From Casual To Content Planning Pro: How to Scale Your Instagram with 1 Simple Tool

If you work in social media or are promoting your own small business via social media, then you know (or at least you should know) that there are a few key metrics. Engagement is Queen, as this can be a powerful metric for brand deals and tells you that your audience actually cares about your content, which really means that you are connecting really well with you audience.

Beyond engagement you want to be increasing your followers. Especially on Instagram, where reaching the 10,000 follower milestone opens up a number of powerful tools for your business (hello Swipe Up feature).

But how do you get there. How do you take your small, locally owned business from a few hundred followers to becoming a locally known and loved brand on Instagram?

The secret is in this blog post. Keep reading to get in on it!

To Fail to Prepare is to Prepare to Fail

This classic quote is a classic for a reason and where I’ll begin your journey to social media success.

Early on in my career I would always see people saying “create a calendar”, “have an editorial calendar”, “have a content plan”, to which I initially turned my nose up. I thought that my instinct was enough and that planning would take too long.

At first this worked out okay, but after a while the content started to feel disconnected. One day we were posting about topic A, and the next we were posting about topic 8. The lack of continuity was affecting our numbers and confusing our audience.

Admittedly it took me years to land on a content planning and scheduling technique that actually worked. Since I’ve started to use my content planner for Instagram, all of the accounts I manage have seen the type of growth that you see over years. My own personal Instagram has seen 300% growth in the time span that most accounts only see 14% – 16%.

What Is Important In a Plan?

There is a lot that you could plan, but what’s important to have in your planner? What will actually help you feel at ease when you go to create the content, publish it, and promote to your audience?

First you want a general idea of your content pillars. These can be laid out in a content brainstorming matrix. Something that looks like this:

content brainstorming matrix

Along the top you’ll see your themes. These are your content pillars that you’re going to focus on. If you’re a fitness business you could talk about injury prevention, nutrition and healthy lifestyle habits.

Once you have you content pillars you’ll then use the 4 main types of “winning” content to help you brainstorm. That’s what you see on the left side of the matrix (not shown: entertainment and promotion). Studies have shown that people love educational content (how to’s, tutorials, lists, etc.). Especially if it helps them do their job or hobby better.

The next type of winning content is inspirational. In the example of the fitness business, this would be your testimonials or your transformation stories. They can be inspirational in the sense that they show a business win, but they could also show how you overcame a struggle. This brings people in and humanizes the brand.

Speaking of humanizing the brand – entertaining content is our next type of winning content. This is why videos like the bottle flipping trend, or the planking videos are so great and why they go viral. In fact, entertaining content has the greatest potential to go viral – if you do it right, of course. Going back to my fitness business, entertaining content could be a silly video your staff make to poke fun at personal trainer stereotypes. It could also be fun behind the scenes content that lets people be extra nosey, which ultimately brings them closer to your brand.

And finally, promotional content. Gary Vaynerchuk advises people to jab more times than you land the right hook. Promotional content is your right hook. With that in mind, you want to create way more educational, inspiring and entertaining content before posting something promotional. Give people value. Give them so much value they feel indebted to you and will buy from you without hesitation.

That’s the idea at least.

Okay, now you have your content ideas in your brainstorm – now what?

It’s Time to Get Organized

When I say get organized, I mean that you need to organize all of those ideas into functioning posts.

You’ll need to figure out your posting schedule, what type of content you’ll create for that idea (video, image, carousel, reel, etc.), write your caption – complete with CTA, hashtags and any mentions if you have them. And of course, lastly you’ll want to figure out the best time to be posting your content based on your page insights.

monthly content planner template

The drop down options in the example above show you just 1 example of how you can use the different types of content to educate, entertain, inspire and promote on your page.

Under files you have the option to drop the actual files, or you can link it if you’ve designed it in a program like Canva. Alternatively, if you are saving files onto an external hard drive, you can write out the file pathway so that you never forget where your content is.

I find that it also helps to have a number in mind for each type of content. If you are posting 3x/week, you could also be posting a Guide 1x/month, you could be aiming for an Instagram live at least 1x/month and so on and so forth.

In my content planner, I’ve created formulas so that the sheet tells me when I’ve created enough of each type of content I have planned. It looks like this and it auto-populates as I input my content into the planner.

content tally

Take It One Step Further

I am an organizational freak, so I actually like to take this content planner one step further by planning every week out.

Essentially this is gives me a day-by-day view of the content, instead of just seeing it as 1 big list in the monthly planner. The nice thing about this step is that you are copying and pasting the data from the monthly planner into the weekly planner tabs.

Weekly planner. Get the Planner Here

The weekly planner has the same tally system on the side as the monthly planner, but it has been modified for the weekly goals.

I really like the weekly planner because then as I plan my week of work, I can go into the weekly planner and I know exactly what’s happening that week in terms of content. Sometimes looking at the big monthly plan can be a lot and my eyes can get tired looking for specific pieces of content. But that’s just my preference.

Best Practices on Social Media – BONUS

As a reminder to myself I like to create a tab that has all of the best practices that I’ve collected over the years. In the heat of a busy week I can forget that I am supposed to engage and what exactly that includes. It can also save me time by reminding me that when I post a Reel, I can post and then leave the app for an hour while the views build (posting and ghosting isn’t my favourite hack, but it does work!).

So How Does This Help You Grow On Instagram?

I started this article by saying that I have secrets to help you grow on Instagram. So what is the big secret?

Consistency.

By using a content planner your content themes will be consistent. Your posting schedule with be consistent. Showing up on stories and using all of the content tools available to you will be – you guessed it – consistent.

The final thing that needs to be consistent is engagement. You have to be on social media every day engaging with your audience. Remember – this is called social media. The more you are on a certain platform engaging with people and creating a fun environment for other users, the longer they will stay on social media. The more you encourage people to stay on the platform with your content, the more Instagram will reward you with views and more followers.

So that’s it! The cat is officially out of the bag and you now know the secret to growing your Instagram. I hope this helps you grow your business, reach your ideal client and help you achieve your higher purpose – whatever it may me.

Want the Instagram content planner I use? You can get yours by clicking the button below! Thank you for support and happy content planning!

Published by Riri's Discoveries

Director of Social Media and Marketing at Free Form Fitness. I began as a personal trainer with Free Form Fitness and started my transition to the content writer just 2 months after being hired. After creating content for 4 months, I then pitched the idea of creating a social media manager role at Free Form Fitness. After a 3 month trial period, I was asked to be their Director of Social Media. Since August 2018 my role has evolved and I now manage Google Ads, Social Media Ads, create weekly content, help design web pages and optimize them for SEO. The goal of the ririsdiscoveries.ca website is to share the high's and low's of being a self-taught marketing director.

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