Episode 31: Instagram Marketing Made Easy

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Stephanie Liu: Instagram used to be super awesome then algorithms came and then things changed and now looks like engagement isn't the same anymore. So we're gonna have a Christy here who's gonna talk to us a little bit about Instagram marketing and how you can make the algorithm work for you versus against you. If you're watching live right now or if you're watching the replay, go ahead and let us know where you're watching from. I'm actually here in beautiful sunny San Diego. Christy where you at?

Christy Laurence: I'm in San Francisco at the moment.

Stephanie Liu: And San Francisco is a long way from home, right?

Christy Laurence: It is, it was a 14-hour one-way flight I think I'm cutting out I'm not sure if you've lost me. Oh okay, so it's a 14-hour one-way flight to San Francisco, so I come over here to like nerd out with Silicon Valley.

Stephanie Liu: How is that by the way?

Christy Laurence: It's very nerdy.

Stephanie Liu: I see a lot of your Facebook posts where you were coming out of the Instagram office and then you have like these Kiwi meetups. What is Kiwi? I had to look it up, that must be an Australian thing.

Christy Laurence: Well the thing is, I'm actually a New Zealander. I'm actually from New Zealand and I live in Sydney and I have an Australian husband, so we lived there and it gets confusing because my accent. I have home accent from New Zealand with certain words and then an Australian twang. People get a little bit confused.

Stephanie Liu: I love it, I absolutely love it. So Crisha is joining us, where are you from again? I think you are in London if I remember correctly. Cool you guys, so today we're gonna be talking about Instagram marketing and how you can make it easy and make it work for you. I know I have plenty of clients that are leveraging Instagram and it could be an absolute headache with everything that's going on in terms of Instagram stories, filters, hashtags, oh my! Instagram, it's a thing. So if you guys have any questions about Instagram marketing right now, Christy is the best person to ask because she's the founder of an amazing app called Plann and it's like one of the best apps that allows you to branch, strategize, and schedule all of your Instagram posts and use your hashtags without actually pulling your hair out. So Christy, do you want to add a little bit more about the app itself while we get some people joining us?

Christy Laurence: Definitely, so I'm not gonna lie, it's something that I wanted for myself. I've spent 10 years in marketing and advertising and I was selling my own artwork and illustration work online. As soon as I figured out that the bed of my brand looked and the cohesivity, and being able to organize my story, then the more money that I made. And the "Follow" button, it's right at the top of your Instagram feed. So people aren't following you based on individual posts, they're actually following you based on your gallery and the first 9-12 images is how you make your first impression. People have literally a split second and I'm thinking to myself, "I want to be able to control it, right? I want complete control over that." So I started asking around and saying to my friend's "How do you organize your feed? Like how does it work?" And somebody said that they had secret Instagram accounts that they post and delete from and I was like "What a nightmare!"

Stephanie Liu: I know exactly what you're talking about! For those of you that are just joining and don't know, we're talking about Instagram marketing and we're talking about how you plan your Instagram feed. Yes, I did actually have like a fake Instagram account where I would just put things in there, just to see how it would look like, right? I hear you.

Christy Laurence: There were a lot of people that would post and then delete. And then I found that people had Photoshop snap grids, somebody did it in Paint. I was like wow, I don't know about my MS Paint skills, but that would be incredible. Then I just had this thought of it, okay so this app, it's going to be made. And why can't it be me? So I decided that I wanted to build a platform that teaches people how to actually build a brand and grow sustainable business, but understanding that Instagram is one piece of the funnel of their entire business. It works very differently to everything else, so what the app does is you put your images into a gallery and you can drag and drop and visually design how your feed looks in advance. It has all of the filtering tools, your brand's consistent, you can draft posts, schedule, it's got a full analytics system as well. There's a lot of people that will post on Facebook "Hey guys, I'm losing followers. Can you give me an opinion?" And I'm thinking to myself, I want to learn from data and I want to learn from real insights, not someone's opinion because it's so subjective and you don't know who these people are that are giving you opinion.

Stephanie Liu: I love that you said that, that you're so data-driven. Because sometimes your Instagram profiles can be different from someone else. If you have an Etsy shop versus if you're like a tarot reader or hypnosis. It's just so different.

Christy Laurence: Very different. There's a lot of people that will give your opinion, but if you're not learning from actual metrics and data then you're not actually learning from the right source. That was something that I was really passionate about, so I made sure that inside the app you can learn what's working for you so that you can see what's not working for you. For me, for example, I noticed that if I have photos of myself in my feed then the engagement goes up. So I'm like "Oh gosh, I got to get in front of the camera more!" That kind of thing.

Stephanie Liu: Wait, wait, say that again. What happened?

Christy Laurence: So, when I post myself in my feed, because I made the app, it's kind of about my story and that's why I use Instagram. If I post myself in the feed, then my engagement rate goes up. Learning that meant that I was able to then having to get in front of the camera and get more content of myself.

Stephanie Liu: Yeah, it was funny because for those of you that are tuning in, I met Christy at the Femargent app launch party and we were both on the same panel. I think it was about business, how to... Business mindset, yeah. And I remember when I first met you, you were like "Yeah, I'm the founder of app." And I was like "App?! I have that on my phone! I need to talk to you!" It was amazing, it was really cool.

Christy Laurence: It was fun to meet you as well. I think we bonded over quirky personalities.

Stephanie Liu: Oh, I think when you were asking about the questions too, I was like, "I got you, Christy." It was good. So, thanks for everyone that's watching. If you're watching the replay, go ahead and leave the comment "#replay". If you guys aren't able to watch right now, but you want to go and catch it later, go ahead and leave the comment "Subscribe" and RoboSteph, my little chatbot, will go ahead and notify you the next time that we go live. I know, Christy's laughing because we're building her Facebook Messenger bot.

Christy Laurence: Is that what you called your bot, RoboSteph?

Stephanie Liu: RoboSteph! Do you know what, okay. So you remember RoboCop, do you remember that movie? Yeah, so I got my bitmoji... You know what a bitmoji is, right? Okay, you're a nerd too, we can totally do this. So bitmoji, and then I made it look like RoboCop. It was the bomb, it was awesome. Oh, and Joanne Pham is watching. She was over at the Femargent launch party too. She's going to be on the show! Not next week, but the week after. We're gonna be talking about Periscope, because I know jack schnap about Periscope.

Christy Laurence: I need to tune in. I'll be there, I'll see you then.

Stephanie Liu: Yeah, absolutely. Okay, so let's go back to Instagram because now there are certain things about the Instagram shadow ban, okay? Darn it, I should have had that music prepared. Halloween already passed, but woo, shadow ban. What is the shadow ban, why does it matter, and how does it impact Instagram users? You are my guru.

Christy Laurence: I can definitely talk about this, yes. The shadow ban was something that kind of gripped fear and panic through Instagram, right? But what it really was was Instagram trying to keep everyone a bit less spammy and a bit cleaner. So, what the shadow ban actually means is that if you're posting and you're using 30 hashtags, your image actually isn't discoverable in hashtag feeds. What would happen is that you could use all your hashtags, but they wouldn't show up in the actual stream, and your images would only be shown in the newsfeed of people that already follow you. So, that caused like a obviously an outrage and heavy investigations into what was actually happening. Of course, I don't work at Instagram, but I've seen a lot of accounts and I've done a lot of research, so I'm going to give you my own personal anecdote of what I discovered. It was a few things. So, it would happen if you used the same hashtags over and over again and you're posting, say, three or four times a day. We can put the link, I think, down below, but I've got a blog post that covers all of this that makes life heaps easier. So, if you're using the same hashtags over and over again, or if you suddenly increase your activity. Say, for example, you started posting from once to 10 times a day, Instagram was like, well, this is a bit odd. And what that would usually mean is that sometimes it was because people were using automatic tools to post from somewhere else. How they know is that when you're using an automatic product it sends your data from their IP address and their country, which flags "That's not the usual use" and it's heightened. So, to remove it, what people did is they had to pull back to organically posting once a day and change hashtags, and just chill out for a bit, and then just start organically building back up. That's really, in a nutshell, what the shadow ban was. But there was something else that happened at the exact same time, and that was Instagram was trying to clean up their hashtag streams. So, some people take advantage of hashtags and use it for very inappropriate things.

Stephanie Liu: Oh okay, yeah, I know exactly what you're talking about. I once had a client, they were just like, "Why does this woman pop up and she's not fully clothed?" I was like, "I have no idea. They're totally spaming your hashtag." I hear you.

Christy Laurence: Exactly. What they did is they restricted the hashtag or banned it, and they actually banned about 60,000 different hashtags over the space of about six weeks. I spent maybe an entire day trying to find out what they were, but things like petite, books, saltwater, Sally Hansen, there was all these kinds of hashtag names, and Dogs of Instagram, come in and out.

Stephanie Liu: Oh, I love Dogs of Instagram! One of my old clients was Horton Plaza Park and we would always have this rastafari dog that would come to the Park. He was multicolor dyed... he was a poodle. The owner was really interesting. But yeah, Dogs of Instagram, I totally remember that.

Christy Laurence: Exactly, so if people were using banned hashtags, sometimes that could work in their detriment.

Stephanie Liu: But what if you're using a hashtag that's your own branded hashtag? Let's say I used #HeyStephanie but I'm using it consistently because it's one that I've tied to heystephanie.com - would that eventually turn into something that's banned, or is it just in combination with the other hashtags?

Christy Laurence: I think it's a combination. I don't think it's going to have an effect, no.

Stephanie Liu: Gotcha. So, Joanne is watching and she said that the shadow ban happened to one of her accounts two years ago. She messaged IG several times and they never responded.

Christy Laurence: No, their customer service isn't that amazing. I mean, there's 800 million active monthly users, so...

Stephanie Liu: I love that you knew that number off the top of your head! This is why I love her, you guys. Numbers run in her head, she's all matrices and all these tests we're always talking about or geeking out. So, how do you find out which hashtags are shadow banned that way you don't fall under the trap of...

Christy Laurence: I don't think you can. I think it's just about exploration and working out what works for you and having a look at hashtag streams. I'm just all of a sudden feeling really lightheaded. I don't know quite what's going on, I'm sorry.

Stephanie Liu: That's okay, it's one of those things. It's funny because whenever I do a Facebook Live, I always have my lights shining on me and people don't realize that and sometimes I have to just like focus on the camera and not get blinded by my lighting kit. Confessions of a livestreamer, you guys. So, Chrisha is asking, "What would a shadow ban do?" Basically, Crisha, what we're talking about is if you're using particular hashtags that have been considered spammy by Instagram, what happens is that your image, your photo, whatever it is no longer shows in the hashtag stream. Is that what you're saying, Christy?

Christy Laurence: Exactly, right. It just means that you've become undiscoverable.

Stephanie Liu: That's true. Oh, and Joanne, by the way, says, "Go ahead and drink some more water, Christy." If you want to go ahead and take a quick break, I can totally just flip my screen and then it's just me talking. You could go run, seriously.

Christy Laurence: Okay, two seconds, just to grab some water.

Stephanie Liu: Okay, hey you guys! While Christy goes and does her thing, it's so funny, because I feel like sometimes guests don't realize how much we're gonna be talking, especially when you're interviewing them, so that's all good. Joanne, it's so great to see you here. I'm excited to have you on the show in the next couple of weeks to talk about Periscope, livestreaming on Twitter, my gosh. I haven't had a chance to do that just yet, but I know that I need to test it before we have you on here. Crisha, it's so amazing to see you. I want to hear more about what you're doing, what you're up to - I know that you had taken a Captivate, Convince, Convert on how to launch your own Facebook Live show, so it'll be really interesting to see what you're up to. So while this is all happening with Christy doing her wonderful stuff, let me go ahead and show you what's happening on the actual app itself. If you guys want to check out the app, it's called Plann, P-L-A-N-N, and it's a free app that you could definitely go ahead and use, and you could go ahead and schedule your images in advance, and it makes it really super easy. The funny thing about it is that I actually found out about Plann from a client of mine, Jon Bailey, who's the founder of 2 Dads with Baggage. We were talking about different ways that you could schedule your Instagram photos, and Plann was definitely the one that he recommended. I would have to say that it's probably the prettiest app that's out there. There's a lot of other ones out there. They say that they're gonna go ahead and schedule things for you, but they actually don't, right? So that was a huge disappointment 'cause I would format everything, put in my captions, and then only to find out that it didn't schedule, boom. Having said that, Marissa Stone, so great to see you! Marissa, let me go ahead and show you who is on the show. Let me flip this back. Boom, here's Christy! It's like magic, no one knew you disappeared. Okay, great. So, we talked a little bit about the shadow ban. Let's talk about proven ways that you could actually grow your Instagram without buying followers.

Christy Laurence: Oh no, don't do it! Can I tell you, the worst thing about buying followers is having to delete them all afterwards.

Stephanie Liu: How do you even delete them?

Christy Laurence: Manually, I guess. That's be horrible.

Stephanie Liu: Would you just have to go in and just block the user?

Christy Laurence: Probably, yeah, it's be horrible. What happens is that, of course, it gives you a boost, that ego boost, the vanity metric, but engagement rate drops incredibly badly. And there's no point, because on Instagram, you're there for a purpose, once you understand why you're actually on Instagram. So say, for example, I'm going to make a big assumption that most of the people that are watching Steph, you've got a business and you're actually there to make money, right? So no matter how many people you have, if they're not buying from you and engaging from you, then what's the point? So, Instagram, about five years ago when they first started, they gave away free engagement and free reach. It was the platform that you could grow incredibly quickly on. They hadn't monetized it yet, and Facebook hadn't bought it. So they would give free reach to everybody. So, the game has changed a little bit in the last two years, but there's one thing that hasn't changed and that they reward great content.

Stephanie Liu: How do you know if your content is great? I could probably think that me eating a tuna sandwich is awesome, but...

Christy Laurence: Oh. no. Tuna sandwiches are delicious. But they reward content creators a lot. If you're making your own unique content that suits the branding and gets great engagement, then they reward that. I was at Instagram last week and they did confirm that with me that yes, they do. They really are pushing towards people that make unique content.

Stephanie Liu: Wait, let's talk about this. What do you mean unique content? I feel like there's a lot of stock photography websites out there and there are now photographers that specialize specifically on stock photography just for Instagram. So, they have these membership sites and anyone can download it if they join a membership. But because there's other members in that, they're all using the same images, but any which way that they want. Maybe they'll use a filter on it. Is that...?

Christy Laurence: But you've still got the caption. When I say content, I mean the whole game. And you've got Stories as well, right? I do mean the entire strategy behind it. So yes, content creation. You can tell when people have a curated feed of their own content, right? If you're sneaking in a photo in between, I don't think that's a bad thing. It's just about making sure that your brand doesn't look like everybody else's.

Stephanie Liu: That's very true. Get out of that sea of sameness. Which, by the way, Angela Quisumbing is here. She was actually at the Femargent launch party as well. Okay, so, proven strategies to help grow your Instagram account is to create a unique, branded content, being mindful of what hashtags you're using, making sure that you're not participating in the shadow banned hashtags. What other advice do you have?

Christy Laurence: My favorite one is collaborations and partnerships. So, finding people that are in your exact niche and have the same target audience and then cross sharing knowledge or doing something together, or collaborating on a product and being able to expose yourself to all the different people in the same audience. So, DMs aren't used enough and when things aren't used that well, then you can capitalize on that. DMs, they show up and everybody around gets notified that they're there, so you don't have to pay to play. You find the person and reach out. And it's just, you know, the follow-up game as well. People forget about the follow-up game. People are like, "Oh, sorry," and because people aren't used to be followed up, you usually have a higher chance of success. So, for me, it's the DMs, reaching out and partnerships are amazing at the moment, because it's free. Well, usually free, unless you're going to someone that's a bit higher, then maybe there might be money involved. But partnerships with your target audience are one of my favorite ways to grow. For example, you could do a creative challenge or you could write a blog post, or an Instagram takeover, or a Stories takeover. There's a lot of different ways. Or you could share blog posts. I mean, I could be here all day with the a brainstorm.

Stephanie Liu: This is basically your next blog post.

Christy Laurence: How to do partnerships. And then, again, the data over vanity metrics, so understanding what's actually working and optimize and do more of that. Then, the biggest thing for me being on Instagram, there's a real person behind all of the different feeds, right? So, there's a real person posting and people sometimes forget that although I'm posting as a brand, I'm still a human. And people technically buy from humans, so telling your story from humans... And people love that connection, the relationships. The reason that I love the fact that planning helps so much, especially for me, instead of wandering for over an hour, "What on earth, what am I going to post today?"... If I've pre-planned it, it takes me an hour for a whole week. I've then got an hour a day to engage in a community, than worry about what on earth I'm gonna post for the day.

Stephanie Liu: That's interesting. So, for those that are just tuning in, we talked a little bit about DMs, and DMs is short for direct messages. I would say DMs, yes, Instagram hasn't ruined it yet.

Christy Laurence: The comment that I got from you, Steph, and I love this. I totally stole it and I totally own up to stealing it. I get a lot of private messages, if it's not a little bit of troubleshooting or more information about how the app works, I would be just typing away and my arm, oh my god, 'cause I'm already testing like 40 hours a week of the actual app itself, my arm, ahh! So when Steph and I met and we were chatting, we were messaging people saying, "Oh, we're together!" and "Check this out." So Steph showed me how you can actually hold down the camera and leave a video message to the person and your direct message. It's amazing, it's changed the game for me. People are like, "Wow, oh, thanks so much!" and in my head I'm like, "Well, I'm actually just being a bit lazy." But okay.

Stephanie Liu: I think any time you do anything with video, it just makes you more personable and then people will shift their tone, right? Because when they feel like they're messaging Plann, they probably think that it's just some customer service in some far-off land, but then when it shows you, your face, it's like, "Oh, this is actually a real human being with feelings that could answer my question in real time." I get messages like, "Hello, Plann employee." I'm like, "No, it's me!" Then someone will message me going like, "Wow, your feed looks amazing. I love all the blue," and they go "This would be better if it wasn't an automatic message." I'm like, "No, I am a real person." And they just freak out.

Stephanie Liu: That's funny. So, the other thing that Christy and I were talking about at the launch party was like maybe if you have frequently asked questions about Instagram, and you could just have that video saved onto your phone and then like "Oh, this is the top #1 question I get asked." And you could just send it off, so that's cool. So Jenn Evangelista says, "I notice some big names don't have DMs or comments on their Stories." Do you anything about that?

Christy Laurence: Yeah, you can choose to turn that off. If you have, say, 200,000 followers, that's a lot of notifications, and I think some people just get a bit overwhelmed and decide to pull back. But you'll usually find that they have email, so they probably just prefer to be contacted in a different way.

Stephanie Liu: Oh, interesting. That's very true. I was actually, it was funny. On one of my earlier Facebook Live episodes I had Vickie Howell and I didn't know who Vickie Howell was at first, right? I was like, "Oh, you have this really awesome blog post on how to monetize your Facebook Live streams." And then I guess I had found one of her fake accounts, or just like one of her like smaller accounts, so I was like, "Okay, Vicki Howell probably has like 500 fans or whatever." Low and behold, she actually has another account and she used to be the host on the DIY Channel, and she has like her own YouTube channel with like hundreds and thousands of followers. And I somehow bypassed the whole vetting process and I snuck up on her via DM and I feel like that's the best way that you could find influencers.

Christy Laurence: I have to admit, when I'm trying to talk to someone, I'll find the channel that they don't use that often which can usually be Twitter, and because they don't use it that often it's like, "Oh, that's weird. I got a message on there. What's that about?" So that's always been quite handy for me.

Stephanie Liu: Then, if you do a video, they're like, "Oh, who's this cute New Zealand, awesome chick here?" That's great. okay so for those of you that are just tuning in, we've talked about Instagram shadow ban, how you could definitely go ahead and avoid it. We've talked about proven ways that you could actually go ahead and grow your audience and your engagement through collaborations, through DMs, the power of DMs, yay! What about Instagram Stories? Are you finding that that's really helping people show up in the newsfeed because it shows up at the top? Do you have any tips for that?

Christy Laurence: Here's the thing, I don't know if you've seen that yet, but if you have a look at my Story today, if you pop over @PlannThat, Instagram have just released that not only will the Stories be showing along the top in a bubble, it'll actually be, as you're scrolling in your newsfeed, there's going to be an extra little shape. So, that's coming out. I just feel that if Instagram are putting that much focus on Stories, we should too. The last update that I did with Plann made sure that you can actually schedule, or you can create and schedule Stories inside the app. I launched that last week, and it's been amazing. I got two hundred five-star reviews within 24 hours, so thank you everybody that fell in love with it, because it took three months of work.

Stephanie Liu: Oh my goodness, that's awesome. I remember you and I were talking about that at the launch party. You were like, "This is what I'm going to do," and I was like, "Oh my goodness!" That's so badass.

Christy Laurence: In paid Plann, it's got text tools and text overlay tools, so if you want to write "Swipe up for more," or if you want to do a little bit more extra text or shapes, that's all in the app. And then you can crop the Instagram Stories so that you have full control. 'Cause I personally, I hate how Instagram crop mine, so I'll just crop it before I do it, and then you can push them out. That includes if you want to import video. So, Instagram don't let you put anything out that's older than 24 hours, but if you put it in Plann and then schedule it, we'll make sure it goes straight to your camera roll, so it just goes straight through.

Stephanie Liu: Ninja trick! Did you guys hear that? Melissa is joining and she's like just like, "There are some video replay for IGs." If you guys are just tuning in, if you want to be notified every time that Lights, Camera, LIVE goes live, just go ahead and leave the comment "Subscribe" and RoboSteph will pop in and make sure that you get notified. So, while you've been talking about the app, I'll flip back every now and then I'll have like the website behind us too, so I hope you don't mind.

Christy Laurence: Not at all, I think my favorite thing at the moment is inside the app you can also save hashtags, so you can go through to your research and keep them as a group. What I've done and what I've been testing - I've told you, I'm a test nerd - it's taking the 30 hashtags, making them super small, and then like hiding them on a cloud. Like making them white, squeezing them all down, and then putting them up on a cloud in your story so that all of your story is now discoverable in the hashtag stream as well.

Stephanie Liu: Stop! That's like black magic SEO, but on Instagram. Oh my goodness!

Christy Laurence: And they haven't blocked it yet, so you know, if it's there...

Stephanie Liu: But you said it out loud!

Christy Laurence: Take it, this is special for you.

Stephanie Liu: That's really cool. So, every time I see a little cloud in your Instagram Stories I'll be like, "Oh, I wonder what hashtags are on it." That's so funny. That's very clever.

Christy Laurence: I have to test all these things. If I don't test them then I don't know.

Stephanie Liu: Similar to Serena. She's like, "Mind blown!" I know, right? Melissa, this is why you want to talk to Christy, because like how many people are on the app right now? They're using, you see all the data coming from them. About 100,000 yeah in 15 different countries, so I see all of the different nations and the trends in all the different countries.

Stephanie Liu: That's super badass. So, if you guys just missed it, this was like goosebumps. I'm like, "What, that's so cool!" So, when you use hashtags, you could put hashtag in your Instagram Stories so that way they're made discoverable in the hashtag feed, right? So, what Christy does, her little ninja trick is that she creates her little hashtag group, 30 hashtags, and then she shrinks them to like the littlest, tiniest size and then she puts a little cloud icon, and she shoves them over there.

Christy Laurence: Just hide them in a different color, 'cause you've got the dropper, so you can change the color.

Stephanie Liu: Oh my god, you're hilarious. That's awesome. Jen is saying that's a cool trick. What other cool little tricks do you have? 'Cause I feel like no one has ever blogged about that. Oh my god, I'm freaking out. This is, like, first!

Christy Laurence: I've posted about it a few times on my own feed, but there's a lot of questions that I get like, "Should I use 30 hashtags?" And I'm like, "Of course, you should." If you're going through the trouble to post on Instagram, of course you should. What other tricks? I test them all the time.

Stephanie Liu: Here's one. You say manage hashtags into groups, and so people who aren't very familiar with Instagram marketing are going to ask, "Well, why do I need groups?" So, why would you have, let's say, three different groups of hashtags?

Christy Laurence: So, the way that Instagram works is that depending on who you interact with and the hashtags that you use, and the types of things you post about, they actually categorize you into a theme. So, if you're following random personal accounts and then cat accounts, and all sorts, they don't know how to categorize you, so they don't know how to put you into Explore. There's a whole bunch of things that comes with how they categorize you as a feed. One of the things is hashtags. So you might have a group that's unique to your business, say, female entrepreneurs or business, or social media. You might have a group that's got ten hashtags just for social media and then you might have a theme that you post about constantly. So, Steph, you might post about Facebook Live and you might have a group of ten hashtags that are related to that. Or if you're a fashion brand, you might have ten relative hashtags for the product that you're using, or a locale. You can then have three sets of hashtags that add up to 30 and use those in your posts, right? Or you can have one entire group of 30, and there's a feature in Plann called Sneaky Peek and you can log in as somebody else and have a look at all of their data.

Stephanie Liu: Wait, what?! Is this the part where you're saying that this is how you could take a look at the analytics of your competitors?

Christy Laurence: Yeah. I usually don't say go and sneak at your competitors because if you're following what they do then you don't do your own thing, I feel. It's really important to obsess over your own community and just, blinkers on to what they're doing and just keep doing you. Otherwise, you're all gonna end up with the same product and the same content, and it's just not how I...

Stephanie Liu: That's very true. Cover brands do not take over the world, okay? You have to define and create your own unique voice.

Christy Laurence: But what you can do is find your target audience and the peers that you have, and then look at what they're doing. Inside the app, if people are putting their hashtags inside their caption, we can actually have a look at that, and it displays, and you can save them as a set in your own Plann. You just click "Save Set" and then rename it.

Stephanie Liu: You can do that in Plann? Okay, I feel like I've just been on, like, 'cause I don't post on Instagram as often. Obviously, I'm a Facebook Live person, but god, I kind of don't want to interview anymore. I just want to write down all these notes and just have you talk.

Christy Laurence: For example, if I want to have a post and it's specifically talking to content creators, I go find my favorite content creators and just save the hashtags, and just use those and see how they work. But again, Instagram is a marketing channel, so marketing, sure, but marketing in its essential form is testing, optimizing, and just rinse, repeat. There's little things like inside the app it has best times to post, but it's based on your existing activity. I can only go by and take the data from what you've already done, but if you then go ahead and have a look at your target audience, you can see what times they are posting, and then test that. Because they might know something that you don't. So, for me I'm just trying to encourage people, like, more testing.

Stephanie Liu: Yeah, I know, and I absolutely love this because there's always those infographics that say, "These are the best times to post on social media." But it varies on the different pages. If you have an Etsy shop or if you have a hair salon, or if you do social media marketing as a consultant - it all varies depending on your audience and things of that sort.

Christy Laurence: And it all comes down to how well you know them. Because, for example, a new mom with a newborn, she's not on Instagram at five o'clock. They all say the best time to post is between five and seven when people commuting. But a newborn mom, like...

Stephanie Liu: No, when I had my newborn, I was up at like, okay, 11 p.m. because she would wake up, and then 1 p.m., and then 3 p.m. because that's when she had to be nursed. It was funny because I would find my other new moms and we're like, "Oh hey, it's 3:00 a.m. Are you doing your feeding too? What's going on?"

Christy Laurence: Exactly. If that's who you're talking to, then that's when you want to be posting. Again, the algorithm is a little bit different because it's not chronological, but if people are interacting with it at that time and the engagement is quick straight away with the likes and the comments.

Stephanie Liu: Cool, so if you guys are just tuning in we've talked about Instagram hashtags and how you could take a peek at what other people are doing in terms of using their hashtags, how you could copy and paste their own hashtags just to see what the performance is going to be on your own feed. We also talked about Christy's ninja little 30 hashtag cloud trick in Instagram Stories. Angela was asking in regards to the hashtags, do you put the hashtags into the post or into the comments? Is there a difference? I see this too.

Christy Laurence: I don't think so, no. I don't think there is, I think it's up to you completely what you'd like to do. For me, I like the first caption at first comment because then it just keeps it nice and clean and I want my call-to-action to be download the app or visit my blog without distracting people with hashtags. I've got a blog post about this as well, but I believe it's personal preference. I've had a look if it's caption or comment and I've asked so many influencers what they think and everyone's just like, "I don't see a difference." I mean, unless someone can prove me wrong and show me that one post that they did, it worked, and then another one didn't, I'd love to see it.

Stephanie Liu: Absolutely. While we're talking about the blog content, because I feel like, Christy, you're always putting new content on the website, tips and tricks, and whenever I search on Pinterest of how to grow your audience on Instagram, I always see a Plann pin. She's constantly putting content out there, so if you guys are interested in learning how to step up their game - Christy is one of those people, she walks the walk as she talks the talk, she's out there and she's testing it. So, head on over to the blog because there's always new content that's there, you could subscribe to it, she also even has her free Instagram masterclass, which is absolutely adorable 'cause it's her sitting in front of the camera and she walks you through everything.

Christy Laurence: It's only 10 minutes. The bigger thing is that my mission is to empower and help people market themselves. I get really upset when people give up or they're trying really hard and they just don't have that marketing support, so it kills me. When I made the app, I was like, okay, sure I have this app, but the questions that I get are not "How do I use the app?" The questions are usually, the insights are usually "How do I use social media?" So, I'm like, right, I'm gonna help you completely. So, I basically just dump everything that I know into ten minutes, it's very quick, but I feel it's everything that you need to really get started. I'd say it's beginner to intermediate, completely free. Yeah, I just really want to help people get a kickstart.

Stephanie Liu: That's really cool! If you guys have any questions about Instagram marketing and how to use it for your business, by all means please jump in and leave your comments in there. Marissa, I've seen a couple of yours. Marissa says that we should go on to her virtual summit that she's gonna be having up 'cause we're completely geeking out. Let me tell you. Christy and I, from the second that we met, we have just been geeking out, we say things like algorithms and coding, and hacks and it's very odd.

Christy Laurence: We're the nerdiest people.

Stephanie Liu: What, hashtags in clouds?

Christy Laurence: Just from the blog thing as well, people that are writing blogs, you have to understand that when you're writing content for people, you're not writing content for what you think. You've got to actually find out what they're searching and what people are currently looking for, so you have to mix it up between evergreen and then trending content. If you have like a content strategy similar to that, it will just build a build.

Stephanie Liu: That's very true. So, while we're also still talking about hashtags too, what's your formula for actually creating your hashtags?

Christy Laurence: My own hashtags?

Stephanie Liu: So okay, I come from a PPC background which is pay-per-click. If you guys are just watching, whatever you type in, like a keyword you're searching for something, you get your organic search results. So, I used to do PPC in that way you would see the sponsored ad at the very top. When we would do the keyword research it would be like your very broad keyword and then you would niche it down. For example, let's say you like travel - travel, California, visit California, San Diego, Seaport Village, right? I would just niche it down.

Christy Laurence: It's the same, it's exactly the same strategy. and This is actually one of my videos about hashtags in my own course if you want more detail, but what can happen is if you use a hashtag and say it's got 500,000 hits or it's been used five hundred thousand times, it means that when people are searching that hashtag... First of all, a hashtag is a conversation. So if you're using hashtags, you're trying to become part of a conversation on social media. If you think about it that way, for flowers, for example. People aren't searching for #flowers, right? They're not searching #flowers, so it's understanding again where your target audiences is and where they're spending time, and the hashtags that they're visiting and getting in front of them that way. They might have #lovelysquares or #photosinbetween, and that's where, right? Those are the types of thinking that you've got to do, where is my person? Again, you'll be more successful the more you understand your target audience. Then, in terms of the amount of times it's being used, say 500,000, if you've got an account with under 5,000 people, your engagement can't compete with a hashtag that's being used 500,000-750,000 times.

Stephanie Liu: So, you're saying that if you have a smaller audience, it's more competitive if you try to use the hashtag that's being used by a really big market. So, if you niche it down, then you have better chances of being in the top nine grid.

Christy Laurence: Exactly, so I couldn't compete with someone like #famousphotographer. Huge influencers use it, they have you know 20% engagement rate. They're always going to be in the top nine. That's really not where I want to spend any time and it's a waste of a hashtag. I would usually recommend up to say 500,000 to 750,000. That's roughly where I like to sit, but I quite enjoy being on Instagram, so my engagement rate is usually okay. Then, what I do do though is I'll have half of them quite high and then half of them quite low, Say, for example, some of them have between 10,000 to 20,000, which means they sit there for a week, right? So, just testing that. Then, you know how we're talking about hacks, right?

Stephanie Liu: This all makes sense to me because, you guys, I'm totally a visual person and I've looked at the Instagram feeds. So, what she's saying is that when you look up a specific hashtag, there are hashtags that are gonna be used by a crap ton of people, right? So, what she's saying, it's really competitive to get placement even in the top feed because everyone is using it, and if everyone's using it it's just gonna keep burying down your image in the feed itself, and the bigger counts that instantly get engagement they're always going to be in that top nine grid. So, why waste your time trying to compete with them, if you could do the lower hanging fruit and go for a hashtag that's probably 500,000-750,000, or even 10,000 and then it stays in that top nine grid for at least a week.

Christy Laurence: Or a couple of days, depending on how it views, but here's something else that I've tried and that you might like to try.

Stephanie Liu: It's funny, you guys, because you can tell exactly when Christy's about to geek out because she's smiling so hard.

Christy Laurence: I'm a nerd. I'm thinking to mylesf, like, how am I gonna explain this? 'Cause it's super nerdy. If you post a set of hashtags and have them between 500,000 and 750,000, you wait half an hour, an hour, because that's usually when that first engagement is gone, and then delete them, and then add your second set of 30 that are all under 100,000, because they're a bit slower, they'll show up there too.

Stephanie Liu: Wait, can you delete your hashtags in the app itself or do you have to do that manually? When I say app, on Plann.

Christy Laurence: No, in Instagram. Because it's posted on Instagram, I can't do anything, or I refuse to do anything automatic because it risks your account and I couldn't sleep at night, so I just refuse straight out to do that. All you do is you go in and you delete the set of hashtags and you go open Plann and you might have a lower intensity hashtag group, copy that and just put them straight in.

Stephanie Liu: Marissa is saying it sounds like you and I are just having a secret conversation in a cafe and you're just sharing a secret. But it is! These are Instagram secrets, you guys.

Christy Laurence: There's a little bit more explanation of that in my video course that's completely free.

Stephanie Liu: So then, you're saying you could do your hashtag groups... Why am I whispering? This is so dumb.

Christy Laurece: I can come a bit closer.

Stephanie Liu: I feel like I'm whispering to you our secrets. We're so corny. So, we're saying when you're posting your images on Instagram, use your first group of hashtags, wait an hour, wipe those out, and then put in your second group to get into the other ones. Dude, that's like, that's awesome. I want to high-five you.

Christy Laurence: That many high-fives means wine at some point when we see each other in person in the future.

Stephanie Liu: Seriously. So, having said that, it's almost been an hour. Christy, thank you so much. All of my guests, they always ask me, "How long is the interview going to be?" And I'm like, "Well, usually they're like 20 minutes, but if it's really really good, then it's an hour." So, it's an hour.

Christy Lauremce: Oh, well I killed it.

Stephanie Liu: Yeah, you killed it. Angela is saying, "So you delete them?" Yes, what she means is so you delete the hashtags. It sounds like, Christy, what you're doing is you post your image, you put in your caption, you put your hashtags in the first comment, you let the first comment run with the hashtags for about an hour, then you delete those comments and you put your second hashtag group in there?

Christy Laurence: Exactly, because Instagram will only let you have 30 hashtags per post, so that's why I delete them, so that they actually post. If anyone wants to try it and send me your results, I will write a blog post about it, I'd love to write about it, I just don't have enough people testing it with me. So, if you do it please send it to me and I'll feature you and it'll be amazing.

Stephanie Liu: Yes, and please do send her the feedback 'cause she is not kidding. Let me tell you, I've taken a look at her blog analytics and how many monthly visitors you get? You get 100,000 monthly visitors or daily visitors? I just read it.

Christy Laurence: What's today, it's 2nd of November, so I just did it for October and we had 130,000 unique visitors last month. And that's two blog posts a week.

Stephanie Liu: Two blog posts a week. So, if you guys want to be in the next blog post where you share your testing results with her, hit up Christy. Please, by all means.

Christy Laurence: Send me a screenshot of your feed and send me the results, and we'll pull it together and we'll plug you, you'll get a backlink, it'll be amazing.

Stephanie Liu: I'm so going to do this!

Christy Laurence: You have to do it, you have to do one of these tests for me, Steph. You'll be my next feature. Actually, we have to do it, 'cause Steph and I have been working on a chatbot for Plann and it's going to come out. We'll work on that together, we can do a blog post about how we built a bot.

Stephanie Liu: Which, by the way, if you guys want to see how a chatbot actually works, go ahead and leave a comment "Subscribe" right now under the show and my little bot will pop up. I don't think I set this up to have RoboSteph, but maybe after the replay I'll jump in there to have RoboSteph pop in there. Marissa Stone is saying, "Can you share the link to your blog?" Yes, so I'll go back and I'll edit the show notes, Marissa, that way you could actually see the blog itself, but the URL is PlannThat, P-L-A-N-N-T-H-A-T.com - let me just go ahead and pull up the website real quick. If you go ahead and go to the website, it's PlannThat.com. It's a multi-award-winning Instagram planning app.

Christy Laurence: Four-time award winning, yeah! I have to have it, I mean, I won four awards. hHw could I not say multi-award-winning?

Stephanie Liu: Dude, that's awesome. I should say that on my LinkedIn, multi-award-winning digital strategist.

Christy Laurence: I think it definitely separates me from those who are...

Stephanie Liu: ...just in it for the money, just real quick?

Christy Laurence: It's heartbreaking, but that's what a few of them are. I don't like talking about what's coming soon, because as soon as I put them out there's just some crazy people that just put it in theirs, and ugh, it's disgusting.

Stephanie Liu: People are really funny. They always say that imitation is a form of flattery, and this one time I was doing Instagram Stories to talk about my little ninja tips on how to do a Facebook Live. My tip was was straight up, you put your notes on a Post-It and you just put it by the camera, that way it feels like you're still looking at the camera but you have your notes. And then, maybe she didn't realize that I was following her back, but five minutes later, she just did the same exact Instagram Story of what I had just said. So I was like, "Haha, that's cool. Great minds think alike." But I was just like, "Oh, that's so funny." Imitation. Often imitate it, never duplicate it.

Christy Laurence: Never duplicate it. Obsess over your community, not your competition. Just center, 'cause I've had sleepless nights. Building a tech company is the most expensive, heartbreaking, craziest thing I've ever done in my life. I just have to stay focused on what I'm doing, and if I didn't, I'd be insane. Well, you've already seen, I'm partially insane.

Stephanie Liu: No you're not, you're passionate.

Christy Laurence: I don't sleep that often, I work 16-hour days almost seven days a week. I love what I do, I love talking to the people that I get to help, like, I just love what I do so it really breaks my heart to know that there's just people ripping people off. It just kills me.

Stephanie Liu: Well okay, so let's talk more about the app. So, the app you could get on iOS and on Android, and it's free, but for the really cool features... What are the extra features in the paid plan?

Christy Laurence: Yeah, so you can come in and once you've downloaded that you get five days to test out if it's for you or not, and you get full features. You're able to use multiple accounts, so if you need your three accounts to check, to test, you've got a full suite of analytics, all of the editing tools, scheduling Stories...

Stephanie Liu: I feel like no one else is doing that, the Instagram Stories, scheduling the Instagram Stories.

Christy Laurence: Can I tell you, I don't know because I don't have the apps. I don't have anything on my phone, I just do what I do. I mean, I think they did have it, they will execute it very differently, but I'm very strategic and I'm the product designer as well, so I technically designed all the screens of the app, so if any of you download the app and there's something you feel is missing, email me, message me on Instagram, and let me know because it's me that you'll be getting a billion questions back from about the insight of what you need it for, so that I have a better understanding for design. There's that, so you get your five days, and then if you just like to use it to schedule your feed, so you can drag and drop a piece, if you're just interested in seeing the look and feel its aesthetic, you get 30 posts a month, which usually is fine. And then the upgrade, it's $3 a month.

Stephanie Liu: Yeah, my coffee, my husband actually ended up getting me a venti, and I think it's like $5 just for this.

Christy Laurence: So, what I wanted to do was bring enterprise level product to the everyman and make sure that everyone had their best foot forward and wanted to really empower that, but we'll see what happens. I mean, the more features I put in, the more value that I add, the more my team has to grow, so I don't know if it's gonna stay $3 a month.

Stephanie Liu: Okay, so get in while you can right now. Ermer, one of our viewers, his question was, "Well, how does Plann That compare to HootSuite?" And HootSuite is very different, Ermer. Hootsuite is just scheduling and it notifies you, but it doesn't give you the drag-and-drop functionality that Plann has to offer. It also doesn't give you the filters, you can't do Instagram Stories, Hootsuite were the first ones to come out of the game in terms of scheduling your social media post, but they're usually the last ones when it comes to innovation, right?

Cristy Laurence: Umm... I'm not saying that...

Sephanie Liu: I'm saying that. I take ownership of this. I still use HootSuite for a couple of my clients, don't get me wrong. I love the the price point for it. But if we're talking about the flexibility in terms of seeing how your grid is going to look like, Ermer, you're not going to do that in Hootsuite. Hootsuite is just gonna give you a line item that says here's your caption and here is your image, right? It's not going to let you see how your nine grid is going to look like in advance where you could drag and drop it, it also doesn't give you the option to save your hashtags into groups or give you the analytics that Plann has to offer, so...

Christy Laurence: It doesn't have the editing tools and content creation tools either, so I think the way that I answer this question is there are a few products out in the market and I'll answer this without saying any names.

Stephanie Liu: I'm just honest, because, you know, I've been doing social media for the past decade or so. People will always ask me, "Which platforms do you use?" and I'll tell them what works for me and what doesn't work for me. I'll give them the good, the bad, and the ugly. Don't get me wrong, I love Hootsuite, it's just different.

Christy Laurence: It doesn't understand the platform, but I just feel that it hasn't understood the platform and it hasn't given anyone the strategy tools and a way to actually grow an Instagram account. I feel that it just kind of jammed it in. Anyway, the tools that are kind of out there that are doing Instagram, they kind of say, "Here's the platform, now you figure it out." I feel that's what's separating what Plann is, because my mission has been to teach people as they use it, how it will actually help, and why it does certain things so that's probably the next part. So, the road map for Plann is actually heading down there. I'm not going to go into too much detail, but that's where we're heading. We're very helpful, thoughtful, and beautifully, simply designed to make sure that it's super easy, so we don't throw in a million analytics to bamboozle people just to raise the price. Iit's just not what I'm about, I wanted to give real simple tools to be able to grow fast.

Stephanie Liu: Actionable insights with real tools that you use every day that's actually going to make a difference.

Chrsty Laurence: Yeah, so if you're using other analytics tools, you'll find you paid $200 a year for some of them, and my app for $3 a month is the same thing. But no one's looking at all the crap. There's so many things that you're not using, but because they've got so many features they can justify the price. So, for me, I wanted to just remove that.

Stephanie Liu: Got it. So, for those of you that are just tuning in, we've been talking a lot about Instagram marketing. Christy gave us a ton of her secret tips that... We've actually had a couple of viewers like Melissa, she's like, "Oh my god, I need to watch this over again." I know, I need to go ahead and get the captions and the transcript for this done, 'cause I feel like this is amazing. So, for those of you who have never not used Plann before, go ahead and download the app. Like Christy said, you could go in and test drive it, play around with it, fall in love with it, leave a 5-star review because you and the girl absolutely deserves it.

Christy Laurence: And seriously, if there's something in there that you want or you think is missing, or could be done better, send a message. There's a "Contact Us" inside the app and it emails me directly. I want to hear about it.

Stephanie Liu: Well, thank you Christy so much for geeking out with me. It doesn't look like there's any more questions, unless, okay I'll give you guys 10 more seconds, I know that there's a delay too. So, if you have any more questions, go ahead and post it now. Marissa says that she hasn't tried it out yet, but she'll definitely check it out. Yes, Marissa, let us know what you think about it. Alright! Thank you guys so much, I'm gonna go ahead and play our little exit music.

Christy Laurence: Can we dance?

Stephanie Liu: Yeah, we can dance. Let's see here, boom. Here it is! [Music] Thank You Cindy for tuning in, bye guys, take care! [Music]


Filters, hashtags, shadow bans... oh my! 

Remember when promoting your business on Instagram was as simple as just posting a photo? #thegooddays 

Now you have to come up with 30 hashtags, create an Instagram Story and join comment pods just to get some type of engagement. 

If you're looking for insider tips on how you can grow your Instagram without buying followers, then this episode is for you! 

Christy Laurence, founder of Plann, is joining Lights, Camera, Live to spill the beans on how YOU can make Instagram's algorithm work for you versus against you. 


Christy Laurence is the Founder of Plann, a multi-award winning app that helps brand, strategize, analyse and schedule Instagram in advance. 

She was also crowned as '2016 Australasian Startup Founder of the Year' with StartCon. 

Connect with Christy on Instagram or follow her startup journey on Facebook.


  • How to Sock It to Instagram's Shadow Ban
  • Proven Ways to Grow Your Instagram Without Buying Followers
  • Secrets to Manage Your Instagram Easily + Effortlessly 





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