Posted in Blogging & Social Media

Bookstagram: 5 Things I’ve Learned

If you’re following along with me here at The Biblio Blonde, then you’re probably a Book Person.  Book People are a special subset of humans.  Not sure if you qualify?  Ask yourself the following questions:

  • Do I often have a book (or at least a loaded e-reader app) with me everywhere I go?
  • Have I ever turned down social plans to stay home and read?
  • Are my friends and family stunned at how often I visit the library or bookstore?
  • Do I get giddy over pictures of beautiful books and overflowing shelves?
  • Is my favorite place on earth a comfy sofa or chair, with a blanket, mug, and book?

If any of those apply to you… well, you know the drill.  Of course you’re a Book Person!

We Book People love to discover great new titles, and to meet others who love a good story as much as we do.  And one of the best places I’ve found to meet those new friends is Instagram.

Surprised?  I was too at first.  But within Instagram is a close-knit community of readers, affectionately referred to as #BOOKSTAGRAM.

 

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One of my favorite Bookstagram photos, featured on my account, @the.biblio.blonde

 

A Bookstagram account is shorthand for an Instagram account dedicated to featuring books.  This might mean pictures of your shelves, your piles of books to be read, or a beautiful scene with you, a book, your porch, and a glass of wine… the options are limitless, and there are some *incredibly* creative souls in this community that take the most gorgeous photos!

I’ve been on Bookstagram for a while now (come find my feed here), and I’ve discovered a few things about the community that I want to share with you!

 

 

Five Lessons I’ve Learned About Bookstagram

 

1:  Bookstagram is about more than just photos!

The very essence of Instagram, of course, is the photos… that’s what sets it apart from many other social media platforms.  So it would stand to reason that Bookstagram is all about the book photos.

Well… it is.  But it is SO much more than that!  Your Bookstagram photos are your foundation.  Your calling card.  It’s why people take a look at your account in the first place, and the photos need to be good to get traffic and viewers.  (Not necessarily good as in, professional level with layers of detail… but interesting, clear, and relatable.)

But once you have that base of photos in place, the real heart of Bookstagram lies in the interaction with the community.  Groups are formed as people chat or challenge one another in the direct message feature.  Readers and bloggers feature a book they just finished in the photo, then share mini reviews and thoughts in the caption.  People host giveaways for books or gift cards, and hashtags are used for themes and events.  And if you need a new recommendation for a great read?  These people have more than you ever knew you wanted!

Bookstagram is a place to find not only new books, but great new friends.

 

2:  Build relationships, not numbers!

If you’ve spent any time on Instagram, you’re probably familiar with the follow/unfollow game.  We all hate it, but it still happens when people are more concerned with gathering followers, than with actually engaging the followers they have.

Don’t follow someone on Instagram if you’re just doing it to get them to follow you back.  Even if someone follows you, don’t automatically follow back if you’re just not interested in their content.  (I know some people do that, but I haven’t found it to be effective.)  Be genuine and authentic.

And, once you follow someone, interact with them!  Don’t just scroll through liking all the photos and never taking the time to comment or converse.  No, you can’t engage with every photo that comes through your feed.  But read the captions.  Answer questions that are asked.  And if you particularly love a thought or a picture, say so.  Not just because you want them to follow you back (although that often happens), but because that’s how you actually build community.

 

3:  You don’t have to break the bank.

When I first started exploring Bookstagram, I was overwhelmed at some of the photos I saw.  Don’t get me wrong, they were gorgeous.  But a few of them made me think I couldn’t possibly create a beautiful account like that… they were so detailed, so planned out, so… extra, as I think the kids are saying these days.  And it appeared that the people behind these accounts had bought truckloads of books, props, and decorative items to achieve the look.

It’s true that perhaps some do buy everything under the sun to make lovely flatlays and scenes.  But trust me, it is not necessary to break the bank or go on a spending spree to showcase great Bookstagram photos.

Some of the best photos I’ve seen are as simple as someone holding a book with park scenery in the background.  Or a stack of books you already own arranged in an interesting way.  People post pictures of their own books, library books, e-readers, and more.  And while it’s true that it helps to have some props or items of interest in photos, you don’t have to spend a fortune.  Look around your place and see what you have that will work.  Candles, your glasses, a favorite mug with a hot beverage, soft blankets, pop culture items… all of these can add interest and variety to your photo!

 

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Another one of my favorites… just the book on my iPad, with my glasses, and a tray, candle, and little flower that I already owned.  And great afternoon sun!

 

4:  Photo editing is your friend!

Remember when I said your photos need to be good enough to make others want to browse your account in the first place?  Blurry pictures, shots with too wide a frame where you can’t see details of the book, or cluttered photos with no theme?  Those aren’t what you want to post here.

Most Bookstagrammers don’t use a fancy camera with a lighting studio and expert level software.  I’m sure some do.  Personally, I wouldn’t know what to do with most of that!  I take the vast majority of photos with my iPhone, and set up in the best background and lighting I can manage.  Then, I edit, using basic tools like PhotoGrid, the filters and adjustments right on Instagram, and the basics of the photo app on iOS.  Crop, adjust the lighting, add a filter… if you want, sometimes add a frame or a special effect.

It’s pretty simple, but those few extra steps often make the difference between an okay photo and an eye catching one.

 

5:  This is an AMAZING community!

Are you a blogger who wants a place to share more book photos?  Don’t have a blog and don’t want one, but just like to talk books and look at the pretty pictures?  Read a couple books a month and want more ideas?  Read ten books a month, have a huge following, and read every hot new title as soon as it’s out (or before)?  Doesn’t matter… everyone is welcome on Bookstagram.

In the last month alone, I have participated in fun story games, joined a private group focused on accountability to check off our reads from Net Galley (a provider of advance reading titles for reviewers), met some great new people, and for better or for worse, added to my TBR pile like CRAZY!  I have met people that I count among my friends… we can chat about nothing, vent about something, ask for recommendations, share content, and a whole lot more.

It’s just plain fun.  And I can’t really think of a better reason than that to participate!

 

So, how do you find this great community and all these amazing readers?  It’s easy, but you have to know the passwords… or in this case, the hashtags!

The key is to use hashtags to discover other Bookstagrammers… add them to posts you make, and search them to find others to follow.  I won’t go into this too much, but some good ones to start with are #bookblogger, #readinglife, and of course, #bookstagram!  Some people just convert their current IG account into a Bookstagram account, and some start a fresh account from scratch that is dedicated to all things books!

 

 

What do you think, friends?  Are you on Instagram, and do you have a Bookstagram account?  Have you found it to be an amazing community?  And, if I were to do more posts on Bookstagram with more tips, hashtags, featured accounts, and the like, would you be interested in reading and sharing those?  Let me know in the comments!

I hope your week is off to a fantastic start, everyone…. happy reading!!

 

 

Posted in Blogger Resources, Blogging & Social Media

3 Great Resources for Bloggers!

Hello, friends!  September has been a busy month at our house… the activities keep coming, but I’m thankful to be enjoying them in some great fall weather! I’ve been reading and I’m working on a couple of new Book Notes posts.

Today, I wanted to take a shot at answering one of the biggest questions asked by people just starting a blog (or trying to grow their sites!):  What resources are out there to help me?

Well… how much time do you have?  Seriously, there are options galore!  But that’s hard too, because how do you sort through everything available to find a few that will give you the most benefit?

That’s where this post comes in!  I won’t pretend to be an expert on every possible tool that exists.  But I can provide you with a closer look at a few that you may find helpful.  And each resource I’m featuring is something I have tried or used myself!

So let’s get started, and find your new favorite blogging tool!

 

Canva

As a new or potential blogger, you probably wonder how everyone makes such cool graphics: pins for Pinterest or headers for Twitter.  Different options exist for this, but the one I started with, and have stuck with, is Canva.

This website allows you to choose a product to design… you can select from Pinterest Graphics, Instagram posts, email headers, flyers, and so much more! You can use a pre-designed template or design something entirely from scratch.

The best part? Canva is *free* to use! There are some templates and upgrades that you can purchase for a small fee, and there is a paid professional version.  I’ve been able to stick with only the no-cost options so far, and have been able to design pretty much everything I need!  My favorite thing is how easy it is to create for Pinterest!

 

 

Three Very "Cozy" Reasons to Look Forward to September 25th!
Designed in Canva, for Pinterest! What a snap!

 

 

Grammarly

As a writer, even if you feel confident in your writing and grammar skills, it’s always good to have an extra layer of proofreading before you click ‘Publish’ on your posts!  I’ve found Grammarly to be a tool that really fits the bill for me.

Grammarly is an award-winning tool that makes it easy to integrate the service into your writing.  You download Grammarly to the web browser you use to create your blog posts, and it works right on the page as you type.  In fact, as I’m writing this post, I see a little green arrow working in the bottom corner of my screen, letting me know it’s checking my work for typos, poor grammar, or punctuation errors.  And for anything else you do on that browser, it’ll do the same.

I’ve been using the free Grammarly account and have found it really helpful.  Grammarly also offers a more in-depth premium service, if you want to step it up a notch, or just want that extra layer of assistance.  You can sign up for the free service or try out the premium account right here! (Affiliate link)

 

Pexels

If you’re a blogger who’s also really into photography, you may not have any need for stock photos of various scenes and topics.  For all the rest of us… or if you just want to have some additional options for gorgeous pics… read on!

I know that while I enjoy taking pictures, I have neither the time nor the skill to create lovely photos for everything I want to post! Thankfully, sites exist which offer stock photos for you to use in your blog posts and social media accounts.  Many of these sites offer free photos that you can use even for business purposes!

The site I use the most for my free stock photos is Pexels.  There are *boatloads* of amazing photos on this site that you can use personally or commercially.  Here on The Biblio Blonde, if I haven’t taken a photo myself, there’s a good chance that I found it on Pexels.  Like this one:

 

 

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Just one of the many great photos you can find on Pexels!

 

 

So, in creating or growing your blog, or even if you’re an established blogger looking for ways to make your life easier, these are just three of the many resources available to you! They enhance your site and make your life so much easier!

Bloggers, what other resources have you found that you *never* hesitate to recommend to your blogging friends? Comment below so we can share the wealth!!

Until next time… Happy Reading!!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Posted in Blogging & Social Media

New Blog? Here Are the Next 5 Steps to Take for Success!

Congratulations!  You’ve just launched your new blog!  So… now what?

If you’re a new blogger, you may be wondering what to do once you actually get the blog set up.  Here are the next five steps you can take to set yourself on a path to success.

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Getting started is the first step to MAKING IT HAPPEN! What’s next?

1.  Decide on your niche.  It’s your blog, and you can talk about anything you want!  But if your first three posts are a brownie recipe, a review of a TV show, and a how-to on changing your own oil, it might be a little confusing to determine your target audience!  Your niche can be as broad or narrow as you like, but there should be some sort of theme.  Otherwise, how will readers know if they want to follow you or subscribe?

Now… if you’re writing your blog for your own personal satisfaction, or for your family, and you don’t care whether anyone else ever reads it, then the sky is the limit!  But if you’re hoping to gain a following, or possibly even monetize your blog down the road, a niche will help you settle into your own corner of the blogging world.

2.  Choose your social media platforms and set up accounts.  Social media is big business, and if you’re a blogger looking for an audience, you want a piece of it! With so many platforms, how do you decide which ones, and how many accounts to use?

My personal opinion: Select two or three platforms to start out. One I would definitely recommend is Twitter. One of the biggest surprises when I started my website was how HUGE the writing and blogging community is on Twitter. I’ve found a lot of other bloggers to follow, and they have been so helpful in networking, sharing one another’s work, and offering support.

Aside from that, choose another account or two that best fits your niche. (That’s why choosing your niche was step one!) For example, if you’re blogging about local interests or activities, you might want to get on Facebook to follow and interact easily with other local organizations. If your blog will be heavy on photography, that would translate well to Instagram. An account on Goodreads is the perfect fit for a book blogger, while Pinterest is great for all types of bloggers, and another one I would highly recommend you explore. (Want the rundown on Pinterest for bloggers? I wrote about it here!)

There are options for everyone! You can always add more later, but if you can focus on just a couple of accounts at first, you can build a good base while not spreading your attention too thin… otherwise you could literally spend all your time on your social media accounts instead of actually blogging!

3.  Write your first post! Already done?  Write another one!   The best way to build your blog is to get in the trenches and write.  Most of us, immediately upon setting up a blog, will write some sort of welcome post. That’s a great start, but the more content you get up on the site, the more people can read on their very first visit. And you know what they say about first impressions! In your very first week, if you can get another post or two written and published, you’ll be ahead of the game!

Now, even though we were talking about finding a niche… it doesn’t mean all of your posts should be exactly the same!  For example, I’m primarily a book blogger.  But in addition to writing reviews, I post lists of books, share posts from others, and write about blogging and social media… like this post!  So don’t be afraid to mix it up a little to keep things interesting!

4.  Network with and support other bloggers.  Blogging, above all else, is a social activity.  When you take the time to connect with others who are in the trenches with you, it’s good for everyone.  Bloggers who network learn from one another, promote one another’s work, and offer support on the days you want to throw in the towel.  (You just started, and the blogging world is shiny and new, but those days will likely come at some point!)

Find other bloggers on the social media accounts you’ve set up. Share your new blog with your friends and family and see what other blogs they enjoy reading. Read, comment, and follow when you find a new blog you enjoy. All of these activities will help you build connections.

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We’re all in this together… build connections with other bloggers!

5.  Build some margin and balance into your life.  Blogging can be exhilarating and addictive.  It can also be draining and exhausting, mainly because you’re the only one setting limits on yourself.

When you’re first starting, it’s easy to throw every moment of your free time at this new project, especially when you see so many bloggers posting like crazy.  Do yourself a favor: don’t.  Yes, you’re going to have to spend a substantial amount of time on your blog to achieve success, whatever success looks like for you.  But make time for other things.  Keep reading good books.  Keep going out with friends and participating in social activities. And whatever you do, keep sleeping.  Don’t stay up until 3:00 or 4:00 in the morning trying to perfect a blog post.  Too often.  Not that I know anyone who’s done that…

Stay social and stay healthy.  Balance is key!

As a semi-new blogger myself, I know all the ups and downs you’re going through.  Take a deep breath.  And welcome to the blogging world… you’re gonna love it here!!

Want a few more tips?  Try this:  New Blogger Insights: 3 Things I’ve Learned in My First 3 Months!

Readers, what do you think… what’s your best “next step” for a new blogger?

Posted in Blogging & Social Media

Pinterest: A Horse of a Different Color!

You know what I love?  Really quotable movies.  There are just some films that have one-liners for days… so much that often, you can quote one line and everyone knows exactly what movie you’re talking about.  Such as…

“Life is like a box of chocolates.  You never know what you’re gonna get.”

“I feel the need — the need for speed!”

“May the force be with you!”

“Toto, I have a feeling we’re not in Kansas anymore.”

See, you know most of those, right?  (Just in case you need a serious movie education, go watch Forrest Gump, Top Gun, Star Wars, and The Wizard of Oz.  Go ahead, we’ll wait.)

Well, there’s another quote from that last movie that I really like:

“That’s a horse of a different color!”

The guard says this to Dorothy and her friends when he realizes that she has the ruby slippers, and did indeed kill the Witch of the East with her house.  In other words, it’s a more… ahem… *colorful* way to say, “that’s an entirely different story!”  And just because it’s Oz… there really was a horse of a different color.  Like five colors, I think.  Here’s one:

 

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DEFINITELY not in Kansas anymore.

 

So obviously, a horse of a different color is something that’s *different* from all the rest.  Which brings me to the point of this post… yes, I promise one exists!

In the world of social media, Pinterest is (wait for it)… a horse of a different color!

See, Facebook, Instagram, even Twitter… they all depend on a person having followers and making connections person to person or page to page.  Pinterest isn’t really like that.  Sure, two people can follow one another on there.  But it’s much more, because…

Pinterest isn’t really social media.  It’s an enormous, sophisticated search engine!  (Click to Tweet!)

With Pinterest, even people who don’t “follow” you or any of your boards have the potential to see your pins.  The secret is that people often search for the content they want.  For example, maybe Sally is searching for links and infographics about budgeting tips.  Well, if you blog about budget tips, you need to get your content in front of Sally and everyone else who wants to find the same thing.  The catch is that you have to set up your pins to make them easier to find!

If you are a blogger, Pinterest is an unsung hero that can drive a lot of traffic to your site.  But if you’re just pinning an image to your personal board, hoping that your followers will pick up on it, you’re not tapping the platform’s true potential!  First, let’s look at some numbers…

Pinterest has over *50 billion* total pins, and each month it sees  *175 million* users.  It has over a billion different boards set up.  (Source here; all numbers as of January 2018)

Let those numbers sink in for a minute.  Through Pinterest, you have literally millions of people waiting to see what you have to offer.  Now, not everyone may be interested in your particular content, but that still leaves a boatload of potential readers.

So, the upside to those numbers is that you have a huge audience waiting for you.  Is there a downside?  Maybe… because with that many pins and that many boards, you have to be smart and savvy to get YOUR pins noticed!

I’ve been playing with Pinterest and scouring for tips over the past few weeks. Read on for a few helpful tips on how to maximize your Pinterest presence, and links to a few other great posts that I found helpful!

 

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Time to change how you think of Pinterest! (Photo from Pexels.com)

 

1.  Give your pins some punch!  Not every image will get noticed in a field of millions.  If you’re posting a small, grainy picture with a one-word caption, most people won’t notice it — and if they do, they’ll likely bypass it for something more visually appealing!

There are two components to a good pin: the image and the caption.  For the image, you want to have not only a visually appealing picture, but also a properly sized one.  You want something taller than it is wide.  Here are a couple of examples from my own pins:

This…

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Summer Book Review Roundup

 

Compared to this…

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Book Notes: Heart Land

 

You’ll notice the second image is much more prominent, and that’s what you want so your pin doesn’t get swallowed up in someone’s feed.  (The first pin is one I did before doing research and finding all the great tips.  Needless to say, it didn’t get repins!)

The second component is the caption.  You do not want to leave this blank or put something non-specific like “Take a look!” in this valuable space.  You want something that entices a reader to click and includes some specific search terms that apply to the pin.

For example, let’s go back to our friend Sally who’s searching for budgeting tips.  If you have a great post but caption it “Great money post!” will Sally see it?  Maybe, but not likely depending on her search.  Instead, if you caption your post “10 Ways to Get Your Budget Under Control – tips for every household! #frugalliving #budgeting” …. well, you’ve just substantially increased the chances that your post will show up in Sally’s search *and* that she’ll save it or click on it.  Why?  First, a descriptive title that tells you you’ll get a specific number of tips is helpful and appealing.  Also, there are several keywords plus hashtags in the caption, meaning anyone who searches for budget, budgeting, budget tips, or frugal living might have a chance to see this post!  (Now, your post still may not be as likely to show up as a veteran pinner with tons of repins… I won’t get into all the dynamics of that.  But the key is maximizing the chances that YOUR pins will get seen.)

 

2.  Post at the right time!  Pinterest moves fast, so you want to be posting your content when others are most active.  In the US, that time tends to be from mid-afternoon through the evening.  So if you’re free and can regularly dedicate a few minutes to posting during that timeframe, that’s exactly what you should do!  If not, many bloggers are big advocates of a scheduling program like Tailwind to schedule posts for you.  I’m not currently using any such program, but it’s something I may look into down the road.

Also, post frequently!  Don’t pin several things this afternoon, then not come back for two weeks.  People look for regular, relevant content when deciding who to follow or whose pins they find most appealing.  By posting frequently, other pinners will start to recognize your account and be more interested in your content!

 

3.  Location, location, location!  Long known as words of wisdom in real estate, it applies here too! A big part of whether your pins get noticed is where you post them.

If you’re starting out and don’t have a lot of followers, it’s less likely that your pins will show up for someone else to see.  So in addition to making your pin the best it can be, you need to find some prime real estate to advertise it.  Enter Pinterest group boards.

If a personal Pinterest board is like a bulletin board you have up in your own office, group boards are like giant community bulletin boards.  Lots of people post there, and in return they take the other information they find.  Finding relevant group boards will get your pins in front of a much larger audience.

Once more, let’s go back to Sally and her quest for budgeting tips.  Let’s say you’ve written a great post and create a pin with all the right aspects.  But when pin it to your board called “My Posts” that only has ten followers… will Sally will see your post?  Odds aren’t good.  Instead, if you post it to a board of your own called “Frugal Living Advice” *and* over time post it to a couple of relevant group boards… well, it’s much more likely that either Sally will follow one of the group boards and see it, or that another member of these boards will repin it and allow Sally and a bunch of others to find it and reap the benefits of your sage advice.

 

Whew!  It’s a lot to think about at first, isn’t it?  And I’ve barely scratched the surface.  But if you can implement just a few of these tweaks when you use Pinterest, you will start seeing the difference.

One more bonus tip… as a blogger, you can sign up for a business account on Pinterest that will give you access to analytics that show you which of your pins are most popular, how many people are seeing certain types of pins, and more.  Here’s a link to the Pinterest help center that will provide the simple steps you can take to make the switch — it literally only takes a minute!

 

Finally, if you want more information, here are a couple more write ups that I found helpful when I was starting to learn all this!

Tricia at Blog Her Way has a great post on Pinterest Best Practices for 2018.  It is chock full of helpful information!

Allison at Wonderlass has a massive list of 28 Pinterest Tips that she’s used to grow her blog in a big way!  (Don’t try to implement them all today!)

Finally, Terryn at Just a Simple Home has put together an Ultimate List of Pinterest Group Boards to get you started on finding a couple to test the waters.  There are tons of these lists out there, so if you want more ideas, do a search on Pinterest (where else?) for group boards (your niche)… for example, I might search: group boards blogging.

 

So what do you think?  Are you trying any of these strategies and getting good results?  What’s the best Pinterest tip you’ve found, and what are your favorite group boards?  Join in the conversation in the comments.

Thanks for reading and sharing this post… and after you make some headway on this Pinterest thing, go back up to the movie list and settle in with one.  It’s the weekend, after all!  Happy reading!!