I know that many business owners are still wondering why they should bother with platforms other than Facebook and Twitter, but not leveraging visual platforms like Instagram is a mistake for so many businesses. 28 percent of adults who are online use Instagram, and the platform is especially popular among young adults; 55 percent of millennials use Instagram.
Watch A Quick Video On Growing Your Instagram
Maybe even more importantly, we humans are visual creatures. We just enjoy looking at things, and about one-quarter of our brain is involved in processing visual information, our primary source of information about the world around us. Still think you should just take a pass on Instagram?
Of course, taking to Instagram only to make a series of irritating, traffic-killing mistakes is not the answer. Here are the worst Instagram mistakes you must avoid:
1. Ugly content
This should go without saying, but a few minutes scrolling through random Instagram accounts prove that it doesn’t. Do not share ugly content. Period.
The entire point of using Instagram is to share and discover beautiful, compelling, interesting or even startling visuals. Your boring cell phone shot taken in poor light is not any of those things. Here are some tips for avoiding ugly content, even with nothing but a cell phone:
- Light it well. Shoot your photos with the light source behind you. Backlit content can’t be seen well and it makes your photos look amateurish at best.
- Choose natural light when you can. Bright natural light with a slight filter (like a sheer curtain) is the most flattering for most photos.
- Check your photos before you post them. Are they blurry, grainy, or otherwise bad? Is there anything in the frame you weren’t counting on? Look for shadows, especially the kind your phone and hand cast on your subject.
- Ask yourself important questions. For example, is it obvious what this photo is about at a glance? And: is this something I would share if it was in my feed?
- Take more than one shot. You don’t have to Thomas Edison the problem, but take more than one shot if you intend to post the photo on Instagram.
- Edit your photos. I’m not saying you need to spend hours on Photoshop every day, but crop photos as needed, improve light if you need to, and make sure you’re thrilled that whatever visual content you’re posting will forever be associated online with your name and business (because it will).
- Selfies: only when they’re just right. No one following your business wants to see multiple bathroom mirror selfies. Good quality, behind-the-scenes photos of your team can be an awesome piece of visual content, but don’t go crazy with selfies.
- Don’t shoot with Instagram. Take your photos with your smartphone camera or digital camera, not through the Instagram app. This way you can edit it easily and you end up with a better quality image.
- Be consistent with your visual style. This kind of visual consistency lets you communicate your brand clearly without visual static. It’s also pleasant for users and affords you more authority.
Remember, your Instagram account is like an expression of your visual brand. Keep it on point and looking great.
This is driving everyone crazy, trust me. Hashtags are wonderfully powerful when used correctly: no more than 5 to 10 per post, placed in the first comment so they don’t get buried, and only when they really apply to the image. It is highly irritating to find visual content totally unrelated to your hashtag search, so don’t be that user. Instead, motivate users who come to your account from a hashtag search to come back over and over again by showing them something that is relevant and useful.
(And by the way, if you are that user your account will lose traction on the platform. It’s like spamming yourself.)
As a business user, this matters even more. Don’t make your great visual content look messy, cluttered and unprofessional. And if it’s not something you’d say to a client, consider avoiding the hashtag. For example: if your brand isn’t made for a cliff-diving #YOLO audience, why are you using this hashtag?
Your overarching goal here is to use hashtags that are the most relevant for your brand or business that also have the highest possible traffic. Yes: smart hashtagging is a lot like great SEO. Hashtags work just like keywords on Instagram just like they do on Twitter and other platforms.
3. “Visual” content that isn’t really visual
Textgrams—usually colored backgrounds with quotes or other words on them as the primary visual—are trendy, but use them sparingly. Instagram is all about visual stimulation, so don’t waste the platform on rehashed quotes. Instead, use great text that you love to caption awesome photos.
19 Instagram Mistakes You Must Avoid And One Strategy you Must Do – Textgrams
4. Inconsistent content
Speaking of branding, it’s a mystery why so many businesses work so hard on branding only to let rogue social media accounts dilute their message. People follow your accounts and stick with you because you consistently give them the value they’re looking for. A new visitor’s first experience of your Instagram should give them a visually interesting and varied yet on-point message.
5. Content that isn’t unique
If you’re using Instagram for your business, you are walking a fine line. Your business exists in the Instagram universe among lots of individual users, most of whom are posting fairly raw content of their own. You are therefore aiming for unique, interesting content that doesn’t look like you’re posting ad slicks; great photos but not the kind that feel like ads.
One important strategy here is to use the Instagram space to highlight your brand’s culture. You might show how your team is tackling a new project just as individual users will post about their latest projects or work day. Or show real photos of people using your product or service—the kind they might post on their own accounts.
Whatever you do, don’t treat Instagram like a recycling bin for your existing Twitter and Facebook content. Yes, there is going to be a certain amount of overlap here, but keep that to a minimum. Instagram users like different kinds of content, so give it to them. Take time looking around the platform if you’re not sure what that content is like. And make sure followers see why they should be following all of your accounts (if they don’t, they’ll miss something great).
6. Follow some people, but not too many
Follow sparingly on Instagram. This isn’t just to preserve your user experience, by the way. It is to give your account added value; if you follow many more people than follow you, you are diluting that value message. Go through your list and keep only accounts that you will interact with and use to expand your network.
7. Link to your website
You can have a clickable link to your site in one Instagram location: in your bio. Why would you pass this chance up? Don’t make interested visitors work for that kind of information.
8. Failure to track results and use analytics
If you don’t know who is engaging with your Instagram account or when and why they are there, you can’t have much of an insight into how successful your Instagram strategy really is. Your social media team may “feel like” they get high levels of engagement, but only analytics can confirm that for you and help you improve it.
Use Iconosquare for Instagram analytics like percentages of comments and likes, unfollow numbers, and overall engagement.
9. Failing to engage
When visitors to your Instagram account take time out to comment on your posts, respond! Do not ever waste these opportunities for engagement on this or any other social media platform. Followers who get that kind of personal attention are far more likely to keep coming back and stay in the fold.
When you find other users who are on point for your niche, engage with them in a targeted, interesting way. Don’t binge like accounts or drop a bunch of “cool photo” comments. Make your interaction count.
Whether you’re at an industry conference or on Instagram, you are building relationships on behalf of your brand, and this should guide your social media interaction strategy. You can use Instagram to start real conversations about your niche and show your expertise in the area. You can also give Instagram users a “sneak pee” at how some aspect of your business works. Add value in these ways that boost your business.
10. Stolen content
Yes, this is a major problem on Instagram, especially for businesses and solo entrepreneurs. When you do selectively share someone else’s content, credit them and make sure you have a great reason to share it. The message you should be sending about your brand is not that it has to steal from others in the industry to have anything to say.
11. Confusing or inappropriate profile pictures
You need a photo for your profile picture that makes sense, looks great and is right on target for your brand. It can be an original logo, in color, with high definition specs. Don’t use a tiny, pixelated image; it may look passable on a smartphone, but it won’t look great—and on the website it’ll look awful. You can also use a head shot, preferably a professional shot. This should not be something that looks like a selfie.
12. Fake followers
Honestly, I do not care if you buy fake followers. Or even if a percentage of your followers are fake. I mean, it does make your community look larger. But the issue is the accounts that have tens or hundreds of thousands of fake followers and zero engagement. People know something is wrong when you have that many people following you and nothing happening. Don’t be that person.
13. Too much promo
Don’t drown your followers in your logos, stock product photos, and other PR materials. An interesting visual mix of people and things that shows the value of the business is what you must aim for because it is the only thing that will generate lasting Instagram followers.
Try using images to express what your business is all about, or to show off the people on your team and what they do. Share visuals that highlight your mastery of your niche.
14. Half-baked bios
Don’t leave gaps in your bio. Express who you are, what you do and where you’re located in a fun, engaging way that works with your personality and your brand. And as I stated above, link to your website or blog and optimize the entire bio.
15. Failure to caption images
Instagram is like your visual blog. Each post is part of that ongoing story, adds value and informs. This means you shouldn’t just post naked pictures! Add captions that include even more value for your visitors.
This is also your space for adding more personality, insight and humor. Narrate the visual story you’re telling using Instagram with captions.
16. No video
Instagram allows you to post videos that are up to 15 seconds long—a great length for quick visits and casual visitors. If you’re not leveraging this free form of advertising, you’re missing a great opportunity. And remember, caption videos to allow users to find more of your content online.
17. Totally random stuff
Just like any other social media platform you use for your business, your Instagram needs a plan. Random posts and photos that don’t fit together and work toward a common branding goal confuse visitors and work against your marketing message.
18. Inconsistent posting
You don’t want to make visitors think you’ve abandoned your Instagram, so don’t let too many days go by without posting. On the other hand, don’t post an avalanche of photos at one time. If you must put multiple shots on right now, make a collage with them. Otherwise, cherry pick your visuals for timing and effect, and never post shot after shot.
You can make sure you’re doing this right by creating a calendar for content that works within your larger strategy. You can also use Hootsuite or a similar tool for scheduling your posts and keeping track of what you’ve already done. Experiment with your analytics to see when the best posting times are for your Instagram niche. And remember to keep great evergreen visuals on tap for any posting gaps you see coming.
Being strategic with your timing and staying consistent helps you avoid being spammy and losing traffic.
19. Failing to connect and leverage Instagram with your other accounts
Running a contest on Facebook or a giveaway on Twitter? Leverage that with visual content on Instagram simultaneously. This should be a multidirectional cooperative enterprise running throughout all of your social media platforms. Your goal giving away valuable things is gaining more followers, so maximize your reach by leveraging the platforms together.
And the one thing to definitely do on Instagram?
Use the visual Instagram platform to inspire in an authentic and specific way. This is the real heart of the platform.
Visuals have special power to instantly inspire, and if your visuals are also authentic to your brand and specific to the value you add, you’ve hit this trifecta. Post a photo of you running your business with a caption that offers actionable insights for niche visitors and customers. This is how you implicitly express how you feel about your brand and your work and how much your brand has to offer.
Is it easier to “fake it” when your only message is verbal? Probably. But great visuals of you, your business, your team, and other important parts of the brand have the potential to express more, and to do so in an authentic way.
Use this tool to build your community with images that speak volumes about your mission, your business philosophy and your brand and you’ll find you have a fantastically engaged, personally invested following on Instagram.