally nerd out with.
  • You enjoy social media. Considering you will be managing an Instagram account, it’s pretty important to have so knowledge of how the social platform works. In fact, if you really want to grow your account, you will be spendy a decent amount of time on it (at least an hour or two/day) so you need to really love engaging via social media.

Why You Should NOT Start A Book Account

  • You just want free books. While there certainly is an element of that on bookstagram, it’s such a smallll portion and it should certainly not be your main motivator. Over time, I truly hope you do receive some free books, but don’t think by any means, that’s an expectation of this community.
  • You are just looking to become a social influencer. Instagram is such a tricky algorithm to crack and even as tight-knit as the bookstagram community is, you should not expect to grow overnight. Many people have been on here for YEARS and only have 2k followers, while some have been on for 6 months and already have 10k.
  • You don’t really want to engage with others. Engagement is a huge part of the book community. While the majority of us are introverts at heart, we have joined this social media platform (hence the word *social*) because we are looking to engage with other bookworms.

How to Start A Bookstagram

I’m not going to go through the details of how Instagram works, because a) there are a millllllion blogs already out there with that info and b) I hope you already have some Insta experience before diving into this new hobby.

So, here are the first steps to creating your bookstagram account:

1. Do your research.

Make sure you know what you’re getting yourself into before starting your account. Take some time to look at current bookstagram accounts by searching hashtags such as #bookstagram or #bookcommunity and see what others are doing in terms of their content, handles, bios, etc..

2. Figure out your niche.

Usually, this coincides with the genre of books you like to read. You’ll find that most people stick to one or two genres for their feed. Obviously, that doesn’t mean that you are siloed to ONLY those genres, but the majority of people that follow you are doing so because they read similar books as you.

3. Create a new Instagram account.

If you already have a personal account, click on your profile, then the 3 lines in the top corner, then Settings, and then Add Account.

4. Choose your Instagram handle.

This can honestly be one of the trickiest parts because so many handles have already been taken! It will probably take a few tries to find one that’s available, but whatever you do, make sure it’s easy to spell and easy for people to remember!

Here are some bookstagram handle formulas to get your creative juices flowing:

[your name]thebibliophile
[your name]reads[genre]
readingwith[your name]
getlitwith[your name]

5. Add a profile photo and bio.

Besides your actual photo feed, this is your first chance to catch someone’s attention.

A profile photo of yourself is going to be way more personal than a photo of books or a bookshelf. People LOVE seeing the bookstagrammer behind the feed so if they can instantly put a face to the handle, they are more likely to follow.

For you bio, take some time to research what others are doing to determine what will best suit yours. Maybe you want to include your reading goal and the book you’re currently reading? Perhaps you want to put some facts about you like your age, location, and favorite genres?

There is no right or wrong way to write a bio and you can also edit it later!

6. Post a few photos to your feed (using the tips below).

This way, when you start engaging with people, they will have an idea of your aesthetic and the genres you read and will be more likely to follow you!

11 Beginner’s Tips To Grow Your Bookstagram Following

When first starting out, there are some super important steps to get the ball rolling and to grow your following. Like I mentioned earlier, your following isn’t going to grow overnight, but if you are willing to invest some time upfront and follow the steps below, it also could grow relatively quickly!

1. Interact with others!

As a newbie, make sure to follow other accounts and for each one you follow, like a handful of their images, and comment on at least one. Instagram rewards those with good engagement so this is one of the best things you can do for yourself.

I recommend engaging in accounts in similar size to you. This is how you build a community and smaller accounts are usually more prone to share your content in their stories!

With bigger accounts that receive lots of likes and comments per post, it’s easy to get lost in their sea of notifications. However, if they see that you followed them, liked 5 posts, and left a comment, that’s 7 notifications they will see in a row from you and you’ll definitely stand out!

Wanna know what’s even better? Shoot them a message letting them know you love their content, a certain photo, or if you had similar feelings about a particular book.

2. Write compelling captions and ask questions.

Never ever post a photo without writing a caption for it. Your captions should be enticing and in one way or another, related to your image.

Your caption should always include a question for your followers at the very beginning or end of your caption. This will increase your post’s engagement, thus increasing its visibility!

3. Use hashtags on every post.

If Instagram gives you the functionality to do something — utilize it! SO many people follow specific hashtags and its a great way to get your content in front of new eyes.

Instagram has a max of 30 hashtags per post, but from everything I’ve read, the sweet spot is using 12-20 per post.

I personally place my hashtags in the first comment, but you can also put them directly in the caption as well. I’ve tried both and it didn’t make a difference with my engagement.

4. Tag authors and publishers.

Instagram gives us the ability to tag people in photos so if you are posting a photo with a book, you should 100% be tagging the author AND publisher. Again, it gives you more visibility as the image will now show up in their tagged photos!

Just a note: Please don’t tag authors in negative reviews or comments. You can tag the publishing house, but let’s leave the author out of it.

5. Post regularly and consistently.

This one is SO key and I have experience with how much NOT doing it, can impact you.

Instagram rewards those who spend time in the app and use it regularly. Instagram punishes those who don’t. That being said, if you want to grow your account, you need to be posting at least 4x/week, consistently every week.

In June 2020, I was not in a great headspace to be taking and posting photos. I decided I needed to take a step back and took a week off from posting. (Note: I was still liking other photos and posting on stories occasionally, but I didn’t post anything new to my feed.)

Prior to this break, I was consistently getting 30-40 new followers/ day. After my one-week break, I was getting 10-12/day. And even after consistently posting of 4-5x/week for 4+ weeks, I’m getting about 10-15 new followers/day.

See how Instagram punished me there? It’s like it forgot who I was and set me back to the very beginning.

So what did I learn from this lesson? Consistency is KEY and to plan ahead. Had I just had a few extra photos on hand to use for a rainy day, I could have completely avoided that set-back.

However, with that being said — don’t let Instagram run your life and if you need a break away, TAKE IT.

6. Use ALL of Instagram’s functionality.

Instagram creates tools for us because they WANT us to use them. Anytime they roll out a new functionality such as reels, polls, etc., it’s going to be to your benefit to use them.

I suggest posting 3-10 stories every day and having at least one with an engagement tool such as a question box, poll, link, etc.

And then use tools like Reels and/or videos at least once a week!

Why is this important? Instagram is all about rewarding engagement and screen time. The more engaged you can make someone and the longer you can keep them on the app, the more Insta will favor you.

7. Share other accounts.

This is a must for new accounts and is a great way to engage with others and get content for your stories!

Find accounts that you love and either share a screenshot of their entire feed or share a single post into your stories. Make sure to TAG THEM in the story or they will not see it.

This is great because not only are you supporting someone else, but they may also return the favor, therefore giving you more exposure!

“Follow Fridays” is a big thing in the bookstagram community so when I first started, I would share the feeds of 8-10 of my favorite accounts every Friday! It gave me broader exposure and helped me make new friends!

8. Be consistent with your imagery.

I could do an entire blog on just imagery (and trust me, I plan to) but just know that when you first start, your photos will not be perfect and that’s totally okay.

It usually takes people a while to figure out their feed’s theme and aesthetic, but I will say, those things DO matter so you will want to nail them down at some point. But to begin, just make sure there is some consistency in your photos in terms of lighting, location, editing, etc.

Some super quick bookstagram photo tips:

  • Shoot your photos during the day in natural light
  • Find a few props around your house and use them in your images (plants, eyeglasses, a sweater, etc.)
  • If you have an iphone, shoot on portrait mode
  • Practice editing, either via Instagram or a third-party app

9. Respond to comments.

Try and respond to comments as quickly as you can — usually within the first hour of posting. This is another good engagement trick that will boost your rankings with the Instagram God’s.

10. Participate in challenges and SFS’s.

These are both great ways to get yourself in front of new audiences and to engage with others. Let me explain each.

Challenges are hosted by various bookstagrammers and usually consist of you taking a photo of a book stack relating to a certain theme and hashtag. If you see someone hosting a challenge, join in! That way, the host and anyone else searching for that hashtag will see the photo.

An SFS is a Shoutout for Shoutout session. These are usually hosted by a small group of 4-6 bookstagrammers. Each SFS has different rules that will be listed in the post caption, but usually, it just requires you to follow each host, share a photo of their feed to your story, tag them, and that’s it! Once the SFS session ends (they usually last anywhere from 3-7 days) each host will return the favor of sharing your feed to their story as well!

11. Be genuine.

It may sound obvious, but it’s so important. There are a lot of people on bookstagram that are solely there for the follows. And I will tell you right now, we are a tight-knit group and we know when people aren’t being authentic. We see the people that follow, just to get a follow back and then immediately unfollow. Don’t be one of those people.

95% of the people on bookstagram are there because we are looking to build honest, genuine connections with other passionate readers.

It’s one of the most welcoming, supportive communities that I have ever been a part of and I would LOVE to have you be a part of it as well, but just make sure you are doing it for the right reasons.

Bookstagram 101: What’s Next?

My bookstagram series will be continuing with a few more posts regarding imagery and editing, lingo, algorithm tips and tricks, and anything else that you guys want to know about!

If there’s something in particular that you’d like me to cover, leave a comment below and let me know!

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