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?


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!

Struggling to Plan Social Media Content? Try This!

Creating social media content can sometimes be tricky. I don’t work in the same city as any of my clients, and during the lockdowns both physical locations were closed. So how did I plan my content?

Truth is, during the initial lockdown it was all about reaching out to the staff and clients to see if they’d be willing to contribute content. User Generated Content is a valuable tool when your business operations are interrupted.

Getting that content was not always easy. Staff changes happened, and I wasn’t always able to count on the same people from week to week. Clients were also dealing with their own lives and asking them to help with content creation during an incredibly stressful time verged on being insensitive and tone-deaf.

So I was forced to rethink my social media strategy.

Thanks to TikTok I have been exposed to a number of social media managers who are full of good tips and tricks. One of the best lessons I learned from their 1-minute promo clips is that you should look at social media content as a solution to 4 problems: education, promotion, inspiration/entertainment, and engagement. According to the HubSpot flywheel, content should also attract, engage, and delight.

So using all of this, I now have a pretty fool-proof social media content creation strategy.

Let’s use the flywheel elements as our main framework for social media content. Content that attracts will be entertaining, inspiring, and educational. Engaging content should engage (duh), and entertain (in order to drive more engagement like saves and comments), and promote (enjoying the content so much that they click the shop link or fill out a lead form). And finally, once you have customers, you want to delight them with entertaining and inspiring content, such a testimonials and company updates.

So now let’s look at what each of these types of content can include.

Attract, Engage and Delight Content Ideas for Personal Trainers

By following this content layout, and keeping the 4 solutions in mind (Educate, Entertain/Inspire, Engage and Promote).

If you want a full 30-day content calendar designed specifically for personal trainers, then click the link below:

Social Media Direct Messaging: A Case For Sliding Into DMs and Creating Genuine Business/Brand Relationships

My headline on this website is “Discover the Power of Social First Digital Marketing” so if you are surprised or confused by this title, well, I invite you to keep reading.

Sliding into DMs has quickly become synonymous with the new way of picking someone up. Where you used to get your best friend to tell your crush’s best friend that you like them, we are now using social media as the middle person.

Now, this is a digital marketing page, so I promise that there is a marketing and sales point to be made here.

DMs are the only private area of social media platforms. Your posts on social media are sent out into the world for all to see as soon as you hit “post”. But your DMs are yours. Someone taking the time to send you a DM shows a different level of effort to connect beyond leaving a comment or liking a post. Although there is some abuse of this feature with bots and drop-shipping companies inviting you to their ambassador programs, there is still some opportunity to do good here.

I’ve heard of people building real relationships via DMs, and so in this new era of customer service I think that the DMs are one of – if not the key place – to build genuine connections with your prospects and customers.

The Power of the Modern DM

When I first started using Facebook I was still using MSN messenger. So when Facebook introduced the world to Facebook messenger, there wasn’t anything special about it. Fast forward 15 years and the DM has come a long way.

Facebook, for example, has introduced a number of features for businesses to help improve response times, answer frequently asked questions, and even thank people for sharing recommendations (both negative and positive).

Instagram’s DMs, as an extension of the Facebook ecosystem, are also incredibly powerful. As a personal trainer you definitely want to be using the DMs as a place to nurture leads and current clients. You have a number of options to make this experience as personalized as possible.

Automate Your DMs

The first I recommend is setting up automated DMs. If you’ve ever seen a personal trainer, or any small business owner on IG, include a “DM me [WORD]”, it’s probably because they have set up an auto-response.

You can set up auto-responses through Facebook messenger. On Facebook for desktop go to your Facebook page and on the left hand side choose “Messenger”. On your Business Suite App, click the 9-dot square in the bottom right hand corner, click settings, and then automated responses.

You have a number of options for auto-responses like away messages, hours, etc. but to set up your auto-responses to prompts like “DM me [WORD], you’ll want to use the frequently asked questions button.

In here you’ll set the question to your prompt word. This could be something like CLIENTS or PERSONAL TRAINING or I’M READY. Whatever you choose to be your prompts, make sure you put this in the question box.

Then in the response box write out whatever your auto-response will be. This could be something like

“Hey! Thank you for the DM! I am so excited that you’re interested in personal training with me. Follow the link to learn more about my personal training program. If you’re ready to commit to your fitness today, then hit the button to sign up for my group session!”

Obviously you can customize this to sound more like you and include the information that you want to include. Along with your message you can include an attachment, like a free download or info package, or you can include a button, directing people to sign-up or shop pages.

Automation can save you A LOT of time, and I highly recommend this. I’ll be doing an article on automated email sequences at a later date, so stay tuned for that.

Personalizing the DM experience

Okay so you now have a steady flow of clients following you on Instagram and/or Facebook. What if someone sends you a message with a question, comment or concern?

The absolute best way to respond to these is by making it as personal as possible. You really want to show you care and you that you want to be there for them. What shows you really care? Video and voice messages!

Here’s a quick story to demonstrate my point:

Before moving to Sweden, I had been following Passion for Baking on YouTube. Her Swedish Princess Cake video was so relaxing and it looked delicious! When I was in Sweden, I sent her a message a few weeks before my birthday asking if I could order a cake from. It would be a dream come true to have 1 of her cakes and I’d do anything to have one.

The woman who owns Passion for Baking, someone that I adored, sent me a voice note. It made my day. Even though she was saying that she does not do deliveries, and so the message was disappointing – that didn’t matter. I had just received a voice note from someone who I was a big fan of.

When you are hired as a personal trainer for a client, you are in some way an idol to them. They trust you to care for their health and that trust creates a unique bond. So if they send you a message one night saying they’re feeling really low in confidence and energy and don’t know that to do – send them a voice note or a video message. I promise it will work wonders for your business and only make the client-trainer bond stronger.

Make DMs a Part of Your Funnel

I hope I have made it abundantly clear that DMs can not only save you time on lead generation, but they are also an incredibly valuable tool for client-nurturing activities. It only takes a few minutes to set up your automated messages, and it will save you so much time in the future.

And when your clients are looking for a personal connection to you, sending video or voice messages can help you stand out from all of the other personal trainers on the market.

If you have more questions about how DMs can help you scale you personal training business, send me an email at

#SocialSaturdays – February 27

Every Saturday on my Instagram page I host an IGTV series called Social Saturdays. In this series I talk about what’s going on in the world of social media, and provide actionable tips and resources for social media managers and digital marketers. Check out the last three episodes here:

I took a quick break from Social Saturday last week because I was in Ottawa for work and visiting family and there really wasn’t any spare time in my schedule. I did have an idea for the video, but I am going to save that one for later šŸ˜‰

On tonight’s show, I am talking about a couple interesting topics.

Is ClubHouse Living Up to the Hype?

Two weeks ago I talked about Twitter Spaces and how this will be Twitter’s attempt at competing against ClubHouse. Since then it feels like all I have heard about in the social media-verse has been ClubHouse this, and Clubhouse That.

More and more of the podcasts that I listen to are talking about ClubHouse and inviting their listeners to follow them on ClubHouse, which is great if you are on an iPhone. However, if you’re an android user there isn’t a way for you to join in on the fun.

I have found an app that is similar to ClubHouse and available to my fellow android users. It is called Stereo and uses avatars as talking heads, and allows you to host live podcasts (similar to ClubHouse).

Stereo App – ClubHouse Alternative

So I haven’t had the chance to really play with the app yet, but I do find the user interface very easy to use. The app is free, and when you initially sign up you get to create your own avatar, which is a fun feature. You’ll also have a chance to choose some topics that are relevant to you as a listener and stereo user. And – it is available on iOS and Android devices (Take that ClubHouse and Twitter Spaces!) This is what my avatar and profile looks like.

Once you’ve created your profile and chosen a couple relevant topics to follow, you’ll be taken to the main listening page of the app. This is the one area that I don’t love, but only because it auto-plays the audio. You are able to mute the app, but I would prefer an option to yes, join, or to simply keep swiping through the shows and have the muted feature as the default.

Speaking of which, that is a fun feature of the app. Unlike ClubHouse where the shows are invite only, Stereo allows you to swipe through shows and discover new topics very easily. While watching a show you also have the chance to send reactions, which is a feature found on Twitter Spaces. You can record a quick message as well, or share the show with friends.

Sample screen from the stereo app

When you want to go live for a show you have to partner with someone in order to go live. This is where having friends on the app comes in handy. You can invite a friend, colleague, or guest to go live with you and start your live audio immediately, or Stereo will pair you with someone in your niche.

If you are adventurous and feel like having a conversation with a stranger to get new insights and perspectives, this is actually a very cool feature. The openness and randomness of it makes this a true social platform because you get to connect with people you know, but also get to know new people.

If you’d like to follow me on Stereo, click this link to get started.

Tips for Instagram Users

The second topic on the show is all about using Instagram. I wanted to give this platform a special shoutout in the show because I feel like it has been getting some criticisms that I choose to see as opportunities.

Instagram responds to every new trend by creating their own version.

  • Snapchat = stories
  • YouTube = IGTV
  • Pinterest = Guides
  • TikTok = Reels
  • Facebook Live = Instagram Live

Now although it may seem like they lack imagination, Instagram has always added additional features to these to make them useful tools for any creator or business. Stories have a number of capabilities, great features, augmented reality capabilities, and tons of stickers that help businesses create more conversations (DM Sticker, Ask me Anything, Polls, etc.).

WIth IGTV, although it seems like these are being forgotten by Instagram, they can create value for a business who is not ready to make the move to YouTube. I like using them because it the vertical layout feels more personal, and it is on the platform that I am creating all of my content. This allows me to tell a more consistent story throughout my feed.

I think that Guides are a very cool tool. Instagram Guides lets you choose accounts or posts to highlight in 1 guide. I have used this to create a guide for PT clients that helps them find healthy post-workout options after their session at one of our locations. When I created the guide, it notified the accounts we included and they gave us a shoutout as well. So these are a secret weapon for creating and engaging your community. It also gives you more authority within your niche because you are able to make recommendations.

Lastly, IG Reels are the best way for Instagrammers to increase their reach exponentially. Before Reels the only way to be found by other accounts was to promote your account on other platforms, or find a way onto the explore page. With Reels, users are finally able to access more instagram accounts than ever.

So although there will always been shiney new social media apps popping up, Instagram has been a leader in adapting to the new trends and giving their users similar tools while maintaining the goal of connecting users through beautiful content.

That’s it for this week! As a reminder you can watch the full IGTV #SocialSaturdays Episode tonight on my Instagram. It usually gets posted around 6:30 pm, unless I run into technical difficulties.

Let me know in the comments what you’d like me to talk about in next week’s episode!

4 Benefits of Social Media Giveaways

If you are on social media chances are you have seen, or have even entered, a social media giveaway. All you have to do to enter is like, tag other accounts, and follow the account(s) running the contest.

There are few major benefits to doing social media giveaways:

  1. Increase brand awareness
  2. Highlight a company value
  3. Build strong connections with other businesses or influencers
  4. Increase your following

Increase Brand Awareness

With all of these people liking and tagging their friends, your brand is getting a major boost for impressions. A few brands and influencers have really nailed this by offering incredible giveaways. The major one that comes to mind from this past year is Love-Islander, Molly-Mae Hague’s summer giveaway. This included iPads and Louis Vuitton handbags and laptops – it was a massively generous giveaway and the generosity awarded her almost 3 million comments, millions of likes, and she even had articles written about the event.

This was to thank her followers for 1 million YouTube subscribers and certainly got the word out about Molly-Mae.

Highlight a Company Value

Depending on what you decide to giveaway or the companies and influencers you partner with, you can use these giveaways to share something that you care about. Right now I am running a giveaway on one of the Instagram pages that I manage and we are highlighting the fact that we support our community.

Supporting local has been a big part of 2020, and as this company is a local business, I wanted to make sure we let the public know that we really do walk-the-walk and it isn’t only self-serving. Not only will the giveaway prize be a gift card purchased by the company (not donated), but the giveaway also gives clients a chance to interact with a charity that we are supporting for the holiday season.

The giveaway will definitely give us more followers. But those followers will have a special first engagement with the brand. Their first impression of this company will be that they are generous, and that they support local initiatives.

Now if your first impression of a brand was that they gave back to their community, I’d bet that the brand made a pretty good first impression on you.

Build Strong Connections with Other Businesses or Influencers

In the social media space we can sometimes forget that social media is meant to be social – not just to glorify our own stories and promote our products (though it is a great tool for that). By running giveaways we really open up a great opportunity to be social with other brands and influencers online.

Before setting up a giveaway it is important to reach out to the accounts you’ll be partnering with or donating to. You’ll want to establish a relationship with those accounts so they know you’re a legitimate partner, and that you’ll stick to your word when it comes time to donate.

If all goes well and the two (or however many) of you are happy with the results, you’ve just made a very strong social media connection.

Think about your personal account. You probably follow a few hundred people on social media, you may even like the majority of posts that you encounter on your carefully curated feed. But then there’s the people that you’ll be happy to respond to their stories. You comment on their posts, and you’ll even try something they’ve shared on their feeds.

The example above shows the kind of relationship that businesses and influencers can have on social media if they leverage things like giveaways. Let me say it again: social media is meant to be social. So don’t be afraid to reach out and engage. You could find yourself in a symbiotic social media relationship.

Increase your following

I left this one as the final benefit of social media giveaways because although it is definitely a benefit it comes with an asterisk. You can expect to see a major boost in followers during the giveaway, but if your content afterwards doesn’t meet the new follower’s needs, then you’ll likely lose them.

Be sure that if you are looking to gain followers from a giveaway, that you nurture those new followers. Send them a direct message after following and ask them what type of content they love on social media. If you see yourself losing a large number of followers after the giveaway, try posting a few stories with the poll or question stickers.

You’ll never know until you ask.

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