strategy for social media content shannon mckinstrie

Master Your Strategy: 5 Essential Questions to Plan Social Media Content

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The unofficial poster girl for oat milk lattes, pinot grigio, and long walks down the aisles of Target.  

I’m also a wife, mama, and marketing junkie who turned my love of social media into a 6-figure business from straight-up scratch.
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How many times have you heard this from a social media “guru:” “The algorithm is loving (insert viral tactic here) right now.”

These “experts” focus on trends and growth hacks that promise “instant results.”

Advice like this grinds my gears because while 7-second reels and trending audios can enhance your content – they’re tactics, not strategies. 

To grow sustainably, you have to implement timeless marketing strategies consistently. 

In other words, you have to master your messaging and put in the WORK.

As a social media mentor who has coached thousands of small business owners, I know what it takes to grow on Instagram and convert followers to clients and customers. 

And today, I’m pulling back the curtain to reveal the questions I always ask when I plan social media content for myself and my clients.

Keep reading to get a behind-the-scenes look at my content planning strategy, plus a content checklist you don’t want to miss.

A photo of Shannon McKinstrie in a white, No Doubt t-shirt. On the image is text that reads, "5 Essential Questions to Plan Social Media Content."

1. Who Are You?

Before you plan social media content, you must know who you are and how you help people. 

Ask yourself:

  1. How do I help my clients or customers? What services do I provide, and how do these make their lives easier?
  2. What are my brand values? What’s important when sharing who I am and what I stand for?
  3. What do I want to be known for? What unique value do I bring to the table?

Know yourself, what you stand for, and what you want to be known for because you’ll incorporate those points into your overall content strategy. 

Here’s how I would answer the questions above:

1. I help my clients build a profitable brand online with easy-to-follow strategies, smart tools, and some freaking fun!

2. I value transparency, integrity, and community over competition. And you’ll never hear me preach quantity over quality when it comes to content (or anything else, for that matter.) 

3. I want to be known as the social media mentor who puts the FUN back into online marketing.

2. What Are Your Goals?

Why are you on Instagram? Be honest here – there’s no wrong answer, but if your only goal is to go viral, you might want to dig a little deeper.

Instead of looking at the surface-level objectives (going viral; getting a lot of likes, views, etc.), figure out your business goals and how those might translate to your content.

Each piece of content should accompany a specific goal. Here are a few to consider:

  • Enhance your brand’s visibility
  • Grow and retain your community
  • Build authority
  • Increase sales*

*Sales are often a byproduct of high-quality content, but I wouldn’t make this a primary goal.

3. Who Do You Help?

Once you clearly understand your unique value proposition and how you use it to help your people, you need a clear understanding of who you help.

In other words, who is your ideal client or customer? 

There are a few ways to nail this down, but try this first. ⤵️

Reflect on 5-10 of your favorite clients or customers. What made them awesome? Why did you enjoy working with them? Write down any patterns or trends you notice.

Then, think about the clients or customers you didn’t vibe with. What didn’t you enjoy about working with them?

This should give you a clearer picture of your ideal client.

Then, dig deep and figure out what makes them tick. Go beyond the typical demographics to understand their mindset, attitudes, feelings, and behaviors.

Knowing who you want to work with will help you answer the next questions, so it’s important to think long and hard about this question!

And if you’re struggling to figure out which type of clients you want to work with, here’s how to find your niche!

4. What’s Keeping Your People Up at Night?

What is your ideal client worried about? What problem(s) are they currently trying to solve?

A majority of your content strategy needs to address these pain points, but you have to think one or two steps ahead because, frequently, the “surface” level problem isn’t the real problem. 

Here’s an example: Many of my newer community members are super-focused on virality; they believe hacking the algorithm will lead to major growth and major sales.

They stress about getting thousands of Reels views and spiral when a post doesn’t “perform” well. 

To that end, they spend a lot of time searching for easy ways to go viral.
 But the *actual* problem isn’t the audio they choose – it’s their messaging.

Instead of investing time in knowing their ideal client, they prioritize the algorithm, leading to low-quantity – and lower-performing – content.

So, I craft content that tackles their surface problem (not going viral) while guiding them to recognize the root of the problem (their messaging.)

5. What Content Do They Interact With Within Your Niche?

This takes a little research, but it’s worth it!

What are your people interested in? What content resonates with them? What are they engaging with the most?

To figure this out, look at the content within your niche. What’s getting the most comments, likes, and shares? 

Now, hear me out: I’m not suggesting that you plagiarize. 

But when you scope out what’s working for other accounts in your industry, you can understand the type of content that might work for you and your people.

BONUS: Your Messaging Checklist

Once you’ve planned your content, use this checklist to ensure your messaging is spot on. Each piece of content should hit most of these objectives:

  • Does it relate to your goal?
  • Does it help your ideal client or customer feel seen and heard?
  • Is it relatable?
  • Does it position you as an authority?
  • Does it position you as the solution to their problem?
  • Is it shareable?
  • Would people feel comfortable commenting? Are you making it easy for them to engage?

Final Thoughts Before You Plan Social Media Content

If you want to plan social media content that speaks directly to your ideal client or customer, you have to dig deep and answer the following questions: 

  1. “Who am I?”
  2. “What are my goals?”
  3. “Who do I help?”
  4. “What keeps them up at night?”
  5.  “What content do they interact with?”

Once you plan social media content, utilize the pre-post checklist above!

And remember: social media growth and success take time and a lot of trial and error. So be patient, stay consistent, and master your messaging. 

But that doesn’t mean it has to be stressful or overwhelming.  The Social Squad Society is a membership designed for online business owners who crave community, education, growth, and fun!

Co-founder Emily Schwalbach and I have made it our mission to put the FUN back in social media with monthly masterclasses, caption templates, a hashtag vault, and dozens of on-demand trainings.

Oh! And be sure to follow me on Instagram – where I share more bite sized Instagram tips, tricks, and hacks.

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hey there!

I'm Shannon! 

The unofficial poster girl for oat milk lattes, pinot grigio, and long walks down the aisles of Target.  

I’m also a wife, mama, and marketing junkie who turned my love of social media into a 6-figure business from straight-up scratch.