Are you spending way too much time and energy creating Instagram posts and stories?
Want a step-by-step strategy that will dramatically reduce the amount of time you put into creating all your Instagram content?
These tips are also great for finding content ideas that get lots of engagement, so if this is something you’re struggling with, keep reading!
(You might also want to check out my recent post, 7 Instagram Features to Increase Engagement in 2019).
1. Brainstorm and record content ideas.
I know, this isn’t exactly rocket science.
But how you brainstorm can make all the difference.
First, we talked about starting with a swipe file. This is simply a way to capture all the stuff you see online that really inspires and captivates you. The key is not to think, “I’ll come back later for inspiration”, but to actually write stuff down as you see it.
Rebekah’s tool of choice for this is the Notes app on her phone. Some other tools she recommends are Google Docs or simply a spreadsheet. The key idea is simply that you have a place to save different ideas and posts (and the place you found them) to reference later when you’re trying to come up with content.
My tool of choice is Evernote, which I’ve been using for years. Wherever I am – even in line at the store – I can whip out my phone when I see a magazine or something that inspires me, and take a picture or make a note.
For me, I get a lot of my inspiration and ideas from Instagram itself. I follow accounts that really inspire me – for instance, Pixar. In my opinion, they’re one of the best storytelling companies out there, and their stories perform really well. Their Instagram posts really get my creative juices flowing: for instance, I love that they get their interns to give backstage tours.
Keep in mind that the accounts you follow don’t need to be in the same genre as yours. Obviously, Pixar isn’t in the same niche as Manly Pinterest Tips. It’s also important to note that I’m not talking about copying their posts; but simply using aspects of their posts for inspiration.
For you, a local realtor or woodworker might really inspire you – it could be the way they edit their videos, or the way they do their captions. In any case, make sure to bookmark those posts and then use them as inspiration when you go to create your own content.
Kristen also gets a lot of her inspiration from Instagram. She makes sure to turn on post notifications for accounts that inspire her: for instance, people or businesses who create content in the same vein as hers, or who are really great storytellers, or who just produce really engaging content.
She keeps an eye on how different types of posts are performing in terms of likes and comments, and puts the most engaging ones in a saved folder directly on her Instagram. She also uses the Notes app to record caption ideas, plans for thing she wants to feature in the future, etc.
Rebekah gets her inspiration from a little-known site called Pinterest (heard of it?). She goes in and types in her keyword(s) just to see what other people in her niche are sharing, and how it’s resonating with their audience.
She also likes to use Facebook Audience Insights to see what type of content her audience is responding to on other pages they’re connected to.
In terms of getting color and design inspiration, I really like Dribbble. It’s a site for web designers, and is a great resource. So, if you’re struggling with choosing color palettes or other design-based stuff, be sure to check it out!
Some other tools and strategies for finding content ideas:
Google Autosuggest – Start typing in something related to your niche, and see what suggestions pop up. This can give you a good idea of what people are searching for.
Pinterest Autosuggest – You can use the same strategy on Pinterest. Start typing in a phrase, and this can give you some ideas for stuff you may want to talk about.
Answer the Public – Kristen recommends this tool as a way to find questions people are currently asking online. Simply start typing in a phrase, and the tool will suggest popular questions you can gear your content towards.
Quora – Search Quora to find questions people are asking in your niche.
Reddit – Browse Reddit to find popular topics, and tie those into your content (where relevant).
Google Analytics – Kristen recommends seeing what topics have done well with your audience in the past, and creating new content that ties into that. Pay special attention to topics that have gotten lots of traffic in the past, or that are searched for quite a bit.
Survey your audience – Of course, it’s always a good idea to go right to the source! Rebekah recommends sending out a survey to your Facebook group members, Facebook page fans and email subscribers to ask what they want to learn about.
A final note here: Try not to overthink the brainstorming stage. Rebekah recommends simply getting out there, exploring, and looking at all these different tools we’ve recommended. You’ll quickly start to get an idea of what tools or sites give you the best info – and she acknowledges this could very well simply be your audience!
2. Create your visuals.
Once you have a bunch of ideas and inspiring posts saved in your swipe file, it’s time to create your own visuals.
Kristen recommends making sure your images are consistent in terms of look, mood and tone. One way she does this is through using presets in Lightroom. She finds using presets makes your entire feed look more cohesive and professional.
If you’re not familiar with presets, they’re simply sets of around 10-12 filters (usually higher-quality than Instagram’s filters) you can put on your photos when you edit them in a tool like Lightroom.
She also recommends using Tailwind’s 9-Grid Preview feature to mix and match her photos, to see which ones look best together. She just drags and drops the photos, makes sure they all work well together, and just really puts the finishing touch on her feed.
In terms of tools for creating or editing your visuals, there are a number we talked about and recommend:
Adobe Lightroom – This is basically like a lite-version of Photoshop. It’s cheap – $9.99/month – and lets you edit your photos, put vignettes on them, use color washes, all sorts of cool stuff. Even big Instagrammers like Peter McKinnon use it – and in fact, Peter has his own set of Lightroom filters you can buy on Sellfy.
Easil – This is Rebekah’s recommended tool. Easil has hundreds of Instagram post and story templates you can choose from and then edit to suit your needs. You can basically choose one or two, plug in your brand colors and fonts, and you’re good to go. It also uses layers (like Photoshop) and their designers are constantly adding new designs…which is why she prefers it to, say, Canva.
VSCO– This is a great tool for adding presets to your images. You can choose from their built-in presets, or even play around with them and create your own.
A Color Story – This is a great tool if you’re looking for really colorful presets. These will punch up certain colors or aspects of your photos, and really make the colors pop. This is also cheaper than Lightroom, if you’re on a budget.
Rebekah has a bunch of other visual apps she recommends, which you can check out in her post, 7 Best Visual Marketing Apps to Create Social Media Graphics.
3. Write your captions.
Jenn uses her captions as a sort of “micro-blog”
You’ll find everything from 3-word captions to novels on Instagram – but which is better?
Kristen referenced our Facebook Live with Jenn Herman, as Jenn has some fantastic advice on this. She writes really, really long captions, as she actually sees her feed as a kind of microblog. She says her audience has come to expect this from her, so they aren’t shocked by her super-long posts!
But the truth is, there is no right or wrong answer.
Kristen believes it’s all about what helps you connect with your audience. You may have to experiment a bit, and also there may be some “training” involved, as your audience learns what to expect from you.
For me, it comes down to, “Do I really care about what this person has to say?”. If so, I’ll read a long post, no problem. For instance, I love Pat Flynn of Smart Passive Income, and I’ll read whatever he writes, no matter how long it is.
One way Rebekah recommends testing out what works with your audience is to write some longer pieces of content, and ask questions throughout. Notice what type of response you get, and you’ll start to see what your audience’s appetite is for the length of your captions.
4. Set up a free Tailwind account.
Once you’ve planned out and created all your content, I highly recommend signing up for the free version of Tailwind – you can do 30 Instagram posts for free, which is perfect for creating your 30 days’ worth of content.
Kristen explains how it works: Go into Tailwind and load up your post drafts. You can then use the emoji picker to illustrate your captions, which is super easy to do.
Then once you’ve connected your Instagram account, you can start to set up the best times to post, based on when your audience is most active. You can also decide how many times each day you want to post – Kristen recommends a minimum of once per day, as engagement really increases when you post at least once per day.
With the 9-Grid Preview feature I mentioned earlier, you can then go in and rearrange your posts a little, based on how you want them to look in your feed.
Finally, there’s the auto-post feature, so you don’t need to open a push notification or anything like that.
I just want to note a concern you may have about connecting your Instagram account to Tailwind. While you definitely need to be careful about doing this with some apps, Tailwind is an official partner of Instagram and Pinterest, so you don’t need to worry about that at all!
5. Schedule your content for the next 30 days.
Use Tailwind’s 9-Grid Preview feature to make sure your content works together
Fortunately, you can do this right from within the Tailwind app as well. You can actually go straight into the app, drop in photos right from your phone, and then go in an add captions when you’re ready.
Want to add your hashtags into your first comment, so you can keep your description all clean and tidy? No problem. Tailwind has a feature that actually lets you do this with the click of a button.
And once you’ve got your content in there, you can use the 9-Grid Preview feature. This will allow you to move around your posts based on how it looks with posts that are already up, as well as alongside your new content.
Don’t want to sit around on Instagram waiting to post at the ideal times?
With Tailwind, we do all that heavy lifting. You tell us what frequency you want to post at – whether that’s once per day, or every other day, or three times per week – and then we’ll figure out what times are best to post. You simply move your content from drafts into schedule, and your posts will move into the best time slot. And of course, you’ll always have the option to move things around, if you like.
Basically, Tailwind is like your very own content planner. Rebekah noted that within one second, you can move your content in, and then you have hundreds of posts sitting there, ready to go. Drop in your captions as you create them, and then get them scheduled – and the whole process is super quick and easy.
Can you schedule stories in the Tailwind app?
This is a question that gets asked a lot, so I thought I’d address it here.
At this point, there is no way to schedule stories within Tailwind. In fact, no apps have this ability. This is because Instagram hasn’t opened up the API…and actually, they may never. If they do, it’s definitely something we’d look into doing within the app.
If you do see an app saying they do this – beware. They’re actually just using push notifications (which Tailwind has as well) that sends you a notification when it’s time to send out a story.
If you want to do this using Tailwind, here’s how: Create your stories, upload them into Tailwind, and then schedule them as push notifications. Make sure you have notifications turned on, so you get a reminder when it’s time to post your story!
If you need more tips for planning out your Instagram content, you have to check out the FREE Instagram Planner on Tailwind.
I use the planner to keep track of my content for up to 12 months at a time. It will also give you tons of post ideas and tips for getting more followers, engagement and sales…and did I mention it’s FREE?
Grab your copy here: Instagram Planner
I hope this post has inspired you to sit down and create your next 30 days’ worth of Instagram content. With the right strategies and tools, it really doesn’t have to be as difficult or time-consuming as we sometimes make it.
Questions? Ideas? Email me or leave a comment below!