Welcome back to The Ultimate Guide to Book Blogging! If you’ve never been here before you can catch up on previous posts in the series here.
Of all the topics covered in The Ultimate Guide to Book Blogging, Instagram is the one I have the least amount of experience with. I only started posting to Instagram regularly about a year ago and it’s been mere months since I began to take it seriously. That said, I’ve learned quite a lot since then, so if you’re new to Instagram and trying to figure out how to make the most of it, hopefully I can impart some information that you will find useful.
Why Use Instagram?
Instagram is one of those social media platforms that that doesn’t seem to have any definitive purpose, aside from satisfying millennial narcissism and the ever increasing need for visual stimulation. Most bloggers agree that it’s not a substantial source of incoming traffic (unless you have thousands of followers). In the last month, I have received exactly zero visits to my blog from Instagram. So what’s the advantage? Why should you invest your time in Instagram?
Much has been written about how to use Instagram to drive traffic to your blog, but I think you should look at Instagram as less of an extension of your blog and more as an enterprise in its own right. If you can build a substantial Instagram following, then you can monetize your account. I have seen a number of Bookstagrammers (Instagram users of a literary persuasion) partner with publishers, subscription box companies, etc., and I think this can be quite profitable. The key is to build a sizable audience so that companies will see the benefit of advertising with you.
4 Steps to the Perfect Photo
The first step to building a popular Instagram account is to take great photos. Here’s a four-step guide to achieving your perfect shot.
Step 1: Plan Your Shot
First you have to figure out how you’re going to frame your shot. There is no wrong way to do this. As long as the result is aesthetically pleasing, you can and should be as creative as you want.
Start thinking like a photographer. What do you want to use as your background? Where do you want the focus of your photo to be? Use everyday objects to add interesting features to your shot. Something may look ordinary and boring to you, but to someone else it may seem interesting and novel.
Carefully plan the lighting of your shot. Short of professional studio lighting, natural light works best. I have two primary shooting locations–a small coffee table in the front of the house and the kitchen table in the back. I’ve found that the coffee table is exposed to just the right amount of light most mornings and the kitchen table is lit best in the afternoon. Experiment and see what works for you.
If you feel stuck, check out other bookish Instagram accounts for inspiration. Tomorrow I’m going to be posting a list of my twenty-five favorite Bookstagrammers along with some of their best photos, so be sure to come back and check it out.
Finally, try to create your own unique, cohesive aesthetic. Instagram accounts that use similar lighting, filters, backgrounds, and/or layouts for all their posts tend to perform better than those with a more eclectic approach. This is my greatest challenge, as I like to experiment and try new things, but it’s something I’m working on.
Step 2: Take the Photo
There’s a lot of debate about whether or not bloggers need DSLR cameras to take professional-looking photos. While there are advantages to having that sort of equipment (advanced lenses, better flash, etc.), I don’t think it’s necessary. iOS cameras have remarkably improved over the years and I think it’s entirely possible to take gorgeous photos without buying a $1,000+ piece of equipment. If you plan your shot right, you don’t need a home studio to achieve great results.
Be sure to take lots of pictures so you have plenty of options to work with when it’s time to edit.
Step 3: Edit Your Picture
As I said last week, I strongly recommend Photoshop for making graphics and editing photos. There are comparable free editing tools, but they’re just not as flexible.
Even with adequate natural or studio lighting, photos often need brightening. The best way to brighten a photo is to use the curves tool in Photoshop. Here’s a great tutorial on how to do that.
[bctt tweet=”A #BookBlogger’s Guide to Instagram: 4 Steps to the Perfect Photo + 66 #Bookstagram Hashtags | @parchmentgirl37″]
I also recommend adding a watermark to all your photos. That way if someone reposts your photo without properly crediting you, everyone will know whom it belongs to. I’m terrible at remembering to add a watermark to my photos–another area I need to improve on!
Step 4: Add (or Don’t Add) Filters
One of the wonderful features of Instagram is the fact that you can add an instant filter to your photos. Your photos may look great without a filter, in which case you should go ahead and post them as is, but if your photo needs a little bit of extra help, a filter can give it an instant boost.
Anatomy of an Instagram Post
There are four main components to a successful Instagram post.
- Photo: Notice how I used ordinary rocks to make the photo more interesting.
- Watermark: Notice how my watermark matches my blog logo.
- Caption: Tell your followers what they’re looking at and tag any relevant third parties. I recommend using a maximum of one hashtag in your caption.
- Hashtags: It’s super important to add hashtags to your posts. That’s how the majority of your future followers will find you. That said, adding a lot of hashtags to your caption looks spammy. Add them in a separate comment instead. You can add up to thirty hashtags in one comment.
66 Instagram Hashtags for Book Bloggers
#book #books #booksofinstagram #bookstagram #bookstagrammer #instabook #instareads #igreads #epicreads #booklife #biblio #bibliophile #read #reading #reader #readers #booklove #booklover #booklovers #bookish #ilovebooks #bookaholic #booklion #bookaddict #bookgeek #booknerd #booknerdigans #bookworm #totalbooknerd #bookphotography #bookporn #bookgasm #booksbooksbooks #bookstagramfeature #bookswag #bookfetish #becauseofreading #booksactually #readingforfun #readingforpleasure #readingforlife #dailybookpic #estellagram #booksonbooksonbooks #readingissexy #bookfetish #readingisawesome #booktastic #booksworthreading #booksareagirlsbestfriend #readinglist #bookswag #readingisfundamental #readingrainbow #currentlyreading #amreading #classicbooks #beautifulbooks #bookshelf #bookshelves #bookcase #newbook #goodbook #reviewbook #mybooks #goodreads
Also consider hashtagging the title, author, genre, publisher, and format of any books in the photo.
When & How Often to Post to Instagram
According to a study by Latergramme, the best times to post to Instagram are 2am and 5pm EST. The worst times are 9am and 6pm. Wednesday is the best day to post, but not by a huge margin.
According to the social analytics firm Union Metrics, you can post every day without inundating your followers. The key is to post consistently. If you post every day for a week and then drop off for two weeks after that, you’ll lose followers. I post consistently every three days, and that’s worked out pretty well for me so far.
Unfortunately, there is no fully automated scheduling service for Instagram. Latergramme allows you to upload and schedule your photos ahead of time, but you still have to manually add a caption before your photo will post. You’ll also have to add your hashtag comment manually, and it’s best to do this immediately after posting.
With a little time and effort, Instagram can become a profitable adjunct to your blog. It’s also a great opportunity to work on your photography skills and hone your artistic eye.
Questions? Leave them in the comments below!
Check out The Ultimate Guide to Book Blogging for more tips and tricks on how to become a book blogging wiz!