In part one, learn how Alicia Valverde, the popular book reviewer of The Bookish Puff based in Charleston, South Carolina got started, how she works with publishers, authors and products for reviews and which of her social media platforms performs the best for marketing her business. (Hint: It's Instagram where she gets between 8%-10% engagement on every post!)
(Transcription edited for clarity)
Pyrpaw Marketing: [00:00:00]
Is your Instagram account getting eight, nine, 10 percent engagement for every single post? You're probably shaking your head, No. I know I'm not getting eight, nine, 10 percent for every one of my posts. In the first segment of my interview with Alicia Valverde of The Bookish Puff, you're going to learn all about how she got started, what she's doing right now with her Instagram account, and learn some great tips on getting your Instagram account set up for success. I'm Joe Akers from Pyrpaw Marketing, and this is Small Business Marketing. Stay tuned.
Pyrpaw Marketing: [00:00:38]
I am with Alicia Valverde. Alicia has a blog called The Bookish Puff, and I'm talking with her today because she has a really great following on social media and it's something that I think is going to be very interesting for folks to hear about because of the type of posts and the type of content that she puts out and the interactions that she does have with with everybody. But we're going to talk all about that stuff. But first, Alicia, I kind of want you to tell me about The Bookish Puff and what it's all about and just kind of lay it all out for us.
Alicia Valerde: [00:01:13]
Yeah, absolutely. So I work with various authors, publishers, people in the publishing realm to help promote books and review their books. And I do that through creating, [what I call] "meaningful social media content". So I do post reviews, but I also try to sprinkle in basically everything in between. I have a really fun series on my blog called, "A Book and a Bite". I share recipes inspired by books I read. I also do author interviews and I just this past November started picking up writing. So I am now adding to the Rolodex of all things publishing. I'm adding and writing into the mix and just sort of everything in between.
Pyrpaw Marketing: [00:02:04]
How long has has your blog been in existence and did it start out as the blog itself, TheBookishPuff.com?
Alicia Valerde: [00:02:13]
It really all started out when my friends in real life would always come to me for - because I'm a huge reader, I've been a huge reader my whole life - and they'd always come to me and say, well, what are you reading? Or Have you read this book? What do you think of this book? And I thought, well, I'm just going to start a page where I can share what I've been reading, what I've been loving recently, and I can just direct all my friends who constantly send me messages on Instagram to that page and they can go check it out. And I started that in 2018, officially my first post, and it started off with just the Instagram. And then I decided I wanted to - some books just - they deserve a little bit of a longer review than what you can just fit on Instagram. So I started the blog and it just sort of has grown from there into what it is today.
Pyrpaw Marketing: [00:03:07]
So that's really actually interesting. I did not know that you started The Bookish Puff on Instagram itself, so you started it on the Instagram account first and then started the actual website with the blog.
Alicia Valerde: [00:03:21]
For me at the time, I didn't think it was going to grow into what it is today and that I would be able to have the amazing experiences and opportunities that I do now. It really, truly was like I'm really sick of everybody sending me messages all the time. Like, "What was that book you were talking about the other day?" Or, "Do you have any recommendations for somebody who likes X, Y and Z?" So I was like, I'm just going to create a separate Instagram from my personal one just so that way - for people who follow my personal account who aren't into the book stuff, they would get sick of me posting it all the time. And the people who were interested in it could just go over there and easily find things I just like talking about on my stories or on posts and that's it. But yeah, I mean, it grew quickly and it's still growing. And I just I feel really lucky to do all the cool stuff I get to do now.
Pyrpaw Marketing: [00:04:17]
With that being said, let me ask you the question. I know for a fact that you - well, you had said, that you work with publishers and you work with authors. And I also know that you do some sort of - would you call it an influencer type things? I know for a fact that you and I have both have a love of coffee, extreme love of coffee, and we both are fans of Dunkin' Donuts. And you've actually done some work with them. Did that begin from Instagram itself? Is that where most of your contact for that sort of thing comes from?
Alicia Valerde: [00:04:49]
Yeah, it certainly does. I really try to like I said, they're sort of the everything that's in between that comes with books and reading. And I've been contacted by several different companies to see if I'd be willing to promote their products in exchange for like they'll give me the product to review and just, you know, they'll give it to me for free, but they expect an honest review. I never take anything that I don't genuinely love and I don't post about anything that I [don't] genuinely love. I genuinely love Dunkin'. And when they emailed me and were like, "Hey, do you want to do some giveaways and want to collab on this?" And I actually just signed with them for a yearlong contract to do various promotions throughout the year. And I'm thrilled to - I would - literally I'm already posting about them. They're like, "OK, we'll give you some gift cards we appreciate the love."
Pyrpaw Marketing: [00:05:47]
See this face right here? This the jealous face that I have, because I would certainly love a year long contract to talk about Dunkin' Donuts. So that's that's really awesome. But I also think it's important for folks watching this to understand, too, that you are very clear on the website. You're very clear about how any of these reviews or partnerships work. And you are very clear about, you know, "I will only do it if I'm giving an honest review, et cetera, et cetera." So that everyone is very clear when they contact you or you can at least direct them to that of what the parameters for you to do that are, right?
Alicia Valerde: [00:06:27]
Exactly, yeah. I try to make it really transparent to both the companies I'm working with and my followers that whatever I'm receiving, whether it's a book, a product and anything in general, if I don't, a lot of the times I try to follow the rule, if it's something I genuinely had an issue with or I really didn't like it, I try to give the courtesy of emailing that company or emailing the product or the author, whoever is to [say], "I super appreciate you sharing this with me, but here are the issues I had and here's why." And I'm not going to put this out here because I don't believe in trashing anything unless it's truly deserved. But I will definitely reach out to the companies first and let them know it's going on.
Alicia Valerde: [00:07:19]
And then when I do share with my followers, if it's like I'm feeling "MEH." about a book or I'm feeling "MEH." about a product, I'll let them know. I'll say, "Listen, this is how I felt and take it with a grain of salt. But it's my honest musings and thoughts."
Pyrpaw Marketing: [00:07:37]
You're you're being up front to begin with. They want you to give your honest opinion.
Alicia Valerde: [00:07:41]
Yeah. So I make a point of anything that I put out there. It really needs to be constructive. I don't really believe in trashing any author... these authors take so much time and effort and energy. And even if you didn't relate to the story or love the story, there's going to be people out there that do.
Pyrpaw Marketing: [00:08:06]
Alicia Valerde: [00:08:06]
So it's not really fair for me, one individual to say to a group of people, this stinks and you shouldn't buy it. I always say, "This is why I didn't enjoy it. But if you like this sort of story, then I think this could work for you." I always encourage people to pick it up, try it out and form an opinion of their own.
Pyrpaw Marketing: [00:08:27]
That's what I was thinking the whole time when I asked you the first question was, you know, you're kind of [giving] the courtesy of talking to the author and saying, you know, I wasn't a big fan of it and this is why. But when you actually put it out there, you explain constructively why it is that you - And that gives everybody the opportunity to make their own decisions about it as opposed to just kind of advocating for, you know, not even bothering with it. Because like you said - and that goes for just pretty much everything - is that there are people who are going to like something, so just because you don't like it doesn't mean everyone won't like it. So I think that the effort that you make to put that out there and to provide that value is really great.
Alicia Valerde: [00:09:10]
Yeah. And I think it makes it more meaningful, too you when I say that a product or a book like - if I gave it five star stars or I say love it that way, my followers know, like, OK, she really genuinely loves it. And it's really genuinely a great product or book because, you know, it's not like everything I'm putting out there is getting a five star review. I always think that's so superficial and a little odd when people really only share the five stars and things that they really like. People want to know the honest thoughts, too because, you know, when you're thinking about buying a product or picking up a book, you can form your own opinion. But at the same time, I've had a lot of people message me and they say "we have almost the exact taste in books, and I totally agreed with your thoughts on this, and like I went and I picked up this book and I agree on all of your points." And from there it's sort of a relationship and a trust that is built with a lot of my followers where I say, "Listen, I didn't love it because X, Y and Z and I should know better because I don't like these certain things and stories." And if they feel the same way then they know,"OK, that book's probably not going to work for me."
Pyrpaw Marketing: [00:10:30]
Alicia Valerde: [00:10:32]
[And] I think this is how that should work with anybody and any sort of social media platform which is building that trust that you are what you're putting out there that you're meaning what you're saying.
Pyrpaw Marketing: [00:10:45]
For The Bookish Puff, in terms of a business or a brand. Is it a business? Would you consider it a business?
Alicia Valerde: [00:10:54]
I would, because I am basically - a lot of the books and stuff, I do buy on my own. But I would say probably about 80 to 85 percent of the books that I read and review were given to me. Either a finished copy or they give me an advanced reader's copy. They typically reach out to bloggers, influencers, etc. and say, "Hey, we need your help with the promotion of this book. Here's a copy of it. Tell us what you think about it." And we'll go from there.
Pyrpaw Marketing: [00:11:31]
But, you're not necessarily monetized, right? The Bookish Puff isn't necessarily monetized, correct? You're not making revenue off of ads or are you?
Alicia Valerde: [00:11:41]
So on my website, I do currently have ads running. It's not anything crazy right now. And as far as when brands reach out to me, it's sort of a mixed bag of some of them, do pay me and some of them - I'm getting product in exchange for a review. And I've also gotten various other lifestyle products. I recently worked with a Swedish company called Sudio that does wireless headphones, and they reached out to me and were like, "Hey we'll give you some free earbuds in exchange for a review. And they're pretty pricey. So I was like, ok, that's totally cool with me because I - and again, it's like a company that I genuinely have admired and it's seen the ear buds on the Web, their website, on Instagram, various places. I'm like, "Ooh, those are pretty. I want to buy some." But when they reached out to me, I was like, "Yeah, that's no problem. I'll just I'll do a post and then a review in exchange for the product." Because money wise it definitely evens out.
Pyrpaw Marketing: [00:12:52]
Alicia Valerde: [00:12:53]
So, it's really just a mixed bag with a lot of what I'm doing right now is just for my love of reading.
Pyrpaw Marketing: [00:12:59]
Right. And that's that's kind of what I was going to touch on, is that that from your answers... even from sort of the youth of The Bookish Puff, it's really still kind of all about your - These are sort of fringe benefits. This is really all about your love for books and everything that surrounds the act of book reading and writing and all of those things. I wanted to ask you. So you have mentioned Instagram, you mentioned the the website. Give me an idea of what some of the other places that you're active online are or even if you're not necessarily active, but you have a presence online.
Alicia Valerde: [00:13:39]
Yeah, so I do have a Twitter account. I try not to go too crazy on there just because Twitter is not for everybody. And I'm one of those people where it just doesn't work for me. But I am on there and I do try to interact with authors, especially when they have a new release coming out and fellow bloggers and everything. It's a great way to just send a quick message. I also have a Facebook page that I've linked with my Instagram. I am making a point in this new year to try to post on there more. And then I also am a big, big user of Goodreads, which is basically like a Facebook for readers. So I try to post on there as often as I can. And I would definitely say I'm pretty active on there. People can always check and see what I'm currently reading, where my progress is, goals I have set for that year, everything else.
Pyrpaw Marketing: [00:14:35]
My next question would be of all of those of all of those places that you have a presence, what would you say is the space where you have the most engagement - that you interact the most? I mean, I know the answer, but I want to talk about it. Where do you think you have the most engagement and interactivity with your audience?
Alicia Valerde: [00:14:54]
Oh, so definitely Instagram. It's the roots of where I started. It's the platform I'm most comfortable with, and it also is [that] I'm a very visual person, so I love seeing the beautiful photos that other bloggers are taking. I love seeing what my favorite authors are up to, like, you know, between stories and the main feed. It's just a great way to keep up with everybody because it feels really centralized. But, I do I need to branch out. But that is definitely my home base for sure.
Pyrpaw Marketing: [00:15:31]
There is definitely a noticeable style that you have on your Instagram. And if you look at a lot of folks who talk about how to set up your Instagram, how to do well with Instagram, you'll see a lot of those things mentioned; kind of be cognizant of what it looks like, the style and the aesthetic that it has. And I can guarantee you that anyone who goes and looks at your your grid is going to see a particular style. Is that something that you started early on or is it something that you kind of jumped into and kind of just stuck with because it really worked for you?
Alicia Valerde: [00:16:02]
So I think that with a visual platform like Instagram, I do think it's a really, really important to constantly evaluate what you're posting and what message you're wanting to put out there and the sort of vibe you're going for with your brand. No matter who you are or what your business is, what your blog is. I think that's really important. So when I started off my Instagram again, it was very casual again, just a quick point-and-shoot. I don't think I used any filters or anything fancy like that. Like, I barely used hashtags. It really was just a place for me to separate things I was reading from my regular, personal Instagram. And then as I started using hashtags and discovering other blogs through the hashtag, I saw all these people's beautiful photos and how they were sharing this really meaningful content about what they're reading. And I was just really inspired and I'm still inspired by those people. And I thought about myself. And I think that's really another important thing is, "What do you enjoy seeing? What do you personally like to see on your feed?" And for me, it's like I love, cozy photos and nice, warm colors. And just basically, I think my tagline on my Instagram is "Cozy Vibes, Sunshine and Books." And that is really what I stick to. And I've sort of gotten really comfortable with that. And so a lot of my photos, it's going to be yeah, I'm posting about books but, there's also my personal touch and there's little snippets of me throughout it. And I think that not only does it make an aesthetically beautiful grid to look at, but it also lets people, when they come to my page really know who I am and what I'm about and what type of style and books I read and everything.
Pyrpaw Marketing: [00:18:13]
I also think that it really gives your audience or people who kind of stumble across your page who aren't quite your audience or your fans, yet. It really gives them an experience. It gives them a definite setting and gives you a very cozy, cozy vibe. It makes you - it makes me anyways - think of curling up with a good book. It's just everything. It doesn't matter what it is, you're really staying very consistent with your tagline and everything that you're looking you know, you see in all of your posts. It's very consistent, but it's always very similar and it's very cozy and it gives you sort of that sense of an experience of what you can expect with your account.
Alicia Valerde: [00:18:53]
You're absolutely right. I tell everybody that... the upper area of when you go on to my page - So it's like my photo, my tagline, my highlights, and then maybe the first three images of my feed. I always tell people that's your business card that you're handing to people that come to visit your page. You're like, "Here's who I am, what I'm about, and sort of what to expect from my feed." And it's pretty right off the bat. In this day and age... the attention span is so short that you hop to somebody's page and if you look and you don't like what you see, you're gone. You could care less about their captions or what else they're saying. Because most people don't even get that far. So I really try to create something where people are going to look at my page and go, "Oh, this is really pretty." And then get them to sort of stick around and click through and get to know me more and get to know my content more. But really, it's just more for creating consistency, and really just right off the bat, starting off with a good impression.
Pyrpaw Marketing: [00:20:09]
So, I hope you enjoyed the first segment and learned all about Alicia and her business. In the next segment, we're going to get really geeky about numbers. We'll look at the number of followers that she has, the type of engagement and what she's really doing to create the kind of engagement that she is getting. It's really, really cool information and she's got a lot of great tips. So I hope you'll stay tuned for the next one, please, like and subscribe so you'll know when the next one comes out.
The Bookish Puff Links: