So you are taking the plunge and finally going to take your Instagram feed as a serious marketing tool for your business? Great! But how are you planning to do it? What is your plan of attack?
Here some things together before you dive into an Instagram frenzy of posts.
Choose a Layout Style
How your posts are positioned in your feed is basically what a layout means. When you know what type of layout you prefer for your brand, it will help you know what photo to put next to another photo. Apps like Later and Preview are great tools to be able to lay out these layouts (oh my! I just got why it’s called that!) A layout makes it easy to start and stick to an Instagram feed plan without feeling or getting lost and also plays a big part in maintaining consistency. You can read about the 7 popular Instagram layout styles to use and choose from in our blog post Popular Instagram Layouts to Use
Choose a Theme
What’s the mood of your feed? The vibe? The soul? The personality of your brand? Call it what you like, but a consistent theme is key to creating a visually stunning feed and captivating your audience. Putting time and effort into making your Instagram look as good as the quality of your product goes a long way in securing the trust of your new, old and potential customers. So take your pick! Do you like all things classy and chic? Or perhaps you love bursts of colour and energy? Or perhaps the minimalist theme tickles your fancy? Ever tried considering a dark and moody theme for your product range? But before you pick a theme, remember to be fully honest with what your brand needs. You may personally love the dark and moody theme, but if you are selling handmade children’s toys, it may not be the best theme for you. While you are a big part of your brand, try to identify and capture the personality of your brand and not your own. I recommend writing down some keywords that work for your brand and target audience and then picking a theme based on that analysis. For example let’s say some keywords that work for your business and products are “fun”, “joy”, “celebrations”, etc. Perhaps a theme that runs in tandem with all these keywords is a colour based theme. In a nutshell; don’t just pick a theme because you like the look of it; select one after understanding what your brand’s mojo is. Here is a great post from Later on the importance of an Instagram aesthetic.
Choose What You Want to Post About
As a business, you already know you obviously want to market your products. But making posts isn’t always necessarily about creating posts of your products that link directly to your online shop. Remember that your customers want to be able to relate to you. They want to identify with you as a small business, local business, niche business, handmade business, etc. Even if brands today try to mingle with their online audience, so why shouldn’t you. So the next step is to choose what your posts will be about. Aside from the typical “sales” and “here is our new product” posts, consider the following. Do you want your audience to know:
-about the work in progress?
-how you came about the idea?
-when the new collection is releasing?
-how you work in your studio?
-who are your production partners?
-who are the team members?
-how you take a break after a long week?
These are just some of the many questions you should be asking yourself. Write them all down. Answer them. And then see what you are most comfortable with. For example, if you are camera shy, then don’t plan to post pictures of close-up shots of you working in your studio. If you think your studio is too cluttered to make for a good photograph, then don’t plan on taking work in progress pics.
So again, be honest with yourselves and your comfort levels. I for one am very video shy, and even though the peer pressure is on to do live videos to engage with my audience, it’s just not something I am comfortable with. I envy those fellow business owners who are able to do it, but it’s not for me, and have made my peace with it. So explore your own boundaries and how far you are willing to push them.
Prepare Posts in Advance
You have picked a layout style, a theme and you know exactly what you want to post about. So what’s next? Start posting right? Errrr wrong! One of the biggest mistakes many businesses make is that they get so excited about all the hard work they have done so far, that they think they deserve to start posting on Instagram. Well patience is a virtue in this case. It is crucial at this stage to not only test out your ideas, but to also plan in advance. You must have heard people always talk about “stop thinking, and start doing”. Well what they don’t mean is dive head first into a shallow pool of water. Fill the pool with water, and then just go for it. While everything does not need to be planned out to the tee, some basic pre-planning can save you a lot of headache in the future.
So how do we do this? Well for starters take professional looking photos of your product. Nothing makes a customer want to leave your Instagram feed than a poorly taken and badly lit photo. If you’re not a pro, then just remember one thing - natural light is your best friend! Or, consider investing some of your marketing budget into a product photographer. Trust me, you won’t be disappointed with a difference that a good photographer can make.
But let’s say like most startup or small businesses, you don’t have the funds to hire a photographer, and you are absolutely terrible with a camera - even the one on your phone. What do you do? This is when mock-ups can come to the rescue. Websites like Mighty Deals and Design Cuts offer some amazing mock-ups. They have a wide range of selections to pick from and often offer heavily discounted packages. A mock-up takes a lot of the hassle out of photography and allows you to re-use pre-set and staged photographs into which you can place your products. They are restrictive in terms of the fact that they work best for businesses that sell art related products.
You have the photographs, but that’s just half the battle won. The other half if the caption and the hashtags. While it may seem cumbersome but preparing a list of all the intended posts with the associated photograph, caption and tags will save you a ton of time in the future.
Fix a Schedule
Everything is finally ready! So you go right? You go post happy on Instagram right? Well tell me this. Do you have time everyday to log into the Gram, copy and paste your caption, type in your hashtags, place the image and then post. It sounds simple enough. But if you have to do it everyday or three times a day, or even every other day, you are bound to make a mistake at one point. You are either going to accidentally post the wrong post at the wrong time disfiguring your theme, or you’ll just forget because you are so busy!
This is where the likes of Hootesuite and Later. While both paid apps, they give you back something that is more precious than money - your time. Both these websites allow you to schedule posts in advance and even let you physically see what your Instagram feed will look like. If you are anything like me, that is visual yet cannot navigate through a visual puzzle, you will make best friends with these apps very quickly. They allow you to add the photo, captions and images; schedule what date and time you want to make your post live; and even re-schedule posts to suit your viral craving needs. There will be a learning curve to this and you should use the re-scheduling tool to your benefit. Let’s say, for example, you choose to post a 9am everyday, but realise it is getting you very little engagement from your audience. Don’t be afraid to reschedule posts for a different time of day (or even day for that matter). Use this trial and error method to crack to code of what time and what day and what time of day your posts get the most engagement. Once that mystery is solved, you can schedule your posts accordingly.
Scheduling of posts far in advance requires planning on your end but also requires your initial input and time. So find that time of the week when you want to kick back, turn on some music and start the mundane task of scheduling your posts. I’m not going to lie - you will hate this part. But the minute you see posts going live automatically, while you are focusing on other aspects of your business, you’ll thank yourself for taking the time out for it.
And voila! Five tips on how to plan out your Instagram feed. Stay tuned! We will be back soon with tips on how to style your Instagram feed.