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Ah, Instagram. It’s like a mosquito that won’t quit, or a pesky little brother throwing balls at your head. Lately, I don’t hear anyone saying good things about the app – it’s like the Badlands of social media, with an algorithm that everyone and their mom loves to hate. I’ve gotten quite a few Q’s lately – especially for #AskE, which you can ask Q’s for right here! – about Instagram, how to grow it, how to “make it work” for you in an environment that feels orchestrated for your failure at this point.
First thing’s first…are you following CUR on Instagram?? Make sure ya do that (right here – @ericaligenza). Justbecause there’s little left to do but beg for followers at this point. HA. JK. But really tho. Hit that follow button. 😉
Second thing’s second, for any non-bloggers reading this…it probably sounds absurdly dramatic and off-base to whine about a social media platform when there are SO MANY OTHER WAY MORE IMPORTANT THINGS IN LIFE. Sorry not sorry for the yelling, but to my fellow blogger babes, it deserves being yelled – there’s something to be said for openly acknowledging that Instagram is not life. But to shed a hint of light on why the heck people freak out about it in the first place, it’s because for many, it’s where a significant chunk of your “following” hangs out. And unfortunately, Instagram keeps changing their algorithm in ways that seemingly target “influencers,” to take money away from ambitious, badass, entrepreneurial boss babes (us) and give more money to them. This happened when they realized that advertisers were preferring to pay influencers over Instagram, because we can *ahem* provide more results. So Instagram’s algorithm is designed to limit the reach of influencers, especially on any sponsored content, so that fewer of the people who have already opted in to following you themselves are seeing your content. They claim it’s because THEY know what people REALLY want to see in their newsfeeds. And apparently even if people have already chosen freely on their own to follow along with your account, they still might be confused and not actually want to see your content. Because Instagram knows you better than you know yourself.
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OK OFF SOAPBOX.
With so much chit chat about algorithms, the focus often shifts to “how to grow.” I, however, think that’s not even half of the fun. Even tho things are much different now, one of the first things that drew me to Instagram was the seemingly unlimited creativity it enabled. And now, it definitely is a nice chunk o’ my biz as a fulltime blogger. So, I thought it’d be fun/useful/hopefully valuable to you guys to share a bit on the behind-the-scenes, organizational side o’ things. Instagram is not, in fact, just posting pretty pictures to get likes. And those seemingly perfect, I-just-picked-up-my-phone-and-presto images were NOT just a pick-up-and-shoot sorta situation. (Perspective: It might’ve taken literally 200 snapshots and a solid hour to get the shot). It’s oh so much more, and often, it actually requires a ridiculous amount of hours to plan, create, edit, + perfect before hitting publish.
Since I use Instagram as one of the biggest platforms to connect with you guys – the audience! woo! – it’s obviously used heavily to let y’all know when there’s something new here, since many of ya might not have CUR bookmarked as a daily favorite or check-in on the actual blog for updates (P.S. Do you? Would you WANT something like an easy email if/when there’s a new post on the blog? Let me know in the comments section below!). So, much of my planning revolves around my blog’s editorial calendar.
Beyond that, I try to have a really solid mix between real-time, shot-right-then-and-there content, and content that’s been pre-shot but captioned in the moment (I ALWAYS ALWAYS ALWAYS caption in the moment – I don’t write a single caption out ahead of time!).
One of my all-time favorite apps (above Instagram itself) is Planoly. This post is not sponsored by Planoly at ALL, although it might sound like it by the end cos I just friggin’ lovelovelove it so much. I use Planoly in the planning, organizing, AND scheduling stages, so I’ll touch on it in each section here. There are other apps that might do *similar* things, but I’m honestly so hooked on Planoly that I haven’t even TRIED switching. It does everything I need it to, so I’m content. 🙂
But for planning, Planoly lets you upload a buncha pictures into an Instagram-esque feed – which you can use from your phone AND your desktop!! – so you can essentially keep an ongoing library of usable content right on hand. For me, I’m big on color coordination; my feed is super colorful and bright usually, so I try to coordinate colors when I can so it doesn’t become a total hodge podge of anything under the sun. Planoly is suuuuper helpful for planning in this sense, since I can leave a blank square somewhere if I know I want something with pink there, for example, but need to shoot the photo for it.
Beyond that, I have a few reoccurring, “on brand” things that happen regularly (any idea what they are??? 😉 ), so in my planning, I leave space for those where I know they’ll be. Since I consider CUR to be more of a “lifestyle” hub than strictly style or strictly anything else for that matter, I try to have my Instagram reflect that and not be TOO style-heavy. One of the easiest ways I’ve found to do that is to have specific themes/images that hopefully y’all can immediately associate with the CUR “brand.” I totally recommend figuring out what makes sense for YOU + YOUR brand (note: it’s not gonna be what works for me – it’s gotta be what works for YOU 😉 ) and trying to incorporate it into your feed to really strengthen your brand!
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I work everything around a grid of 9. Obviously Instagram is 3×3 (although rumor has it they might change that too – *cue hysterics from users everywhere*), so I tend to think of things in a grid of 9 – the most recent 9 images in your feed.
I use Planoly to drag n’ drop images around the grid, so that I can organize by color, space, etc. If I have ideas for the caption, things I know I wanna mention, or any other notes, I write those in the caption space of the image within the app (when you tap a photo in Planoly, it lets you draft a caption, add hashtags that you plan on using, schedule for a specific time, + more). Since I use blank space cards as fillers (“placeholders” in the app”), I write in those caption spaces what I think I want/need to go there. It might be something specific, especially if I know it’s a reoccurring image (like roses – duh! 😉 ), or it might just say “Friday’s post” if I know it’ll be an image from Friday’s blog post.
Beyond that, I try to keep everything in line in terms of my own feed “theme” and aesthetic. Obviously I don’t have a strict black-and-white theme happenin’ or anything too restrictive, so I think anyone else in the same boat could agree that ours might actually take MORE work to maintain! If you’ve got a super strict feed, it’s easy to know whether or not something fits it. “Is it black and white?”, for example…yes or no. When we’ve got a lot goin’ on, it takes even more time to mix + match and shift things around to create that justright look and feel, when there isn’t an overarching guideline that we’re sticking to, if that makes sense. So as much as possible, I just know what every other picture should be, or what sorta color “flow” I need next, and I organize accordingly.
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I don’t do any automatic publishing or scheduling on Instagram – I actually still think that’s against Instagram terms of service, so I’d recommend being careful if any app tells you that they can automatically publish your content! But what I DO do is have Planoly send me push notifications when it’s *time* to post. So, Planoly will basically send me a reminder saying @ericaligenza has a scheduled post now!, and I can go into Instagram and do my thaaang. Easy peasy.
Planoly is fabulous, also, because it gives you stats! I have the paid “Solo” version (I think it’s just a few bucks a month), which I FULLY recommend, cos it gives access to everything under the sun. So, I can see a monthly calendar of my content, including stats on what I’ve previously published as well as dates + times of what’s to come, all with the content feed to the left. It’s SO STINKIN’ HANDY DANDY it ain’t even funny.
Lately, I’ve been posting no more than twice a day, and no less than once (unless I just reaaaaaally don’t feel like it/can’t for whatever reason). I schedule accordingly, and I’ve learned to give myself wiggle room + grace, since those are two of the biggest necessities in life. HA.
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How do you plan/organize/schedule for Instagram? Do you use Planoly or something similar?
Let’s chat about it in the comments below. If you have any Q’s on anything I talked about above, pleasepleaseplease let me know – always happy to help!
P.S. Let’s hang out on Instagram.
P.P.S. Are you smiling yet?