For many, the idea of an Instagram content calendar seems, at best, an effort; at worst, a dread-inducing task that you’ve no idea how to tackle.
I get it. I really do!
But what if I told you that an Instagram content calendar can – and should – be your best friend, because every single Instagram post you share should be a latergram?
No more sharing “in the moment”.
No more flying-by-the-seat-of-your-pants, posting your main-feed content one day at a time.
Because a successful Instagram marketing strategy in 2019 isn’t about spending hours of your precious time and energy on pretty main-feed content.
It’s about building relationships with your target audience and showing up on Instagram Stories.
That means you’ve got to readjust your priorities — or, in other words, plan your Instagram main-feed ahead of time with a content calendar full of high quality, consistent imagery.
By getting that set-up on autopilot, you give yourself the freedom to focus on your bigger business and brand goals.
So, without any further ado, let’s dive straight into 10 tips to plan your Instagram feed ahead of time.
1. Optimize your Instagram bio
If you’re a little surprised to see this as tip #1, hear me out.
There’s no point getting to a good place with planning your feed content if your Instagram bio isn’t optimized for success.
Because once you’re sharing high quality, relevant imagery consistently, more and more people will make an effort to look you up. And the first thing they’ll do before they hit “follow” is check out your Instagram bio.
If there isn’t a clear description, relevant profile image, and bold call-to-action (CTA), you risk missing out on new followers because they won’t know who you are or what you’re about.
That might be your one and only opportunity to grab their attention — so don’t make the mistake of neglecting your Instagram bio!
If you are a service-based business, make sure you have a clear picture of yourself as the profile image.
If you are a product-based business, it’s a good idea to use your branding/logo as the profile image.
3 final tips for an optimized Instagram biography:
- Keep your bio to 20 words or less (to avoid any information being cut off)
- Include a discoverable keyword that people will type into the Instagram search bar to find you
- Finally, don’t forget to add a strong call to action that encourages people to book a call with you/download a freebie/join your newsletter/check out your website
Amy Porterfield (@amyporterfield) offers a great example of nailing your bio on Instagram for online marketing experts:
Another amazing example comes from Desenio (@desenio), an online art print shop:
Now, take a critical look at your own Instagram bio.
Does it include all of the points above?
Is it optimized to help you grow your Instagram followers?
If not, take a step back and take a critical look at your bio section. It is, after all, the very first thing people see when they land on your profile, so it’s essential you nail that bio before investing time into feed planning.
After that’d done, proceed to tip #2:
2. Choose your content buckets or themes
One of the easiest ways to take the stress out of planning your Instagram feed ahead of time is choosing Instagram themes or “content buckets”.
I would recommend choosing 3 – 4 and rotating through these across the month.
Some content bucket ideas include…
- Locations (travel shots, your office, where you live)
- People (you/your team/your clients or customers)
- Product shots
- Quotes graphics (inspiring quotes and/or testimonials)
- Flat-lays (the tools you use if you’re a creative, your product in situ with others)
Or, you could choose 3-4 Instagram themes, for example:
- Working life
Whatever you choose will depend on what makes the most sense for your brand or business — and more importantly, what will resonate best with your target audience.
In the words of branding legend Marty Neumeier:
“Your brand isn’t what you say it is. It’s what they say it is.”
The same applies to your Instagram account.
Your main-feed content should be reflective of your ideal follower and their values.
Once you’ve selected your content buckets/themes, trial them for a month or two.
Review what resonates with your audience and what doesn’t, and then swap in one content bucket for another.
For example, try “product and people” shots instead of purely “product shots”.
Instagram is all about testing, learning, and then optimising.
But more on that in tip #10 (so stay tuned!).
3. Be aware of important national days
Not every single national holiday or day will be relevant for your brand and audience, but it’s important you’re aware of what’s coming up in case it is.
Because if a national day matters to your target audience, it’s a great opportunity for you to create content that will resonate with them.
An Instagram content calendar will help you stay ahead of these social media holidays and traditional holidays such as Valentine’s Day and the Fourth of July.
Be wary of jumping on a bandwagon for the sake of it (is it necessary for you to celebrate #NationalDreamDay?) but don’t be afraid to be creative.
Iconosquare offers a very handy Social Media Calendar integrated directly in its Scheduler, so you can easily keep yourself informed about any important holiday dates and social media events that are coming up:
How could this help improving your Instagram strategy?
Well, for example, if protecting the environment is a key part of your brand mission, International Coastal Cleanup Day could be a great opportunity to elevate your brand and engage your audience.
By planning ahead, you can mark time in your calendar to get out and take part in a local coastal clean-up.
You could also encourage your followers to do the same, and then, on the day, bring your audience along with you by documenting the clean-up via Stories.
4. Master your brand voice
That’s because you’re going to be batch-creating images and captions, so, the surer you are about your tone, the more efficient that process will be.
Is your voice going to be warm and reassuring, or frank and funny?
Will you swear?
Are you going to use slang?
If you’re not sure how to figure out your brand voice, start with your brand values.
Then, think about other companies that have distinct brand voices you love.
Jot down a few keywords.
These can be adjectives (e.g., professional, witty, inspiring). Or, they can be phrases or non-descriptive words (e.g., momentum, mentor, love).
Let’s take a look at some examples of brands with distinct voices, and the keywords associated.
Deliveroo (@deliveroo) is community-driven, passionate about food, and inviting:
Monzo (@monzo), a mobile bank service, is all about transparency, openness and inclusivity:
It’s okay if your brand voice changes over time, and as you get to know your audience better, but using the keyword strategy is a great place to start.
5. Assess your capabilities
Don’t let a lack of time/energy/understanding stand in between you and your Instagram success.
By that, I mean a lot of businesses and entrepreneurs get stuck on Instagram because they feel overwhelmed by content creation.
Remember what I said at the top of this blog post?
You shouldn’t be spending your precious time and energy fretting over your feed content. You want to get it on autopilot!
Which is why I want you to get critical about your capabilities right now.
Do you have the time and resources to be able to take a batch of photos at the beginning of each month (more on this process in the next tip)?
Or, would it make more sense for you to outsource this to a photographer, and leave the briefing process and ideas up to you?
Are you able to use a design tool such as Canva to create quotes graphics?
Or, is this something you could outsource to a website such as Fiverr?
Outsourcing is something many of us shy away from for financial reasons, but also because of a sense of misplaced guilt that we should be doing everything ourselves.
But the truth is: your time is extremely valuable.
If you are able to work with someone that can give you back your time to focus on what matters (creating knockout Stories + engaging with your audience), you are committing to success on Instagram in 2019!
6. Plan time for content creation in your work schedule
Now that you’re clear on your content buckets/themes and you’ve decided whether to take photographs yourself or outsource, you can book time in your diary to CREATE!
You want to get to a place where you’re creating and scheduling your content (your imagery and your captions) in advance — ideally up to one month in advance. In that case, if you need to create and schedule your July content, you’d be doing that during the first week of June.
That will mean all you have to do during the following few weeks is hit “post” on the Instagram app, or set your content to go live automatically through a third-party tool such as Iconosquare.
At first, it might seem impossible to plan your content that far in advance, so in the beginning, take it one step at a time.
Start by planning your content one week in advance, then two, then three…
Before you know it, you will get to a place where this kind of forward planning comes naturally.
7. Understand the best times to post for you
If you’ve just started using Instagram seriously for your business, you may not have enough data yet to understand the best times to post on Instagram.
If that’s the case, start by choosing and sticking to a consistent posting schedule. (My personal suggestion would be 3x a week.)
You don’t need to post on the same days every week, but just make sure you are posting with the same frequency.
Overtime, you will gather enough insights to understand your optimal times to post.
Is it morning or evening?
Do weekdays perform better than weekends?
As you understand what resonates best with your audience, you can tweak your Instagram schedule accordingly.
8. Use a scheduling tool
The beauty of a scheduling tool, such as Iconosquare, is that not only is it an official Instagram partner, but also a comprehensive platform that enables you to plan your feed, schedule your Instagram posts, track your Instagram analytics in depth, and manage all comments and conversations in one place.
It takes the stress and emotion out of posting on your feed week-by-week, giving you the much needed headspace to focus solely on engaging with your followers.
If you’re not quite ready to invest in a paid-for tool just yet, then you can use good old-fashioned Excel.
This doesn’t post on your behalf, of course, but it does allow you to see all of your content + captions in one place. And generally speaking, it could be good habit to get into to streamline your Instagram planning process before you invest in a tool.
Fun fact: When I worked on the Instagram strategy for @canonuk, we used an Excel spreadsheet to plan all of our Instagram content!
9. Plan your Instagram Stories week-by-week
Instagram Stories are more important than ever before —just in case you were in any doubt 😉!
Just take a look at the facts:
50% of people said they looked up a product or service online after seeing it in Instagram Stories.
62% of people said they became more interested in a brand or product after seeing it in Stories.
And finally, one-third of the most viewed Instagram Stories are made by brands and businesses.
You’d be mad to be missing out on reaching your audience where they are: Stories!
And the great news is, with your main-feed content on autopilot, you can focus on creating super-engaging Instagram Stories week-by-week.
That means sitting down on a Sunday evening and planning 3-4 Instagram Stories you could share over the next seven days.
Is there an event you’re going to that you could share some behind-the-scenes from?
Have you recently received some client testimonials that you could share?
Here are some other Instagram Story ideas:
- Demo your service/product
- Share sneak peeks of a soon-to-launch service/product
- Host a Q&A
- Introduce members of your team
- Repurpose a blog post into a talking-head video that highlights the bullet points from the blog post
- Take your audience behind-the-scenes of your morning/day/new project
And if the idea of showing up on your Instagram Stories is what’s holding you back from creating any, just go for it! It might feel a little uncomfortable at first, but I promise it gets easier with practice as you overcome your shyness.
10. Analyse, tweak and optimize
The most important part of creating a powerful Instagram content calendar is the bit after.
And that crucial bit after is the analysis.
Choosing content buckets and writing captions don’t mean anything if you’re not analyzing what works best for your audience and then tweaking your strategy accordingly.
If something hasn’t performed quite as well as you expected, it doesn’t mean you’re getting Instagram “wrong”.
Social media changes all the time.
Therefore, we as businesses, brands and Instagram marketers need to constantly review what we’re doing to see if it’s still working.
That’s the joy of social media: trying things, making mistakes, changing tactics, optimizing content, and continually evolving and improving your Instagram strategy.
So, make sure you’re reviewing your Instagram analytics at least once a month. For Stories, focus on retention rate (i.e., the % of people that watched your Story from beginning to end). You want to be improving that number with every Story you share. For the in-feed content, try not to get hung up on follower numbers and likes. Rather, focus on engagement rate, number of DMs, and conversions. Those are the true most important Instagram metrics.
Because they signal that your content is truly engaging people, leading to genuine conversations in the comments and DMs, and increasing your number subscribers and sales via email clicks and website clicks.
There’s a lot of Instagram metrics out there, but you don’t have to monitor them all. It all depends on your goals and the overall Instagram marketing strategy. There are no two businesses that are ever the same, so it doesn’t make sense to monitor and analyze the exact same metrics just because your competitor does it.
So, for instance, while some people like to keep track of their followers or likes, I personally prefer keeping an eye on “saves” and “shares” because that makes more sense for my account:
So, figure out what the measurements of your success are, and start tracking them.
There you have it!
10 tips on how to develop a killer Instagram content calendar and plan out your feed!
It might seem a little intimidating or overwhelming at first, but it doesn’t have to be.
And with your Instagram main-feed on autopilot, you will free yourself up to focus on what really matters on Instagram in 2019: relationship building.