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TFD Tips: A Guide to Planning Instagram Content

Our Creative Director - and resident analytics guru - Chris Douch shares his carefully honed tips and tricks for successfully curating and planning Instagram content.

© Max Mara

Building a large social following is a vital part of many brands' marketing strategies. Whilst paid activity can be instrumental in driving aggressive growth, it’s the content itself that attracts followers… and keeps them. Here we look at how brands can optimise their content to attract new followers and keep them engaged.

Work with the algorithm

With the average Instagram user following around 1,000 different accounts, getting to the top of users' home feeds is a competitive business. People might follow you, but never see your posts. There are certain behaviours that the algorithm favours; for example, accounts that post to their feed and Stories everyday are more likely to have their content show in followers' feeds. Alternatively, paid adverts or boosted posts will guarantee that people see your content. But if you don’t want to put spend behind every post, the real key to increasing reach and impressions is engagement. The more users engage with your posts, the more likely they, and users like them, will see your future content.

Get to know your followers

I would say that is the most important consideration for anyone who wants to consistently grow their following. People follow different accounts for different reasons. Understanding what content your followers engage with and why is imperative when planning future strategies. Look for trends in your engagement and most importantly…

Trust in data

Compiling and studying data is by far the best way of gaining true insight into your followers. Work out what posts do best and what commonalities link them. It's very tempting to apply your own ideas of what you think followers want to see, and of course, experimentation and progression are imperative. However, if the data doesn’t reflect your own assumptions, it’s you that’s wrong, not the numbers.

Looks matter

Create an aesthetic that’s recognisably yours – after all, that’s what got followers interested in you in the first place. Consistency pays off. Progress your aesthetic over time, rather than jumping from one look to another every few posts. There’s a lot of debate over whether it's important for your feed to look good overall. Should you post in groups of three, for instance? A few years ago, there was a trend for elaborate collage feeds; however, these often resulted in extremely poor engagement for the individual posts. If you have a pleasing and consistent aesthetic, then your feed will reflect this. My advice… let your content determine the look of your feed, not the other way round.

Creating content

Providing fresh content on a daily basis is one of the biggest (and most costly) challenges that faces any brand. Gone are the days when a single campaign shoot would generate six images that could be used for all of the brand's advertising for the next six months. Now, brands such as Max Mara (pictured) are investing significantly in high-production shoots every few weeks. Find a good team that can work efficiently and try to achieve a few different setups and looks in each shoot. Consistency is important, but you must never be repetitive.

Optimise for Insta

If you’re making content that is primarily intended for Instagram, it is important that it is optimised for the platform. A five-minute long promo shot in super widescreen may be impressive when viewed on your desktop, but on Instagram it’ll be cut short and appear as a tiny slither on users' home feeds. A 4:5 format allows for the largest area of home-feed real estate, but remember that you’ll lose sections from the top and bottom in grid view.

Curating imagery

Consider inspiration imagery and user-generated content as part of your content plan. For some brands, this can be the most popular type of content but ultimately, you should let the data guide you here. If a certain type of inspiration imagery resonates with your followers, keep sharing it. If they don’t engage with those posts, then don’t. Same with UGC. Either way, it's important that any content you post fits your aesthetic, so be discerning.

Tools of the trade

Planning – There are various planning tools available, all with their own pros and cons. However, I’m yet to find one that does everything I’d want it to. Hootsuite and Loomly are popular and easy to use, yet they lack the grid view (how it’ll actually look on Instagram). For Instagram alone, I’d recommend Planoly for its grid view.

Insights - Native data insights on Instagram offer a a decent amount of info, however, you need to log it over time as it's very difficult to really understand your trends within Instagram itself. Hootsuite is widely used; it tracks your data over time and provides helpful graphs that allow you to better understand how people engage with you and your content. For really deep diving and comparative data, I opt for the Supermetrics plugins for Google Data studio.

Words by Chris Douch


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