Instagram is an app built on minimalism. Unlike its cousin Facebook, which has seemingly endless functionality and capability, the Instagram experience is clean and comparatively simple.
And perhaps the inherent simplicity of the app is the reason that many business users don’t think too long and hard about their Instagram content strategy. Often a post will only be published when there’s something beautiful to show or important to say.
This means that Instagram can be an unfairly neglected social media platform. But it shouldn’t be. The potential is huge, because engagement rates on Instagram are approximately six times higher than on Facebook. These engaged users are more open to your message, and are therefore more likely to become customers.
In this guide, we’ll take a closer look at how to create content on Instagram in a more planned, focused and effective way.
What is Instagram content strategy?
An Instagram content plan is an approach to Instagram that aims to maximise the effectiveness of your presence on the platform. It’s a guide that ensures you post consistently, that you target the right people with the right content, and that each post drives your business towards its goals.
Instagram content strategy is built on thorough research, analytics and Instagram insights. You should take inspiration from the platform’s most successful brands. You should work to understand how your competitors use Instagram, and how you can do it better. You should conduct research on the effective use of features like Instagram Reels, Instagram Stories and the humble hashtag, and the expected return on your Insta investment.
Often an Instagram content plan will be just a small slice of a larger content pie that encompasses all social media platforms, website content, blog content, email marketing and more. But today we’ll laser in on Instagram, to help you develop a dedicated content plan that works.
What type of content works on Instagram?
One small square, endless possibilities. While Instagram might be a seemingly simple platform, creating content for it is far from easy because you can post almost anything. Different businesses will find success with different forms of content, and the best will keep the audience interested by offering variety in their Instagram feed.
Some popular types of Instagram content include:
Talking heads: Talking head content is when you talk directly to your audience through the camera. This method helps create a connection with the viewer, and is ideal for thought leadership content, particularly on Instagram Stories.
Designer text: Business updates, fun facts, the occasional special offer; text can be effective even on a visual platform like Instagram, provided it’s beautiful and attention-grabbing. The importance of the caption accompanying your content shouldn’t be understated either.
Memes: Have a bit of fun on your feed! Upload your own version of a trending meme from time to time. If you’re witty enough you might even see your company go viral!
Behind the scenes: A simple way to capture your followers’ interest is to pull back the curtain. Give your customers a glimpse within the four walls of your organisation by taking them on a behind-the-scenes tour.
How-tos and FAQs: Build your reputation as an expert in your field by answering common customer questions and offering valuable advice.
User generated content (UGC): What’s better than creating your own compelling Instagram marketing content? Getting your customers to create it for you! You can run a competition to generate a wealth of this content, which you can then post at your leisure (with permission of course.)
Human-centric: People trust people more than they trust brands. With this in mind, try humanising your organisation by introducing your team on Instagram. You might be surprised how important it is to put a face to your business’s name.
No matter what form your content takes, the aim is always for it to be scroll-stopping. Aim to post content that is niche and unique so that it doesn’t get lost in the noise. It could also be educational, entertaining or a heady mix of the two.
How do you do all that? With a clever content plan.
How to make an Instagram content plan
Ready to create an Instagram content plan? The following six steps are a great place to start.
1. Understand your aim
The first step to create your Instagram content plan is to know why you’re doing it and what you hope to get from it. Are you looking to increase brand awareness? Generate more leads? Make more sales? Once you know exactly why you’re posting on Instagram, it makes it far easier to know how to post to Instagram.
Your main goal identified, you should set out a plan to achieve it, with clear, measurable and achievable steps along the way. If your IG objective is to increase brand awareness, for example, you might aim to grow your follower count by 20% in the next six months. Then you can zoom in further on exactly how you’ll do that, setting mini milestones along the way.
Each piece of Instagram content should be created with your overarching strategy in mind. This ensures every post has a purpose and your audience will enjoy consistent messaging.
2. Do your research
How do your favourite commercial Instagram accounts use the platform? What do the Instagram feeds of your direct competitors look like? What form of content does your target audience find most engaging? Which hashtags will expand your reach? What is the best time to post?
These are the sorts of questions that you should look to answer during the research phase of Instagram content planning. They will help guide your strategy, making it far more efficient and effective.
3. Create a content calendar
A content calendar is perhaps the most useful Instagram planning tool you have at your disposal. It lays out exactly what you will be posting to IG and when you will post it. It allows you to plan weeks or months ahead, which in turn allows you to take a longer-term and more strategic approach to Instagram, rather than the short-term, ad hoc and ultimately ineffective approach taken by many businesses.
Use a spreadsheet or purpose-built tool to plot out the topics and subjects you’d like to cover in your post, and how often you plan to post (at minimum you should aim for a few times a week.) Balance consistent timing, branding and messaging with variety in the subject matter and the medium (photo, video or designer text.)
4. Use all of Instagram’s features
While Instagram was originally designed as a simple photo-sharing app, the modern iteration is so much more diverse. There are now a number of ways to deliver content to followers’ eyeballs:
The Instagram feed: You can post photos and videos to your profile which will show on your followers’ feeds.
IGTV: If you post a video longer than one minute to your Instagram profile you can make it available on IGTV, a repository of longer videos.
Stories: Keep your followers in the loop with this most casual of Insta mediums. Stories don’t require much thought – you can simply keep your followers up to date with what’s happening during your day. This can make them feel more authentic than the other, more curated forms of IG content.
Reels: Instagram’s answer to TikTok, here you can upload fun, funny, eye-catching and perfectly memeable videos.
Good content strategy is about not just using all these features, but finding ways to play to the strengths of each.
5. Craft compelling captions and hashtags
With your content calendar in hand and your Instagram goals in mind, you should aim to craft the most attention-grabbing and compelling captions possible for each post. What do you want your audience to do after seeing a post? Include a call to action (CTA) that drives them toward that end.
Hashtags should also form part of your caption. They can be thought of as the engine of an Instagram post, because it won’t go far without them. The right hashtags will help your post reach the right audience, as they allow an Instagram user to search the platform for whatever content they might be looking for.
6. Measure, analyse, evolve
Your content strategy won’t have an ‘end point’ per se. It will instead be in a constant state of evolution. The Instagram app and Meta Business Suite give you insights on how your posts are performing, and there are a wealth of third-party tools that dive even deeper into the data. Identify the KPIs you should focus on, measure them regularly, analyse your results, and then adjust your strategy in order to improve.
Every now and again it’s also wise to go right back to the start of this list, and reconsider your ultimate aim.
If you understand the potential of Instagram, but feel a little overwhelmed about tackling all the above, good news: you don’t have to.
An independent director and business owner who enjoys adding value to NZ boards and executive teams. She brings more than 20 years experience in export strategy and digital marketing from FTSE100 companies to tech start-ups. Collaborative, principled and intuitive in nature, Jordana embraces evidence-based decision making and will ask the questions that highlight all possible perspectives.