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.
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.
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
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!