Scheduling for Success: Using an Instagram Content Calendar

 

With a content calendar, a little effort up front can save you a ton of time and prevent a boatload of stress down the road.

2018 is drawing to a close and a new year is just around the corner! Chances are you’ve got some big goals for you and your business in 2019. Maybe using Instagram to promote and grow your brand is part of what you have in mind. If that’s the case, I can’t recommend a content calendar enough. Maintaining an Instagram page with reasonably frequent, high-quality content can be tough but putting a content calendar together can provide you with a handy roadmap for a month worth of content that makes managing your page feel like a breeze. [If it sounds helpful, click here to download a content calendar kit and use this blog post as a guide to create your own!]small business Instagram content calendar

A content calendar is an excellent way to get your Instagram posts organized. It allows you to think strategically, avoid having to throw together last-minute posts between other tasks, and ensures what you do post helps you progress towards your business goals. Personally, I’ve found content calendars incredibly helpful and on the morning of the last Monday in a month I make sure to put together a new one for the coming month.

Alright, so what exactly is a content calendar? Essentially, it’s a visual overview of all the content you’re planning to post in a given month. It lays out the Instagram content for your upcoming events, product launches, sales, holiday messages, blog posts, and so forth, as well as the other content that will fill the spaces between landmark occasions. Knowing what you want to post and when you want to post it well ahead of time allows you to prepare and find the images and other things you’ll need.

Now, for me, making a content calendar isn’t about sitting down and writing out Instagram posts word-for-word. If that works for you then that’s absolutely an option, but if I tried that it would just be packing all the stress and frustration of writing each post into one block of time. Instead, I use my content calendars as  fairly flexible frameworks that guide the creation of my posts. I’ve outlined my content calendar development process below to give you an idea of what I mean.

Making a Content Calendar

There are a couple preliminary steps that will help you get the most out of your content calendars. First, is a clearly defined goal for your Instagram content. There’s no point in using your valuable time posting content to Instagram for your business if it isn’t going to serve your needs and actually knowing what your end goal is makes it much easier to make content that will get you there. So take a little time to identify those needs and clearly establish what you are trying to accomplish with Instagram: Is it brand awareness? Getting more subscribers on an email list? Making more sales?

Next, you need to figure out who it is you’re talking to. Who is your target market? Are they primarily women? What is their age range, their job, and their income? Are they married? Do they have kids? Where do they hang out? Where do they shop? What are their hopes and dreams? How about their frustrations? Most importantly, how can you, your product, or your service help them? Knowing your audience means you can create content that speaks to the right people.

Now we’re just about ready to start building a content calendar. The last thing you need to determine before starting is how often you plan to post and the key themes you’ll be posting about. I have found that consistency is more important than quantity when it comes to Instagram posts, meaning it’s better to have a consistent schedule with fewer posts per week than it is to post seven times one week before going weeks without posting anything new. Personally, I like to post once a day but you’ll need to determine what is doable for your business. Picking content themes also generates consistency and defines the types of captions you write and share, saving you the headache of picking a theme each time you set out to post to Instagram. The four basic content themes I have taken to using are: educational; entertaining; motivational; and promotional.

With everything in place, the scheduling begins! I like to structure my weeks by assigning content themes to specific days, saving myself the trouble of having to juggle my predetermined themes around. Say, for example, you’ve decided that you’re going to post 5 times each week. You might choose to do motivational posts on Monday, educational ones on Tuesday, promotional posts on Wednesday, entertaining posts on Thursday, and education again on Friday. You can even break things down even further, if you want, by scheduling specific content formats. Mondays could be designated for posting quotes, every Tuesday could feature a behind-the-scenes post, and on Fridays you could post a business tip that would be helpful to your audience. The goal here is to remove as many barriers between you and consistent Instagram posts as possible. Heading into a day knowing that you want to post a motivational quote on Instagram means you’re already steps ahead of starting from scratch.

As a quick aside, people get tired of constant sales pitches pretty quickly so it’s a good practice to limit promotional content to about 20% of what you post. To keep people interested in your content and coming back to your page, the other 80% of your posts should provide something of value for your prospective clients/customers. With this in mind, try to give your audience something to learn from, something to inspire them, or something to entertain them. Some ideas to consider could be:

  • Inspirational quotes - quotes can make for lovely written or visual content and posting them can get you fired up too!
  • Tutorials and tips about your industry - sharing things you’ve learned while building your brand can be super helpful to other business owners and interesting to those who follow you. Why not pull back the curtain a little and share what you know?
Armed with the knowledge of your goals, your audience, and a weekly structure, attacking a monthly calendar is easy. You can create a content calendar using online tools like Google Calendar, Trello, or Asuna but I’m old school and prefer to write it out on paper. Start with writing down all your events, announcements, blog posts, product launches, and other landmark events that take priority. Once those dates are highlighted, use your weekly content structure to fill in the gaps. Let’s take the month of October as an example:

For October, I would obviously have Halloween scheduled on the 31st, knowing I would want to post something for that. But I also know that I upload new photos to the free section of my gramThis website on the 1st of each month, I would have a blog post going up on the 12th of the month, and my newsletter would go out on the 22nd. I’d pencil all of these in and would define the associated content. I would want a post reminding my followers to check out the new free stock photos when they were posted on the 1st. On the 12th, I would want to let everyone know that I had a new blog post up and what it was about. I would probably want to remind them about the blog post again on the 18th, in case they had missed it the first time I posted about it. A few days before my newsletter goes out, I would want to let people know and encourage them to sign up, meaning I would probably post on the 17th and again on the 20th to remind them. With all of those in place, I would use my weekly structure to fill in the blanks - empty Mondays would get a motivational quote, Tuesdays without a post would get a behind-the-scenes post, and so on.

Again, this isn’t me sitting down and writing every Instagram post for the month right then and there. It’s a guide that takes away the pressure of scheduling on the fly. It’s also not set in stone, so I can adapt as the month goes along. What is key for me, is that I have an overview of the upcoming month of Instagram posts so I can prepare accordingly. Given the importance of visual content for building a business, having a content calendar also gives me a chance to prepare the images I am going to need for my posts. In my case, that involves securing the props, taking the shots, and editing the images I will need so they’re ready to be posted. Maybe you need to do the same, need to secure new product shots, need to find some fresh stock photography, or need to dig through your image bank. Regardless of how you get your photos, knowing what you want to post days or even weeks in advance gives you the chance to get organized and make sure the images you’ll be posting to Instagram look their best. (If you’d like to try out some stock photos that are specifically shot for social media to see if using them would make your life easier be sure to check out my stock photo shop gramThis. If you subscribe to my newsletter you’ll get 8 FREE photos delivered to your email inbox right away and each month you’ll get emailed a code to get 2 images of your choice from the gramThis catalog.)

When it comes to making an Instagram post, knowing the goal of the post, your target audience, the theme, the topic, the format, type of image, and the date of posting takes a ton of the guesswork out of putting it all together. And creating a content calendar gets easier each month, especially once you already have a clear idea of your goals, target audience, and weekly posting structure. I find that using your plan and scheduling some of your content in advance with an app like Later or Planoly makes managing your Instagram page even easier, because none of your important posts get missed and you can still add some posts on the fly when you have the time to do so.

Feel free to reach out through Instagram, Facebook, or email to let me know if you have any questions about how I use content calendars, or to show me how you put together your own! I’d love to hear if they’ve brought you as much peace of mind as they have brought me.


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