With over 700 million users, it’s not surprising that Instagram is a core part of most social media strategies. To keep the momentum going, brands have to make sure they’re not ruining it for their audience by making careless blunders or missing the mark.
If you’re perplexed by the idea of filters, hashtags, captions, and followers—or are simply looking for ways to boost your presence—the following list of common Instagram mistakes can help your efforts reach their full potential.
9 Instagram mistakes social media managers should avoid
1. Buying followers
Good businesses are working hard to build a robust Instagram presence, and buying your way to the top won’t do you any favors.
As an experiment, Hootsuite created a dummy account and bought Instagram followers to find out what would happen. Our results suggested there are two main issues with this tactic:
- Zero engagement. While we had reached over 1,000 followers in only a day, our posted content didn’t receive any likes or comments.
- A risky audience. When we looked at the audience we did have, they were either teenagers posting shirtless selfies or bots sharing inappropriate content. These aren’t exactly the types of accounts you want your business associated with.
As our guide to getting more Instagram followers says, instead of buying an audience, you need to create a thoughtful strategy, set smart goals, share great content, and engage your audience.
2. Ignoring the numbers
Once you have an established account it can be tempting to start posting and never look back. But in order to use Instagram to its full potential, you need to pay attention to the numbers. With trial and error, you can find out what posting schedule, types of content, hashtags, and captions get the best response and engagement rates.
Some things you’ll want to measure include:
- Followers, including follower growth and loss
- Engagement in the form of both likes and comments
- Hashtag use
- Click-through rates for the URL in your bio
- Frequency of posting
- Audience demographics
- Engagement according to time (i.e. when did your posts get the most likes)
- Sales via Instagram (by creating a specific Instagram coupon, for example.)
One way to monitor your success is with Insights, Instagram’s own measurement feature. Instagram Insights “provide information on who your followers are, when they’re online and more. You can also view insights for specific posts and stories you’ve created to see how each performed and how people are engaging with them.”
While numbers and statistics aren’t the only way to measure your Instagram success, they can definitely help provide an indication of what you are doing right (or wrong) at any given time.
3. Being overly promotional
As with any other kind of promotional tool, constantly shoving your business in people’s faces on Instagram is off-putting and a surefire way to alienate your audience.
If all that you are posting are images of your own product or logo, your followers are going to lose interest. Instead, take a softer approach and try to portray the values that your brand or product represent as a whole with engaging content.
For example, IKEA Canada has curated an Instagram account that features images of their employees, their communities, and other lifestyle content alongside posts featuring the products they are selling. This builds a visual representation of their brand while showcasing how their products might look in the real world.
4. Not paying enough attention to captions
If you’re looking to drive engagement, you can’t afford to ignore your Instagram captions. Great Instagram captions not only help give context to your posts, but can generate emotional responses from your audience.
Psychological Science published a study about the psychology of sharing which showed that evoking certain emotions can help increase the chance of a message being shared. Essentially emotional stimuli activates the nervous system and boosts “social transmission.”
Our post How to Write the Best Instagram Captions: Ideas, Tips, and Strategy can help you perfect this skill by following tips like:
- Place the most important words at the beginning of your caption. Some text usually gets cut-off, so put @s and mentions at the end. Don’t bury your lede!
- Pose a question. Encourage audience participation and engagement by asking them a thoughtful question. You could ask their thoughts on your newest product (featured in the post), or general open-ended questions.
- Don’t be afraid to use emoji. This visual language helps draw the audience’s eye and adds fun and personality to your caption.
5. Misusing hashtags
Ninety-one percent of Instagram posts contain between one and seven hashtags, so it’s obvious that they have value and are a powerful tool. But like most things in life, this power can easily be used for evil.
Hashtag misuse can come in many forms, including, but not limited to, overusing hashtags, underusing hashtags, and using irrelevant hashtags.
Hashtags are mainly used to enable discovery—allowing others to find topics and users of interest thanks to the use of relevant keywords. If you are spamming your posts with too many or irrelevant hashtags, you are devaluing your account and are at risk of losing credibility. #Just #Don’t #Do #It
Alternatively, if you have quality content but are failing to include any hashtags at all, you are doing yourself a great disservice and missing out on a solid opportunity for discovery and engagement. For more on hashtag use and abuse, see our post The Complete Instagram Hashtag Guide.
6. Not editing your content
Editing your Instagram photos and videos can increase engagement by more than 45 percent. If you are bypassing this step, you’re missing out on a chance to drive conversation around your brand.
On the other hand, you don’t want to over-edit your posts either. There is definitely a need to strike a balance between leaving a photo in its raw, unedited state, and going nuts with filters and brightness until your image is unrecognizable.
Knowledge of some simple photography principles and the availability of countless editing applications mean there’s no excuse for lackluster images. Here are some basic smartphone camera principles to help find your visual sweet spot:
- Take a number of photos of the same subject (which means shooting outside of the Instagram app) in order to get one excellent shot. Some camera alternatives for shooting include VSCO Cam and Afterlight.
- Follow the light and always aim to take photos in indirect natural daylight if possible, or during the golden or blue hours. Additionally, be aware of shadows and unintentional reflections that can appear in your images (such as those from your phone) as they can distract from your main subject and discount image quality.
- Edit your chosen photo tastefully, and try not to overdo it with the filters. Some favorite apps such as VSCO Cam, Snapseed, Priime, and Afterlight all feature vast editing options that can mean the difference between an amateur and professional result.
- Find a visual style and stick to it. Consistency in your images makes for an overall cohesion when your feed is viewed as a whole, something that lends you credibility while also being visually pleasing.
If you’re looking for tools to help you enhance your photos and videos, check out our post 14 of the Best Instagram Apps to Take Your Content to the Next Level.
7. Ignoring your community
As with most other social media platforms, Instagram is not a “set it and forget it” type of deal. It’s important to build relationships and make meaningful connections.
In order to get the most out of the Instagram community:
- Follow other relevant users. Find these through hashtag searches, the Discover page, or seeing who your followers are following and liking.
- Take the time to respond to audience comments and questions. Marketing and branding are all about building relationships, so it makes sense to actually take part in conversations with your Instagram community.
- Share user-generated content regularly. Celebrate your audience and repost their content as a way of showing appreciation. For more on sharing, check out our blog post How to Use User-Generated Content for Marketing.
- Host offline events. While this might not be possible for everyone, hosting an in-person event can have huge benefits to building your community.
- Ask (and answer) questions. Show your followers how important their opinions are by asking them questions and having them respond in your Instagram post comments. For example, if you’ve launched two new colors of sneakers, ask them which ones they prefer and which colors they’d like to see in the future. On the other hand, if you receive the same questions repeatedly, use an Instagram post to answer them thoughtfully.
8. Not trying ad features
Approximately 120 million Instagram users visit a website, get directions, call, email or direct message a business every month from the app. Forrester found that the average follower count for top brands is over 1 million—numbers that prove how willing this audience is to see content from companies.
Instagram ads take this a step further. After running an Instagram ad campaign, over 70 percent of businesses saw a significant lift in online conversions. If you aren’t using Instagram ads, you’re missing out on a huge opportunity to connect with customers who are ready to hear what you have to say.
There are four main types of Instagram ads to fit your content: Photo Ads, Video Ads, Carousel Ads, and Stories Ads. For more in-depth information, see our post Instagram Ads: The Complete Guide for Business.
9. Ignoring Instagram Stories
Instagram Stories allow users to share multiple photos and videos in a slideshow sequence that disappears after 24 hours. Over 200 million Instagrammers use Instagram Stories daily, and one in five Stories receive a direct message from a viewer. If you’re looking for this kind of direct connection with your audience, you can’t afford to miss this feature.
Our post How To Use Instagram Stories: The Complete Guide for Business provides some great ways your brand can use the format:
- Tell a story. They’re called Instagram Stories for a reason. The sequence and short format allows for interesting content and the ability to tell a larger story. For example, you could share a step-by-step recipe, give a tour of your offices, or share a Story following a day in the life of your CEO.
- Be authentic. Don’t worry too much about creating perfectly polished content for Instagram Stories. The platform is forgiving, and meant to be used spontaneously (or at least look like they were.) Make mistakes, keep it real, and show the true personality of your brand.
- Provide value. While you want to keep your content authentic, you also want to ensure you’re actually providing value to your audience and not wasting their time. Check back in with the goals you made when building your overall social media strategy, and make sure your Instagram Stories are contributing to these.
- Get creative. Use all of the Instagram Story features—like filters, stickers, text, drawing tools, and tags—to make your content more interesting.
Read the blog post in full for a complete rundown of how to use the feature.
When done right, Instagram is an incredible way to share your brand’s vision with the world. With these Instagram mistakes in mind, it’s time to turn that Insta-regret into Insta-success.
Save time managing your Instagram presence by using Hootsuite to share Instagram video, schedule posts, and monitor your efforts. Try it free today.
Guide: Instagram Master Tactics
How-to: Add Instagram to Your Dashboard
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