Regardless of whether you're the type of person to set New Year's resolutions or not, there's always a particular mindset during the New Year that has us reflecting. We tend to set goals and spend time planning before we dive into the year with full force. I find that this affects most areas in my business, and one of the tools I've been using to go through this in a more systematic way is a good 'ole fashioned audit. I usually start with an overall brand audit, but for today's purposes, I want to spend some time dissecting a smaller piece of the puzzle -- Instagram. For many of our businesses, Instagram has become an invaluable tool, however, I find that because it can feel like a smaller and slightly more "on the fly" platform compared to blogging or a newsletter, it's important to step back, reassess, and make sure we're still on the right track periodically. That's why we're here today. I've broken down the platform into 6 categories: Profile, Content, Captions, Hashtags, Planning/Strategy, and Community/Engagement. I have provided a little overview as to what you should be aiming for within each of these areas and then a series of questions to ask yourself as you audit your own profile and feed. To make things even easier for you, I've also created a fancy Instagram Audit Checklist for you to download so you can simply go through and check off the list, which will provide some insight as to where you might want to focus your attention.
With your username, you ideally want to have consistency across all social media channels and brand touchpoints if possible. If someone's first interaction with your brand was on your website then your Instagram username should really be easy for them to find based on your URL and vice versa. Similarly, you want to create a cohesive visual experience for your communities no matter where they interact with your brand. That means your profile photo should be the same across all platforms as well. If your business is a personal brand (I.E. it includes your name) and you are the face of your brand, you'll likely want to use a photo of yourself as the profile picture so your followers know who you are. This also allows your followers to form a personal connection with you. If you're operating more as a brand then you'll want to opt for a recognizable logo as your profile photo. Regardless, remember that consistency is king. It's also important that your username is easy to find, spell and related to your business. So if you switch your personal profile over to a profile for your new brand when you launched, and there's absolutely no relation, this might be the time to reconsider that decision and think about changing it to one that represents your brand. Questions:
In your bio, you have 150 characters to capture your audience's attention and share the mission behind your account. It's a small, but mighty piece of real estate so you want to make sure you're optimizing it and attracting the right followers. You can accomplish this by explaining who you are/what your brand is, what you do and what you offer. Give potential followers an idea of what type of content they can expect and how it will benefit them. It's also important to consider your writing style and the voice of your brand when writing your bio so that it's consistent with the rest of your content. So if you have a dry sense of humor and an undying love for communicating via emojis, incorporate that into your bio so your audience has a sense of what to expect. This is also the best spot for a specific call to action that requires a direct link as it's the only spot in which you can do so, therefore take advantage of it. Tailor the link to any specific content you're trying to promote (I.E. a blog post, a new offering or product, etc) by changing the link to represent that when applicable. I use bit.ly to shorten links and will change them depending on what I'm talking about or promoting at any given time, offering the perfect opportunity for a call to action. Bit.ly is also great for tracking traffic from specific shortlinks so you can get a sense of who is coming directly from Instagram or clicking on a specific link. Questions:
Now that we've spent a little time assessing your username, profile photo and bio, it's time to dive into the fun stuff --the content! We've talked through the 5 C's of Creating Content for Instagram in a previous post so jump over to that post to really dive into the specifics. Because Instagram is such a visual platform and that's why we love it so much (#eyecandy), we want to make sure we're spending time on our visual strategy for Instagram and ensuring that there's consistency in your content and you're paying attention to your overall grid. Questions:
As important as your visual content is on Instagram, you also want to ensure that you're paying attention to your captions as they complement your photos. I mentioned voice briefly in the first section in regards to writing your bio, and the same applies here. It's important to be clear on what your brand voice is and how that shows up on Instagram and through your captions. The most powerful captions enhance your photos; the two elements should work together to showcase your brand style and tell your story. This doesn't mean that you're necessarily talking about exactly what's in the photo, however, it shouldn't feel like there is a discrepancy nor do you want to shortchange an amazing photo with a lackluster caption. Your aim is to capture your audience's attention so they're inspired to click that little "more" button (if your caption is over three lines, the app will hide the rest of it), and engage with your content. Tell stories, showcase your brand personally, ask your audience questions, include calls to action, and establish yourself as an expert through your captions. Questions:
Everyone has a slightly different strategy when it comes to hashtags, and I think a big part of it involves trials to figure out what works best for you and your brand. I personally prefer to stick to using a maximum of 5-10 hashtags on each photo and opt to list it in a separate comment under the caption. I like the way it looks and it doesn't clutter my post as much. What I tend to do is create little groupings of hashtags according to themes/subject matter in my Notes app on my phone so I can just copy and paste when I post on Instagram. This saves me from having to write them all out and from trying to remember which ones to use. Pay attention to your engagement on each photo to give you a sense of which hashtags are working well for you and adjust accordingly. My hashtag strategy is to use a mixture of larger, well-populated hashtags with more niche options with smaller followings that I have a higher chance of getting "found" on. And I always ensure that my hashtags are relevant to my content. Think through what hashtags your ideal audience are likely to use and what they might be searching and use those that to interact with them. Questions:
The piece that holds this all together --and where the magic of PLANOLY comes in, of course, is in planning and strategy. We already talked about the importance of creating and posting consistent, high quality content, which is the foundation of an effective Instagram strategy. Planning ensures that even during times when you may be lacking time or resources, you'll still have relevant content to pull from and post so that you don't lose your momentum. You can continue to engage with your audience without sacrificing quality or relevancy. Questions:
Instagram has always been about community, but since the introduction of the algorithm, engagement has become more important than ever. Engagement will ensure your content is being seen by your followers and that you are reaching the right audience. There's no way around the fact that in order to grow your community and benefit from using Instagram for your brand, you need to dedicate time to engage in authentic conversations on the platforms. This means replying to comments, spending time interacting with other people's content that's beyond a simple "like" or "so pretty!". We're talking about taking the time to start conversations and to build relationships. This means following the right accounts that are aligned, relevant, and inspiring to you and dedicating time to interact with others on Instagram on a regular basis. Questions:
Paige is the owner and creative director of Studio Bicyclette, a lifestyle blog and creative studio that aims to inspire and help brands and businesses find their magic, style their brand and tell their story. Her wanderlust and ability to find and create beauty in the unlikeliest places comes from a belief in fairy tales that started at an early age, a place where imagination is a tool that can be used to tell a story, spark creativity and solve any problem. When she's not styling a photoshoot or helping clients implement a social media strategy, you can usually find her dreaming up fancy cocktail creations, planning her next adventure or hunting for the perfect shade of pink lipstick.