Instagram can be a truly powerful tool for building your brand’s identity online, but it can also be very easy to get wrong.

Too often businesses break our #1 Unbreakable Law of Social Media Marketing – think before you post!

So the next time you’re about to upload content to Instagram, stop for a second and ask yourself the following questions:

The Instagram Checklist: 8 Questions To Ask Yourself Before Clicking Post

Does this make sense for my audience?

This should always be the first thing on your mind when you post something to social media. You’ll never reach the audience you want to if your content isn’t consistently geared towards them.

Use an analytics tool to find out what’s keeping your followers engaged and focus on those types of posts. On the flip side, keep an eye on what isn’t working – it only takes a few unwelcome posts to push a user to unfollow you, so adjust your strategy accordingly.

Does this make sense for my brand?

A platform like Instagram is great for building a branding experience online, so make sure every piece of content paints a picture of who you are as a business. Don’t dilute your profile with irrelevant filler. Keep it focused. Tell your story and make sure people know what you’re all about. Having a huge Instagram following doesn’t mean much if you aren’t able to convey your brand’s message.

Is this offensive or can it be misinterpreted?

This one is obvious but it is so, so important. It harks back to our number one rule of social media – always think before you post. You might upload something with good intentions, but remember that anything you put out is prone to misinterpretation. Once you click post, it’s out there for everyone to see – in many cases even after you’ve deleted it. Spare yourself the PR disaster and look at your content from every angle before you pull the trigger.

Should I sponsor this post?

There’s no point in sugarcoating it; Instagram is becoming a pay-to-play platform. The platform has seen a dramatic drop in organic engagement and growth over the past few months, so if you want your content to reach audiences you may well have to give it an extra paid push. If you’re posting about a new product, a contest, or if you’re just trying to build your following, consider uploading your content as a sponsored post.

Is this the best time to be posting?

Posting at the right time can be the difference between your content reaching its intended audience and falling flat on its face. Think about when your users will be using Instagram – you might be itching to post that incredible behind-the-scenes shot at three in the morning, but perhaps it would be better to wait until tomorrow afternoon.

You also want to think about when you posted your last picture or video. Try not to be spammy or you risk being unfollowed. Posting a few times a day is fine, but space your posts out with a few hours in between so you don’t overwhelm your followers’ feeds.

Has this content been edited to its optimal form?

Instagram users demand excellence, so if your content doesn’t look great you’ll have trouble building a following. This is where editing comes into play. Instagram offers editing tools of its own within the app, but we recommend using a specialized third-party app to get the job done. There are a ton of great apps, both paid and free, that you can use to get your photos looking their best. Google’s free Snapseed app is available on both iPhone and Android devices, and it’s insanely powerful.

Don’t stress over Instagram’s built-in filters either. They’re slowly but surely becoming a thing of the past. Plus, there are plenty of apps like VSCO Cam that offer high-quality filters of their own, so you can get your photos looking nice and vintage long before it’s time to post.

Have I written a good description?

A picture is worth a thousand words, but don’t forget the importance of actual words. Every Instagram post should have a caption of some kind. Use the opportunity to say a bit more about the content. Try asking a question to drum up some engagement. You can also put a call-to-action here, but remember that links in Instagram descriptions aren’t clickable.

In addition, make sure you’ve added any relevant hashtags so people can find your post. The more specific you are, the better. Using popular hashtags is fine too, but bear in mind that your post will be pushed down the hashtag’s feed very quickly. The old trick of ‘refreshing’ hashtags no longer works. And be careful not to overuse hashtags or you may come off as desperate.

Will this look good in my grid as a whole?

Instagram is all about beautiful imagery and the better your grid looks, the more people will take notice. After all, your grid is the first thing a user sees when they click your profile. If it looks unified and clean they’ll be more likely to follow you. You might have some killer content, but if it’s surrounded by a sea of visual clutter don’t expect your follower numbers to explode.

If you want to plan extra carefully, you can preview what your post will look like in your grid by using a collage app like PhotoGrid. If it looks like the post will throw off your grid’s visual balance, you may be able to save it for another day and post something else instead.

Oh, and one last tip – having a predetermined color scheme goes a long way towards building a profile that looks great.

So there you have it. Ask yourself these questions every time you post something to Instagram and you’re well on your way to creating a beautiful and engaging profile. Good luck!