There’s no doubt that when you’re using a social media platform for the first time, things can be a little…confusing. And Instagram is no exception. While it is pretty straightforward to slap a few photos on your grid and follow a bunch of friends, there is a lot more to it than that.
And believe me, having worked with over 6,000 businesses, I’ve seen ALL the mistakes it’s possible to make. But that’s what happens when you’re getting to grips with something new. And that’s OK.
I always think it’s preferable, however, to learn from other people’s mistakes rather than my own. That’s why I’ve pulled together this list of the top 15 mistakes I see businesses making. Have a read through and see what you could do (or stop doing!) to improve your Instagram results.
1. Not filling in your bio
Let’s think through how your potential customers are using Instagram. They come across a photo you’ve posted, like what they see, they might even give it a like or comment. Then perhaps they wonder who you are, so click on the link that takes them to your bio. But what happens then?
You have approximately six seconds to convince this new visitor to follow you, and a blank bio is unlikely to do that. A clear, concise statement about what you do and who for, on the other hand, will allow them to quickly decide if you and your business are of interest. And might even make them tap that follow button.
You have 150 characters to attract newcomers to your account. Make sure you use them!
2. Setting your account to private
By default, your Instagram account will be set to ‘public’, this means anyone and everyone on the platform can see your content. If you’re a business using Instagram as part of your marketing strategy this is usually what you want to happen. If you choose to set your account to ‘private’ instead, you’re placing a barrier between your business and your audience. Meaning they’re less likely to follow you.
Of course there are some reasons you might want your account to be private, for example if you’re running a paid-for community where you need to control access, or if there are privacy issues such as pictures of children. But if you’re using Instagram to attract and engage with a new audience, you absolutely MUST have a public account. (Side note – only personal accounts can be set to private – so if you’re set up as a business account you don’t need to worry about this)
3. Not posting enough or not posting consistently
Most businesses are guilty of this at one time or another. Life gets in the way or you’re not sure what to post. Days turn into weeks and suddenly you realise it’s been almost a year since you last posted to your grid. The problem isn’t just that you won’t appear in people’s feeds if you’re not posting, it’s that if someone comes across your bio they’re likely to assume you’re not operating any more. And that means they’re unlikely to get in touch, even if they are interested in what you do.
You can avoid this by making sure you post consistently, and that doesn’t have to mean every day. You could post the same thing once a week to be sure there are up-to-date posts on your grid. That won’t necessarily help you appear in front of new audiences – we advocate posting at least once per day to do that – but a semi-regular post is better than none at all.
4. Using the wrong hashtags
I could talk about hashtags all day, that’s how vital they are to Instagram success. You can use them to help increase your following, attract the right people and find the right audience for your business.
But conversely using the wrong hashtags may mean you attract the wrong people. Are you only followed by people in your industry? Do you only seem to get engagement from bots? Are your followers not increasing despite consistent posting?
You’re probably using the wrong hashtags.
Hashtags may seem scary to start with, but they’re really not. They just need some structured research so you can find the right ones to use and importantly you need to be updating the ones you use regularly to avoid the dreaded Shadow Ban and to get the most out of them.
It’s impossible to cover everything here, but if you’re interested in hashtags specifically, download our highly-rated hashtag guide – it’s everything we know about Instagram hashtags distilled into a handy pdf guide.
5. Using bots to automatically follow and unfollow
Bots – spammy software and apps that are used to follow (usually swiftly unfollowing 24 hours later!), comment, like or direct message other accounts automatically – are NOT something we advocate getting involved with. In all honestly, we think they leave an icky taste in the mouth.
What’s more, Instagram is cracking down on these kinds of tactics and often sends warnings to account owners they think might be in breach. Always remember you don’t own your account; Instagram have every right to disable it if they don’t like what you’re doing.
6. Only posting sales posts
Many product-based businesses come to me saying they’re not getting much engagement and their followers aren’t increasing, but they don’t know why. When we look at their account together, we often find the majority of the posts say simply, ‘look at this’, ‘buy this’, ‘look at this’, ‘and what about this?’ Yes, they’re posting consistently but they’re consistently shouting about their products rather than providing useful and relevant content for their audience.
Instagram is about building a community around what your ideal client is interested in. Concentrate on posting sales posts only, and people will come and either buy your product and leave immediately, or they won’t follow you in the first place. Make sure you include plenty of posts that provide value in between the occasional sales post. Your Instagram account shouldn’t be about you, it should be about whoever you’re trying to attract, whether that’s a buyer, the media or a collaboration partner.
Never forget that!
7. Trying to be perfect
People often worry that because Instagram is a visual platform, their images and captions need to be perfect. They’re paralysed by it; they’re too scared to get started, so they just don’t post at all. And that simply means people buy from somebody else.
When I began getting leads from Instagram, I couldn’t take a good photo, I couldn’t do graphic design and I thought I was far better at copywriting than I actually was at the time. I was also embarrassingly heavy-handed with the filters.
But the point is I still got leads.
I posted pictures that showcased who I was, what I did and what I had to offer, ensuring to make the content relevant to the audience . And that’s all you need to do to. It’s far better to post the occasional imperfect thing than only ever post when you finally capture that perfect shot.
Obviously, the exception to this is if you happen to be a copywriter, graphic designer or photographer. Then there’s a little more pressure on getting your captions or images right!
8. Forgetting about your ideal customer
If you’ve ever worked with a marketer, you’ll have spent some time trying to figure out exactly who it is you’re trying to attract. One of the biggest mistakes I see is people posting about themselves and not thinking about who the account is intended for.
Get to grips with your target audience and not only will you get far better results it’s actually easier to plan content as you know exactly who it’s for.
So what do you think? Are you guilty of any of these? Stay tuned for 15 Mistakes Businesses Make on Instagram – Part 2 where I’ll share seven more Instagram ‘mistakes’ to give you food for thought.
Can’t wait for that? Checkout the top 5 things you need to do to get lead from Instagram and start taking action on your Instagram account today.