There’s plenty of content out there about maintaining, updating, and optimizing your existing social media profiles — but we all have to start somewhere.
Here’s what it takes to transform your new Instagram profile from a blank canvas into a digital marketing work of art, plus a free downloadable launch checklist to save for later!
Plan Now, Succeed Later
Like we discussed in our recent blog about onboarding social media clients the right way, it pays to have a plan. Launching a new Instagram account (regardless of whether it’s your own or a client’s) is no different.
Keeping a thorough list handy with everything you’ll need for your new profile will help you breeze through the process when it’s time to publish your first round of content. It will also ensure that your finished result is poised not only to meet your immediate social media needs, but your long term visions for your brand as well.
Ultimately, your plan will be the difference between a profile without a clear direction and one that marches forward, confident with the knowledge of what the next step will be.
With Instagram, figuring out your second move before you’ve made your first is especially important. Operating on such a visual platform, your profile will be quickly judged by your target audience on its appearance. Consequently, you’ll want your grid aesthetic on point-like these well-executed feeds from popular brand accounts.
You might’ve noticed that these three accounts have managed a kind of balance in their grids. They’re pulling from a particular color palette, adding variety to each subset of images with different subjects/graphics, and able to maintain a certain mood with each image. These results are clearly not accidental, moreso the result of careful planning before each update. (There are other qualities to admire about these three accounts besides their grid, but we’ll get to that later).
Let’s dig into the details and see what a thorough Instagram checklist actually looks like.
Your Instagram Checklist
Part 1: The Credentials
This section is for laying the foundation for your profile. The bare necessities. The bare bones details. These items might seem obvious, but simply considering them before you create your account will save you a little bit of time (and maybe some head scratching too).
Choose an Email & Password
This is easier if you’re creating an account for yourself or your own business, but a little trickier if, like us, you’re working at an agency on behalf of a client. We said it once and we’ll say it again: work this out with the client clearly so permissions and account access don’t go topsy turvy during the launch.
Select a Straightforward Username
Make sure you choose a name that clearly represents your brand, but avoid using a lengthy one or one with many different phrases. It has to be easily read and easily recognizable-and, importantly, easy for others to quickly remember and tag. Have a few options ready ahead of time in case your first choice is already taken.
Select a Profile Photo
Ideally, the photo of your choice should be 180 x 180 pixels (and 110 x 110 at minimum). If it contains text, like your brand name, test it out on the app to see if it’s legible.
Create a Profile Name
Many brand profiles simply use their brand name to fill this section, which is a completely solid strategy. However, if you’re a new brand looking to boost the visibility of your profile, consider this: your Instagram profile title is searchable. Think about adding relevant keywords, not just your brand name, to this section to grab some extra profile impressions. Better yet: follow Later’s suit and squeeze your brand name AND a couple keywords into the title (you have up to 30 characters to do so).
Write an Informative Instagram Bio
While many already recognizable brands (see: Nike, Coca-Cola) use this section for catchy sayings and mottos, newer brands need to use these 150 characters wisely. Fill this section with copy that, at a glance, will clue users in about who you are & what you do. Protip: use the last line in your bio as a CTA for the link you leave below.
Add a Website Link
This is prime territory on your profile. Unless you have over 10k followers, this is the only place you’ll be able to add a functional link to your profile. To get around that, you can swap out this link with each post-but we’d recommend using a single link system (like those offered by Buffer, Later, and Linktree) to create a landing page to host all of your post links.
Part 2: The Content
Now we’re getting into the meat and potatoes of your profile: the content. We’re talking imagery, captions, hashtag strategies, and all that good stuff-a.k.a. the material that’s really going to make or break your Instagram debut.
Identify Your Imagery Style
Copy is crucial, but on Instagram, your images are the vehicle with which your written content gets from A to B. Take care when considering the visuals you’d like to share and make sure that you balance your grid between a few different styles-because posting all product photos, all graphics, or all stock photos isn’t cute. Also take into account your color palette and editing preferences to keep your overall aesthetic consistent.
Publish (At Least) 6 Grid Posts to Get Started
After some time, your first grid posts will fall to the bottom of your profile, mostly unnoticed. Despite that, these first pieces of content are vital to building your audience from the ground up. So, create your profile only after you have these first posts ready to go to avoid introducing your brand to the Instagram world with an empty profile. Your page should look “lived in” by the time it attracts new users; 6–9 posts should do the trick.
Build Your Hashtag Collections
With each Instagram post, you can use up to 30 hashtags. That’s a lot of hashtags to try to add on the fly as you’re publishing. Do yourself a favor: conduct some hashtag research and create a few collections to pull from whenever you need them. Buffer, the tool we use for social scheduling at Altos, makes this super easy!
Brainstorm Instagram Story Topics
Stories are discoverable on the app and have proven to be a viable opportunity for businesses to expand their reach. Like feed posts, they should warrant some planning. Even if you don’t make your story debut immediately after your profile goes live, make them a part of your social media ramp up period.
Choose Instagram Highlight Topics (With Covers)
Speaking of stories…thinking about Instagram highlights (story collections that appear at the top of your profile) can help you brainstorm topics to utilize for these 24-hour content snippets. Like your bio, these highlights should help your target audience get to know your brand. I’d also recommend adding highlight covers to your list of imagery/graphics to gather to help give your profile a polished look.
Generate A Content Calendar for the Month Ahead
6–9 posts are a great starting point. But like we mentioned earlier, it pays to think a few steps ahead. Even better if you can think an entire month ahead! Avoid scrambling for more content ideas by having at least your first month of content ready to go. If adjustments need to be made along the way, go for it. A content calendar is a guide, not a plan that’s set in stone. Download our free 2020 Social Media Calendar Template to get started.
Part 3: The Logistics
Creating a new social media profile is one thing, but keeping it moving forward is another task entirely. Here are some strategies/tools to have handy to help you think about the long term future of your Instagram presence.
Determine a Posting Schedule
Like the content itself, this is subject to change after you collect more data about your profile and determine the publish times that correspond with the activities of your target audience. In the meantime, a preliminary schedule will help you maintain consistency, which is something you’ll definitely want to have throughout the lifetime of your social media profiles.
Identify your Posting Tools
We’ve covered the what & the when of your posting schedule. Now to move onto the how. Instagram doesn’t natively offer any scheduling, so you might consider exploring a third-party scheduling tool to help you out (again, we’d recommend Buffer).
Build a Follow List
On Instagram, it’s not only the content you put out into the world that matters. To get your name out there, you have to interact with other profiles too. Do some research and make a list of profiles related to your industry and/or your target audience to follow once your account goes live.
Determine a Plan for Maintaining an Active Profile
In the same vein as our previous bullet, you’ll want to keep your interactions with other profiles as consistent as you can. Set a daily, weekly, or monthly goal about liking/commenting on other posts and following more accounts.
Add Your Instagram Profile Link to your Website
Let the people know you’ve joined the ranks on Instagram!
Part 4: The Business Perks
This section is for steps that apply pretty exclusively to businesses looking to make it big on Instagram.
Switch to a Professional Account if you’re using your Instagram profile for business purposes
This will help you better keep track of your profile insights and enable you to add an Instagram Shop if need be. To upgrade your Instagram to a professional profile, head to Settings > Account > Switch to Professional Account. You also have the option of linking a Facebook page to the account. This will help with this next step…
Set Up Your Instagram Shop
This is something you’ll be able to take care of using Facebook. There’s a subsection of the platform called Catalog Manager, which you can use to create a product catalog that (once approved) can be linked to your Instagram profile. See here for details.
Download Your Checklist
This might be too much information to take in at once, so bookmark this article and download our free Instagram Launch Checklist to keep your social priorities straight. We’re also always down to chat if you have any burning questions.
Good luck with your new Instagram. Happy posting!
Originally published at https://altosagency.com/blog/social-media/social-media-launch-checklist-instagram-edition on May 13, 2020.