If you’ve taken the time to click on this article you already likely know what Instagram is and how big of an impact it can have on any marketing campaign. But are you using it to its highest potential? That takes not only skill and strategy but an intimate understanding of how Instagram works and what the trends and norms are.
These days it seems like everyone is trying to catch lightning in a bottle on the ‘Gram, but very few actually achieve that success. Nobody is immune to the occasional slip-up in marketing—even big brands like Nike and Comme des Garcons have their off days—but what separates the best from the rest is getting the details right over and over again. Today we’re going to enumerate some of the more common blunders that could be hurting your chances of Instagram success, as well as how to fix those mistakes. Let’s get right to it!
A half-baked bio is no good
Once people land on your Instagram profile, then what’s the first thing they’ll see? It’s your Instagram bio. First impressions matter—so this is one of the most important parts of your profile. You can’t afford to be lazy here unless your brand is big enough that pretty much everyone already knows who you are.
Your copy here needs to be you putting your best foot forward because even a cursory glance from a new follower should result in them hitting that follow button. To create a captivating bio, you need to be able to express your mission and philosophy and describe what it is you do, all in a few short words or sentences. It’s tough, but it’s definitely doable. Ask yourself what your brand’s best qualities and highest ideals are, and craft a message around that.
Ignoring what you’re good at
This is something we see far too often—with many different people giving ideas for one particular brand account, the posts can be scattershot and unfocused. Instagram posts will differ in style and aesthetic from week to week, or even day to day. That’s not how you build a loyal audience—people come to your profile because they know you’re good at one or a few things that they enjoy.
By posting content that doesn’t play to your strengths, instead of adding value to your audience’s experience, you’re actually giving them less value. It’s fine to want to show off the many facets of your brand, but you have to remember your core message. It’s in fashion to try to engage by adopting the mannerisms, language, and posting style of younger audiences. Many brands have succeeded by doing so, and they can reach levels of engagement that others can only dream of. But if you aren’t naturally good at that kind of thing (which is really, extremely difficult), then sticking to your own voice or like-worthy quotes is a much better tactic. Your message will reach further that way.
Not engaging with your audience
Who has the time to respond to all the comments that people post on your Instagram account? From now on, you do. Each comment is something that your audience has chosen to give to you, and the least you can do is share back. Not doing so is a huge wasted opportunity—not just on Instagram, but on any social media platform. People love to feel like their voices are heard!
Listening and responding is the gold standard of engagement. Building a relationship with your audience that goes beyond them being told about your products or services is the first step toward them becoming advocates for your brand. And having a conversation doesn’t just show that you listen, it shows you genuinely care about the opinions and feelings of your audience. Becoming a thought leader in any field starts with that—after all, why would anyone listen to someone who doesn’t care? Or, to further bolster your status, you could try guest lecturing at a university.
Now this one is a trend that is best left in the dust. Go on Instagram right now and you’ll see hundreds of posts with dozens of hashtags. The worst offenders go so far as to substitute hashtags for words in their captions! This isn’t how hashtags are meant to be used. Effectively, a hashtag is a way for everyone to get on the same page and find content that matters for them. Using too many doesn’t just seem unprofessional, it’s also cluttered and plain unattractive.
Your goal is to only place a couple of targeted, relevant hashtags that will drive users to each specific post. Think of it this way: hashtags are one of the few ways to optimize your Instagram page for searching, and we all know how important that is.
Not producing images specifically for Instagram
This is really basic, but we still see people making this mistake. Creating one image to be reposted across all your social media is a beginner move. Not all social media platforms are made equal, and Instagram, in particular, works best with square images. You’ll simply need to crop your photo to the right size and shape, and you should be good to go, provided you’ve got a high-quality image, to begin with.
Failing to write good captions
While Instagram isn’t as verbose as say, Facebook or LinkedIn, it still gives you the chance to caption every post. Visual content is incredibly effective, but one way of amplifying that effect is with good copy that provides context about what you’re posting. Or, if your content isn’t necessarily well-suited to an image, it can be the difference between your message being spread and your message being lost to the void.
Not only that, a good caption can open a real conversation on your post, which is absolutely necessary for good engagement. “Likes” are ephemeral, but comments are a real currency on Instagram. Treat your captions as your opening line to engagement, and let your audience respond!
Not using Instagram Stories
This feature of Instagram is one of its strongest—ephemeral video content is all the rage, not just among users but among brands. It’s great for any content that you want to get out now, but for which you don’t need to devote an entire post. It’s also great for anything that’s time-sensitive, as users seeing a story are much more likely to respond and to participate when there’s the sense that a deal could be expiring anytime soon.
Posting too often or not often enough
This one is a fine line to walk. If you don’t post regularly, your audience will quickly forget about you—most people have hundreds or even thousands of accounts that they follow, and they may not even notice your absence.
On the other hand, if you spam their feed with pictures and video content you may be overstepping your bounds and annoying your followers. We’ve seen accounts post multiple images in a single day, sometimes one right after the other. Your audience needs time to let your content sink in—and time to respond to your message.
Your best bet is to set a posting schedule and use Instagram’s analytics to figure out when and how often is most effective for your brand. Having to tweak your posting strategy isn’t a failure at all, it’s a step in the right direction.
Trying to sell yourself too hard
When everything you post is a sales pitch, your audience will quickly lose patience with you—your message has to be more than just promotional. Internet users are smart and savvy enough to know when someone wants something from them, especially on Instagram. Instead, engage with your audience like people instead of as customers—they’ll seek out your products on their own once you’ve built up enough social proof. A call to action every once in a while is fine—after all, people need to know about your new products and services—but use them sparingly.