Every Instagram guru we run into on the app will tell us something different. One day, all that matters is showing up in the DMs, the next, it’s publishing a reel everyday (um, no thanks). Piecing these hacks together can feel really messy, and there’s no actual strategy behind any of them. It’s just a serious case of shiny-object syndrome, where you try anything because it sounds new and exciting and hope it works. How to create a sustainable Instagram has nothing to do with the tactics and everything to do with how you are showing up for your audience.
Identifying Your Target Audience
You’ve heard it a million times, but every strategy starts with identifying who you want to attract. If you just want to post pictures of your dog for all your friends and family to see, you’re probably not the one reading this article, so I am going to assume you are trying to build an audience.
And this doesn’t matter if you are a product or service-based business, an influencer, or activist. People will tag along for your journey if they feel like they have something to gain from your content, which could be: inspiration, information, OR entertainment. So you better pinpoint which it is.
You don’t need to create a super specific avatar of who your ideal follower is and what they eat for breakfast, you just need to know their interests and their pain points. This is the person YOU want to attract, so there’s no right or wrong answer. You can update pain points as you build an audience. Some questions to get you started:
- What does this person value in their life?
- What are they searching for on social media?
- What struggles are they dealing with right now? (keep this relevant to your niche. Your follower might struggle with healthy eating, but is there really a place for this in your graphic design business?)
- What are their goals and what is holding them back from achieving these?
Establishing Content Pillars
I will never stop talking about content pillars. They are the easiest way to create a framework for your content so everything you post about is of interest to your followers.
I wrote a very in-depth blog about content pillars: How to Use Content Pillars to Create Engaging Content Instagram, but to summarize: content pillars are overarching categories that inspire content for every platform. These categories are created explicitly from what we brainstormed above — they speak to the interests and pain points of your ideal follower.
|Finding natural beauty products that work||Natural Beauty Brands|
|Understanding ingredient lists||Natural Ingredients VS. Synthetic|
|Has a small budget for products||DIY Natural Beauty Products|
It’s important to remember that these categories are very general and topics for each piece of content can be brainstormed underneath them, which brings us to the next point:
Create Space to Brainstorm
I have ditched every single Instagram strategy the second I have felt like I have to come up with an idea and post ‘on the fly’. Psychologically speaking, this is extremely challenging for your brain and isn’t very ‘strategic’ at all.
You want to brainstorm at least once a month to fill up these content pillars with as many ideas as possible. Set aside one or two hours to do this, and don’t even think about starting on any of these ideas! Allowing yourself the creative freedom to just free-flow ideas will inspire you and make this process really fun.
You can go back the next day to actually flush out these ideas and do any research involved. And then you write. And then you edit (all on separate occasions or else you’ll burn your brain out).
*You don’t need to bring every idea to fruition, think about how many times you want to post a week and prepare enough for the month. You don’t have to post 1x a day, 3x a week is a great place to start.
Create a hashtag ‘bundle’ for every content pillar you have. This bundle is going to consist of high-density hashtags (ones that have a lot of posts associated with it) and low-density hashtags (ones that have fewer posts). Start typing in search terms what someone might use to find your content and pick away!
Save these bundles because you will be reusing them.
Plan Your Content
If you want to make an impact on social media, consistency is key. This is why segmenting brainstorming, writing, and editing is crucial — it breaks up this into very manageable tasks that you can repeat every month. Eventually, you’ll know roughly how many hours a month it will take you to create your desired number of posts.
Sign-up for an Instagram planning app today and watch your life change. My favourite is Planoly because of its very visual interface. It also has all the features you could ever want under its free plan: drag & drop feed designer, captions, option to auto-post (to Facebook and Instagram!), hashtag bundles, tagging, and lots more. The only thinking you won’t be able to do is upload and schedule videos.
After you’ve written and edited all your content, find images or create graphics to go along with it and pop them into your planning app. Add your captions, throw in some emojis, add your hashtag bundles, and schedule for auto-post.
Wanting to take some great photos of yourself? Check out my blog How to Plan a Personal Branding Shoot.
You can now breathe a deep sigh of relief knowing your content is not only taken care of for the next month, but that it’s aligned with a higher strategy and attracting your ideal followers.
Make Engagement Your Top Priority
This strategy will affect your follower count, but the real golden ticket here is engagement. You want to be inviting your followers to comment, like, and share, and you want to be doing the same for them.
For engagement on your page, you just have to think about what might trigger a response, such as:
- Asking your followers to tag a friend (e.g. Tag a fellow entrepreneur in your life who inspires you!)
- Asking your followers to leave a comment (e.g. What’s your Sunday routine look like? Let me know in the comments!)
- Straight up, asking your followers to ‘like’ a post (e.g. Double-up if you agree!)
- Asking your followers to save a post (e.g. Save this list of toxic ingredients so you know what to avoid next time you’re shopping for beauty products)
- Asking them to comment with an emoji (e.g. Drop a ✋ if you want learn more)
- Start a poll on Instagram story (e.g. Are you a morning or night person?)
The list goes on and on and on. Experiment and see what works for your audience.
As for you engaging, you want to make it meaningful. Foster a sense of community by responding to any comments you get and showing your followers some love.
Set aside some time to do this weekly or you’ll just get caught up in mindless scrolling. You also want to be actively searching for your ideal followers by hashtag and engaging with them. For example: if you’re looking for people who might be interested in purchasing natural beauty products, what type of hashtags might they be using to identify themselves?
This might be a few you’d try:
#naturalbeautyproducts #sustainableliving #greenbeautycommunity #greenbeautybloggers #greenbeautylover
Leave a couple comments and likes on the profiles that align with your ideal follower. If they engage with you back, then make a note of it! If they’re interested in your content, and you’re interested in theirs, these are the types of relationships you want to keep tabs on and nurture.
And that’s how to create a super sustainable strategy on Instagram. It’s straight-forward, effective, and oblivious to anything that is trendy. I am not saying that trendy ‘tactics’ don’t work and they can be fun to try. Just don’t get caught up in thinking that they will make or break your Instagram. If you come from a place of wanting to serve your audience, show up consistently with aligned content, and prioritize meaningful engagement then you’ll have no problem getting by on just that.
This blog post is a little lengthy, but I’ve thrown all this info into a really digestible guide: The Insta-Makeover Guide. Sign-up to receive it in PDF format and refer to it whenever you need!