Ashley Creates Co. is a brand I created a little over a year ago whose mission is to empower those who struggle with mental illness and reduce the stigma surrounding it. It has also served as a platform where I can gain experience with social media marketing, content creation, and strategy. I hadn’t been able to put in the time I hoped to give to this brand because I was a busy student, I got married last summer, and I was working a full-time internship.
I recently developed a content strategy for Ashley Creates Co. that I wanted to implement on Instagram. It included content pillars, a content bank, and experimental posting schedules. I hoped to refine my definition of the brand’s target audience and discover what the ideal posting time, frequency, content type, and engagement type was for my intended audience during the semester.
I planned to try out three different experimental posting schedules during the semester to see which one would be most successful. I also had a couple other goals:
- Increase my reach by 400% — since I hadn’t posted on the account in a while, my reach sat right around 20 accounts, so I felt confident I could reach this goal.
- Increase my following by 25% — I started the semester with 446 followers and hoped to reach 557 by the end of the semester.
Each week, I typically posted 1-2 reels, sometimes a static post, and several stories. Using principles I’ve already learned about good Instagram content, I tried to cater the content directly to my target audience, used language that focused on “you” not “I,” and included a CTA in each post.
The biggest challenges I faced (which is surely typical of any busy college student) were time and consistency. Because I had so many other things to do for other classes, it was hard to put as much time as I had originally planned into creating content — it can be time consuming to do it right!
What helped me the most in overcoming these challenges was having a plan/content calendar in place beforehand and batching content. Creating a strategy before jumping in to content creation makes it easier to stay on track, and batching content consolidates the time you need to spend creating content.
Of course, I wasn’t perfect. In the future, I want to be better at being consistent, because consistency is one of the most important parts of building a community on Instagram — it helps your followers know what to expect, know they can trust you, and more likely to come back for more.
Here’s a small look into what I was able to create over the course of the semester:
Check out @ashleycreatesco on Instagram!
I looked at the insights section of my account (this is only available to “creator” or “business” profiles on Instagram) as I tried out the different posting schedules to see which times and which types of content performed the best. Here are a few of those insights:
There are some great features in Instagram insights. I was able to see my reach during a specific period of time, my top-performing posts, how much engagement my posts received, basic demographics of my followers and when they are most active on Instagram, and more! This data will be extremely helpful going forward. Also, keep in mind, the more content you create for an account, the better and more accurate your insights will be. Instagram can’t work with an empty feed.
I unexpectedly reached way more accounts than I expected to over the course of the semester. My goal was to increase my reach by 400%, but I ended up increasing it by 188,006%. That’s a huge number, thanks more than anything else to the reels I posted a few times per week. One reel ended up reaching over 17,000 accounts (most people’s definition of “viral), which was really cool. I can confirm that the “Instagram experts” are right – reels are the way to grow right now. They’re not always the best way to make them stay, though.
Here’s the reel that went viral!
Unlike my reach goal, I didn’t meet my follower goal during my project. I had a goal to increase my following by 25%, from 446 to 557 followers. Instead, I only gained a net amount of 15 followers during the semester. I was a little disappointed (not because follower count matters to me, but because I essentially failed at this goal), but it will help me evaluate my content and analyze what could be holding me back from gaining followers, rather than just greater reach. Reach is a tool to build a community, but it can only do so much. I think I need to do better about interacting one on one with my followers, but I haven’t confirmed that yet.
Optimal Posting Time
Again, it was difficult to maintain a consistent posting schedule during a very busy school semester, but I did my best to stick to it. The posting schedule that performed the best overall was the one where I posted carousel posts, static posts, and reels between 4-6 p.m. and stories between 12-2 p.m. During the last couple of weeks, I’ve continued to adhere to that basic schedule and my posts have seemed to perform as well as the first time I did it (varying based on content type, of course). I plan to continue to ask followers explicitly when they are most active on Instagram – there’s no rule saying you can’t ask people direct questions like that, and it can be really helpful! Every brand/account/community will have a different optimal posting time based on its followers, so I’m glad I was able to solidify mine. (Of course, this could change in the future, which is why I plan to continue to analyze insights).
What I Learned
The three biggest lessons I learned from this project are:
- Reels get good reach, but consistency and value bring followers.
- Optimal posting times are different for every account.
- The value you bring to a platform is more important than numbers.
The first two are fairly self-explanatory based on what I’ve shared earlier in this report, but I wanted to share an experience that helped solidify the last one.
One of my static posts was a quote I designed in Procreate that said, “you are so much more than your struggles.” This is something I firmly believe and hoped would touch the hearts of those who saw it. A couple of days later, a woman I didn’t know commented on my post and shared some of the struggles she is going through. She said she agreed with the quote I posted and was working on telling herself every day that she is stronger than her struggles and that they will pass.
I was hoping to touch hearts by posting that quote, but this woman ended up touching mine. It was a great reminder to me that even though social media is often equated with numbers and increasing them, it’s the personal connections we make with individuals that make the biggest difference.
Ashley Creates Co. is a brand that I hope to grow and improve for years to come, and this experience helped motivate me to work towards that goal. There is a lot of negativity on social media, but I want to use it to build connections, educate people, bring a little more light into the world, and advocate for causes that matter.