How to Plan Your Instagram Posts [+22 Free Instagram Planning Templates]
When you’re not following a plan on social media, it’s easy to forget to post regularly.
Additionally, creating image and video-based content meant to drive revenue for your business can seem far from your bottom line.
However, 90% of people on Instagram follow at least one business nowadays. To compete with other companies in your industry, you must have a solid Instagram strategy, especially if your intended audience uses the app.
Fortunately, once you have an ideal plan for your Instagram content, you can create content more intentionally and ultimately drive more results for your team and organization.
In this post, we’ll cover everything from determining what kind of content you want to post to picking a content theme. Then, we’ll get into the details of planning individual posts.
HubSpot, AdobeSpark, and Iconosquare teamed up to create a 30-day planning guide for business Instagram planning.
We’ve also thrown in 30 templates to help you get started. Click here to get the planning guide.
Your Instagram’s Visual Theme
Once you’ve decided on the type of content you want to post, you’ll want to select a visual theme for your posts.
Aesthetic consistency will help you in several ways:
- When an Instagram user finds your business’ account, the images will appear coordinated and well-thought-out.
- Your followers will begin to sense patterns in your content and pause when they see your post as they scroll because they recognize that pattern.
- When you’ve pre-selected a go-to font and color scheme, it takes away some of the pressure of planning because there are fewer decisions to make for each new post.
If you use Adobe Spark, you can download our free Adobe Spark Instagram templates to create a new post with a template rather than starting from scratch. You’ll also get access to the previously-mentioned calendar of content ideas.
To establish visual consistency across your posts, pay attention to the colors in your photos, the filters you use, the fonts you use in your images, and, if you’d like, the pattern of content types you’re posting.
- Colors – Keep your brand colors top of mind when creating Instagram posts. Pick a few colors that complement your primary brand color and ensure that the most prominent color appears in your posts.
- Filters – When using filters, do so lightly, as over-editing can dilute the quality of your photos. If you decide to use filters, use the same one or two across all posts.
- Fonts – Select one font to use whenever you want to overlay text on photos or videos and use one of your brand colors for the font. Since Instagram is a friendly platform, aim to use an easy-to-read, sans-serif font and keep it the same across all posts.
- Content Pattern – To create a visual pattern for your overall feed, ensure that every third post has a specific background color. Since Instagram has three columns in the grid view, you’ll end up with a column that shows you thoughtfully planned your posts. You might consider using a white background with the same font style and color to share an industry tip for every third post.
Once you’ve decided on the content type and visual theme you’ll use on your brand’s Instagram account, it’s time to start planning posts.
Create a spreadsheet with the following columns (or download our free, pre-made spreadsheet along with planning templates for all of your other social media channels, too):
- Date of publication
- Time of publication
- Image caption
- Image file name or a link (if it has been uploaded to the web)
- The link that you’ll add to your bio when the post goes live (or add to a Linktree-type multiple links tool)
- Campaign/Goal: What is the goal for this post? Are you trying to amass more followers? Drive sign-ups for your product, a free trial, a consultation, or another next step toward becoming a customer? A well-articulated goal will help you ensure that each post exists for a purpose. You won’t be creating a dead-end for your followers but rather an opportunity for continued engagement with your account, brand, or product.
When you’re done, it should look like this:
Pro Tip: Duplicate the spreadsheet tab for Instagram Stories, as well, to leverage Instagram’s other avenue for engaging with your followers. Stories are best used for interactive content like polls and quizzes, sharing photos or videos from live events, and more casual, friendly updates.
Once you have your spreadsheet ready to go, decide on your frequency. We recommend ramping up to posting around three times per week.
1. Define Your Content Posting Schedule
Post at least once a week to establish a reliable posting pattern for your followers. You’ll risk losing followers if people feel that they’re not consistently seeing interesting or helpful content from your account.
To establish that consistent pattern, set dates and times for posting first. For example, if you decide to post every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, fill in the date and time column with the next month’s Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays.
Then, add a recurring event to your calendar for post planning for the following two to four weeks. Set a recurring 10-minute calendar invitation at your selected posting times to reference your spreadsheet and quickly post what you’ve planned if you’re not using an automated scheduling tool. With the planning sheet handy, you’ll be able to copy and paste captions and links and locate the images for your posts easily.
When slotting specific posts into your spreadsheet, begin in whichever column you’d like. For example, you could start by evenly splitting the rows into separate campaigns and filling in the caption or image link for each post later.
2. Add Visuals
If you already have a repository of photos that you can post, you might start pasting the links into the Image File Name/Link column and fill in the other columns afterward.
You’ll also want to start creating more visual content for future posts. For example, consider repurposing event images that your company has taken, soliciting photos of your employees or customers using your product, or simply creating visually-appealing text graphics like this one on a tool like Canva or Photoshop.
Upload each photo to a centralized folder and use a standardized naming convention so that it’s easy to find the file you’re looking for. If you’re not using a post-scheduling tool, you’ll likely have to post directly from your phone.
To easily access photos with their file names from your phone, you can upload photos to a Google Photos album on your computer and then use the Google Photos app to download the content before posting directly.
3. Write Engaging Captions
Finally, decide on your caption for each post. The ideal caption style depends on your audience and the type of content you’re sharing. For example, aesthetics-focused content may perform best with a quirky, short, and clever caption. In contrast, education-focused content may be most likely shared and liked if the caption includes a couple of concise, straightforward tips.
4. Choose Hashtags
Make sure to include three to five thoughtfully planned hashtags in your caption or in a comment on your post to ensure it gets in front of new audiences. You’ll want to include a mix of branded hashtags (e.g., #HubSpotAcademy or #OnlineLearning) and trending hashtags so that more people see your post.
You can research the hashtags you might want to use by typing them into Instagram (head to the ‘Search’ tab and then tap ‘Tags’) to see how much volume they get. Prioritize the higher-volume ones.
Types of Content to Post on Instagram
Regardless of which kind of content you decide to post, it should always be content that attracts your ideal audience. Think beyond your product, service, or office. What does your ideal customer actually care about, and what motivates them to follow a business account on Instagram?
Bite-Sized Education Instagram Content
If you know your audience is interested in consuming bite-sized education on social media, you might use Instagram to share industry tips and tricks.
Videos or well-organized captions can be useful vehicles for providing your audience with well-researched information for their benefit rather than the benefit of your business.
Showcasing Products Instagram Content
If your product or service lends itself to being photographed, consider sharing photos or videos of real customers using it. You can lighten your content creation load by relying on user-generated content. Have your customers send in photos of your product in action.
Here’s an example of how Beats by Dre uses Instagram to showcase customers using their products:
Still, there’s no need to make these product or service posts promotional. Instead, the value for your Instagram following would come from drawing personal connections with real stories about how others have successfully used your product.
Inspiring Imagery Instagram Content
However, if your audience isn’t consuming education on Instagram and your product or service isn’t easily photographed, you can take a more aesthetically-focused route, posting images and videos that people would simply love to consume. These may not drive a significant number of conversions, but a visual-first Instagram can amass a large number of followers.
The key to the aesthetically-pleasing route is to check in frequently to ensure your posts are driving actual value (perhaps in the form of brand awareness or community among your followers) for your business.
Experiment With Content
If you’re unsure of the type of content you want to post or the kind that will succeed for your brand, pick the one you believe your audience will be most interested in seeing. That can include product-agnostic education, product-centric content, usage-focused content, or aesthetically pleasing content. Try it consistently for a month.
Then, try another type for the following month and compare engagement rates. How many people are liking and commenting on your content? How many followers did you gain each month? What other business outcomes, if any, were impacted by your Instagram posts?
In addition to deciding the general topics you’ll post on Instagram, you’ll want to experiment and determine which content formats you’ll post. For example, if you take an educational approach, experiment with videos versus text-focused images and various lengths of captions.
Alternatively, if your educational content lives on your blog, knowledge base, or in another library, consider using Instagram posts to point people to those resources rather than squeezing too much information into one Instagram.
For example, HubSpot Academy’s Instagram often promotes in-depth courses that HubSpot Academy produces rather than trying to dive into the details in the caption, image, or video itself. The account keeps followers interested by sharing short clips and tips from the courses, too:
Additionally, we’ve put together this downloadable calendar of creative content ideas if you’re not sure what type of content to try first.
Instagram Planning Apps
Who has time to come up with every post at a moment’s notice? It takes time to create compelling content, and that timing won’t always line up with your content calendar. Using planning apps to schedule Instagram content in advance makes the most efficient use of time and sparks creativity. It can also allow you and your marketing team to become more informed marketers.
Preview allows users to design, edit, and analyze their Instagram business page. With Preview, you can create a calendar to schedule photos, videos, albums, and stories for your business’ Instagram page. Preview lets you plan reels and IGTVs and access a suite of editing and analytical tools, including hashtag testing, engagement rates, and interactive charts. Preview also allows your entire social media team to plan your Instagram page together without sharing your Instagram password.
Later’s Instagram scheduler can be used on your desktop or mobile devices. The scheduling tool offers a calendar with drag-and-drop functionality, hashtag tools, personalized scheduling insights, analytics, a stock photo library, and many more features to help you make the most of your business’ Instagram presence.
Pricing: Starter Plan, $15/month for 1 user; Growth Plan, $40/month for 3 users with an additional $5/month for each additional user; Advanced Plan, $80/month for 6 users with an additional $5/month for each additional user. Later offers a 14-day free trial of all of its plans.
3. Sked Social
Sked Social makes it easy to edit your photos, queue posts, create a linked landing page for your business’ bio, and quickly add hashtags and mentions to your posts using templates. Sked Social also features a robust content calendar pre-filled with holidays from around the world, so you can plan content that celebrates and commemorates the special days that matter to your audience.
With Sked Social’s Essentials and Professional plans, you can collaborate with your team to manage your business’ Instagram marketing, no matter how many team members you have.
Pricing: Fundamentals Plan, $25/month for 1 user; Essentials Plan, $75/month for an unlimited number of users; Advanced Plan, $135/month for an unlimited number of users. Sked Social offers a 7-day free trial of all of its plans.
Planoly’s Instagram post planner and Reels planner allow users to plan, design, and schedule their business’ Instagram posts and Reels.
Planoly lets users analyze post metrics and add to their content with stock photos and photos from Canva. Users can also create a linked landing page and respond to Instagram comments from within Planoly.
Planoly’s scheduling tools include a content calendar that sends users reminder emails and push notifications when it is time to post content.
The right kinds of content planners ensure that your business’ Instagram posts are well thought out and draw consumers to your product or services. The following tools provide visual support as well as ideas that can transform content from dull to engaging:
HopperHQ claims to be the number one Instagram tool. It goes beyond crafting posts, giving users the ability to access analytics that help determine the best time to post.
HopperHQ’s Instagram planning tools include a drag-and-drop content calendar, automated posting features, an Instagram grid planner, and a team manager that allows you to collaborate with your business’ social media team and customize each member’s posting permissions.
Brandwatch is a platform devoted to creating strategies to help you plan your next Instagram campaign with progressive insights. Brandwatch helps you monitor your business’ brand and benchmark it against your competitors.
With Brandwatch, you can monitor social media trends, convert your Instagram posts to ads, and create workflows that repurpose assets to help your business save time and money.
Pricing: Brandwatch offers a $108/month plan for small businesses of 1 – 2 users. Larger teams can access Brandwatch’s full suite of products by booking a demo.
Adobe Express’ Content Scheduler, previously known as ContentCal, allows Instagram users to plan and schedule content. With features such as snippets, pinboards, and a web clipper, Adobe Express’ Content Scheduler makes planning for Instagram campaigns more organized.
Adobe Express’ Content Scheduler offers free downloadable tools and templates, including content calendars, an engagement rate calculator, and a marketing plan template that help you plan and execute your business’ Instagram strategy.
Tools for Making the Most of Your Instagram
To stay organized, we recommend using two types of tools — a post-scheduling tool and a tool that allows you to link to several different places from your Instagram bio.
By using a post-scheduling tool, you’ll be able to plan out as far in advance as you’d like, ensuring you have a steady stream of content ready to be posted even when other projects pop up in your day-to-day work. Posting consistently is important for follower retention and will give you more opportunities to experiment and figure out which posts get the most engagement.
Scheduling your posts allows you to visualize which types of posts you have coming out and swap posts if needed. You can see the weeks you’ve planned enough content and those during which there are still empty slots.
You can also use a spreadsheet like this one (download for free here):
Examples of post-scheduling tools include HubSpot Social Tools, Later, Buffer, and Hopper.
An Instagram bio can either entice a potential customer, make them laugh, or make them keep scrolling past a page. Unfortunately, writing an eye-catching bio with an enticing call-to-action that tells visitors everything they need to know about your business can be tough because of Instagram’s limiting structure for bios.
Since Instagram only allows you to place one hyperlink in your bio at the top of your profile, we recommend investing a few dollars per month in a tool that creates one landing page that links out to several other pages.
Then, in individual posts, you can reference clickable links available at the link in your bio, which provides a much more user-friendly experience than having your followers copy a URL manually into their browser, toggling between apps. MilkShake is a tool that allows you to create a mini-website with links and videos that users can access through a link in your business’ Instagram bio.
Examples of post-scheduling tools include Linktree, Lnk.Bio, and Link In Profile.
Enhance Your Instagram Experience
By taking a thoughtful approach to planning your Instagram content, you can ensure that your posts deliver value to your followers, convert those followers into leads or product users, and expand the reach of your brand’s messaging to new audiences.
Using tools such as schedulers and links to help carry out your Instagram journey can improve your business’ social media presence and extend its reach. It takes time to determine what resonates with your audience, so be patient as you experiment and evaluate your strategy.
Editor’s note: This post was originally published in October 2019 and has been updated for comprehensiveness.