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Navigating Bookstagram - Stories & Tips From a Small(er?) Account - Hosting a SFS

All the way back in the beginning of April, I published a post on shoutout-for-shoutout sessions (SFS's) in the bookstagram community, specifically entering them. Now, I will - after promising to do so back in my first SFS post - finally discuss hosting your own SFS.

Em and I have done two shoutout-for-shoutout sessions in the past: one on our own when we hit 1,000 followers, and one with a group of bookstagrammers in honor of the then-new year, 2017. Therefore, shoutout-for-shoutout sessions can be hosted by one account or a group of accounts. As mentioned in my previous post, besides single and group shoutout sessions, there are now two types of SFS's. These two types are post SFS's and story SFS's, the latter available due to the relatively recent addition of Instagram Stories.

Basic Guidelines for All SFS's

No matter the format of your SFS, there are some basic guidelines that most bookstagrammers follow when hosting a shoutout session. To start, some sort of announcement is usually and arguably should be posted to your page. This way, there is a concrete post where people can check in and view the rules.

Yes, rules. In order to keep things organized, you will want to construct a set of rules for participating in your SFS. The set of rules should be specific, and cover the following topics:
  • Who can participate. (This is rather limiting, I must admit, but usually only bookish or bookstagram accounts are allowed.)
  • What format participants should use (formats will be discussed later in the post) 
  • Requirements expected of participants. Some common requirements include having participating accounts following the host(s) or (for post SFS's) leaving the shoutout up for a certain amount of time
  • When the session ends. This includes the day, time, and timezone. 
  • How many people will be picked (all, a specific number, a percentage, etc.) and how. (Ex. Based on feed? Will follower number come to play?)
  • Optional but usually done: Requiring participants to comment that they've participated. This makes things easier to track.

The set of rules we used for our SFS.

Once this post is up, feel free to continue to share your SFS through additional (temporary) updates to your page and/or story. It is also recommended that, once the shoutout-for-shoutout has closed, you make announcements on your story and/or page that it is over. (You may edit your caption from the original announcement so that it now reads "CLOSED" or something similar at the top, letting everyone know that it is over. If you are requiring participants to comment when done on this post, do not delete this post until you have completed the shoutouts.)

Group SFS's

I think that what I've been referring to as "single SFS's" are, for the most part, simple. You can make the rules and set the times and such by yourself according to whatever best suits you. It's fairly easy and simple. But what about a group shoutout session? Now things can get tricky.

Back in early 2017, we helped to hold a group SFS with seven other bookstagram accounts. This was our first and only group SFS so far, and we were happy to do it with Taylor (@bookishvibes_), Haya (@bookheroin), Savanna (@_thenightfaerie), Kayleigh (@justpagebypage), Chalene (@literaturarian), Matin (@fictional.fanboy), and Chari (@charli_the_book_princess).

All together, we were a group of 8 bookstagrammers with, at the time, a total follower amount of over 14k. That's an advantage of group shoutout-for-shoutout sessions: You can have a smaller amount of followers yourself, but still advertise a large number to participants. In comparison to the individual SFS Em and I held, the group SFS was largely successful.

The picture used for the group SFS we helped to host. Agreeing on the picture was one of the many things we all had to discuss.

Communication is an essential part of a group shoutout-for-shoutout session. There are a lot that needs to be discussed and agreed upon, and can be difficult depending on how well you get along with your fellow hosts and how many similarities you share. You will need to decide on...

  • a picture to use to share the SFS
  • a general list of rules to include on this post
  • times to post parts of the SFS (announcement posts, when to end the SFS, when to post the shoutouts)
  • (if you are only returning shoutouts for some) who will be receiving the shoutouts

Therefore, before diving into a group SFS, be sure that you know, trust, and like your fellow hosts! For us, since those we worked with were wonderful, things, for the most part, ran smoothly. Like always, things can be tricky at first, but with practice and time you might just be a pro.

Post SFS's

This was the original shoutout-for-shoutout session. On the post announcing the session, you would write in that participants must post a shoutout of your page to their page for a certain amount of hours. Methods include having them create a collage, screenshot your feed, or share just one of your posts. A lot of bookstagrammers give participants the freedom to choose the method that fits them.

Pros: The good thing about this type of shoutout session is that more people might see the shoutouts others give you, as your shoutout could easily get lost in a cluttered Instagram story. Additionally, although I don't believe most bookstagrammers worry about this, with this type of shoutout session, the shoutouts you give to participants might be seen more, motivating them to participate.
Cons: While the above is true, people might be less likely to participate because posting would disturb their feed. The shoutouts you give others would also temporarily break your feed. And feed is very important to some.

Story SFS's

This type of shoutout rolled around with the introduction of Instagram stories. As with post shoutout-for-shoutout sessions, a post to your page is usually added to announce the session and to lay out the rules. Most hosts ask participants to screenshot their feed or showcase a few of their pictures, tagging them in this picture using Instagram stories.

Pros: A lot of people might prefer to participate this way because they don't have to mess up their feed to give you a shoutout, meaning that you will get more shoutouts. To add, more people might participate because, for most story SFS's, all shoutouts are returned.
Cons: Most likely, the shoutouts you receive from others won't get as much attention or views. Your story will also be quite cluttered for a bit, and you will either have to separate the shoutouts or settle for an extremely long story.

That's all for today's post. If you have any more questions or would like any clarifications, let me know! Be sure to check in two weeks from now on May 15th to read the next installment of Navigating Bookstagram: The Truth About Bookstagram.

Click here to read the next Navigating Bookstagram post, "The Truth About Bookstagram". Or click on the Navigating Bookstagram tag (below) or the link in the pages bar at the top of the screen to read more.


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