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Christy Laurence is the founder of the app Plann, which allows you to get organised with your posts and save hashtags for Instagram in a more visual way.
After struggling with time consuming workarounds on a client’s account I was keen to learn some shortcuts. I trialled the app for several weeks and immediately fell back in love with Instagram.
Christy, can you tell me what motivated you to be involved in developing the Plann app?
I was working in marketing and advertising and I could see Instagram taking off and creating new business ventures for so many people. There were artists now able to earn a living, new products being created and bloggers finally able to break out and I was excited for them!
Personally, I was moonlighting as an illustrator so when I began selling my work, many of my friends would ask me how I was growing my own account so quickly.
With Instagram, it’s all about the visual aspect.
Images need to look really appealing and still be authentic to the brand, not only that, but the whole feed has to resemble what you’re doing, not just one image.
When I discovered so many people were failing on the platform, I quickly pinpointed it was because they weren’t able to visualise their entire feed and produce content for a visual platform and the idea for Plann was born.
Tell us more about the Plann App
Plann has over ten years of marketing knowledge poured into an app. It has been designed specifically for creatives, bloggers and business owners who run their own Instagram accounts and are short on time.
Users are able to drag and drop images in a gallery to visualise an Instagram account, draft captions, schedule posts and save sets of hashtags. I wanted the Plann App to be a visually easy way to organise Instagram feeds for weeks at a time – removing the stress of worrying what to post. I might be biased, but it’s also a good-looking app.
Can you take us through the process you use to manage your postings to Instagram over a typical week?
My approach is definitely a little unconventional! As part of my commitment to my audience, I am constantly running tests and sharing what I discover on my blog.
For example, I recently spent a week with an Instagram business account, noted what I found, swapped back, then started posting only once a day (going against what most blogs will tell you, although it’s done wonders for me!). This week I’ve not posted for five days straight so that I can report back for those who are worried they’ve not been on the platform for a little while and how they can bounce back.
When I am sitting down visually organising my own feed, I’ll purposely repost Plann users to strengthen my community and show support, or showcase beautiful feeds of those who I see as the ideal Plann user, ensuring all images still remain within my own branding. I’ll share life behind the scenes, tips for Instagram and what it’s like deciding to do something crazy like quit your job and build an app!
My favourite Instagram success story is Brisbane based Louise de Weger, who sells her unique geometric, bold coloured artworks on Instagram. Who are some of your favourite Instagramers?
Two come to my mind straight off the bat. Maggie from @middleaisle has a macramé business, selling her work and running workshops. Her feed is beautiful, curated with a consistently fresh theme, loads of different perspectives and she’s building a strong brand. Watching Maggie’s workshops sell out and her Instagram feed take off is definitely becoming a favourite.
The other stand-out is Andres from @bakedbyandres. She claims she is an ‘amateur baker’, but in all seriousness, I’ve seen her in action and she is a total pro. She makes all these super creative baked goods, with one of her creations recently featured on a media outlet and getting 4.5 million views. She was then whisked away to Jakarta to work with celebrity chef Luke Magnon.
What’s a visual content strategy and how do you personally use one?
A visual content strategy is simply a way to be strategic with creative work. Putting thought behind what imagery you post and the themes you use behind your storytelling can lead to better conversion.
For example, creating a community and taking them along a strategically visual journey can see them falling in love with you faster and lining up to buy what you’re offering.
What are some of your favourite sources of great photography and images?
As Instagram is so visual, I definitely see the benefits of having your own branded content that fits to your story telling.
One photoshoot can bring you months of stand-out content!
Personally, I don’t buy any stock imagery, I’ll usually make my own with my phone and editing apps, use those that my community have sent me or hire photographers or stylists to create the aesthetic I need. I want my images to be unique so that they are shareable.
I’ve worked with flatlay specialist Nikki Malvar from @themilkteeth and branding specialist Mary from @amuse.creative. I am currently planning my own unique content shoot with professional photographer Prue Aja.
What are some of your favourite apps?
This is a tough one! I class anything sitting on my home screen as a favourite. Those sharing the screen with Plann are Trello for organisation, image editing apps VSCO, ACOLORSTORY, and TouchRetouch which lets you remove elements from your photos you don’t want, like removing an ill-placed rubbish bin, or a stain, or an entire flower girl in one case!
What have been some of the highlights of the Plann company?
Seeing the app come to life after such a long, expensive and stressful development process was definitely a personal highlight for me. Then the social appreciation that came next was incredibly overwhelming and made the risks worth it.
Plann has won two awards in the last few months which were definitely worth celebrating, including ‘People’s Choice Startup of the Year 2016’ with Startup Daily, and ‘Best Social/Lifestyle App for Summer 2016’ with Best Mobile App Awards.
The best part of my days come from the testimonials from the users telling me they’ve fallen back in love with Instagram after a break. They’ve never been so happy with how their feed looks and some letting me know they’ve grown over thirty followers in one day, just by being able to post ahead with thought.
What were your biggest challenges starting an app company?
The fact that I knew nothing about apps was incredibly difficult, I laugh now at myself a year ago thinking ‘there are so many apps out there, it must be pretty easy!’
There are so many challenges with starting a new business, especially in an industry you’ve never been in. Learning how expensive app building is and how much time apps take (for example, I’ve spent over 40 hours this week in testing alone) has been an incredible eye opener for me. It’s definitely given me a new appreciation for the apps that I love. There are times when it gets really hard I will go through the apps on my phones and dish out five star reviews because I know just how hard it is and I want to show appreciation for how far they’ve got.
In the current stage of my journey, testing has to be the biggest challenge. There are over 10,000 devices, software versions and people use their phones differently, so chasing a group of people to test your app for you before it goes to the masses can be incredibly time consuming. While I can do 30hrs-50hrs more a week solid in testing, a user on the other side of the world might find something so bizarre we’ve never seen, it delays the build going out while trying to isolate what is going on for a handful of users.
What features would you like to see in future versions of Instagram?
Shopping on Instagram was definitely a long time coming, but the one thing I’m hanging out for is 3D photos. It’s where you can move your phone around and see more of the overall picture and feel like you’re seeing more to the story. There’s an app called FYUSE with this software that I’ve had my eye on for a few years and feel like it’s only a matter of time that Instagram implement it.
This year about 30 per cent of Australian females use Instagram with the app on a steady growth path over the last few years. This trend is likely to continue with great apps like Plann which make the process easier by allowing you to plan ahead at an affordable once-off cost.