27 days ago, I thought of doing a small personal experiment to find out what it was like to emulate or mimic social media influencers.
The idea was a bit fuzzy at that time, but it started when I discovered Facebook had this new feature called “sets.” It’s similar to Google+ or Pinterest where you’d have a dedicated timeline or newsfeed for any topic you’re interested in. I created a set for books and a set for stationery on my Facebook account.
I discovered the #bookstagram community on Instagram around the same time I tinkered with Facebook sets. Charlie Edwards-Freshwater of @bookboy is the first one I discovered, and I fell head-over-heels in love with his book collection! 😍
Many other Instagram book collectors like Jen of @bluestockingbookshelf and Maria of @booksugar like sparked this rekindled love and excitement for beautifully made and written books that I wanted to see if I—someone with no design experience, no social media presence, and no flat lay aesthetic—could be a part of it too.
I wanted to see if I could establish my presence if I followed what the popular bookstagrammers were doing. It looked so much fun, and felt like a great motivation to build a library I can call my own and share with future generations of Chua-Gonzaga readers. 📚
For this entire month, I focused on visual-centric social media platforms Instagram and Facebook, leaving my Twitter feed untouched. Here’s what transpired and what I learned:
The background of the experiment
These are my objectives:
- Post more frequently on Instagram and to my respective Facebook sets
- Pay more attention to how each photo looks and reads (e.g. lighting, flat lay design, caption content)
- Reach out to the different popular bookstagram peeps and make friends
What I wanted to see after the experiment:
- How many posts was I able to share on Instagram and Facebook?
- Did I gain more active followers or see an increase in friend activity? For example, did more people comment on my social media posts? Did my follower count increase?
- Did posting frequently about my book and stationery collections make me a happier person?
The results of the experiment
In total I shared 13 posts to my Books set and 6 posts to my Stationery set on Facebook. Facebook friends are automatically added as followers when I create a set, and to this day both sets have 0 followers. My guess is this means nobody opted to get notifications of new posts I share in these sets.
On Instagram, I originally had about 230-240 followers, most of which are friends I added to my Facebook account. As of this writing, I have just 277 followers and shared 15 posts tagged with the #bookstagram hashtag.
The first thing I realized is the level of interaction or activity didn’t move the needle for me.
In the case of Facebook, I shared photos of new books, and a small group of books that I wanted to sell to interested people. Only the latter got the most responses from people, which makes sense because they’re getting something from that post, which is the opportunity to buy my books for less. The other posts only got 1-5 likes, 0-5 comments, and 0 re-shares.
Overall, there was very little engagement, and perhaps barely any interest, which is weird because I have Facebook friends who graduated with Literature degrees, who collect and read books. Questions I have:
- Were my Facebook friends too busy with everything else in their timelines to bother interacting with a post about a book?
- Were my Facebook friends too busy with their day-to-day activities (e.g. work, chores, school) that they simply moved from post to post?
- Were my Facebook posts badly done design-wise or were they not engaging enough to get people to react to them?
Instagram is just as much a ghost town as Facebook. I had more tools to beautify my photos and the book-related hastags to get them in front of people who follow and engage with that community, but barely anybody engaged with me on the platform.
My follower count increased by 10-20 followers, and perhaps these are people who follow book-related posts, but they didn’t engage with me either. But because I had more access to bookstagram posts and I could view them collectively on Instagram, I saw that my posts lacked two main things:
- Design – posts that got an average of 600-1.5k likes were those that had vibrant and colorful backgrounds, creativity, and lots of accessories that complement the subject of the photo. Because of a lack of resources and a well-lit space, my photos only used plain-colored backgrounds and had no accessories to go with the book, and this obviously contrasted the former and left my posts under their shadow.
- Frequency and substance – since I relied on sunlight for a good photo + I had work, I missed to post for a few days because of bad weather or a hectic and stressful day. More importantly, my photos were just about me gushing over books, while other bookstagram influencers asked questions, talked about their experiences or thoughts related to the book, interesting tidbits about a particular edition or translation, and the like.
Finally, did any of this stuff make me a happier person?
I love talking and sharing about books and stationery online and offline. But, in general, I’m usually quiet on social media, and perhaps this has a lot to do with age or my personal preference for the blog as a platform.
That said, posting more frequently on social media was quite tiring where it felt like I had to go over a tall and long slope before I could start a meaningful conversation with anyone in the community.
The biggest lesson that I learned though was I would never be happy with social media if I set out to use it with the wrong expectations. The whole thing was a humbling experience where I called myself out for posting simply for showing off.
I couldn’t expect people to just fan the flames of my excitement over a new book. And if I’m to be honest with myself, I care more about having a good story to read; collecting beautiful and rare books; sharing my thoughts and experiences about a story or a poem or a novel; and spreading the passion and love for literature, and these things I should’ve reflected in my posts.
The small numbers were a clear indication that people don’t really care for photos that didn’t wow them, that didn’t inspire or engage them, and that didn’t show any creative effort on my part. Megan of @biblio.curator had a more minimal aesthetic compared to the rest, and she still won people over because there’s effort involved in creating a beautiful book photo. You can also see from her other posts that she has a consistent style that’s recognizable within such a big community.
I’d like to continue contributing to the book-loving community on social media, but I’m doing so with content that I can be proud of and that means a lot to me. Less worrying about the numbers, more about sharing what I love and what I’m excited about.