Buying into Bookstagram: The pressure to purchase props?

 

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Hello again bookworms!

A couple of posts ago, we discussed the dreaded new Instagram algorithm and the detrimental effects it has been suggested to have, towards small accounts. We talked about how Instagram has no immediate plans to reverse or change the algorithm, believing that it works better now ,and so we therefore considered some of the actions we could take to work with it rather than against it . (If you haven’t seen the post, just scroll down to find it.)

 

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Today I’m back to talk some more about Bookstagram- our own little book nook where we readers can share our love of reading with each other, and pass on reviews and recommendations, whilst building friendships and joining in discussions with other book lovers. I specifically want to address another issue that’s been bothering me, and see if you think it affects you too.

 

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I’m talking about the pressure to purchase and how easy it is to overspend.

How our pursuit for perfection in our daily posts, can create a pressure to constantly buy.

Buy more books, buy more book props, buy more book merchandise, basically: the pressure to spend, spend, spend!

Do you feel it?

I do. Or I did.AutumnFairytaleClips_0011_1

 

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In the beginning, I really enjoyed just sharing my love of books with other people and I’d happily display my latest read, with very little adornment. Perhaps I’d just add a tray, with a cup of tea on it, and take my photograph. That was good, and if I got the lighting right, I was more than happy to share it.

Then I discovered some fabulous apps. I became slightly more creative, and could not only lighten dull pictures, but could add some pretty cute effects too. It was fun. It was easy, and I felt more like I belonged in the Bookstagram community and was less like a newbie.

I wanted to post great pictures, and for them to be creative and interesting. And it was great fun… to begin with. I loved trying to think of new ways of showcasing my current reads. I remember that at first I would add fresh flowers to my pictures, and I liked how colorful it made them. It was quite some time before I realized that I could buy faux flowers and use them again and again!

 

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As my follower count slowly climbed up, and I became excited and wanted to make my feed as interesting as possible. I soon discovered all the lovely bookish merchandise, and thought that including more of those in my pictures, would make them more interesting and would  please my followers.

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It crept up on me slowly.

It began with candles. I was already quite the candle collector, with Yankee candles  So initially, I would included those in my posts, and I was happy with the result for a while. But they weren’t bookish. Everywhere I looked there were candles being designed for every genre. So many beautiful ones. They looked amazing on people’s’ feeds. So I started ordering a few myself.

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A few led to many, and many led to me subscribing to monthly candle subscription boxes, from just about every candle maker on IG! Oh they are all gorgeous, and I have never met a bookish candle that I didn’t like. I have nothing but respect for the wonderful small businesses that supply the scent’s to compliment our favorite book characters either. But did I really need twenty different Harry Potter themed candles? Are my fifteen Sarah J. Maas inspired character scents really necessary? for a long time, I truly believed with all my heart that they were.

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Then I discovered bookish subscription boxes. Oh my goodness, how wonderful! I believe I tried every one. I intended to try each one once and then only subscribe to one or two that were the best. Hmmmm. That didn’t quite work out for me. If I missed a month, and then watched an unboxing, I was devastated. I’m talking total FOMO here. I eventually found myself subscribed to seven book boxes and at least three candle subscription boxes each month. And yet I wondered where my money was going. These babies are at least thirty bucks for each box!

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One day it finally hit me. I was moving my little library from the small spare bedroom to the larger game room that we rarely used. Moving each book shelf, each book, each candle by myself, I couldn’t fail to see quite how much I’d collected. As I organized my new room, I set aside so many trinkets that I’d received in my subscription boxes, and the pile mounted and mounted, and I just didn’t know what to do with them.

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Even worse, as I carried in so many opened (and then promptly forgotten) subscription boxes, with books I still had not read, that I realised that it was the thrill of receiving the boxes that I was addicted to , rather than the goods inside them!

That was not what I set out to do, but somehow I lost my way.

That was many months ago, and I now only buy what I truly want. I still enjoy watching unboxings, but I’m not about to rush off and purchase every single one that I like. I’ll limit myself and I’ve found that I appreciate what I do buy, much more.

I’m baring my soul for a good reason. I don’t want you to fall into the trap that I did. It happened so slowly that I was barely aware of it. Don’t get me wrong. I’m not blaming the stores for creating products that they know we ‘need’ I take total responsibility for my own purchasing: nobody held a gun to my head. I was more than happy to pull the trigger myself. I got lost in the thrill of the chase.What began as a way to make my feed more interesting, became a spending spree for the latest bookish product!

But I’m afraid that if it can happen to me, it can also happen to the teenager who hasn’t the finances to support the spending. It can also happen to person who has an important bill to pay, but who really wants that bookish product because it looks sooooo lovely. Choose wisely guys. Learn from my mistakes.

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I know now that my friends and followers don’t care about the props that I use, they’re here for the books. They follow me because they share my love of books and want to discuss this mutual love with someone who ‘gets it’. My feed has evolved many times, over the last couple of years, and now I can honestly say that I am truly happy with what I share. I share what I love to read. It’s all about the books.

 

Instagram: Accepting the new Algorithm?

 

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Hi Bookworms!

Today I’m daring to dip my toes into some pretty dangerous waters- those of that touchy subject in the bookish community, namely the new algorithm and how it’s affecting us all on #bookstagram. In the next couple of weeks I’ll be talking about some of the highs and lows that we bookworms have experienced while feeding our addiction, and what we can do to keep our feeds relevant and entertaining.

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In today’s post I want to focus on what we can do about the new algorithm that we all love to hate; and later I’ll be sharing a post on the subject of how the #bookstagram addiction can easily run away with you if you’re not careful. So pop the kettle on (if you’re British) or crack open a soda (if you’re not) and snuggle down in a pile of bookish pillows mugfor a while because this is a long post.

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So… The algorithm. I don’t want to just moan. There’s been so much of that already. I’ve been churning this over in my mind for some time now about how it is affecting us and how we can head it off, and I think I’ve now gathered enough information to feel confident to finally comment about it.

 

Like many people, my feed was hit hard after the introduction of the new algorithm, as my follower count and likes first began to drop, and then levelled out but became pretty stagnant. When reading through the posts of the people I love to follow, time and again the algorithm was cited as being the cause of this, and so many ‘instafriends’ felt like they no longer wished to be part of this fabulous community, because their  posts were  going unrewarded with the likes  that they expected. I could see their point entirely. It sucked. After all their hard work to build up their feeds, it appeared that the rug had suddenly been pulled out from beneath them, and they had to start all over again.

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Along with feeling a little despondent like many of you, from time to time; I wondered what I could be doing wrong, and how I could remedy it. If it’s broke you fix it right? So I sat and pondered, how best I could approach the issue. I’ve been reading many articles from other unhappy ‘grammers’, and interviews with the Instagram staff, and what I’ve gleaned from it all is that we are basically stuck with the algorithm as it stands. Instagram seems to think that it works and they’re not in any rush to change it back again.

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So what can be done to work with this problem?

We need a solution.book girl glasses1

 

It breaks my heart to see some of my favorite feeds comment that they’re stepping away from the site because they’re not getting the interaction and growth that they are working so hard for.

So I’ve been closely monitoring the feeds that I love to follow, and also those that have huge growth in spite of the new algorithm and I’ve picked up a few clues that could help us to do the same.

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Firstly, the most obvious one is that the feeds that are making the best growth are those that are already well                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                established, and have follower counts in the tens of thousands. Because they are already so well established, many of them feature lots of different product endorsements  for companies that they may or may not love, and they in turn, are featured by those companies, which has a domino effect. Call it compounding. Unfortunately there’s not much we can do if we ourselves are late to the show, except to turn up everyday and keep trying. And of course we should continue to  pat our friends on the back for the success that they have achieved with their tenacity. After all, a rising sea lifts all boats.

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Secondly, we have the feeds that really pull out all the stops. Feeds that use photo shop and are extremely creative, are doing amazingly well. Flying books, miniature people in bottles, reading while hanging upside down from a tree, you name it! You have to applaud these guys.

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These feeds are so impressive! I love to see these pictures and I eagerly await each new photo just to see how astounding it will be. In short, the bar is being raised higher and higher every day. I realize that unless I make an effort to understand my photo shop software, I’m never going to be able to keep up. These feeds deserve all the likes and follows that they gain, because they make such a huge effort to entertain us. Many, many hours of set up and editing are invested before they post such impressive content.

Now let’s look at another tool that the most successful feeds use: their Instagram stories. Every successful feed that I’ve researched, posts an Instagram story on a daily basis- many post several times per day. I don’t know about you, but I love to see these glimpses of people’s lives. What’s going on behind the scenes? The irony is that we don’t REALLY want the full picture, but a candied version of the poster’s life. At heart we all love nosing into other peoples  windows at night.

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You don’t have to make yourself vulnerable in order to do this. We don’t need you to share EVERYTHING. You can pick and choose, but definitely give us SOMETHING. For example, I usually choose to post videos on my story of my picture set ups. I do this so that my followers can see close up details of what’s in the picture, that may not be prominent in the post. I tag everything that I can think of, but I leave out what I know my followers don’t want to see- all the mess behind me. Let’s face it, we say we want to see behind the scenes, but really we just want to lift the curtain just a little. We don’t really want to see that pile of books and props that are strewn around you. For goodness sake don’t break the spell! You can protest but you know deep down that it’s true.

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So, to sum up: Work harder, be more creative, and push yourself out of your comfort zone. Here’s a funny story: Yesterday I woke up with the most ridiculous thought- what if I posted about the book ‘Rumplestiltskin’ and photographed my messed up bed, with my hand holding the book, and captioned it : ‘Rumpled sheets Skin’  (oh my goodness, this obsession is really getting to me! ) I didn’t act on it, because after I’d woken up completely, I dismissed it with a laugh and got on with my day. THEN, later my instabuddy (the lovely @oasisgirlmd) posted a beautiful picture themed on the fairy tale of Rumplestiltskin, and I just HAD to tell her about my waking thoughts. She laughed too but thought I should definitely create the post. Maybe I should. Just to be ridiculous. Just to step out of my comfort zone and do something different. The truth is, do what you feel in your gut. It may work out, and if it doesn’t, then you can just hit that delete button.

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I haven’t mentioned interaction yet. This is very important. To me, this is the best part of the community. I love the friendships that I have made through Instagram, and being able to share my love of the written word with likeminded people. My real life friends and family unfortunately don’t share my love of everything bookish, so I have to contain myself around them, and then fangirl with my bookstagram buddies. slippers

 

New accounts especially need the love. We’ve all been there, so please get to know the newbies. Follow and comment and refer. Build each other up. We all started with a zero follower count and hoped that people would take a chance and follow us.

 

When scrolling through my feed each day (and sometimes several times per day- lets be honest) , I may have lots of time or my time may be limited. I ‘like’ the pictures and comment on as many as I can, enjoying being able to cozy up in my little world of books. Sometimes, I can only have time to post one word or a couple of emoji’s, but I’ve interacted and it means something. It’s impossible to see every new picture that is posted each day, but I try to see as many as possible. I scroll as many as I can, but when it’s time to leave and enter the real world, I try to like at least another ten pictures before I step away. Every little helps.

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Lately (doing my research) I’ve been checking who likes my pictures. It’s usually the usual suspects, with one or two new ones in between. Thanks guys, you know who you are!!! But so many people follow and never like. Why is that? It confuses me. I’m personally very trigger happy. I suggest you look into your own feed and see who regularly makes and effort to show love and who doesn’t. It’s quite an eye opener.

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Finally, and this is very important- acknowledge the comments. Please. You may not be able to answer everyone right away, but try. I’m just as guilty of giving late replies sometimes, when life gets busy; but I try to go through my feed later and respond to everyone. It’s my pet peeve when some of the accounts that I’ve been following for a couple of years and used to love, begin to grow and then stop replying to their followers. They post and ask a question but then never respond when we answer. They want the followers but not the work. Soon that will show in their numbers because nobody wants to be ignored. There’s two accounts that I follow that have become like this, and I have just stopped trying to interact with them, after making the effort for so long with no acknowledgement. I still love their content, but I know I’m wasting my time answering their questions because they won’t respond. It’s so sad.

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So there you are. Lets just end this on a positive note, You absolutely CAN continue to gain likes and followers, but you need to switch things up a little sometimes and put some effort into not only your own account, but in the effort that you make towards those whom you follow.

To sum up. In short, we can complain about the algorithm as much as we want but it isn’t going to change anytime soon. So we need to suck it up and play our best game, because the field is full of talent and we need to push ourselves harder and give it our very best shot- otherwise we’ll be benched, and that’s no fun, is it?.

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* Post more creative content,

*post more often,

* post regularly on your stories,

*comment on other people’s posts

*respond to comments made on our own posts

*support the newbies

*share a little of your world behind the scenes

*pull yourself out of your rut

*take creative risks

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I can’t wait to see what you do. Tag me please!

Lots of love, Sally

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

‘The Eye of the Storm’ (Or My Prayer for Manchester) by Sally Ford

 

 

 

GlitterPoppies_0015_2I’ve always loved to sit outside in the rain.

The torrential torrent or the tickle of a trickle,

It’s all the same to me.

Cleansing, refreshing, soothing;

Like a portable font to baptize the world,

God watches all.

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Last night we had our first storm of the year

Lightening flashing, clouds crashing;

Our house was locked up for the night,

But I was pulled outside.

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I stepped outdoors and lifted my face,

The heavens opened and blessed me

With a steady stream of tears…

Crying for Manchester, England.

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I closed my eyes and my tears mingled with Gods’,

I sent my prayers wrapped around the pieces of my fractured heart,

Thinking of the parents whose child had been lost,

The child whose parent had been lost;

The City whose faith was ricocheting in the wind,

Of the helpers, (‘Always focus on the helpers!’) who opened their doors and their hearts’ to the lost and the lame.

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Crickets sang, and the sky danced in time with them,

Rain bounced off the floor and poured through gutters.

The distant hum of traffic that I tuned in and then out,

But mostly the sound of nature: pure beautiful, raw nature,

I wanted to sit and wash away the sins of the world,

Standing in the peaceful yard, of my comfortable home, four thousand miles from Manchester.

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The downpour eventually ceased and the night sky darkened once more,

I stepped back over my threshold and closed the door – my buffer against the world-

And carried my weary heart upstairs to bed,

There a T.V set blasted news into my room; about casualties, terrorists, and pain.

My wounded heart accepting that there is no escape from the hurt that is life-

only brief interludes of diluted peace;

Just fleeting moments where we can appreciate the beauty of the rain and ignore the clashing of the clouds before wondering once more,

Whose turn will it be next to sit in the eye of the storm.