How to Plan Instagram Content: 8 Tips for Captions, Stories, & More!
Are you wondering how to plan Instagram content in advance, without spending hours at your laptop? You’re not alone!
For busy brands trying to leave their mark on Instagram, finding time to plan, prepare, schedule, and optimize your Instagram content can be tough!
Luckily, there are several ways to streamline your process and save valuable time.
How to Plan Instagram Content Tip #1: Build a Visual Identity Board
Most people think about brand books or style guides as just font and color choices — and that does make up a large part of it.
However, unlike traditional marketing, Instagram is rooted in social, so your style guide becomes a lot more complex. That’s why you need a visual identity board for Instagram!
Puno describes a brand as “a combination of dialogues through photos, video, copy, and even GIFs”.
With this in mind, it’s important to create a visual identity board to help you better plan Instagram content, that’s not just about images, but outlines what you want to share that will spark the conversations your audience is interested in.
The goal of your visual identity board is to be able to use it as a reference for when you’re creating your content plan. So for every image, GIF, caption, video, and even meme post, you can check-in to see it aligns with your brand identity.
TIP: You can create a digital visual identity board on Pinterest! Share it with your whole team or keep it on file for easy access when you’re planning your content.
Once you have your visual identity locked in, people will naturally begin engaging with your content, sharing it with their friends, liking your photos, and interacting with your profile. All because it’s an identity and brand they can relate to!
The first thing you’ll want to do is decide on the theme of your Instagram profile and a great way to do this is just by looking at other accounts for inspiration.
Start by searching for people that make you excited to be on the platform, or you just really admire. Are they someone who is a part of your community, or you want them to be?
Here are a few of the Instagram accounts Puno finds her own personal inspiration from:
As you can see, her examples include other female creatives, small business owners, and have a similar aesthetic.
Puno suggests using photos from your community, clients, partners and competitors. Instead of solely focusing on colors and fonts, it’s important to see what other people in your community are posting about to help you tap into that context — then put your own personal spin on it!
And feel free to go wild with your board! Do you love graphic design and illustrations? Are bang-on-trend GIFs your thing? What about product shots — how do you like to show off your best sellers? All these are questions you can ask yourself when designing your visual identity board.
By taking the time to create a visual identity board in advance, you can create cohesive, on-brand content that aligns with your business as a whole and continue growing a unique community of followers.
Ready to learn how to get started with your board and create an awesome content plan?
We teamed up with Puno to create a free 6-part video workshop that teaches you how to find your people, get in on the conversation, and put a personal spin on your content.
Sign up and start building your very own personalized visual identity board and grow your following with a killer content plan — especially for Instagram!
How to Plan Instagram Content Tip #2: Get to Know Your Community
A crucial part of planning your Instagram content is figuring out who you’re talking to.
One of the easiest ways to get started is by going to your Instagram profile, selecting “followers” and clicking through different profiles to see who you’re talking to.
Puno suggests taking note of words used in your followers’ bios to get an idea of what they’re all about.
Another quick way to learn more about your audience is by digging into your Instagram Insights.
Start by viewing “All Posts”, sort by comments, and click on your most commented post. This can help you easily identify who is a “part of the conversation” and is actively engaging with your content.
Next, check your “Audience Insights”. This will show you things like where the majority of your audience are based, age demographics, and gender split.
For example, you may find 70% of your followers are women between the age of 25-35. After clicking through a few of your followers’ profiles, you notice many are self-starters, founders, or aspiring business owners. These are the words that you should start paying attention to so you can understand who you are attracting.
If you’re looking for an easier way to start “efficiently stalking” your audience, PeopleMap (which was actually created by Puno and her husband) is a great tool to help you do this.
PeopleMap is an Instagram marketing tool that allows you to better analyze your Instagram marketing efforts and strategically build an organic community:
It’s important to keep your audience keywords in mind as you plan your Instagram content. Puno suggests thinking of the keywords as navigation markers for where you should keep going. Or as she likes to call them, “the bread crumbs” for your content plan!
Finally, it’s important to think about the community you want to attract. Are they someone who is a part of your community or you want them to be?
Including these types of people in your Instagram visual identity board or brand book is a great way to remind yourself of the types of content you should be posting and keep yourself inspired!
Interested in learning more about how to start identifying your community quickly and efficiently? It’s all in or course — Puno gives you a full walk-through on finding your community and how PeopleMap can help. Sign up now!
How to Plan Instagram Content Tip #3: Curate Your Instagram Feed Up to 3 Weeks in Advance
While there’s no right or wrong way to plan your content, making sure your Instagram feed is planned in advance is a no-brainer in our eyes!
And if you really want to deliver a feed that wows, you need to start thinking in “grid” format and start planning your Instagram posts about 2 or 3 weeks in advance.
Plus, when you plan in advance you’re able to take a bird’s-eye view of your efforts. Have you posted too many product posts side-by-side? When was the last video you posted? Maybe you need to think about diversifying your content?
All these questions come to light when you plan your content in advance!
And when we talk about Instagram aesthetic, planning your content is the only way to nail your grid look and feel.
This way, you’ll be able to easily see what your images look like side-by-side, on top of and below one another, and even diagonally across.
What’s important is that you start looking at your feed from all angles, so you can easily plan what and when to post to Instagram.
One of the easiest ways to do this is with a tool like Later’s Visual Planner. It allows you to quickly drag and drop your photos and videos around your feed so you can select the layout that looks best.
And if you want to be extra-organized, you can even use the Visual Planner to schedule and automatically publish to your Instagram grid — so posting to Instagram is one step closer!
Just remember: when you’re planning this far in advance, you want to give your schedule a little bit of wiggle room for any unforeseen events.
When you start planning your Instagram posts in advance, you’re giving yourself much more time to edit and be selective — so you can curate a beautiful feed that’s perfect for your brand.
All this planning in advance will result in a far more professional, curated, and aesthetically pleasing feed, which will help draw in more followers!
How to Plan Instagram Content Tip #4: Craft Your Captions Before Publishing
The story you tell on Instagram is just as important as the images and videos you use, so it’s worth spending time crafting your captions.
While creating beautiful content for your feed is ultra important, if you want to reach new audiences, writing good Instagram captions that drive engagement is a great strategy.
Your captions are one of the best ways to provide additional context, add a touch of personality, and even inspire your followers to take action.
But what should you say in your Instagram captions? Puno describes Instagram conversations as “50% context and 50% your spin”.
What is happening in the world right now? What is the conversation? What is the culture? What are the conversations? How are people out there feeling? That’s the context. Most importantly, the spin is what you have to say about it.
“If Instagram is a dialogue, then the content that you’re going to be creating needs to be topical and relevant,” says Puno.
View this post on Instagram
Last year, I had a nice long coffee chat with Vivek, Founder of @ookioh, and can I just say… you worked your butt off in 2019, Vivek! 👏🏼👏🏼👏🏼 On top of that, he's made a pledge to eliminate all plastic in 3 years! In the meantime, their fabric is made from 100% regenerated materials. Their mill takes ocean wastes (such as sunken fishing nets) and pre-consumer waste products (things people might throw away in production) and turns them into super cute textiles so @ookioh can transform that into a super cute swimsuit. I asked him why is it tough to eliminate plastic? He explained, "We wanted to be plastic-free from day 1 but I couldn’t find the right sources that were affordable. It’s mostly a cost issue that doesn’t align with our main POV – making sustainability accessible. But now as we are growing and more alternatives are available, I am able to go plastic-free! We already eliminated pouches and packaging is going minimal in a few weeks." As a digital small business, I'm always trying to figure out how to be more cost-efficient, but physical products have SO much more costs so it's incredible to see when a young biz is making strides like this. KUDOS!
“If you’re getting bored of yourself, then that’s a perfect time to dig in again and find something that excites you,” Puno advises.
With this in mind, it’s worth giving yourself enough time to write and edit your captions.
One of the best ways to do this is by writing all of your captions in one go using Later’s Instagram scheduler on desktop. With the calendar view, you can craft and edit all of your captions in one go:
You can even add line breaks to your Instagram captions with Later, which is a great way to keep them easy to digest, even when you’ve got several points to make!
Plus, by giving yourself some editing time, you’re more likely to catch any typos or errors that might have slipped through the net in your first round of writing.
Whether you’re an e-commerce brand selling products or a blogger sharing content, spending more time on your captions in 2020 could be a game-changer for your Instagram engagement.
Planning Instagram Posts Tip #5: Know Your Best Time to Post
If you’re taking your Instagram strategy seriously (which we know you are!), you’ll have put a lot of time and effort into creating great content for your feed.
But you want to make sure this awesome content is actually reaching your audience. That’s why finding your personalized best time to post on Instagram is so important!
There are two ways you can do this:
Firstly, visit your Instagram Insights by tapping the bar-chart icon on the top right of your profile page. Here you’ll find all the analytics for your account and you’ll want to look under the Audience tab.
Under the Followers section, you’ll find a breakdown on the times of day and the days of the week when your audience is most active. The windows where you see spikes in activity is when you want to schedule your posts!
Secondly, call on Later for some help!
To find the best time to post on Instagram in 2020, Later analyzed 12 million Instagram posts, posted in multiple time zones around the world from accounts ranging from 100 to 1 million+ followers.
Here are the top 3 global best times to post on Instagram for each day of the week, represented in Eastern Standard Time:
While these are the best times to post on average, here at Later, we’ve found that if you want to get more engagement, it’s best to find your personalized best times to post based on your unique audience.
If you want to skip the experiments and get right to the good data, Later’s Best Time to Post feature automatically calculates your 7 top posting times based on your best performing posts from the recent month:
Since every Instagram account and every Instagram community is different, we wanted to create a feature that would give you your personalized best posting times — and that’s exactly what Best Time to Post does!
If you’re on one of Later’s business plans, which start at just $19/month, your best times to post will automatically be highlighted in your weekly content calendar, making it super easy to schedule your Instagram posts for when your audience is most active!
How to Plan Instagram Content Tip #6: Manage Collaborators All in One Place
If you regularly post user-generated content (UGC), or if you work with photographers to populate your feed, keeping track of all the media for your Instagram page can be hard.
And if you find yourself juggling multiple media sources, you run the risk of posting the same image twice or scrambling to get images from your contributors and collaborators at the last minute. And that’s one stress you can live without!
With Contributors by Later, you can streamline your process for collecting photos and videos for Instagram from your photographers, influencers, or other sources!
If you’re managing multiple Instagram profiles, as well as contributors, this tool really is a huge time saver and a great way to project manage your account!
You can share a link with your photographers, influencers, or anyone who contributes to your content, who will be able to upload photos and videos directly into a content library for your Instagram.
You can then accept the content you like, and it will go straight into your Later media library to make it easy to schedule to your social profiles.
How to Plan Instagram Content Tip #7: Stay Ahead of the Trends with a Social Calendar
While you may have key dates in mind to roll out campaigns for your brand or business, it’s important to plan for global, national, and social media events too.
No one wants to miss out on an international celebration or social media holiday that will dominate Instagram feeds around the world thanks to a trending hashtag!
And there are so many ways you can incorporate the social holiday into your content and feed. For example, you may think #NationalDonutDay may not be directly related to your brand if you run a homewares business.
But with a bit of forward planning, a curated image of donuts on your tablewares could find itself on the Explore page if you use the right hashtags — it’s all in the planning.
One way to stay ahead of the game is to spend time researching and collecting all the national and international events that you could leverage for your Instagram campaign.
Or you could download Later’s 2020 Social Calendar and save yourself some more time!
From #NationalDonutDay to #InternationalCoffeeDay, our calendar highlights all the important dates to mark in your Instagram content calendar. And it’s free!
Did you know that there’s an easy way to keep track of these dates and special events in your Later content calendar?
With Later’s calendar notes feature, all you have to do is right-click anywhere in your calendar to create a new note. Here, you can insert reminders or notes about upcoming dates so you’ll have them handy and viewable when you’re scheduling!
You can add calendar notes for upcoming product releases, social holidays, campaigns, Instagram Lives, or just use them as reminders for yourself or your team!
How to Plan Instagram Content Tip #8: Plan and Schedule Your Instagram Stories
And while Instagram Stories posts are suited to behind-the-scenes content and spontaneous posting, that doesn’t mean you can be slack with the planning!
It’s a good idea to create a quick storyboard of your Instagram Stories to map out the details and make sure it flows together well.
By using a storyboard template before you start creating content, you’ll be able to save time and ensure that you have the exact shots and videos you need.
An Instagram Stories storyboard also helps you create the most engaging Instagram Stories that keep your followers clicking forward for more, which means more eyes on your content and more engagement!
Then once your storyboard is all in order, you can get started on capturing that content, creating engaging Instagram Stories captions, and scheduling your posts to your stories feed.
And ICYMI: we have a huge-time saving solution to planning your Instagram Stories!
You can now schedule your Instagram Stories with Later! So just like you would with posts, you can upload your stories to the media library, plan your content calendar and schedule your Instagram Stories to go live at the times you want!
Then you can step away from your phone or laptop knowing you’ve got awesome content ready to go live!
Scheduling Instagram Stories is one of the best ways to get more time back for the stuff that really matters, like engaging with your community, or planning your next campaign strategy.
When it comes to Instagram marketing, finding your niche audience, and building a content calendar for your feed, can start to feel overwhelming.
But with some planning and time-saving hacks in place, you’ll soon get ahead of the game!
Try out some of these tips the next time you’re working on your Instagram feed and you’ll soon start to see the difference in your profile’s performance, engagement, and growth rate.
Looking for more tips on how to plan your Instagram content? Don’t forget to sign up for our free How to Create an Instagram Content Plan workshop with Puno below: