STEP 4
content strategy!
aka what the hell to post


In this step

I'm focusing on your account feed only, not your Insta Stories and Instagram Live (that's in Step 7 because it is not as important, you can hold off for now).

Let´s go through

  • How your posts can get you new fans through the Explorer page and hashtags

  • Designing your feed

  • Ideas for content

  • Copyright: What to keep in mind

  • The text caption

  • When to post and how often

  • Making a plan and scheduling your posts.


how your posts can get you new fans (4.0)

Let's, first of all, clarify the purpose of your posts and how they can get you new fans and followers - without spending money, of course. 

  • We want your post to go as far out into Instagram's algorithm as possible, so your name/photo/video/message can reach maaaaaany people, and not just who already follow you. For this to happen, you want your post to receive tons of likes, saves, and comments. Why? Because every engagement (a like, save or comment), tells Instagram's algorithm: "this is a great post!" Mr. Algorithm can hear all the buzz and throws the post in front of more and more of your followers. He might even like it so much that he places it on the Explorer page (see screenshot 1)! That means Mr. Algorithm shows your post to people who might not know of you, but who he thinks will enjoy your content. Hello, new followers!

  • When you add hashtags into the mix, you can go even further!

    • First off, anybody searching the hashtag you used will be able to see it and might engage with it.

    • Second, if your post gets a lot of engagement, Mr. A might bump it up to the top of the Top-tab which means you're in front of even more eyes (see screenshot 2)! (It used to be the top 9 posts, and that might still be the case under some of the hashtags.)

IMG_5325.jpg

1. Get featured on the Explorer page!


IMG_5326.jpg

2. Let's get you to the top of the Top tab!


Designing your feed (4.1)

  • Quality photos: Instagram is a platform where the visual is the most important piece of the puzzle. Therefore, please make the posts as pleasing to the eye as possible. A captivating photo is always gonna get more likes than an ugly one. You can have the most incredible story to tell, and have made the best single ever created (literally), but if only your mom hits the like button, your post is not gonna reach many eyes.

  • I suggest that you also create your combined feed to look cool and purposeful rather than simply, random. It takes more time and planning, but I promise it will encourage more people to hit the follow button!

  • Think about it like this: If you look at a creative, cool, beautiful feed and then an ugly one, whose music would you rather listen to? Whose art do you trust? Who peaks your interest? This is where you will stick out, in a good way! On Facebook, your fan page and every other musician's fan page looks about the same. But on Instagram, you can choose to stand out! And trust me, not many musicians think about this at all! As mentioned earlier, I want you to think about your Instagram account as your EPK. You can spend a day emailing your EPK to tons of people, but if you use Instagram the right way, you'll get more eyes on your account than the emails.

  • EXAMPLE: I came across @xi.ne.ma's account on Instagram (see screenshot 3). The look of it made me believe in her as an artist, so I just had to check out her music. Sure enough, her music is as amazing as the look of her Instagram account.

In Step 1, we talked briefly about your brand. Go back to the  "My Brand" tab (see my template in the Google Sheet) and look at your 8 descriptive words. Use those words when you design the overall look and feel of your feed. Now, write down:

  • What filter should you use, if any? I suggest you look through the filters on Instagram, pick one and stick with it (you can move the one you choose to be the first one to appear in the Instagram app!). This will give your pictures a similar look throughout. Of course, if the filter does not work on a picture, don't use it.

  • What font will you use? Find one (or two) and stick with it.

  • EXAMPLE: See screenshot 4 of my @cleangreenme account. All the pictures have the same filter and same font, which ties them all together.

  • How about creating a watermark that you place on every post that you create yourself? That way, when someone shares your post, your brand is included.

  • APPS:

    • Android: Photofy, Instaquote, Piclab, Add Watermark

    • Apple: Word Swag, Typorama, Ezy Watermark

    • Both: Phonto

  • Other design elements: Do you have a specific color you want to focus on? Or maybe keep your feed black and white? What about a border? Or collages?

  • APPS: "Squareready" is good for borders (around the picture, or to add at top/bottom or sides to make a picture square), "Layout" is good for collages.

  • I suggest you don't put too many restrictions because it takes way more time, thinking and effort. And it makes it harder to share other accounts' content.

  • Often, you can recreate a post rather than sharing one that does not visually fit your account.

  • EXAMPLE: Someone posted the quote "Don't Worry - Be Happy" and you also want to post that. Instead of sharing this original post, make your own using your account's font/color/filter.

  • Sometimes you'll post something that does not visually fit the overall look of your feed. No stress! After the post has run its course, go ahead and delete it. A rule of thumb can be to let a post stay for 3 days, then you can delete it if you want.

  • When you have made some decisions on how you want your account to look visually, you can do some light cleaning. Any posts that stick out to you negatively: throw them out. Take a screenshot of it first if you want to repost it differently later.

  • APP: With the app "Preview" you can design your feed before you post. I use this app to collect future posts - a content bank, if you will! See screenshot 5.

  • In the tab "My Brand" in the Google Sheet, write down the choices you have made for your Instagram feed.

IMG_3563.jpg

3. Her account looked so cool, I had to check out her music. I became a fan.


IMG_3566.jpg

4. Very different pictures, but using same filter and font brings them all together.


IMG_3631.PNG

5. In the Preview app, I collect and schedule posts.


50% You, 30% Others, 20% Push (4.2)

Don't think too much about the following, but let it give you a sense. I recommend:

  • 50% of your posts should be content about you, such as a live picture from your show, from band practice or a selfie with a fan backstage.

  • 30% should be about others. This is where your target accounts come in, and S4S! You will repost from them and support them with, say, a picture of their new album you just bought and tag them.

  • 20% of your content should be a push. This is where you try to push Instagrammers/your fans to do something. This can be

    • “Get your ticket today! Link in bio”

    • “Check out our new video!”

    • "Listen to our new single on Spotify!"

    • “Sign up for our weekly letter from tour!”

 

CONTENT (4.3)

Mix it up! Instagram wants you to use all the tools you are given, and prioritize those of us who do. Also, mix up posting about YOU, OTHERS and a PUSH.

  • COLLECT IDEAS NOW: Still working on the "My Brand" template: Write down every idea that pops into your head as you read my tips! Also, indicate whether they are You/Others/Push

Screen Shot 2018-04-29 at 7.53.06 PM.png
  • Photos: You can use the carousel and collage tools.

  • Videos can be 1 minute long. The algorithm likes that you post videos, and will therefore boost it (push it further out in the algorithm than a picture post). Also, videos generally get 34% more engagement.

    • You can use the boomerang tool, although, in my opinion, it's overused and many really don't like it (me). So, my advice is to use in minimally.

  • YOU

    • All things band-related.

    • Selfies never fail! You might notice that your selfies will get more likes, especially if you look in the camera with a big smile! Why? People connect with you. I rarely take selfies, but when I do, they always go far. See the selfie in screenshot 6: One of my top 6 post of all time, based on impressions.

    • Video clip from your music video or session

    • Video clip of you speaking

    • Video memes where you add your band name or a quote at the top or bottom.

  • OTHERS

    • Repost from your targets and your Instagram network. But make sure you have permission and that you properly credit them. More on copyrights below.

    • APP: Instagram is currently testing a repost button! But it's not here yet, so use the app Repost (or any of the other reposting apps).

    • S4S, meaning share for share. You post about them, they post about you.

    • Repost or post about the people/companies/bands that inspire you.

    • Posts from shows you attend

    • User Generated Content (UGC) is when other accounts post about you (or your product), and you can repost it. It's often used by those who have a physical product, where they send the product to bloggers who post about it. See screenshot 7 where Nikkes Wives shoutouts her sponsor. Since your product is your music, so it's harder to implement this strategy. What you can do though, is send CD's, vinyl or cool Merch to influential account who are willing to post about it.

    • UGS also refers to when you post content made by your fans or targets. Make sure you have their promotion to repost and always credit them and the photographer.

    • The Unicorn Strategy is where you find the top posts from other accounts in your niche - and then repost or replicate it. If you are gonna repost, why not choose their best-performing ones? Sneaky sneaky. You use an app called Command, and it can tell you the best performing posts from any other Instagram account! You can also use INK361.com on a desktop. Note that these are services you have to pay for; however, it's not that much, and they probably give you a free trial.

  • And let's not forget the 10-20% PUSH posts! These include a call to action:

    • Listen to our new single

    • See our new video

    • Buy our t-shirt

    • Get tickets to our show

    • Sign up to receive our band-to-fan-letters.

    • Run contests for your followers and potential fans. An example of a good contest could be:

      • They must follow you, make a comment (perhaps tagging 3 friends) and share your post. The post they share is of course about the "thing" you are pushing (selling/wanting them to be aware of), such as your next show, new music release, music video or tour announcement.

      • Make sure you have a great prize! Don't bother with a contest if the prize is not really tempting. Unfortunately, most of us don't care too much about t-shirts or a free digital download. How about they can win a signed vinyl, backstage pass to your show or a dinner with the band. Or how about a guest role in your music video?

      • SHARE WITH US: Tell us about your past experiences with contests. Have you had any successful ones? We'll include your feedback here to support the others! Email us at instagram@northerlyagency.com.

  • Trending topics (Grammy's, a guitar hero dies, Keith Richard's birthday), current events

  • Trending hashtags (#tbt, #newmusicfriday #metoo)

  • Text posters with lyrics or inspirational/motivational/funny quotes

  • TIP: Add text to your photo if there is an important message you want to tell! Many Instagrammers look at the photo and skip the text! See screenshot 8: If I did not put the words "Keith Richards" on the photo, it'd get less attention because you can't see it's him when you're scrolling.

  • Pictures of pets are another hit. Especially if they are looking really cute or funny. Go back up to screenshot 6 - my video of my friend's dog is my top 9 post of all time based on impressions. It's still in my feed, if you need a laugh!

  • Pictures that evoke feelings: Be funny, be heartfelt, make us think.

  • Download royalty free stock images and find a relevant way to use them

  • I suggest that you stay away from apps like @thegiantsquare where you assemble many posts to create a large photo in your feed. It just will do more harm than good. The good being the one person who clicks on your account on the day the photos are lining up correctly and says "wow, that´s cool." The rest of us who got annoyed by those 6 weird posts that did not make any sense on their own, did not "like" your posts and now your posts don't show up in our newsfeed anymore.

IMG_5032.jpg

6. A selfie and a video of my friend's hilarious dog - two of my top posts based on impressions. 


IMG_5026.PNG

7. Nikki of the band Nikkies Wives gives her sponsor (one of many) a shoutout.


IMG_5027.jpg

8. If I did not put the words "Keith Richards" on the photo, it'd get less attention


Collect content and ideas (4.4)

  • Constantly collect! Look around you and take pictures. Write ideas on a page on your phone.

  • Everything band-related is a given, and the easiest to collect. At home, look through your records and books. On the subway, look for content. When you're walking down the street. When you're at a show and when you're having coffee with friends.

  • Also, collect from Instagram. When you see a post that inspires you (either to share it from them or to make your own version), make sure to collect it! You can save it to your collection on Instagram (by clicking the bookmark symbol), but that might not be the best way for us, as we're saving posts in our Engagement Pods

  • What I do: I take a screenshot of all the posts I want to keep as an inspiration and those I want to share. I then add them to an album called "Content." Then I spend a good chunk of time in the evenings where I go through my collected material and set up the posts how I want them, in the Preview app. I also have a page in the notebook app where I write down ideas.

  • TO DO: Set up various "content collection" spots, such as

    • a page in your notebook app

    • a page in your physical notebook

    • a page in your spreadsheet on your computer

    • a folder in your Picture app on your phone

    • maybe even a physical box in your apartment to collect anything that inspires content you wish to create.

    • Do you want to use an app where you can set up your posts, such as Preview or Later?

 

COPYRIGHTS (4.5)

  • Since you are a business and have a business account, you are in fact using your band account for commercial purposes. It is important that you follow the rules and etiquette for using other people's content.

  • If you take a picture, you own the picture and can post it. But if you take a picture of someone, you must ask them if it's ok that you post the picture on your account.

  • If you share a press photo and you bought the rights to the photo from them, you don't have to ask the photographer for permission to post it anywhere. But, credit them, even if that is not in the contract.

  • If you want to share a picture someone else has posted, you must first ask the account permission to share it. Make sure you credit them in your text and tag them in the photo.

  • If someone posts a photo and credits a photographer, it's either the account or the photographer who owns the photo, so ask both. And make sure you tag the photographer in the photo and give them a mention in the text.

  • If you can tell it's a professionally captured photo, but the photographer is not named in their post, ask who the photographer is and credit them.

  • Often photographers are ok with you sharing their photos as long as you credit them, but ask them in a DM: "Hey, is it cool if we share the awesome picture you took of Fake Fakes at Mercury Lounge? We will of course credit you in the post. For future reference, are you ok with us sharing other photos you post on your Instagram account?" By giving the photographer this level of respect, he/she might show up to your next show and take some amazeballs pictures of you!

  • Some posts are obvious promotional materials, such as album covers, concert and tour posters. In that case, I'd feel confident that the content can be shared without asking - however, keep it positive and supportive.

  • When you communicate with peers, ask "is it ok if I share your content in the future?" That way you don't have to ask every time.

  • In your own posts, you can add "Feel free to share" in your posts.

 

The text CAPTION (4.6)

  • Your text caption should be straight to the point, easy to read and engaging.

  • You want Instagrammers to comment on your post (so it goes further out in the algorithm, and hey, it looks good), so ask a question, such as "Will we see you at the show?" or "What are you listening to today?" People love talking about themselves. Especially when you post in an engagement group, you should ask a question that can easily be answered. More on engagement groups later.

  • You can also have a call to action, such as "tag a friend you want to go to the show with." Or "give me a thumbs up if you agree!" People love to support, as long as it's not too much effort.

  • Only the first two lines in your post will show on Instagrammer's feeds before the text is broken off (it will say ... more), so write your sentence with the most important info first! Look at the screenshot 9 of @northerlyagency_nyc's post to the right.

  • You can add more text for the Instagrammers who click More. Make it easy to read by adding line breaks and paragraphs.

    • iPhone: If you want your next sentence to start under the previous line, you make sure there is no space after the last letter/punctuation, nor at the beginning of the next word. I show you in the video below.

    • Android: You might be able to make clean blank lines! Try it. For some it works, for some it doesn't.

Make your text more readable with paragraphs!

  • Add relevant hashtags at the bottom of the post. You can add some in your sentences, but not if it becomes annoying to read. Avoid sentences like these: So #happy to be here in #beautiful #California ready to play #shows #tonight with @fakefakes.music! #guitars lots of #drums !

  • As we speak, there is uncertainty about using hashtags in comments vs. using them in your text. Personally, I have not had any problems using them in comments only, but many of the accounts in my network have experienced that their posts with hashtags in the comments have been shadow banned. So based on feedback from my fellow Instagram experts, I now suggest you include them at the bottom of the caption text (see screenshot 10).

  • SHADOWBANNED: Being shadowbanned, means Instagram's algorithm sees you as a spammer and therefore bans your posts from being displayed under the hashtags you are using. In other words, you use the hashtag #indiepop, but your post is nowhere to be seen under the hashtag. More on how to best use hashtags in the next step.

IMG_3624.PNG

9. Write the most important words/sentence first, so the Instagrammer is tempted to read the full post.



GEOLOCATION TAG (4.7)

  • Always use the most relevant geolocation tag with every post. Which one to choose? If your post can be connected to a specific music-related location, use it! Music venues are GREAT! Your target audience (potential fans, journalists, other bands) look at pictures from venues, and they'll see your post! See screenshot 10.

IMG_5335.jpg

10. I use Paste Magazine's geolocation tag, so other accounts (most likely my target audience) can see my posts when they look at all the pictures featured under the tag


HOw often to post (4.8)

  • Consistency is the main advice! In order to grow your account, you must post and engage on Instagram consistently. Rather than doing say, 3 posts one day and zero for the next week, I want you to schedule your posts so they would go out once every other day. Not just so you stay on people's minds, but also because Instagram's algorithm favor accounts that are consistent. It only makes sense: Mr. Algorithm sees you as a reliable Instagrammer, which he likes, therefore favors you over accounts that post randomly.

    • Why does he like us better? Because we bring value to the platform which might draw more people to sign up or encourage others to use it. That means more eyes on their ads and more money in their banks.

  • Ideally, I want you to post 1-4 times a day, especially now that you have decided to work on growing your account.

  • If possible, try to post 4 times a day. Once when you get up in the morning, once around lunch time, once in the early evening and once later in the evening. The bottom line is, the more often you post, the faster your account will grow, and your music career will follow your lead.

  • Let me repeat though, consistency is the most important advice, wether that means every other day, once a day or 4 times a day.

  • WHAT I DO: On @northerlyagency_nyc, I post 1-3 times a day. I NEVER miss a day, rarely post only once, and usually post 3 times a day.

  • Quality over quantity. If you don't have time to set up a purposeful post, I'd rather you don't post. Posts I have "thrown together" are just not getting the same engagement, therefore less reach, and I have wasted my time. Another reason to skip a "bad" post, is that if only a few people engage with your post, this affects the algorithm for your next post.

  • Why? Several of your followers who received your bad post in their home feed did not hit like, therefore telling the algorithm that they are not interested in you, and your next post might not show up to them at all. Worst case, your bad post makes a follower annoyed, and unfollows you.

 

What day and time to post? (4.9)

  • There is endless research that will tell you a million different results, so let's use some common sense. We want for your post to get lots of engagement as soon as you post it, so we have to post when the most of your target Instagrammers are logged on. So when is that?

    • Some research will tell you to post early to target people who are commuting to work. But in LA people are busy driving, and in NY we're on the Subway train with no data/wifi.

    • Some will tell you to post at 5pm to catch people on their commute home, but what about us who work until 7 or later? Which is common among musicians and music industry professionals.

    • Some research says best times to post is any time when people are at work, so say, between 9am and 5pm. But we're in the music industry! We workaround the clock!

  • Also, we're in different time zones. I can't catch people in LA and NYC with their morning coffee. Did you know that 80% of the US population lives in the Central and Eastern time zones?

  • Of course, think about International timezones. If you're promoting a tour in Australia, post at the time that makes sense for your Australian fans.

 

The latest research shows that the best times to post on Instagram are:

  • Mondays and Thursdays, and worst day is Sunday.

  • 2am

  • Between 8-9am

  • 5pm

  • But that does not mean this is when you are most likely to engage. I might scroll at 2am, but I'm most likely not writing comments. Morning time I do agree with, also when you want to connect with the general public. If you want to communicate with other bands, I'd say, make it a later morning, such as 10-11am. 8pm I agree with. I also agree with Mondays and Thursdays - however, I find that I get more engagement during all the weekdays, much less on weekends.

Source: CoSchedule. See full article:  Click link.

Source: CoSchedule. See full article: Click link.

  • Other speculations are even more detailed, saying you should post a few minutes before the top of the hour because that's when people are waiting for their next meeting/obligation to begin.

  • I would say with certainty, that there is less engagement overall on weekends, so save your best and most important posts for a weekday.

  • So again, what time should you post? Be realistic and schedule the posts for when it fits into your daily routine! And do it consistently! Pencil your posting times into your calendar as an appointment, and schedule your work tasks around them. I would suggest you choose 3 out of these 4:

    • Post in the morning before work. Morning coffee with your darling Instagram.

    • Post when you're taking your lunch break. Your post is your new lunch buddy.

    • Post when you stretch your legs towards the end of your workday - or right after work if there is no time.

    • Post after you eat your dinner. Think of it as your dessert.

    • ONE OF THESE should be in our 6pm NY/3pm LA Round Pod (opened NOW!)

    • ONE OR TWO of them should be in our DX5 pod.

    • Monday-Thursday are best for the content of more substance.

    • Weekends people are attracted to more fun, happy-go-lucky content. And when are people in general happier? Fridays! Keep that in mind when you schedule your content throughout the week.

 

Plan and schedule your posts (4.10)

  • Use the tab "Content Schedule" in the Google Sheet as a template, if you'd like.

  • How about every Sunday you schedule all your posts for the following week?

  • There are several apps/services you can use to schedule your posts, such as Preview, Later, Hootsuite, Grum, Schedugram, and Buffer.

  • As of recently, they can now automatically post for you (if you have a business account), as Instagram changed their API (policy) - and many are ecstatic! But wait, I do not recommend using the automated feature because:

    • There are many restrictions that I don't want you to have to think about when you are making your posts. The restrictions are:

      • Your auto-post cannot be videos

      • no carousels (multiple photos in one post)

      • no location tag

      • no tagging other accounts in the photo (only caption)

  • However, the more important reason I don´t want you to hand your posting over to a bot is:

    • Out of sight, out of mind is not good. Instagram should always be ON your mind. I know that might sound horrible, but it's not forever – just for now as you grow. Once you are happy with the number of followers you have OR you have money to hire a Social Media Manager, you don't have to think about Instagram anymore. But if you want your account to grow, you have to spend time logged on and engaging with others, especially around the time you are posting.

  • I would only recommend that your posts go out automatically if the other alternative is that they don't go out at all.

  • TO DO: Plan your posts for the next 10 days using your brainstorming column and all of your other collection pockets.

 

checkList. Before entering the next step, make sure you have

  1. Decided on what your feed should look like and written it down in your "My Brand" tab.

  2. Written down plenty of ideas for content

  3. Decided on how/where to collect ideas

  4. Decided on when and what to post for the next 10 days

 

Then, on to the next step!