Mistakes happen. Instagram mistakes, unfortunately, happen in public.
To avoid the unique humiliation that comes with an Instagram faux-pas, read on to discover the 13 most common blunders brands make on the social platform—and, more importantly, how to avoid them. Bonus: Download a free checklist that reveals the exact steps a lifestyle photographer used to grow from 0 to 600,000 followers on Instagram with no budget and no expensive gear.
1. Buying likes and followers
There is a shortcut to getting more likes and followers: go on a shopping spree.
That’s right. You can actually buy friends for your Instagram account, much like you can rent guests for your Japanese wedding.
The problem is…when you buy likes and followers, you’re getting quantity, not quality. Sure, your numbers might look good, but if your audience is just full of robots who say nothing of value, what’s the point? (No offense, robots—please don’t come for me in the night.)
The same thing goes for paying for automated outgoing comments. If you’re not having a real connection with your fans, what’s the point?
Successful social media brands are ones that connect with real people. Your money would be better used for targeting ads towards lookalike audiences, or running a contest to boost followers who actually are interested in what you do.
For more ideas on boosting engagement, check out our tips for getting more Instagram followers here.
2. Using poor quality images
Instagram is a visual medium. So if you’re going to post something, it should be beautiful—or at least interesting!—to look at.
For example: not a gross closeup shot of beans.
Even if you don’t have access to professional photo skills or a top-notch camera, try shooting with natural light or on neutral backgrounds.
You’re really better off posting no photo than a bad photo. But with so many great tools out there for photo editing and graphic design, there’s really no excuse to post something sloppy.
Check out our step-by-step photo editing guide and the latest Instagram photo trends to help guide your Insta-photography journey.
3. Posting too much or too little
Figuring out the right number of posts on Instagram—or any social media platform, really—is a delicate dance: a social soft-shoe, if you will.
Too few posts, and you risk looking out of touch, or being forgotten. Too many posts, and you might seem desperate or annoying.
So what is the right amount to post on Instagram? You can check out the latest data here, but remember that the sweet spot changes over time, as user habits evolve. It also depends on your own personal brand and fans.
For a news outlet, posting multiple times a day would be appropriate, but for a makeup brand, a few times a week might make more sense.
So watch when your followers are online, pay attention to analytics, and experiment with your positing schedule to discover what their content tipping point is.
You can even automate your scheduling using the Hootsuite dashboard to really explore your options. Maybe your fanbase loves a little midnight action, who knows?
4. Ignoring analytics
Speaking of analytics: another big mistake marketers make on Instagram is to ignore the data.
You should be obsessively tracking the metrics that matter so you can identify trends and growth.
Think of it like football players watching back the tape of their winning game. How are you going to avoid getting tackled next time? How are you going to replicate that, um, big… field… dunk?
If you’re trying to raise your engagement rate, but you aren’t monitoring your stats, how can you repeat your successes? Also, have I ever watched a football game? At least one of these questions can be answered with Hootsuite Analytics.
5. Using too many hashtags
Anyone who’s ever been to an all-you-can-eat sushi bar knows that it is possible to experience too much of a good thing.
Hashtags are a great way for Instagram users to find your content. They’re also a great way for your content to look like straight-up spam.
You can use up to 30 hashtags, but the most common number of hashtags you’ll see on Instagram is between one and three per post. AdEspresso suggests that up to 11 is acceptable. You’ll need to experiment to see what works best for you.
Check out our guide to mastering your Instagram hashtag game here.
6. Posting boring content
In the public court of Instagram, the biggest Insta-crime of all is posting boring or spammy content.
If you want users to engage with your brand, you need to give them something to engage with. Don’t just post for posting’s sake. Create posts that they’ll care about—something intriguing, or informative, or fun.
Give your followers value so that they’ll comment, like, and share… and ideally, build a deeper relationship with your brand. Providing quality content will also give new people a reason to start following you, too.
This fake sprinkler company account that I created here, for example, is not going to get very far with this sort of bland content. Instead, the fake social media manager should try asking a question, hosting a contest, sharing using submissions, or creating a sprinkler-themed meme.
For more specific tips for creating engaging content—for sprinkler companies and beyond—check out our social engagement 101 guide.
7. Having no strategic plan
Do you want to direct traffic to your website? Are you hoping to grow your followers? Make more sales in your Instagram Shop?
It’s hard to achieve success if you don’t know what you’re trying to achieve.
If you hop in the car for a road trip with no destination in mind, you might have an amazing adventure… but you might wind up in a spooky town with one gas station and a hotel that gives you bed bugs.
Pick one goal to start, and create a strategic plan to get there. That way, you’ll have something to guide every decision, and a way to measure your growth.
8. Inconsistent branding
Your Instagram account is just one part of a whole brand ecosystem.
You probably have a website, other social media pages, and maybe even a brick-and-mortar storefront. All of these elements should have a consistent thread that ties them together to make sure your brand is strong and clear.
Your logo should be on every profile. Every element should share a similar visual style and editorial tone.
Imagine how confusing it would be if luxury brand Louis Vuitton paired its upscale website (screenshot on the left) with an Instagram account like the image on the right:
Depending on your audience for each platform, there may be subtle variations in the kinds of content you share or your interactions—maybe you’re all about the memes on Twitter—but overall, all of your platforms should feel connected.
9. Inconsistent visuals
I know we love the internet over here at Hootsuite, but you remember books, right? Well, with every post you make, you’re adding one more page to your brand’s overall story.
When you look at your brand’s Instagram profile page, does this story make sense? What does “the grid” say as a whole?
Here are two different versions of the Instagram profile of one very fake clothing boutique.
One the left, it’s a hodge-podge of images—some corporate headshots, some stock images, some product shots, all in different styles. On the right, the images all feature the same color palette and work together to create one solid visual representation of a brand.
If you have multiple people contributing to social content, create a style guide that helps everyone understand the visual mission. You can also use Hootsuite collaborative Planner to review each other’s work before it gets posted, to make sure everyone’s on the same page. (Am I obsessed with books? Why don’t I just marry one already!)
10. Not spell checking
Typos are a part of life on the internet. Even professional writers can make mistakkes mistakes sometimes.
But a little spelling or grammar error can make an otherwise polished post look careless. So build a quick proofread into your social posting process, and get a second set of eyes on your posts (maybe even using the Hootsuite Planner!) before they go up so they don’t look like this:
11. Not using Instagram Stories
Social media marketers already have enough on their plate, I know. (And now Instagram is throwing Reels at you? Hoo boy.)
But if you’re not taking advantage of Instagram Stories, you’re wasting an opportunity to reach the 500 million users who use this part of the Instagram platform.
New to Stories? Here’s our step-by-step guide to posting. You can also check out these ideas for building your Instagram Stories audience and great apps to help make your content pop.
12. Not engaging with followers
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: social media isn’t a broadcast, it’s a conversation.
If you’re not engaging with your followers, you’re wasting your platform. Every time a user comments or asks a question, that’s an opportunity to build rapport and create a positive experience. Time to get chatty.
13. Sharing awkward links
Instagram doesn’t hyperlink URLs in comments, so posting a long, unwieldy link just looks messy—and like you don’t know what you’re doing. Plus, let’s get real: no one is going to type that into their browser.
Brands with 10,000 followers can include links in their Instagram Stories. Those who don’t have that luxury often use the “link in bio” trick.
Another option for brands who are frequently throwing to links is to create a catchall link. This is URL that features all of your recently referenced links in one place.
Sites like Campsite or Linktree are two great options. You could also build a specific page right on your website that is home to all your topical links.
If you’re guilty of some (or all) of the Instagram goofs mentioned above, don’t beat yourself up about it. The thing about a digital platform is that it’s never too late to correct course. Turn your Insta-mistakes into, uh, Insta-tunities—and take your brand’s social presence to new heights.
Save time managing your Instagram presence using Hootsuite. From a single dashboard you can schedule posts and Stories directly to Instagram, engage the audience, measure performance, and run all your other social media profiles. Try it free today.
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