A calendar might be useful when you’re planning your year (forget your BFF’s birthday and face the consequences), but a content calendar is downright crucial for any marketer.

You’ve probably already got a blog content calendar, but have you got an Instagram content calendar as well?

Creating, curating and scheduling your brand’s Instagram posts for the days, weeks or months ahead ensures your content is on-point and on time, as well as giving you the breathing space you need to focus on other projects.

But what constitutes a great Instagram content calendar, and how do you know if yours is up to scratch? Here’s what you need to include…

Follow a coherent workflow process

Depending on the size of your company, the chances are that there will be more than one person using your Instagram content calendar.

To ensure that no steps are missed in your content output, put in place a clearly defined workflow process. This might look different for each brand, but as an example:

  • In Progress: the post is being created.
  • Pending: the post has been created and requires checking.
  • Approved: the post has been approved and will be published on the due date.
  • Published: the post has been published on your Instagram.

You or your team should update this field as the content progresses through the workflow. This will reduce any errors or missed deadlines, and can let you track your overall progress and plan ahead for any particularly busy days.

Develop (and stick) to your brand “voice”

When you’re creating and curating posts for your Instagram content calendar, you need to bear in mind your brand’s visual “voice”.

Look at any brand’s Instagram feed and you’ll see a clear aesthetic style that they adhere to. This is crucial in creating a coherent visual narrative for your audience.

If it’s a hodgepodge of incongruous images without a connecting thread, the viewer will disengage from it.

Check out Play-Doh’s Instagram feed below:

Image Instagram

Bright and colorful, each image fits nicely alongside its neighbors.

To make sure that your brand’s feed matches their level of quality, ensure that your Instagram content calendar has style checks in place. Vetting each post against your style guide will make certain that your feed follows a clear visual narrative.

Know your hashtags

One of the most important things your Instagram content calendar needs to take note of is hashtags. Hashtags are the photo equivalent of keywords in blog content, and the more you include in your post, the more visibility you will receive.

With that in mind, you need to be aware not only of popular hashtags that are used on a daily basis by users, but also which ones are being used within your industry and by your target audience.

This is where the importance of knowing your customer segments come in. Your customer segments are defined by their backgrounds, their education, their interests and, yes, their hashtag usage too.

RiteTag is a particularly useful tool which identifies general hashtags used on Instagram (and Twitter) in real-time. It also lets you upload your own photos for it to analyze. It then provides relevant hashtags for you to include on your posts. And it’s free too!

Image RiteTag

Be sure to plan your hashtags well in advance. You need to aware of any real-time events which might influence your choices.

For example, when the British Royal Family announced Kate Middleton’s pregnancy, the hashtag #RoyalBaby soared through the ranks, and many brands deviated from the editorial calendar to pass on their congratulations.

Branded hashtags are also something worth considering. These personalized tags can be used to promote product launches, special campaigns, or sponsored events. They need to be unique and identifiable for your brand or product, so get creative!

For an example of a brand that crushed it with branded hashtags, look no further than feminine hygiene company Always.

In 2014, they launched their #LikeAGirl campaign, to reclaim the phrase as a powerful, empowering mantra. This earned them massive exposure, and it has become a regular feature of their Instagram content calendar.

Image Instagram

Create a clear publishing schedule

It might seem obvious, but a key aspect of your content calendar should be a clear schedule of the checks and due dates for each post published. While Instagram posts might not require the rigorous vetting that a blog would, it’s still vital that you clearly define what is being posted and when. Publish dates should be clearly defined — and stuck to!

When you’re creating your Instagram content calendar, it’s particularly important to consider the time that your post is being published. Instagram changes their algorithm every year, and this can impact how and when your post is seen.

For example, the 2018 update looks not just at how much engagement your photo received, but also about the speed with which you receive it. The quicker the engagement, the more views you’ll receive, so identifying the optimum time is crucial.

It’ll vary depending on your time zone and target audience, so do some research online to find out the best time to post for your brand.

If you’re preparing for a specific product launch, you might also want to highlight the posts that are shoppable. And if you do, plan ahead and make sure you have the necessary features to allow people to make quick & easy purchases.

For example, online stores built on Shopify let your customers shop via both the Facebook and Instagram apps, so make the apps are all configured before publishing. If you post shoppable content that doesn’t have the correct functionality enabled, you’ll miss out on vital sales!

Appreciate your followers

Finally, like the celebrity on the red carpet your brand is, make sure you appreciate your fans. Be sure to set aside a time on your Instagram content calendar where you respond to comments, thanking them for their input or answering any questions.

It’s not just about being polite either (although my grandma assures me that’s still important). Engaging with your followers makes them feel a part of something, and it gives you a great chance to learn more about who they are.

This will help you know what works for your posts and content and is a great way to inform your future campaigns.

We use calendars every day of our lives (and if you don’t, you’re probably double-booking dinner dates or running late for a meeting). As handy as they are for your daily life, there’s absolutely vital for your marketing as well.

An Instagram content calendar can help you plan ahead and visualize how your content will look. If you’re going to start one (and you should), bear the above points in mind. It’s a little work now for an even greater reward in the future.

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