How to Plan a Month of Instagram Content in One Hour
I’ve got two toddlers. My schedule isn’t conducive to being able to spontaneously take a flat lay photo and draft a caption, and then publish it on Instagram and engage with my following. I used to think that meant that I shouldn’t even bother pursuing Instagram as a marketing channel, or even pursuing a side hustle at all! Isn’t that crazy? This was really what I was thinking; talk about some mega-limiting beliefs. Especially because it is so dang easy to prepare and schedule a whole batch of posts in advance, leaving your phone to do the automatic publishing and marketing for you while you can focus on your family, at least until nap-time.
I’m big on automation, schedules, and organized lists, and this post is going to have a whole bunch of all of those things. If what I outline here isn’t really conducive to your schedule, or your season of life, or to your business, then totally just take it all with a grain of salt, because I recognize that everyone is different and the beauty of running your own business is that you get to do it how you want. I’m merely going to outline the process I follow to get a whole month’s worth of Instagram content created, uploaded, and scheduled into Planoly all at once so the only thing I have to think about is checking in and engaging with the comments when the posts get posted.
before you start
Prior to sitting down with a timer to start creating and scheduling a month’s worth of posts, you need to get organized. I want you to think about your existing audience as well as the audience you want to attract. What interests do they have? Why do they follow you? Can you tell from engagement on past or recent posts what sorts of things they vibe most with?
You’ll want to list out about 5 things that could serve as “categories” for what you post. Some of them can be more sales-y or promotional, but you should also keep things real and personal. For example, my five “categories” on rotation in my feed might be motherhood, workshops/blog posts/other bloom promotional stuff, actionable tips, client projects, and personal/misc. I’ve actually gotten a bit more technical in my strategy as time goes on, but that’s the gist of it.
By segmenting your topics in this way, you’ll actually be able to appeal to a broader audience of people. If all you’re sharing is recent client projects, you might attract people who like to see your work, and family and friends who want to support you, but it’s not a really sales-driven strategy. For that, you’d want to share lots of resources and tips for your potential clients, things that get them really interested in the product. But then you might lose the interest of anyone who was following to see your completed projects, and you might be losing that personal touch that connects you personally to a follower. Can you see the benefit of diversifying and segmenting your topics to appeal to more people? By putting these topics into a rotation, you’ll attract all of these different targets, and they’ll stick around even if they see one post that doesn’t appeal to them, because there will likely be more coming that do.
After you’ve decided on some categories, put them into a rotation that you can follow when you’re planning your content. Next, you’ll do a bit of research to see when the best times to post are for maximum engagement with your audience. You can use Instagram’s analytics tools to learn this, but I also love checking out Squarelovin every once in a while because I love the visuals it gives me to show me how and when I should post. Create a free account and give it a couple of weeks to track some data from your Instagram account, and then jump into your massive batch scheduling for the next month.
step one: Choose your days/times to post.
Using the information you learned from Squarelovin, and also your own understanding of your audience, topics, and upcoming sales/events, map out all the times you want to publish posts this month. This might be helpful to do with a big desk calendar or a poster on a big table.
Remember, how often you post isn’t an indication of how successful you are. Choose a balance between frequent reminders to keep you at the forefront of your audience’s mind and the amount of work and posts that you can handle. For me, that number has changed in the seasons of my business. Right now, I’m doing about two or three posts a week, and I might bump it up to advertise my upcoming workshop, but then I’ll probably drop it back down to a manageable two posts a week.
step two: Determine your rotation.
After you’ve figured out how often you’re going to share content, figure out the order. Keep in mind when you’ll want your more promotional posts to fall in the calendar month, based on upcoming sales or recent events and that kind of thing. And it’s okay to switch up the rotation a bit to fit certain events, as long as the images you share alongside your content in that order still contribute to a cohesive feed.
step three: Plan your content and captions.
This step will account for the bulk of the block of time you’ve set aside for this project. You’ll first want to group the number of posts you’re posting into the five categories and then either choose what photos you want to share and draft your captions after you’ve decided, or if you’re working with pretty flexible photos for your content, you can plan all your captions first and then find the photos to match. But the real time-saving key is to do this in batches based on the categories.
For example, when I sit down for a month’s worth of planning, let’s say I’m sharing four personal anecdotes, stories, or get-to-know-me posts. I’ll first go find the four photos I want to share (maybe a couple photos of my whole family, a picture of my boys playing, and a picture of me sitting at my desk), and then I’ll plan some posts around each of those ones. This might look like one about a recent family adventure, one about mom life/work life balance, one about my kids starting to potty train, and then a post about how I got into graphic design. Bam. All I need to do is quickly write up some captions and throw in some hashtags.
Do that for each category, one whole category at a time. And when you’re choosing your photos and writing captions, do it in a scheduling app like Planoly where you can see a visual representation of what your feed will look like as it publishes. This way you can easily drag things around to get them to look how you want.
step four: Schedule all your posts.
My suggestion would be to not schedule the posts until the very end so that you can make little adjustments in what publishes when, and make sure you don’t have like too many photos in a row with similar content or too much of the color red or something like that. Then go through and schedule each post as a last step.
Another tip, for Planoly at least, is to crop all your photos to a square before you upload them. I probably should have mentioned that earlier in the content planning step, but hopefully you’re reading this entire post in advance and not doing it as you read through for the first time.
Anyway, the reason I crop all my photos to a square, or at least the ones that are really horizontal or really vertical, is because Planoly has a hard time publishing automatically if the photo extends beyond a certain aspect ratio. This means that instead of publishing automatically, Planoly will notify you with a little banner on your phone when a post is scheduled to publish, but is unable to because of the aspect ratio. That’s very helpful of Planoly to offer this little banner notification, but I don’t ever want that to happen, simply because it’s not always convenient to post and everything right in the middle of my day while I’m taking care of the kids. Cropping your photos before you upload them is super easy to do, even just on your phone, and those few seconds save you precious minutes later in the month when you’re not at a point where you can stop what you’re doing and just post the photo.
That’s really it! This entire process, on regular months, takes me about an hour to an hour and half to complete, depending on if I’m including the time it takes me to create graphics or other designs that I want to share in my feed, in addition to all the photos. I really believe that by batching tasks like this, you’ll be able to find a much happier balance between running your side hustle and the rest of your life, and that’s the goal, right? Let me know if you think of any tips I should add to this post, and happy publishing!
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