There’s been a ton of talk about Instagram for like… the last decade, but recent talk has a lot of users scratching their heads and resisting the urge to post because they aren’t quite sure what Instagram wants.
A recent announcement where they point blank said that they are prioritizing video on the platform, something that’s been shifting and evolving over the last few years, left people feeling a little stumped and frustrated. Should you go with a long storytelling caption or a short and clever one? To use reels or not to use reels? What about IGTV, going LIVE or showing up in stories? Do photos work anymore? And how often should you do each vs. in feed posts?
Whew, this one platform alone can cause us to get stuck and not know where exactly to start or pick back up. But this episode is all about getting un-stuck and finding a simple solution for figuring out what in the world to post on Instagram.
While it will look different for everyone, know that your own formula is going to FEEL best for you, which in turn translates to content that isn’t forced or phony, it translates into content that is genuine and that feels good to post, it translates into feeling more like a legacy and less like a chore… and that’s what we need in order to create an online presence that connects with our ideal audience and make them want to engage with us!
I also wanted to quickly let you know that I have an epic FREE training on how to drive real results on Instagram without needing thousands of followers, and I’d LOVE for you to watch it. Join me here.
Step 1: Determine the goal of the post.
While social media fuels egos if you set out a goal that impacts other people, it can transform the way that social media can feel in general. Every single time I post on Instagram, there’s a tangible goal that the post achieves. I think so often we get tripped up because we have a photo we want to share and then we scramble to write a caption and end up just describing whatever’s in the photo. It’s a totally natural thing to do, but think a little deeper.
If we try to work backwards and instead of picking a photo and trying to come up with a caption, first try picking a goal that your post is going to achieve.
- Is it to tell a story that your audience will connect with and relate to?
- Is it to share a lesson you learned recently that they’d also find useful?
- Is it to make them laugh or add joy to their day with a funny story?
- Is it to provide a tangible tip or takeaway that can get your followers a quick and easy win?
- Is it to create a deeper connection with your audience?
After I know the goal I want a post to achieve, I fit it into one of my “categories.” If you don’t know what I mean by categories, I have this strategy called the JK5 method that I teach in the Instagram Lab and that’s been featured in marketing courses and books where you’re centering your content creation around 5 main content pillars or categories that will give you a recognizable brand beyond what you do or sell. These include categories that connect you to your followers and once you have your five, you rotate through those categories so that you don’t just use social media to promote a business but so that you become a recognizable human or brand that people connect with and trust.
I recommend choosing 5 categories that your brand will be known for because that gives you an opportunity to touch on a variety of subjects and themes that have to do with work AND life outside of work. These categories can be related to:
- Your product or service
- Personal hobbies
- Interests or pastimes
- Profiles or features of your team (or even your customers by sharing testimonials and feedback)
- Geographic features or things you like about your town or area
- Or categories that will help connect you to your ideal clients
When you adopt this method, you’ll not only create a versatile, well-rounded, and connected brand, but you’ll also create an interesting feed that earns you the ability to sell to your audience without them even batting an eyelash. Your marketing shifts from mere sales pitches to open invitations. As you start to think of your categories, I also want to mention that they can evolve just as you and your brand evolves, so go ahead and give yourself permission to make shifts when you need to, change your mind, and say things differently!
Step 2: Take turns featuring the pillars of your content.
Your brand is the personality behind your main topics or offers, meaning you want to have additional categories or pillars that help you connect with your community. These aren’t just “buffers” or filler content – these give people a reason to follow you even if they aren’t currently interested in what you’re selling.
Think of it like this when choosing your categories to feature… What would your best friend or mom or coworker tell me about YOU or the vision of your company BEYOND what you sell? Then consider if you couldn’t talk about your product or service, what kinds of topics would you be talking about that feel relevant to you and your business? Or think back to the magazine idea, what categories would your ideal clients want to read about?
The goal of having 5 categories originally stemmed from the idea that if someone were to post 5x a week, Monday – Friday, each post would be from a different category. You’d cycle through the categories and build a consistent flow of content without focusing on one thing too much and risking alienating your audience. While it’s not necessary to post Monday – Friday, think about how you can create a cycle or rhythm in your content that helps you to know what to post and allows you to show up serving 80% of the time and “selling” or promoting just 20% of the time.
While I personally no longer post Monday-Friday, I still follow my JK5 method in sharing about different topics and connecting with my followers on more than just the work I do. Focus on finding a system that you can commit to and stay consistent with, so maybe you’re posting every two or three days and cycling through each of your pillar categories with each post. Maybe you’re posting Monday, Wednesday, and Friday and focusing on your “business” categories one of those days and the more personal categories on two days of the week.
Regardless of the frequency, work on committing to a schedule that feels good for your workflow and that you can sustain longer than a week or two. Once you know WHEN you’re going to post and in general WHAT you’re going to post about, coming up with content is FUN!
Step 3: Do a caption check.
Let’s say I’m going to prep a post for my marriage category next that achieves the goal of entertainment, and so I write up a story about how Drew and I moved from the “just friends” relationship status to “it’s complicated” to “in a relationship” after three years of taking comm classes side by side.
After I’ve drafted my caption, I always run through a quick list of questions to make sure what I’m posting is helpful or entertaining or impactful for my audience in some way. Even though my captions are often stories about me, my business, my family, or my life, I want to make sure they’re more than just a journal of my thoughts and musings. I want for each post to feel like they’re providing something valuable or impactful for my followers, and so here are the questions I run through to be certain each caption is meaningful to more than just me:
Why does this matter? Not every post needs to serve every follower but every post needs to serve someone. Get clear on who the post is for and the goal it serves.
How are you helping people feel invited to engage with your post? Be inclusive and conversational in your language. Even though this post is about you or your business or your family, how can you make it a broader conversation that loops in your audience and makes them feel a part of it? Where do they come into play here?
What is the next step for someone who engages with this post? Even if it feels unnatural at first, try
including a call to action on each post so that people have an easy invitation to engage! It can be something simple like “double-tap if you agree!” or more complex like “head to the link in my bio for more info” or “leave a comment with your thoughts!”. Either way, get into the habit of guiding people to take action when they see your post! You never want to have a dead end, you always want to invite someone to engage further.
The Big Picture
While I think we need to approach the app from a place that first prioritizes our mental health but second feels fun, I firmly believe that having a plan eliminates so much of the guesswork and procrastination in doing what we need to do.
For Instagram especially, leaning into a handful of topics and categories that make sense for you and your business, and then tying the message of each post back to a goal that serves your followers can be a straightforward way to create content that feels authentic to you AND meets your audience where they’re at. It allows you to focus on serving not selling and impact over income and trust me, that goes a long way in today’s digital world.
Remember Instagram isn’t about perfection or perfectly curated captions and photos – I mean, for some people it is – but the most impactful accounts that I follow aim to serve, inspire, connect, educate and share stories that matter. If you keep that at the heart of what you post, you can’t go wrong.