What to Write on Instagram Posts, Reels, Stories and More with Kendra Swalls

A woman with a microphone in front of a laptop and a cup of coffee.

“You’re either a creator or a consumer.”

This is what Kendra Swalls said toward the end of our conversation about Instagram, and it’s really stuck with me since we first spoke. Before you even begin thinking about what to write on Instagram posts (which, yes, is the point of this episode), let’s talk about that dichotomy for a moment.

The entire reason I hosted this enormous social media series on the podcast was because I wanted my audience to think about how they use social media in their business. There may be platforms where you are more of a consumer—or a voyeur even. And that’s totally fine.

But if you want to use social media as a marketing asset, you need to step out of the consumer role and into the shoes of a creator. And this episode will help you do just that.

Kendra Swalls shares her social media knowledge and delivers big time. We talk all about what to write on Instagram posts, reels, and stories, and how to grow a community on the platform.

Copy says: Listen in to this episode of the Talk Copy to Me podcast

Here is what Kendra and Erin want you to know about what to write on Instagram posts, stories, and reels

  • The importance of building a personal brand on Instagram because people connect with people
  • How to repurpose longer-form content (like podcast episodes) into Instagram posts and Instagram content into different marketing assets (such as blog posts)
  • What to write on Instagram posts: A look at what we’ve done in the past and how we need to adjust how we write on Instagram now and into the future
  • How to repurpose content within Instagram (betcha haven’t heard many other people talking about this!)
  • How to factor in SEO into your Instagram strategy, and why that’s important in 2023 (and beyond)
  • Why hashtags aren’t dead…but how you may have to adjust how you use them
  • How DM automations can help you share content, but also keep people on platform—which is what Instagram wants

Other podcast episodes and resources mentioned in this episodes:

Tool: Manychat to help out with DM automations

Kendra’s prediction for Instagram in 2023

Instagram is going to stop trying to mimic other platforms and listen to their users

“I think we’re gonna see a little bit of a leveling out on Instagram where they’re gonna be like okay, we’re settling into our identity now.”

Kendra goes on to explain that after trying so many new things, Instagram is finally listening to its users and part of that is that they’re investing in their creators. So if you’re focusing on writing Instagram posts, filming reels, and showing up in stories…now is the time.

My response: “I feel like you’re gonna win this one. We’ll check back when the episode actually does go live. And I’ll give you your gold star then.”

quotes from this episode of the Talk Copy to Me copywriting podcast

Quotes about what to write on Instagram with Kendra and Erin

Split screen of Kendra Swalls and Erin Ollila in a Talk Copy to Me podcast interview
  • “People connect with people. They don’t connect with a logo. They don’t connect with a product or a service. They connect with the person, the team, the meaning, the purpose, the why behind all of that.” – Kendra Swalls

  • “I look at Instagram and its features as little communities, little neighborhoods. So you have different purposes for using each of these different features.” – Kendra Swalls

  • “People’s attention span is so short. Most of the time, they are looking for the meat of it to be in the actual graphic, whether it’s a carousel post that they can just kind of swipe through, or it’s a reel that they can watch really quickly.” – Kendra Swalls

  • “Either you’re a creator or you’re a consumer. You’re going to have to position yourself as one or the other.” – Kendra Swalls

“Start by picking one part of Instagram that you want to spend more time with.”

Reels. Stories. Posting on your feed. Whatever you choose to do—just go on and do that 🤣

Seriously. Kendra wants you to put in the focused effort to pay attention to one way to use the platform so that you can built the habit of using Instagram as a business marketing tool. You can give yourself one month to work toward this goal. If it works, continue. If it doesn’t, stop doing it and try something new.

Meet this episodes guest expert on Talk Coy to Me

Kendra Swalls is a mom of 2, photographer and educator. In 2012 she started her first business, Paisley Layne Photography, and everything changed. What started as a hobby alongside her teaching career quickly turned into a successful business. In 2017 she left her teaching career behind to run her photography business and start the Girl Means Business brand + podcast. Now she helps women, like you, take their business from survival-mode to success-mode using the same relationship marketing strategies that have been the foundations for her business success.

Learn more about her via her website and don’t forget to reach out on Instagram.

Oh, and take her free training: 3 Keys to Content Ease

Get to Know the Host of the Talk Copy to Me Podcast Erin Ollila

Learn more about your host, Erin Ollila

Erin Ollila believes in the power of words and how a message can inform – and even transform – its intended audience. She graduated from Fairfield University with an M.F.A. in Creative Writing, and went on to co-found Spry, an award-winning online literary journal.

When Erin’s not helping her clients understand their website data or improve their website copy, you can catch her hosting the Talk Copy to Me podcast and guesting on shows such as Profit is a Choice, The Driven Woman Entrepreneur, Go Pitch Yourself, and Counsel Cast.

Stay in touch with Erin Ollila, SEO website copywriter:

Here’s the transcript for episode 060 about what to write on Instagram with guest expert Kendra Walls

NOTE: This episode of Talk Copy to Me was transcribed by an AI tool. Please forgive any typos or errors. SPEAKERS Kendra Swalls, Erin Ollila Erin Ollila 00:04 Hey friends. Welcome to the Talk Copy to Me podcast. Here we empower small business owners to step into the spotlight with their marketing and messaging. I’m your host, Erin Ollila. Let’s get started and talk coffee. Hello friends today we are here with Kendra squalls. And you may know her as the founder of the girl means business brand and podcast. But you may not know that she grew up in Waco, Texas, and she used to shop at the Magnolia store with Chip and Joe, before they were quote unquote, here, Chip and Joe. So that’s exciting. Did you get any good buys at the Magnolia store? Kendra Swalls 00:49 Yes. So it was so cute. It was a little bitty shop, I have a couple of like dish towels, I still have that were there for that I bought from there when they were first kind of opening up. And it’s been so funny to see how like this town I grew up in and could not wait to get out of is now like the place everybody wants to go visit. It’s insane. Erin Ollila 01:06 Kendra, tell me why Instagram, like what has Instagram done for your business? And why do you like being on a platform? Kendra Swalls 01:13 I don’t know, I was drawn to it, I think because it felt very community friendly. And I know a lot of people think of like Facebook as being like the community place because they have all the groups, they have all the things to me like Facebook felt too controversial. It felt too. I don’t know, too big. Instagram was just kind of this a happy place and coming from a photography background. Back when it was very photo heavy. It was like, well, this makes sense. Because I live and breathe photography and photos. So why would it not make sense for me to be on a platform or photos were kind of the main thing. And so I started off because of that. And then I have just found that I really love the community that I have over on Instagram. Would you say that you use Instagram Erin Ollila 01:57 for both personal and professional use? Or are you using it solely for your business, Kendra Swalls 02:02 Instagram right now is pretty much 100% for my business. Now I do share personal things like in my Instagram stories, but it has a purpose of growing my business still, Erin Ollila 02:13 I work on Instagram the same way it’s technically it is all for business. But I brought that up because you mentioned community. And I also feel like there I have a nice little community of people I spend my time with on Instagram and I check in with Instagram has unlike some other platforms, maybe Facebook, but I don’t think the rest has the this lens of you are showing up professionally you are showing up in your business. But there is a tinge of a personal business relationship that you can kind of grow in a way that you can’t within other networks. Kendra Swalls 02:47 Yeah, and I think that like because I’m really big on building a personal brand, where you are the person behind your brand, whether you have a team of people, or it’s just you as a solo entrepreneur. People connect with people, they don’t connect with a logo, they don’t connect with a product or a service, they connect with the person, the team, the the meaning, the purpose, the why behind all of that. And I feel like Instagram gives us the tools for me personally, it’s with stories, Instagram Stories, gives us the tools to be able to create that connection. And I look at Instagram. And this may be getting a little further ahead in our conversation. But I look at Instagram and its features as like little communities, little neighborhoods and a community. So you have different purposes for using each of these different features that has an eye look at Instagram stories. It’s one of the things I post to the most often. I am on there all the time, because that is where I build the connections. That’s where the conversations, the DMS are happening, because they’re responding to something I posted on my story. And like the other day I posted about how I woke up in the morning and one of my eyes was like puffy and swollen. I was like what happened. And I had all these people that were messaging me like, oh, try this to see if you can get it to go down or it could be an allergy or maybe you had a bug bite or check your pillow for this. And I’m like, That’s the community piece, Erin Ollila 04:09 right? Because if it were just business, there would be no reason for you to post about that at all. Like, I’d be like, You should stop this right now. Let’s just say this. Look, you’re not gonna go on LinkedIn and talk to them about waking up with this woman. Oh, right. Like, that’s why I’m really excited to do all of the different platforms as different shows, because so often my clients come to me and you know, I work with them in a larger copy approach. Like we talked about their entire messaging, even marketing, even though we’re looking at the lens of mostly a website, and I always hear like, Oh, I’m so burned out from being on all the social media channels. And I really want to encourage people to like find the place that feels good for you, and then show up in that place. Kendra Swalls 04:55 It also depends on where your audience is spending their time because I I’m one of the people who have like FOMO. When it comes to the other platforms, like I look at people who are like super successful on Tik Tok, or LinkedIn, or Twitter, or YouTube, and I’m like, are pent, you know, all these plays, I’m like, I want to be those people. But I have to remember that like I specifically in my business, I am talking to, like the mid 30s mom with young kids, Instagram to her feels the same way it does to me. And I’ve learned that. And so I’ve been able to say, I’m going to save that energy that I would probably put towards spreading myself thin over all these platforms and focus all that energy on this one pot, you know, adding in Facebook as well. But this one platform that I can like learn inside and out and really have a presence on. Erin Ollila 05:45 If you can’t quite decide what you want to commit to really try to think about where that like ideal audience is. And then try you know, try that place. If you don’t have a strong like personal preference of what type of content you’d like to create. But jumping into content that you like to create, when you are creating for your business, do you find that you have a marketing strategy that’s really driving the content you put on on Instagram, or just this like community aspect of Instagram and the content you create there really drive other parts of your marketing, Kendra Swalls 06:18 it’s kind of 5050, I would say I do have a bit of a strategy when it comes to Instagram. Honestly, a lot of it revolves around my podcast episodes. So each week, I have a new episode, and I kind of focused the content around that episode topic. That means like my stories, I will share, like all throughout the week, I’ll kind of touch on things that came up in the episode and point people back to it. I may do other posts or reels related to that topic. And then at the same time, I’m also looking at what are people wanting from me I’m very big on like, asking questions like I might even say, I might even go in one day and be like, Okay, I’ve got three different pieces of content I could potentially post today, on three different topics. Maybe one is on Instagram strategies, one’s on email marketing, and one is on coming up with like a brand something or other like a branding type topic. And I’ll go to my stories now pull my audience and I’ll say, hey, what do y’all want to see from me today? And I’ll let them kind of pick what I post that day. And then on the other flip side of that is I do look at the analytics, and I go, Okay, what content on Instagram is my audience really engaging with? And a lot of times, it will surprise me, I’ll be like, Oh, they really, really got into this really random post that I did. And so I will take that and I will expand on it, whether I’ll turn it into a podcast episode, or I make it a blog post or, like create a YouTube video or some or whatever. I kind of go both ways. So I have to be putting the content on Instagram or to get those analytics back. But I also let the analytics helped me figure out what to create more of. Erin Ollila 07:55 I love that you answered that. Because when you first started talking, I was like, oh, Erin, remember to ask Kendra if she repurposed is like because I heard you say you put a lot of your podcast, which is a great repurposing tool. And I was like, I wonder if she does any repurposing from Instagram outside of Instagram. So you answered my next question already. Thank you. This is also a guest here. Kendra Swalls 08:16 And I will say as far as repurposing goes, um, I mean, it goes both directions, for sure. And I definitely use my Instagram to feed into other things too. But I’m also repurposing within the Instagram app. So I’m looking at I’m going, Okay, this post that I did six or seven months ago, is still my top posts for the last year, I’m going to repost it again, especially if I have like a week where I’m like, Ah, I don’t have a ton of content to put out this week, I’m gonna go and repost something, because half the time I have new audience members who have never seen it, and I want you to think that like, Can you remember what anybody you follow on Instagram posted six months ago? Probably not. So a lot of people are like, Oh, I can’t repost the same things I’ve already done. Because people are gonna know it’s the same thing. No, they’re not so repurposing from Instagram to other things, other things to Instagram. And then within the app itself, you can be repurposing the content that’s already performed well for you. Erin Ollila 09:13 That’s a great, great point to add to that. Let’s talk about the copy that we write in Instagram, because you know, you’re right, everyone thinks Instagram and they absolutely think visual. And I am not going to disagree with that, you know, videos and audio are really what’s driving everything. But words are still on the platform, right? So like, how do you talk to your clients about what to write in captions? Or how do you approach that yourself in your own business? Kendra Swalls 09:39 So it’s evolved over time. And it’s definitely like kind of evolved even more so recently with Instagram sort of making this shift in how they categorized content. And so in the past, it’s always been you wanted to have your captions be sort of the meat of the content because you want to cap sure you want to hook them in with whatever the photo, the video, the real whatever, but then you wanted to point them to the caption. And so your caption was kind of like where you gave them like you in the image, the graphic, you told them what you’re going to tell them. And then in the caption, you actually tell them what you’re going to tell them. And you also include like a call to action, you know, you want them to do something. Now, with reels. And people’s attention span is so short, most of the time, they are looking for the meat of it to be in the actual graphic, whether it’s a carousel post, they can just kind of swipe through, or it’s a real that they can watch really quickly. So for me, the strategy behind my captions has altered a little bit. So I’m still looking to kind of give them substance in the caption. So what I’m doing is I’m almost repeating a little bit of what’s in the post. So let’s say for example, I have a carousel post, I have my hook on the first slide, I have my content throughout the rest of it and my call to action at the end, I’m repeating that same thing in my caption, but maybe just changing it up slightly, maybe giving them a little extra detail, a little bonus tip a little like something to incentivize them to actually go and read the caption. And now what I’m doing because Instagram is saying that like they’re using Instagram SEO as a way of figuring out who to show your content to, you want to be incorporating keywords into your content into your captions. And so the way that I’m doing that is like if I’m putting up a post, and that post is, here is one mistake I see people making on Instagram all the time. And it’s a carousel post where I’m sharing a tip about you know how to make sure that your bio is optimized on Instagram. And I’m giving like three tips in the caption where I’m what to include those seo keywords I’m going to be including things like who is this really meant for. So I might say something like, you know, if you’re a busy mompreneur, who really wants to optimize or get the most out of your Instagram account? Here’s a tip. So in that I have used a mompreneur, who is my target audience, Instagram, which is kind of the topic I’m trying to teach about. And then I’m giving them the tip about, you know how to optimize their bio. And so I’m naturally filling in these keywords. So that as the little you know, Instagram bots are scanning all the things, they’re going to kind of pick up on these little keywords and go, Okay, her post is meant to be shown to mompreneurs who are interested in topics like growing on Instagram, you want to get your content really in front of your ideal audience, it’s using those keywords, just like you would use it on your website for SEO. Now, they want us doing that in our Instagram captions, as well. Erin Ollila 12:41 Slightly different. But on the same token, hashtags on Instagram, a thing of the past or something people should still focus on, Kendra Swalls 12:48 I think they’re still relevant, I think how we use them has been changed a little bit. I think in the past, people were using them as a way to, like find content that was within their, you know, that hashtag. And I do think that still is how some people are using it, you can still follow hashtags, and see content, people are posting using those hashtags. For me, I look at hashtags again, more as an SEO feature. It’s like me helping Instagram index my content. And so I’m very specific in using hashtags that are specific to my ideal audience. So for example, if I post a real, and I did one the other day, and it was using an audio clip from the show The Office, and I could have easily tagged it as hashtag like the office, TV show or office, whatever. And I was like, but that is not really who my audience is. And so I was more specific on the content, like, what was the caption about what was the whole like context of the real and using hashtags that related to that? So it’s not about like, how can I use a hashtag to get my content more seen more widely viewed? It’s about how can I use the content? I mean, how can I use the hashtag, so that Instagram knows who to show my content to and how to index my content for me? Erin Ollila 14:06 Great. So this is I’m jumping, just different topic for a second here. But what are your thoughts on taking people off platform? Now I say this, because you mentioned you know, your podcast being partial of a driver for your content. And I’ve talked to a lot of podcasters before, in some ways, the idea of saying like, here’s the audiogram please go listen to my episode is kind of silly, because for the most part, people are not jumping ship from a social media platform to then leave and listen to a podcast player, unless they’re like hardcore podcasters. Right. But it’s like you’re not going to convince someone new to be a podcast listener. I think it is very important to be sharing your blog content, your shownotes, your case studies, lead magnets, all of these things that are taking people off platform and we all know that when it comes to social media. The platform’s really want to prioritize on platform content. So any suggestions on how to be successful when you do actually need to use the socialness of social media to drive people off of the platform? Kendra Swalls 15:10 Well, I think the first thing is to use it sparingly. If you are posting every single day saying like, hey, go look at this, go check this out, go click on this, it becomes white noise. And I know that this was an issue when Instagram rolled out the feature of everybody having the link sticker for stories, which I am, I love, it’s one of my like, most favorite features they’ve rolled out out of like the hundreds they’ve done in the last year two. But when it first came out, everybody kind of went overboard on this idea of like putting a link in their stories and sending it off to other places. And they realized really quickly that that’s not really how businesses are grown. It is if you’re posted, for example, my podcast comes out every Wednesday. So yeah, every Wednesday, I put an audiogram on my stories, but it’s not meant for the purpose of like, hey, go click this link and go listen to the episode some people do. And that’s fine. It’s more of a reminder to my current audience of like, hey, don’t forget that there’s a new episode out this week, when you have time, go check it out. It’s kind of like keeping my podcast front of mind. And it’s sharing little breadcrumbs throughout the week. That’s why like, I don’t just post about it on the day it goes live. I will post about it on Wednesday, and then I’ll post about it again on Friday. And I’ll be like, hey, don’t forget, like this week, for example, my podcast this week, I had interviewed a girl talking about passive income ideas. So on Friday, I’ll go in, I’ll post and I’ll say, Okay, this is an extra little tidbit that came from the episode this week, make sure you go check it out the links in the bio, or here’s the link, if it’s in the stories or whatever. But I’m using it very sparingly, I’m not going in there every single day and pointing them someplace else. I also kind of reserve it like the link in my bio. So if I’m posting to my feed, I’m directing people back to Lincoln bio kind of thing. I’m also doing that in a way where I’m like, only kind of reserving it for when I have something that I’m launching or something that I’m like really wanting to promote, again, it’s, you want it to be like a special occasion, like people are like, Oh, she’s pointing me back to her Lincoln bio, like she never does this. I will say a little side note that I’ve started doing that’s super helpful, too. And it does help keep people kind of in platform, but it gives them a way to easily go back to these things is I’ve started using DM automations. So I use mini chat. So what I’ll do now is if I say okay, for example, I have a lead magnet, that’s an email marketing starter kit. And I will create a post or a reel. And I will say, like teaching something about email marketing, and I’ll say comment below with the word email, and I’ll send you a link to my email marketing starter kit. So what they can do is they can comment it, it goes to their inbox, it automatically fills it in, they don’t have to click that link right, then they don’t have to be they can keep scrolling through reels they can keep scrolling through their feed. And that link is there in their in their inbox in their DMS for them to come back to when they’re ready to click on it. And it even has a whole like little follow up series a whole thing. So that’s another way that I’m kind of pointing people outside of the platform without making them make a choice right then in there whether to stay or leave. It’s like hey, kind of bookmark this, it’ll be in your DM so that if you want to go find it later, or you want to go listen to the episode later, or you want to go download my free guide later, it’s going to be in your inbox easy for you to find easy for you to have like a reminder to go do that. Erin Ollila 18:29 Yeah, that’s super smart. Because one as someone who has ADHD, I don’t remember half of the stuff that I do on social media. And I want to guys like I really don’t want to remember what I’m doing sometimes. But if I want something as a consumer, I love the idea of sending it into your messages. So that way when Aaron’s brain has the mental capacity to go back and follow through, I know where to find it. Because having to track through social to find a link is is going to mean it’s not happening. Two tiny questions for you. We are recording everyone prior to 2023. But these episodes are going to go live in quarter one. So do you have any predictions on what people can either expect from Instagram or what Instagram might be like, showing us is going to be important in the year 2023. Kendra Swalls 19:17 So my prediction is that Instagram has spent 2022 going through an identity crisis and kind of figuring out like, who are we and what are we actually doing here because they had the big like push of everything is video video content reels, the whole thing. There was a lot of pushback from the audience saying no, we want to still see photos. So I think we’re gonna see a little bit of a leveling out of the Instagram where they’re gonna be like okay, we’re settling into our identity now. They’re going to be kind of listening to what we as the consumers want I still think they are leaning more towards the Creator side of things they want to you know, we see this a lot they’re pushing like creator weak and like showcasing creators and so They are putting us in two categories in my mind of either you’re a creator or you’re a consumer, you’re going to have to position yourself as one or the other. Either you are on the platform to create or you are on the platform to consume, where you position yourself. And those two camps is going to kind of determine how you use Instagram, day to day, I don’t think that they have, they’re not stopping anytime soon, with kind of always trying to improve. So I think we’ll see a lot of new features, some will be good, some will not be great. I think it’s going to kind of turn a corner and where a lot of us have felt very frustrated with Instagram lately, I do think that we are going to see it, you know, kind of get to a point where like, okay, things are gonna be back to kind of like this new normal of like, we okay, we like Instagram again. At least I think maybe for the first half of the year, who knows, they’ll probably hit summer and be like, let’s just shake the whole thing up. Erin Ollila 20:53 Now, that was a good prediction, though. I think you’re on point here. I think it’s been a wild year. I feel like you’re gonna win this one. We’ll check back when the episode actually does go live. And I’ll give you your gold star then. Okay, good. Final question, what small homework assignment would you give. So Kendra Swalls 21:10 I would say start by picking one part of Instagram that you want to spend more time with. So whether that is I want to do more Instagram stories, or maybe I want to be posting consistently in my feed, or I want to create more reels going forward, or I want to go live once a week, pick one thing and set a goal for yourself. Say if it’s Instagram stories, I want to post three times a day to my Instagram stories set a little reminder on your phone, create a, you know, a alarm, and three times a day you post your Instagram stories until it becomes a habit. And maybe you even set a thing where it’s like the first story of the day is going to be something business related. The second story is gonna be something personal. The third story is going to be you know, something, a free resource or whatever, however you want to structure it. But give yourself a goal to work towards. Keep it small. So like I said, I’m not asking you to go and do all the different neighborhoods and all the different things, pick one, set a goal, and then give yourself like one month 30 days to make it happen and then see how you feel reassess, and either adjust your goal or try a next note. So it’s a little baby steps. You know, like don’t try to go and do the whole thing at one time. Just go in and pick one and start a small little goal and then grow from there. Erin Ollila 22:31 Perfect. Thank you so much, Kendra for your time today. Kendra Swalls 22:34 Thank you. Erin Ollila 22:37 Thank you so much for listening to this episode of Top copy to me. If you enjoyed spending your time with me today. I would be so honored if you could subscribe to the show and leave a review. Want to continue the conversation. Head on over to Instagram and follow me at Erin Ollila. Until next time friends

Note: Show notes may contain affiliate links to products, offers, and services that I whole-heartedly recommend.

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