Do you remember 2010?
Because that’s when Instagram came out and it changed my life. And not only mine.
Now, even if that’s just 1%, it’s still 8 million competitors we’re talking about. And some of these are, let’s be honest, pretty cool brands that are hard to compete against.
And yet, you’re trying (like we all are). You’re publishing killer content, you’re hashtagging your life away, you’re a loyal member of multiple pods, you’re trying out different strategies, you’re spending 24/7 on Instagram, but it seems that none of these efforts bring you the results you want.
The reason to that might not be that you’re not doing enough — but that you’re probably doing something wrong. And you probably don’t even realize it.
At Iconosquare, many of our clients are small business owners that, most of the time, all struggle with the same things and make the same Instagram mistakes.
So in this article, we’re going to review some of the most common mistakes and give you an easy to follow action plan to help you fix them.
Ready to start?
Let’s go then!
7 Instagram Mistakes You’re Making Without Realizing (And How to Fix Them)
Mistake #1: Using ALL the hashtags
Until a few years ago, Instagram allowed you to use as many hashtags as you wanted. You could literally use 30, 50, or even 60 hashtags in a single post, and, what’s more, you could keep coming back to it and “refreshing” it with some extra hashtags in the comments.
Things have changed since then. You probably know that you can now only post 30 hashtags max in one post, but the thing is, you often don’t NEED to.
While hashtags remain a good discoverability tool on Instagram, you should not be focusing too much on them. Recently, Instagram itself admitted that you should actually be focusing on your business objectives and goals rather than hashtags. It’s good content that they prioritize now, not hashtags.
Using ALL hashtags out of the available 30 isn’t necessarily going to get you onto the Explore page and generate more likes or followers for you. In fact, it can do more harm than good, costing you visibility and engagement.
If you’re using the same hashtags over and over again (many people copy paste hashtags they researched in advance), Instagram’s algorithm might actually pick up on this as spam and that can get you shadowbanned.
If you’re using hashtags that are too broad, it’s the same as not using any hashtags at all. Nobody will notice you.
And, finally, if you’re using hashtags that don’t narratively compliment your actual photo, nobody will engage with that photo, either.
EASY FIX: Don’t post the same #s over and over again. Use less of them (like 4 or 5). Use long-tail hashtags instead of broad ones. And, most importantly, make them relevant to your picture.
Mistake #2: You’re playing the bot game
When times get tough, it often feels like the best way to survive is to cheat the system.
As Instagram grows, it’s getting harder and harder to grow organically. Just like Facebook, it’s pushing people to start advertising more and invest actual money in the platform — that’s how they monetize, after all.
On the surface, getting bots seems like an easy way to get around the system. For starters, they’re cheap as hell: for just 40 bucks, you can get thousands of new followers on your account, delivered within seconds. And admittedly, it can feel rather good watching yourself go from zero to hero all of a sudden.
But have you, really?
Yes, you can buy likes and followers and fake engagement, but let’s be honest here — you’re never going to be able to CONVERT that into actual sales.
Imagine a scenario in any other economy where, against the law, you could rapidly generate currency. You might have a lot of cash at the beginning, but what this actually results in is currency inflation. Faking likes, followers and engagement does not increase but diminish the value of the currency, harming the buying capacity of your actual target audience.
It’s a cheap win that causes more harm in the end.
Followers is a vanity metric. What you actually need is true, genuine engagement from interested people, word-of-mouth, and high-quality product mentions. How do you get this? Through good old interaction. To receive attention on Instagram you need to give it first — that’s the only way you can grow your account legitimately.
EASY FIX: Just forget about bots. Pretend they never existed. Pretend bots are your most horrible, terrible ex-girlfriend, leave it in the past, and never look back.
Mistake #3: You’re being boring
I’m sorry, but I had to say this. When was the last time you took a risk on Instagram? Posted something super unusual? Said something funny and snarky? Were time-relevant? Or maybe made up your own hashtag?
No one will ever care about you if you don’t have something to show and say for yourself — on Instagram, it’s in this particular order.
An Instagram-worthy photo has to evoke an emotion. An Instagram-worthy caption has to provoke a reaction. And it’s the combination of these two that makes an Instagram-worthy post.
Take a look at this post from H&M, for instance:
Is it time-relevant? YES.
Is it more creative than the average #LatteArt pic? YES.
Does it have a cool caption? YES.
Does the post look entertaining? YES.
Is making a cute video-sequence of photos and adding a short, funny caption with a CTA on the bottom a totally revolutionary idea? NO.
Because on Instagram, you don’t have to reinvent the wheel of creativity to get noticed. You just need to be a BIT more creative than the rest.
EASY FIX: Start thinking outside the box. Research creativity. Look at how your competitors are creating content, think how you can turn ‘boring’ into ‘interesting’.
Mistake #4: You don’t choose the right influencers
You’ve heard about influencer marketing and you decided to give it a try. And then you did and nothing came out of it. No new followers, no referrals, no sales.
Sounds painfully familiar, right?
Influencer marketing is tricky. And it’s not like it doesn’t work. It does. But you really need to do it right.
Many people think that, with influencer marketing, it’s the influencer that needs to deliver all the work. After all, you send your stuff for free or even pay for promotion — you’d expect to see ROI?
But if you haven’t seen any ROI from working with influencers, it’s probably because you are choosing the wrong influencers. In fact, you were probably choosing influencers who were not real influencers at all.
Remember Mistake #2 that most people fall into? Nowadays, buying followers, likes and engagement is easier than ever — and with that, fooling brands has become easier than ever, too.
You might have read this amazing article on how MediaKix created two completely fake “influencers” and overnight managed to secure several paid brand deals.
Now, who’s to blame? Them, who are faking it while trying to make it, or you, who haven’t done your research?
When you choose the right influencer, you have to make sure it’s not a fake one.
The only way to see that is by actually going through the comments that this influencer account has and seeing if there’s actually some meaningful interaction going on.
Here’s an example of faked engagement with zero interaction:
Lots of meaningless, empty, general comments that don’t refer to anything at all. Plus, the “influencer” doesn’t care to react on any of these.
Here’s an example of a genuine engagement:
In contrast with the previous example, here you can see some actual dialogue between the influencer and the follower. Also, if you go in that post for more, you’ll see that comments that people leave are actually referring to the picture posted, they’re specific and feel real.
Genuine engagement, relationships that the influencer has with his/her followers, and trust are the three factors that should play a decisive role when you’re choosing an influencer to work with. Not the numbers.
EASY FIX: Not everything that glitters is gold. Don’t be so easily fooled by numbers. Dig deeper into your influencer’s qualification and gauge whether they’re fake or not before you give them your money.
Mistake #5: Focusing on the wrong KPIs
Since this one is directly related to the previous point, I’m not going to spend too much time here.
Every single day at Iconosquare we hear customers literally OBSESS about about their number of followers. “How can I get more?” “Where do I get more?” “Why can’t I get more?”
Hopefully, you already agree with me that it’s not the numbers you should be focusing on, but the quality of your interactions. As Instagram is becoming more ephemeral as we speak, the quality of interactions becomes your most important KPI ever.
EASY FIX: Stop obsessing about numbers so much, and focus on building genuine relationships with your followers. Engagement, not followers, is what matters.
Mistake #6: Having too many strategies
As a small brand (and often, a one-person brand), trying to do it all often means that you don’t get anything done.
Spreading yourself too thin is an easy trap to fall into. That’s why you have to have one strategy — and stick to it.
If your goal is to grow followers, then focus on growing followers and build your strategy around that.
If your goal is to drive traffic from Insta to the store, then focus on that.
If your goal is to create brand awareness, then do that.
If your goal is to figure out the feed aesthetics, then do that.
But don’t try too many strategies at the same time. Choose one: Develop it, implement it, monitor it, adjust it, and, if you see that it hasn’t been bringing results, change it.
EASY FIX: Don’t jump into Instagram marketing without having clear goals and knowing what you’re doing. Create an Instagram strategy first.
Mistake #7: You’re only focusing on Instagram
Instagram is big, there’s no doubt about it. But your brand needs to be bigger than Instagram.
Instagram is only one part of the whole brand journey that you should be offering your customers to take part in. Every social media platform you’ll use — Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat — should deliver a somewhat different experience, and yet be part of a consistent vision.
Once you get this, you’ll be able to find a UNIQUE angle for your Instagram, and not just cross-post content across all your platforms.
That’s it! These were the 7 Instagram mistakes small businesses are making on the platform, often without even realizing. Of course, there are more — these were just the most common ones.
TELL US: Have you made any of these mistakes? Or is there another big Instagram faux pas that you’d add to this list? Leave a comment below to let us know!
PS. This post was originally published on EngageCamp.