Instagram

4 Elements of An Effective Instagram Content Plan

If you still think Instagram is just posting some pretty pictures and using some hashtags, you're wrong. Especially if you're using Instagram for your business! When I first shifted my Instagram account from mostly personal use to more professional (even though my professional presence is kinda personal), it was confusing. I wasn't sure what people really wanted to see, and striking a balance between my “real life” and a perfectly curated “Instagram life” took a bit of trial and error. Even though I've spent a lot of time managing other brand's accounts, doing it for myself has always been the hardest – but once I developed my own Instagram content plan, it was MUCH easier!

4 ELEMENTS OF AN EFFECTIVE INSTAGRAM CONTENT PLAN

If you feel like you don't know what to post on Instagram, here are a few key things to keep in mind to make sure your content is working for you!

KNOW YOUR PURPOSE

You should know WHY you're on Instagram and WHAT you're trying to accomplish with this aspect of your social media. Are you trying to build brand awareness? Generate leads? Build influencer relationships? What's the end goal?

Your purpose should dictate your content. If the purpose of your account is to sell your products, then you should be regularly posting photos of your products – that's pretty straight forward. But that doesn't mean basic product photos on a white background that you would most likely see on a website – Instagram is a VISUAL platform so if you want to sell more of your products from Instagram, they need to look good! Use styled images to help people envision would it would look like to have your products in their life (or a aspirational version of their life).

If you don't sell physical products, then think about what your audience would want to see / learn before they hire you or before they visit your blog / website. People aren't in buying mode when they're scrolling through Instagram. No one says, “I need a tulle skirt so I'm going to go buy one on Instagram” or “I need a health coach so I'm going to go search for one on Instagram” – that doesn't mean they won't come across a tulle skirt they love or a health coach they trust on Instagram, but it's probably not the reason they opened the app to scroll through.

So even though your purpose may be “get more design clients” – that doesn't mean your posts should all be “I'm a designer, hire me!” – but what you can do is share posts that allow your followers to get to know you + how you can help them so that you can build that know/ like/ trust factor that can lead followers to becoming clients. In this specific example, a graphic designer might share things like examples of her work (completed or in progress) / tips on why good design matters / testimonials from clients whose brands she's transformed / relevant blog posts / behind the scenes photos of her workspace, etc. All of these things relate to her ultimate purpose of getting more clients, but the focus is really on educating + inspiring potential clients rather than selling to them.

CLICK HERE for more ideas on what to post on Instagram!

If you're not clear on your purpose, you're going to have a hard time figuring out what to post and you're probably going to have a hard time growing your following as well.

Planoly - best visual Instagram scheduling tool

KNOW YOUR AUDIENCE

One of the reasons I love Instagram so much is that it feels like the most “personal” network of what I think of as the “big 4” (Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram) – yes there's also Snapchat, LinkedIn, Google+, Periscope, etc. – but Instagram is my jam and how personal you want to get really depends on your audience.

If you're the face of your brand (blogger / solopreneur / small business owner) then, your Instagram content is probably going to be more personal. People want to connect with people, so it makes sense to share behind the scenes content and personal stories that help people relate to you as a business owner / mom / dog-mom / etc. Some people may share mostly business-related content plus a little bit personal content mixed in. Some people may share mostly personal content with a little bit of business mixed in. Some people may split it completely 50/50. There's not a single “right” way – because what works for me or you may not work for someone else.

If you're trying to find the right balance between personal / professional content, remember your purpose. If your purpose is getting clients for your graphic design business, then most of your content should be related to that. If your purpose is getting more people to read your blog, then you should be regularly sharing your blog posts. If photos of what you ate for breakfast or what you wore on Friday night or what your kid did at school aren't related to your purpose – don't share them!

KNOW YOUR BRAND

Keeping your purpose and your audience in mind, your Instagram content should also be on brand. So if your brand is fun, colorful, and artistic, your content should be fun, colorful, and artistic. And if your brand is minimal, refined, and monochromatic, your Instagram should be as well. When someone comes across your Instagram account, they be able to recognize your brand from the rest of your online presence (and vice versa). So when you're crafting your content make sure that the colors / patterns / style / voice are all aligned with your brand – you don't want to confuse people by sharing off brand content just because you felt like sharing a random photo!

Read this: Defining your personal brand

You should know WHY you're on Instagram and WHAT you're trying to accomplish with this aspect of your social media. Click To Tweet

BE CONSISTENT

Finally, an effective Instagram content plan is going to involve consistency. Consistency in style / voice / branding, but also consistency in content. That doesn't mean you need to share the same thing every day (I actually don't think you should!), but there should be a certain level of consistency so people know what to expect. That could mean every every Tuesday you share a tip or every Saturday you share a behind the scenes photo of yourself or every other post you share a quote. By creating consistency (and potentially even creating a visual pattern), you are more likely to draw your audience in and keep them engaged.

Looking for more Instagram tips? Here are posts on 10 ways to grow your Instagram following, how to get more engagement on Instagram, and the best resources for Instagram props!

Not sure what to post on Instagram for your business? Here's a list of 365 Instagram prompts to help you out!

How Instagram Insights Compares To Iconosquare Analytics

How Instagram Insights new analytics tools compare to Iconosquare analytics. A comparison of Instagram analytics tools, how they can help you grow an engaged Instagram following, and whether or not investing in analytics tools makes sense.

Earlier this week I was pleasantly surprised to see a popup notification after I updated to latest version of Instagram letting me know that Instagram analytics have arrived! Instagram announced last month that their “Instagram Insights” analytics information as well as other other business tools would be rolling out, but after a quick google search and asking around in various social media communities, I found very little concrete information around the who/when/whys of the tools are rolling out other than “business profiles, insights and the ability to promote will be rolling out in the US, Australia and New Zealand in the coming months, and will be available in all regions globally by the end of the year.”

I might of done a little happy dance when I realized I had access to Instagram Insights – if you don't already know, I'm a HUGE data nerd and am excited to see analytics information directly within the Instagram app! I currently use and recommend the paid service Iconosquare for Instagram analytics (Squarelovin is similar + free), though Iconosquare just announced their “PLUS” level membership (the lowest tier) is going up from $28.80/year to $49.00/year starting July 11, 2016, so I thought this would be a good time to evaluate whether or not it makes sense to continue to pay for analytics information when Instagram itself is now providing it for free.

INSTAGRAM INSIGHTS

If you haven't seen the new Instagram Insights, it is similar to the analytics for Facebook pages in that it gives you data on your followers and your Instagram posts. This type of information is sooo valuable in determining if you're actually reaching your target audience and the types of content that are resonating with your audience.

Mochi Instagram Dog Profile

To access Instagram Insights, there is a bar chart icon next to the settings icon at the top of your Instagram profile. If you don't see this yet, then the analytics haven't rolled out to you yet – your Instagram account may need to be associated with a Facebook account for Insights to work (I had to confirm my Facebook Information to access Instagram Insights the first time) so if you haven't connected it already, you may want to do that now!

Instagram Insights: Impressions, Reach, and Engagement

The first section you see tells you your number of post “impressions” for the week (number of times all of your posts have been seen) and if you swipe left, you'll see your “reach” for the week (number of unique accounts that have seen any of your posts). These numbers are interesting because (to my knowledge) Iconosquare and other analytics tools I've used in the past have only tracked likes / engagement / growth but haven't been able to provide insight as to how many people are actually seeing your posts. On a weekly level, the numbers don't mean a ton to me, but on a per post level this is really helpful information!

Instagram post insights for @mochiandthecity Instagram celebrity dog

Looking at my Instagram posts from the last week, I can see the post specific impressions / reach / engagement by clicking on the “View Insights” tab below each photo. It's interesting to see engagement in relation to reach because to me, this is more indicative of audience preferences than looking at engagement in relation to overall followers. With that said, I'd love to see percentages in addition to raw numbers! #hinthint

Unfortunately, Insights are not available for historic posts beyond the last week (I'm guessing this is the last 7 days from whenever you get access to Insights), but moving forward this will be less relevant as you'll be able to see up to 2 years of analytics.

It's interesting to see engagement in relation to reach because to me, this is more indicative of audience preferences than looking at engagement in relation to overall followers.Click To Tweet

Instagram Insights: Top Posts

Instagram Insights Top Posts for @mochiandthecity

Going back to the main Instagram Insights area, you can see a “Top Posts” section that you can sort by type of post (all posts / photos  videos), by time period (7 days / 30 days / 3 months / 6 months / 1 year / 2 years), and filter by impressions / reach / engagement / likes / comments). This is an easy way to get a sense of what types of content your audience is engaging with so you can do more of what's working (and less of what's not).

Instagram Insights: Followers

Instagram Insights for @mochiandthecity Instagram dog

Possibly the most exciting part of the Instagram Insights information is the follower demographic analytics. You can see the breakdown of your followers by gender, by age, and by location. You can also further breakdown the age ranges for either male or female followers. I'd love to be able to see more specific numbers rather than just %s or ranges, but it's still great data to have in terms of knowing if you are attracting the right people. Mochi's target audience includes female millenials so seeing 84% women and the largest demographic segment from 18-34 is a good sign!

Instagram Insights Location analytics

For location, you can view followers by city or country – I think this would be particularly helpful for any one with a local business or local target audience, but it's also helpful in determining which time zones the majority of your followers are in so you can post accordingly. There's also an hourly breakdown showing when your followers are active (it's no surprise Mochi's audience is less active between 1am – 7am ET since the majority are in the U.S. and specifically in NYC) – and which days of the week your followers are more/less active (in Mochi's case, it doesn't really matter). 

This level of demographic information is unique to Instagram Insights vs. other Instagram analytics tools (which makes sense since Facebook owns Instagram), and combined with the other analytics information like reach / engagement, this is definitely a helpful in knowing how to position your best content in front of the right audience at the right time.

HOW INSTAGRAM INSIGHTS COMPARES TO ICONOSQUARE ANALYTICS

While Instagram Insights provides a lot of great information, there are still a number of ways that Iconosquare sets itself apart. In particular:

  • Custom time periods – The ability to sort by custom time periods is extremely valuable for evaluating campaigns whether you're looking at top posts/ engagement over time / follower growth or other stats.
  • Follower growth over time + gain/loss – Iconosquare provides more information about account growth over time both in numbers and in graph form. It also shows daily gain / loss information as well as specifically which followers followed / unfollowed so you have additional insights.
  • Community details – I don't pay a lot of attention to who's following back / who's not, but if you're looking for more account specific detail regarding your followers, Iconosquare is a more helpful tool.
  • Engagement as a percentage – While it's nice to have the impressions / reach information from Instagram Insights, I'd really love the see engagement as a percentage instead of just the total number of likes / comments.
  • Change from week to week or month to month as a percentage – Tracking growth or engagement from one time period to the next is something I look at pretty often, and there's no way to really do that with Instagram Insights.
  • Daily reporting – I really like getting a daily report (by email) from Iconosquare showing a quick overview of the previous day's activities. Instagram currently doesn't have it's own reporting tools beyond what you see in the app (and to my knowledge that's not something they have planned to roll out in the coming months).

OVERALL THOUGHTS

For the average Instagram business user, Instagram Insights are simple (free!) way to get key analytics that can help you grow an engaged Instagram followingYou probably don't “need” additional analytics – and for the initial release of it's business tools – I think Instagram has done a great job at providing the most valuable information in an easy to access manner. I'm interested to see if / when / how they update the Instagram Insights capabilities as they roll out additional features like business profiles and in app advertising capabilities.

With that said, I'll probably continue to pay for Iconosquare (at least for Mochi's account), because I like the more detailed analytics and daily reporting feature. To me, these things are worth the $4/month Iconosquare fee, but if you're just looking for straightforward analytics, Instagram Insights might be your new BFF.

If you have access to Instagram Insights already, I'd love to hear your thoughts! 

Instagram Resource Guide for shooting, editing, scheduling photos

Instagram business myths that you need to stop believing!

Instagram myths that you need to stop believing. Instagram isn't just for product-base businesses or fashion bloggers. If you think you can't use Instagram for your business, read this post!

I've heard a lot of different “excuses” for why people think Instagram isn't a good platform to market their business and some of them drive me insane because I KNOW they're just not true. Over the past few years I've used Instagram for a number of different businesses and blogs, so there's definitely not ONE right way to use it. I really do think that MOST online business owners should be using it to connect with potential customers because it's a platform that allows you to build relationships in a way that's unlike any other platform.

SO HERE ARE A FEW INSTAGRAM MYTHS I'VE HEARD MORE THAN ONCE…

and why I think you should stop believing them now!

My customers aren't on Instagram

There are over 800 million people on Instagram so chances are, your customers are already there. Years ago most Instagram users were on the younger side, but now only about half of those are under 35 – so really everyone (and their mom) is on Instagram now! BUT – your customers aren't necessarily looking for YOU on Instagram, so you may need to do a little homework to find them.

TAKE ACTION: Do your research. If you don't know who your target audience is, you're going to have a hard time with social media marketing across the board. Think about what other accounts they might follow (Who inspires them? What blogs do they read? Who are your competitors?) and the hashtags that are relevant to them (not just the ones that describe your business).

I need a lot of followers to make money on Instagram

While growing your following is important if you want to expand your reach, followers aren't everything! Rather than focus on just getting a lot of followers, I always advise my clients to focus on getting targeted followers who are actually engaged with your content. At the end of the day would you rather have 20,000 followers who never want to buy from you or 2,000 followers who are loyal customers? Followers are often a vanity number (and unfortunately it's easy to buy followers these days – ugh!), but you definitely don't need a ton of followers to make money on Instagram. One of my clients booked 3 clients from a single Instagram post – and she only had 200 followers at the time!

TAKE ACTION: Focus on engagement + building community. You don't need to follow a ton of accounts and hope that they follow you back. “Introduce” yourself to 10 new accounts every single day by liking and leaving genuine comments on their photos. Don't forget to respond to comments, and make sure your profile clearly states who you are / what you do / how people can buy from you or hire you.

Instagram is only for product-based businesses

No ma'am. I've sold $10 statement necklaces, $100 digital products, and $1,000 consulting packages all via Instagram (not to mention my dog charges $1,000+ PER POST as a social media influencer), so I've personally sold a range of things via Instagram. But don't just take my word for it – my clients have sold $30 home accessories, $200 organic skincare products, $2,500 photography packages, and $5,000 coaching packages. So Instagram is definitely NOT just for product-based businesses! If you have a digital product / service based business you can share photos of mockups, examples of your work, behind the scenes photos of your business or office, or other lifestyle photos that are still on brand.

TAKE ACTION: Make sure you're telling people what you offer and how they can get it. Even if you have your business information in your bio, you need to remind people in the captions of your photos what you do or what you sell from time to time. And if you're actively seeking clients or customers, make sure you are also telling them how they can hire you or where they can find your products! For example, if you're a graphic designer you might post photos of your design work on Instagram and then tell people that they can click the link in your profile to find out more about your design services. Don't just assume your followers know who you are and what you do! Here are more ideas on what to post on Instagram for both product and service-based businesses!

Instagram Resource Guide for shooting, editing, scheduling photos

You need professional photography to stand out on Instagram

This is definitely not true!  Most Instagram users are not professional photographers (and can't afford to pay someone to take photos for them) – but that doesn't mean you can't stand out on Instagram! You can take amazing photos with just an iPhone (see some amazing examples right here), and some people use (on brand) stock photos or just repost other people's photos (with proper credit of course). Instagram is a visual platform so the quality of your images / videos does matter, but that doesn't mean you need to be a pro!

TAKE ACTION: Save time by batching your photos once a week or once a month. If you're taking your own photos and want them to look consistent, it's much easier to do that if you take them all at one time! Plan out a few weeks in advance if possible so you can prepare your content and always know exactly what to post. If you have the budget to outsource content creation, make your life easier, then make your life easier!

While growing your following is important if you want to expand your reach, followers aren't everything!Click To Tweet

Instagram won't drive traffic to my website

One of Instagram's “flaws” is that you're only allowed the one clickable link in your profile (unless you're running ads or using the shop feature), but this “flaw” is also one of the things that keeps Instagram from being super spammy! Here's the thing, if you want people to click on the link in your profile you need to give them a reason to do it – don't just assume that because you link to your website or blog people will decide to click through on their own. Most people who are scrolling through Instagram aren't looking for a reason to LEAVE Instagram, so driving traffic to your website requires a little strategy – but it's really not that hard!

TAKE ACTION: Make sure you have a clear call to action in your bio telling people WHY they should click on the link in your profile. Bonus points if your CTA leads them to sign up to get something valuable for free!

I don't have a lot of time to spend on using Instagram for my business 

I'm not going to lie, Instagram is not going to work for you if you don't put in some work – BUT, unlike Twitter or Pinterest where you need to be constantly posting throughout the day, you can post just once per day on Instagram and get great results! Unfortunately (or fortunately really), you can't just post a photo every day and expect to bring in the $$$. You need a strategy and you need to be consistent (as with most things in business)!

TAKE ACTION: Plan your content in advance and schedule it out. If you take my advice above and batch your photos in advance or use high quality stock photos, you can also pre-write your captions (here are 365 different Instagram caption ideas!) and schedule your posts using a scheduling tool like Planoly. Do a little work up front and you can save a ton of time when it come to creating your content – then you can just focus on engaging + building community for a few minutes each day!

Did you believe any of these myths? Are there any other reasons why you think Instagram can't work for you?!

Not sure what you should be posting on Instagram?

Download my guide to 365 Instagram caption prompts that you can use for your online business!