How to Format an Instagram Strategy

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Ask anyone who has seen success in social media and they will tell you that you need to have an effective strategy in place in order to get there. Instagram is no exception.

Sure, you could go ahead and post a bunch of photos and videos to Instagram and see what sticks. But that isn’t going to drive success in the long run. Instead, consider the following factors when formatting your Instagram strategy.

Why Are You on Instagram?

This question may have more than one answer. Or, you may not even know that answer right now. Or, maybe someone told you that you should be on Instagram, so you are. But it’s important to know why you’re really on Instagram.

Are you on Instagram to generate brand awareness? Are you looking to grow your audience? Do you want to drive traffic to your website? Are you trying to sell products or services?

Whatever your reason is, embrace it. Then you can format your posts and content around achieving that goal.

Who is Your Audience?

Who is your target audience? Are they on Instagram? What are they using Instagram for? What do they want to see from you? How often are they on Instagram (daily, weekly, etc.)?

These factors about your audience will help you determine not only what to share, but how often to share it.

Posting Schedule

Speaking of how often to post, you need to determine how frequently you’re going to post to Instagram. Choose a schedule that is both easy for you to maintain and that rewards your audience. It could be once a day or multiple times a day. It could be once a week or a couple times a month. Either way, just make sure you stay consistent and post to Instagram regularly. No one likes a dormant account!

What to Post

A huge part of your Instagram strategy will include knowing what to post on your Instagram account. Your content should reflect various aspects of your business as well as your products or services. This can be achieved by sharing new product images, images of you providing your services, images of your customers purchasing or consuming your products and services, and even previews or teasers of new, upcoming items. You can share more about your business by showcasing your employees at work, things around your office or store, employee celebrations or company milestone events. You can also share behind-the-scenes type images of “how” you do things to give your Instagram followers an inside view into your company.

If you plan to offer promotions or sales information via your Instagram account, know how often you’ll run these promotions and how to craft that content. Will you create unique images using desktop tools like Photoshop or Canva? Or will you overlay the information (via text or graphics) on existing or new product images? How you display your promotions can impact how your audience reacts to these posts. You may need to consider A/B testing to determine which method works best for you.

It’s important to determine which type of content you want to showcase on Instagram and how you’ll craft your images. Simply snapping one photo may not produce high quality results. Instead, take the time to set up surroundings, place your items, check lighting, and experiment with different camera angles. Then choose the best image to upload to Instagram.

Know Your Analytics

Your Instagram strategy will often be some state of flux depending on current analytics. As your follower count increases, the demographics may shift. The posting and engagement behaviors of your followers may change over time. This is why it’s important to stay on top of your data and information.

I recommend you use Iconosquare (formerly Statigram) to easily track your Instagram analytics. This is a free site that instantly produces a wealth of information related to your Instagram account. You can see who has followed and unfollowed you. You can see which posts generate the most engagement from likes and comments. You can see which filters produce the best results for you. You can also, very importantly, see which times of the day are best for you to post based on your followers interactions.

Use this information to craft posts for ideal times to maximize engagement, and determine which content creates the most engagement and drives the most traffic.

Determine Your Style

Because Instagram provides so much creative opportunity, it’s important to define your style on Instagram. You may be retro and vintage or trendy and modern. You may use typically wide angle shots or prefer detailed close-ups. You might like to incorporate black and white images or you may favor high intensity colors. Whatever style you choose, it should reflect the image of your brand.

Then choose the most ideal filters and style layouts to ensure that your images and content stay on theme throughout your gallery. This doesn’t mean your style can’t evolve over time. We just don’t want your gallery looking like a random experiment of every type of creative whim.

Know Your Hashtags

Hashtags are more important on Instagram than any other social media site. They should be used regularly and effectively. Find out which hashtags are relevant to your business (I’m pretty sure #justinbeiber and #kimkardashian aren’t – so don’t use them).

Pick a series of 5-7 key industry hashtags to include in your captions. Some could be highly-popular tags to increase exposure and some should be less popular allowing you to establish prominence and credibility for that hashtag.

Whether your posts are products, services, behind-the-scenes looks, tips, promotions, or otherwise, properly including hashtags will ensure your content gets more reach and produces more results.

These are the key factors to consider when crafting your Instagram strategy. Take the time to determine the answers to these questions and the information you want to convey through Instagram. Once you have that in place, creating your content will be easier, more effective, and drive better results!

Jenn Herman
This monthly Instagram column is contributed by Jenn Herman. Jenn is a social media strategist and Instagram advocate who writes a blog focused on understanding trends in social media management and how to use Instagram for business. Her goal is to see you succeed with social media marketing in order to boost your business. Jenn provides consulting and training for small to medium sized businesses that need to structure their social media strategies and goals. +Jenn Herman
Jenn Herman


Social Media & Instagram consultant & trainer. #8 Social Media Blog by Social Media Examiner. The Ultimate Beginner's Guide to Instagram:
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