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

Top Social Media and Marketing Article of the Week (Feb 8 – Feb 12)

I am going to start a new series of blog posts that highlights some of the best articles that I have come across. I use an app called Feedly to organize marketing and social media content and spend an hour every day reading through the latest articles.

From the articles in my feed I’ll select a handful of the most useful articles and share with you why they were worthy and how I could see client’s using the strategies outlined in the articles in their own online marketing efforts.

Without further a-do, here are the articles I’ll be covering this week:

  1. How Micromarketing can take you strategy to the next level” – Hubspot
  2. Social Media Customer Service: To Do it Right” – Hootsuite

“How Micromarketing can take you strategy to the next level” – Hubspot

I am a big fan of HubSpot and they do an excellent job of presenting new ideas that allow you to dive deeper into the world on marketing. What I liked about this article was that it was a quick read. When I am being introduced to a new topic, I like to get a summary-type of article so that I am not too bogged down with details. (Imagine a teacher explaining organic chemistry on your first day of science class, instead of teaching you about the periodic table.)

They provided some well-known examples of micromarketing as well, which I found to be very effective. Their use of the Coca-Cola “Share a Coke” campaign helped make the idea of micromarketing very clear.

So what is micromarketing? Based on what I understand from the article it is an even more detailed look at your customer-base and designing marketing campaigns or products/services that speak to the customer directly or a small subset of a larger target audience.

In the example of “Share a Coke”, Coca-Cola was able to provide a personalized experience by printing 150 of the most popular names on their bottles. When the campaign launched they were able to track the bottles that were purchased to get a better idea of who is buying their bottles. More importantly, as mentioned in the HubSpot article, they ended up selling 250 million bottle of coca-cola in a country of 23 million people.

By simply adding a personalized touch to the bottles, they inspired more people to buy more of their products. This is the key to micromarketing: go deeper with your segmentation and targeting. Learn more about your customers/audience, and deliver better products, services, and marketing based on their unique qualities.

Social Media Customer Service: To Do it Right” – Hootsuite

What really struck me about this article was that they opened it with a number of important facts relating to the customer experience online. I’ve included a screengrab of the facts here:

So there is a lot to take in there but I want to focus in on the fact that customer service interactions will increase by 40% this year, and that the time it takes a brand to respond on twitter drops by 30% when they don’t have a designated customer service account.

I don’t know about you, but I have taken to Twitter in the past to reach out to brands when I have a customer service issue. The quickness of those responses is a major factor in how I feel about the brand. I can remember when I tweeted about waiting patiently for my Monday newsletter from Greatist and within a few minutes I had received a DM from them and they were DMing me to say thank you and offer to send me a free t-shirt for being a fan of the blog.

I have never forgotten that experience and still think highly of Greatist because of that interaction.

I wanted to highlight this article because it ties in another relevant practice on social media, which is social listening and monitoring. This is the practice of setting up filters to monitor conversations online about your brand, your niche, and the news. This allows you (as a brand) to interact with people who are talking about your brand – and not necessarily tagging you or using a hashtag. It keeps social media social, which is something you’ll hear me say a lot.

Having a customer service account dedicated to responding to customer service requests is an important part of that online conversation. By dedicating accounts, and therefore a team, to this effort you can expect a higher satisfaction rate from your customers. The customer service representatives are also the ones who have been trained to handle customer service requests, so they are the best trained for these interactions – online or in-person.


I have to be honest, this was a very busy week, so I wasn’t able to read as much as I had hoped. With that said, I am noticing a trend towards both of the ideas mentioned in this article: more defined targetting/getting to know your customers on a deeper, more detailed leve and better online customer service.

The two ideas go hand-in-hand. If you understand your customer better, you’ll know how to answer their questions better. If you are responding to customer service requests in a timely manner, you’re learning about the issues your customers are having while also providing a great experience for them.

If you are to implement these ideas into your marketing and customer service efforts, I would bet that you’d see a more positive brand sentiment and greater overall satisfaction from your customers.

Try it out and let me know what you think!

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.

Success! You're on the list.

Fleets – Twitter has re-entered the group chat

I have been a long-time user of Twitter. I joined back in 2009 because some of my favourite YouTubers like Mitchell Davis (LiveLavaLive) and JennaMarbles would do twitter Q&A’s and I really wanted to be included in one of them.

Since then Twitter has gone through a few phases. It was a strong platform for my generation until Instagram and Snapchat picked up speed. When stories were introduced on both of these platforms, people couldn’t find a reason to tweet when they could share their thoughts on Facebook (without a character limit) and connect with their favourite celebrities on Instagram and Snapchat.

Twitter also bought Vine, which eventually led to the closure of Vine – a real loss for the early social media creators.

Fast forward to today and Twitter has increased its character limit from the original 140 to 280. It has been the epicenter for all of the Trump nonsense from the last 4 years. It has also been home to some creative and incredibly funny corners of the internet. If there’s a major event that can be made into a meme, Twitter is pretty quick to be the birthplace of some of the best memes.

But with the introduction of Fleets, their version of Instagram and Facebook stories, Twitter has an opportunity to really become a very interesting social media platform.

The Original Microblogging Platform

I believe it was in David Meerman Scott’s “New Rules of Marketing & PR” where I had my definition of Twitter redefined. It isn’t just about sharing random thoughts, it is actually a microblogging platform. In 280 characters or less (or more if you create a thread), you are sharing your opinions and therefore your personal perspective on some topic or idea.

Now how does this make the new Fleets feature an exciting launch? Well when I think of what stories have been on Instagram, Facebook, LinkedIn, etc., they act as a form of microblog. Sharing your favourite songs, or vlogging an event you attend – however you use stories, you’ve always been doing a form of microblogging.

So now that the original microblogging platform has joined the stories game, I think they have a great opportunity to not only amplify the voices of their best users, but to open up new doors to their users who have been tweeting thoughts, ideas, and perspectives for years. Everyone on that platform is used to the format of quick thoughts and getting a point across in a succinct way. In a time of limited attention spans, this is incredibly valuable.

Tweets as Fleets

One of the greatest features is the fact that you can share tweets as fleets. This is something many of us have been doing with tweets for years. Take a screenshot, place it on a nice background, and share it to Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, etc. Now that this feature is built into an app, it takes away the need to take those extra steps.

Going back to this idea of limited attention spans, we are also a society that has had apps and websites designed for the minimum clicks possible to get us to our desired goal. Too many steps and many of us give up and seek out a solution that will get us there faster. So with this tweet sharing feature of fleet, they’ve just cut that process down to a minimum of 2 clicks.

That sounds like efficiency and another reason to spend more time on Twitter.

Low-Pressure Tweeting

On the Twitter blog, the first reason they cite for creating Fleets is a great example of listening to customers. If you are a Twitter user, how many times have you written a tweet and then saved it to drafts or deleted it completely? I know there’s been a few times where I have had a strong opinion on something, have written a great tweet on it, and then deleted it because I worried it was maybe too opinionated. And worse, what if my opinions change in the future, but this is now on the internet forever?

Well that’s where Fleets become an awesome solution. Fleets allow you to share your opinions and perspectives, but with slightly less commitment. You can be part of a conversation but when the topic is no longer a headline, or a trending topic, the Fleet is already gone.

This allows for a more robust conversation. Less hesitation, more perspectives, greater depth in conversation.

I will definitely be using Fleets to share messages related to my Tweets. I like the idea of sharing something that is happening in the moment, and you don’t have the time to write up a Tweet. I don’t want to share the exact same stories across all platforms because I think the audience on Twitter is different from the other major platforms. I want to give more context to my tweets, or help introduce a tweet with a Fleet.

I’ve always been interested in vlogging, and similarly to how I use Twitter as a microblogging platform, I will be using Fleets as a micro-vlogging platform. Working in the social media space and marketing, it is always a good idea to test out the latest platforms and features. If that feature or that new platform ends up being a hit, you’re always well-versed in all of the ways you can use the platform to your advantage.

How will you use Twitter Fleets?