Instagram is a great marketing tool for online businesses.
Not only is it helpful for attracting and connecting with potential customers, but it allows you to promote your brand in an organic, non-salesy way.
But Instagram can also be a huge time suck. And unlike other platforms, it’s all-too-easy to post haphazardly and be less intentional with the content you’re sharing.
So in today’s Ellechat Podcast episode, I’m sharing 3 ways that you can both save time AND expand your reach on Instagram.
Episode 15 Podcast
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Hey there, and welcome to Ellechat, a weekly dose of practical tips and strategies to help you create a stunning first impression online. I'm your host Lauren Hooker, and in today's episode I'm sharing three ways that you can both save time and expand your reach on Instagram. Because while Instagram can be a great organic way to attract new clients and customers, build trust with your audience, and drive traffic, it can be all too easy to take a casual approach and lack a plan for what you're posting on this platform. I'm here to tell you today that it's possible to expand your reach on this platform without spending a ton of extra time and energy, because most of you who are tuning in are pursuing your businesses part-time or trying just to use your time really wisely because you have a crazy life outside of business.
I'm excited to dive into this topic today. And in all honesty, I have been a little out of the Instagram loop since I went on maternity leave back in April. And I planned this episode far in advance, but I was hesitant to cover this topic because I feel a little inadequate in this area at the moment. However, now, more than ever, I've had to be more mindful of saving time and coming up with creative ways to get the best results for my efforts and the time that I do pour into Elle & Company.
I'm going to drive right in and share the three big things that I'm doing to jump back in the game and engage my followers on Instagram. This is kind of a behind-the-scenes look at my own Instagram strategy at the moment, but I hope that wherever you are with Instagram, whether you've been in the game for a long time, or you've been out of the loop and you just need a push to get back in the swing of things, I really hope this episode will give you some fresh motivation and some tangible ways to make the most out of the time that you spend marketing your business on Instagram.
1 | Create a big list of ideas to pull from
The first thing that you can do to save time and engage your followers on Instagram is to create a big list of ideas to pull from. What you could do, the other side of this coin would be to rack your brain for ideas every week when you go to post on Instagram to try to come up with a clever idea. But if you think about the goals of Instagram for your business, for me, the top three are to reach potential clients and customers ... That's one of the biggest advantages, is expanding your reach. And it's a free platform to do that.
Second big goal is to build trust, because ... I say this all the time, but in order for people to buy from you, they have to trust you. Building trust on Instagram is key through sharing and engaging with the people who are following along with you, who are hopefully your potential clients and customers.
And the third big goal is to drive traffic to your website, because ultimately that's where all the magic happens. That's where people can buy from you if you have products in a store, they can look at your portfolio and contact you to book your services. That should be one of the main objectives of Instagram. I think that's the one that gets lost in translation most of the time, is that key goal of driving traffic back to your website. Because, in all honesty, Instagram could go down tomorrow, and you would lose all of those followers. But if you're driving traffic back to your website, no one can take your website from you. Those are the three big goals of Instagram.
It's important that your posts are high quality and intentional to meet those goals. You could sit down and rack your brain for ideas every week, but it would be better to create a big list of ideas of what to post on Instagram that you can pull from.
What I did is, I sat down and I brainstormed some ideas for Instagram posts. I always like to set a goal, instead of just saying, "Well, I'm going to brainstorm some ideas, maybe like 10." I like to challenge myself and so I sat down and wanted to come up with 50 ideas for Instagram to post. But not just any ideas, I wanted some high quality, really intentional ideas to pull from when I'm stuck in a rut. I'd encourage you to do the same. Then you can return to this list time and time again when you're in need of new ideas for an Instagram post.
I feel like this challenges you to get creative because, I don't know about you, but it's easy to look around Instagram and get stuck in a rut, look to others for ideas, and then try to copy them yourself, or just get in a posting rut of posting the same kind of content over and over again. But when you sit down and create a big list of ideas to pull from, it allows you to put your own spin on it and come up with ideas that you're excited about and to look outside of, maybe, what people in your industry are doing or even talking about.
Oftentimes, I'll have my husband brainstorm with me, so you might want to recruit a friend to brainstorm with you and come up with some ideas. Oftentimes too, we'll not only set a goal like 50 great Instagram post ideas, but also set a timer. That forces you just to get your ideas out there. You can always go through and edit them later. But oftentimes, having somebody to brainstorm with you gets you thinking out of the box.
But to help you with this step of a big list of ideas to pull from, I actually shared those 50 Instagram post ideas on Elle & Company blog this week. You can head over there and find that post. Just a few that I named in that post, and I'm going to link to it in the show notes. But a few high quality Instagram post ideas: A timeline of your business. Maybe you've been in business for five years, and you've hit a lot of milestones along the way. You can share a fun timeline. I have a great example of that. I have an example for all of these Instagram post ideas on the blog.
But a timeline, a behind-the-scenes look at a project you're working on. Team bios. If you have a team, share some fun facts about each member of your team. People love seeing the faces behind a brand or a business. You can share a piece of your story, a map. Maybe you are a shop, and you are sending orders all over the continent, or all over the globe. It's fun to show your followers what your reach looks like. I even thought this would be cool for webinars. I use Crowd Cast for my webinars, and it allows me to see a map of everyone who's tuning in, and I'm always shocked to see people from all over the world tuning in, so that would be a fun idea of something to share on Instagram. Just something different from the content that we end up seeing all the time.
A piece of encouragement, a quote. You can share an inside look at your process. You can even share a past project and take advantage of the Throwback Thursday hashtag. You can share different versions of concepts that you came up with, and allow your followers to vote on them. People love giving feedback. Those are just, I don't know, 10 examples off the top of my head from that post. But I encourage you, as a starting point, you can go there and hopefully get some ideas. But make a list of your own. Brainstorm some high quality Instagram post ideas, so that when you're in a bind, or when you're just in a creative rut, you can return back to it. Actually, after coming up with those ideas, it made me more excited to post to Instagram again and get back in the swing of thing with it, because I had some exciting content that I wanted to share.
That's where I would encourage you to start. The first way to save time and expand your reach on Instagram is just to create a big list of ideas to pull from. Spend some time brainstorming and you can refer back to that and make it easier on yourself in the long run.
2 | Plan ahead
That leads into the second thing you can do to save time and expand your reach on Instagram, which is to plan ahead. Like I said a moment ago, the other side of this coin would be to post haphazardly or even last minute, when you sit down and think, "Oh man, I need to come up with a post idea", or, "I need to post today. What am I going to post?" Well, now you have that list of ideas that you can pull from. But planning out your posts in advance allows you to be really intentional about what you're sharing and when, so that if you have a new blog post that you posted about, you already have an Instagram post ready to promote that blog post. Or if you have a launch coming up, you can be a lot more intentional with the content you're sharing on Instagram and when you're sharing it.
You can't be intentional with your content when you're posting on a whim, and a lot of you are already planning out your posts for your blog or your newsletter; other content outlets. It should be the same with Instagram, maybe even more so on Instagram. Second thing you can do is plan, and it also helps you just to organize your thoughts, to be more strategic. It's pretty straight-forward.
But the way that I go about planning my content in Instagram is what I call my content queue. You could do this in Trello. I do it in Asana. I find it really easy to do in Asana, and I will link to a post that I wrote, a blog post that I wrote on how I set up my content queue in Asana in the show notes. But what I do is just create a board. You could create a Trello board for this. Asana has a board option. And I create columns for every day of the week, and I only post Monday through Friday, so I have a column for each day of the week. And then I create a card under each column for each post. I do this for all of my content too. I do it for blog posts. I do it for social media posts, for the newsletter, for Ellechats like this. And then I tag them. You can tag them for different things. I have a tag for the blog, a tag for Ellechats, a tag for Instagram posts, and even a tag for Instagram stories. And I color code them so I can see them all at a glance. It may be the type A in me, or the visual designer, but I find it helpful.
And then I can add a description in the comment section of that card, so I can go ahead and write my caption for Instagram posts. And I can add the image right there on the card in the board in my content queue, so I can see it visually. I can see all my content mapped out visually for Instagram, and I can just be a little bit more intentional. And really, when I see all of my blog posts and all my other content there at a glance, it helps me map out my Instagram content, so that I can point back to my website, back to those blog posts, to new Ellechats and that sort of thing.
I refer to my list of ideas, so once I had those 50 ideas, or however many you want to come up with, you can easily pull from them and drop them into your content queue. And that way, when Monday rolls around ... I try to plan out my content queue on Fridays to have it ready for the upcoming week. When Monday rolls around, I just go to that card right in the Monday column, and I copy the description or caption and the image is already ready to go, and I can just drop it in Instagram and it saves me so much time, instead of fumbling around trying to figure out what I'm going to post for that day.
You can even plan a month in advance, or you can do it weekly like I do. But I just find that planning in advance helps you consider your other content, how you can point to it, and just be more intentional when you're posting on Instagram. I do it weekly because I find that it gives me a little bit more leeway and it can be a little bit more personal. If I do it way too much in advance, I get a little overwhelmed and I usually end up moving it around anyway, so that's why I do it weekly.
3 | Batch tasks
The first thing I do, brainstorm a big list of ideas to pull from. Second, plan ahead. And the third thing is to batch tasks. Each time you post to Instagram, you could scramble to take a photo and write a caption, and that ends up taking a lot of time if you do that every time you post. But you can batch tasks to save yourself time. Batching just means grouping tasks together, like tasks together, and knocking them out in one fell swoop.
Once the content queue is filled up, I start batching tasks. A lot of times, these tasks look like taking and editing photos. And I'm working in one and a half hour chunks right now, because I'm working around my son's nap time. This is often a good thing to do. I have an hour and a half to take a bunch of photos and edit them for Instagram, and oftentimes, it doesn't even take me that long. I batch captions, so sitting down and writing all the captions for the week. Scheduling out the posts. If you want to use a scheduler ... I don't at the moment, but there are Instagram schedulers out there that you could use to go ahead and queue up all of your posts. And even replying to comments. You could batch that task. You could sit down all at once, maybe you just choose one day a week, or a time every day to sit down and reply to all of your comments.
Because I've found that maybe it's not posting to Instagram that takes so much time, maybe it's just going back and checking to see how your post is doing. How many people are engaging with it through likes and comments? Replying to comments, replying to messages or that sort of thing, and that takes up way more time than even the posting. Setting aside a time to just batch that task of replying to comments can save you a ton of time in the long run.
Batching those tasks; taking photos, editing photos, writing captions, replying to comments can save you a ton of time and also allow you to be more intentional. All your posts end up having a flow to them when you batch those tasks. All of your photos, when you edit them, start to look like they're part of a whole, and for branding, that leaves a good first impression on potential clients and customers who are following along with you.
Those are the three big things. Pretty straight forward, but I found them to be super helpful for making the most out of my time, while expanding my reach on Instagram.
I hope that this approach allows you to save more time, be more intentional on Instagram, connect better with your followers, and just be more strategic with that platform to help you reach those big goals of marketing your business on Instagram.
If you enjoyed this episode, I would be thrilled if you took just a few minutes to leave me your review on iTunes. Not only does that help other business owners like yourself find this podcast, but it's always great receiving feedback from you. It becomes more of a two-way conversation when you leave comments in iTunes reviews and in the Elle & Company Facebook Community.
Thank you so much for tuning in to the Ellechat podcast, and I hope you'll tune in again next week!