This post was updated 17/06/2020.
I’ve read a fair amount of posts about why it’s tough to grow as a bookstagrammer recently, especially from YA and book bloggers. The same themes seem to pop up again and again. These include lack of books, props, equipment and followers, but the truth is, as with anything, you can succeed without all those elements if you want to. However there is some truth in the growth debate. The algorithm is tougher these days yet certain accounts continue to flourish despite this. In this post, I thought I’d list some of ways that you can get around perceived Bookstagram myths and buck the trend.
Myth 1:You need an expensive camera for Bookstagram
This is one of the biggest Bookstagram myths on Instagram. We don’t have a camera and our photos have been featured by Instagram twice. At the moment, I’m using a Google Pixel 2 phone and before that had a Samsung. I very occasionally use my Fuji XT30 to take photos for our Instagram account, but I prefer the spontaneity of a phone. I also find that cameras are too instrusive when capturing shots of bookshops and libraries.
What I would recommend is to take some time to edit your photographs before posting to your Bookstagram account. I pay for an Adobe package which includes Lightroom and this has really improved my edits. But as long as you have a fairly recent camera phone, you can enhance your images hugely with free editing apps such as Snapseed.
Myth 2: The more followers, the faster the growth
Contrary to popular belief, having lots of followers isn’t always a good thing if you’re trying to grow. According to some, the exposure that your post receives on Instagram depends on the ratio of likes to followers in the first 30 minutes (this has since been denied by Instagram).
If you have lots of ghost followers (or bots) who don’t engage with your content, then this can put a dampener on your stats. One way around this is to block the bots (not always easy to spot) or to stick to a set schedule so that people know when you’re going to post. Avoid buying followers at all costs as these will most likely be silent witnesses and add nothing of value to your profile.
Myth 3: Brands only work with big accounts
Again, not always true. Publishers often work with small accounts because engagement is now key. The same goes for non-bookish companies. The combined amount of comments and likes on your page count for more than follower numbers. This is because Instagrammers can easily buy followers who often have no real interest in the page itself. If you have a small following then it’s more likely that you’ll be able to interact with more your community on genuine level.
However, if you have under 3K followers, you’ll probably receive products rather than pay though. I’ve written about this in more detail on my bookstagram influencing post.
Myth 4: A shout out from a big bookstagrammer will boost your numbers
Of all the Bookstagram myths, this one is probably closest to the truth. If you receive a shout out from a large account then it might help you to gain more followers, but it’s not guaranteed. It really depends on the quality of your content. If you’ve taken lots of pictures in bad light, dashed off brief captions or not engaged then even backing from a well-known name won’t make much of an impact. It’s better to focus on creating fantastic words and pictures rather than hoping for a one-off lottery win.
Myth 5: Having the Instagram Swipe Up Option (10K + followers) will lead to hundreds of website hits
I haven’t conducted extensive research on this so I can’t say for sure, but our own experience of having the Instagram swipe up option in stories has been negligible. I’ve also come across other much bigger accounts who have encountered the same. Before we crossed the 10K line a few months ago, I hoped that the Instagram swipe up feature would make a difference, but the truth is that this function has been pretty disappointing.
What I suspect though is that this works in very much the same way as any other link. People are only going to swipe up if they’re sufficiently intrigued. It’s well know that Instagram prefers to keep followers on the platform so your hooks have to be very catchy indeed to entice people away.
As I mentioned at the beginning though, even the biggest accounts are finding it more of a struggle to grow these days so the best approach is to post on Bookstagram because you enjoy it. Take pleasure in the bookish chat and community. And if the aesthetic side appeals to you then that’s an added bonus. I listed 7 factors that encourage me to follow people back a while ago if you’re interested in finding out about what makes me commit, but I realise everyone’s different. At the end of the day, no one can predict who will fly and who will remain static. Just keep on showing up, engaging and sharing your passion. The results may not be immediate but you’ll gain new skills and friends – both of which are far more important than headcounts in the long run.