5 Mistakes You're Making on Instagram

So this is you:

instagram mistakes

Or maybe this is you:

instagram mistakes(I bet you never thought Instagram would be the thing to release your inner Troy Bolton.)

Either way, you’ve done your research and figured out Instagram is the place you need to be, and now you’re here. You’ve claimed your username (a small triumph in and of itself nowadays). You’ve posted a few pictures with snazzy filters. You’ve done #thehashtagthing. So why aren’t you seeing results and connecting to your audience? You’re getting the occasional like every now and then, but nothing compared to the engagement you want to have.


Think of Instagram as a backstage pass for your followers.


Well friend, I’m here to tell you that no, they did not lie to you when they told you Instagram is a great tool. Instagram can be an amazing tool for inbound marketers to capture their audience’s attention on an image-driven platform. According to Hootsuite, 85% of top brands use Instagram to promote their businesses. So why isn’t it working for you?  

Here are five mistakes that are holding back your Instagram game (and how to fix them).


Mistake #1: You’re not thinking about what your audience wants.


Think of Instagram as a backstage pass for your followers. They want to see into your world; they want to know what goes on behind the polished promo pictures on Google. Give them a reason to follow you! What is your audience’s persona? What kind of content do they want to see? Think before you post. If you’re a musician, your audience probably wants to see pictures of your tour bus, meet and greets, backstage, or stage shots. If you run a non-profit organization, your followers are going to be interested in pictures of all the good you’re doing, along with stories of how you’re helping people. Keep your audience coming back for more, and give them content they can’t get anywhere else, which brings me to your second mistake:


Mistake #2: You’re only posting promo pics.


It’s time to get personal. This is an extension of the above. Nobody goes on social media to be spammed with promotions and sales; people go on social media to be entertained. So if you’re a musician and you’re posting the same promo picture over and over again with “buy my new album, Stardust!” as the caption, people are going to get sick of it, fast.  

You’re not making it worth their time to follow you! Now, posting a picture of you off tour, having a pajama party with your friends? That’s giving them inside content that they wouldn’t otherwise get to see, and it’s worth following. It makes your fans feel like they’re getting to see the “real” you.

If you run an art supply store, don’t just post a picture that says “20% off calligraphy pens tomorrow.”  Nobody cares (except maybe the one person who was waiting, breathless, for your pens to go on sale)!  Instead, post an aesthetic picture of some beautiful calligraphy art with the caption, “Make art like this today. 20% off all calligraphy pens tomorrow through Saturday.”

Draw people in with your imagery, and then hit them with your offer so they want to buy what you’re selling.


Nobody goes on social media to be spammed with promotions and sales. People go on social media to be entertained.


Mistake #3: You post meaningless pictures.


Every picture should have a purpose. Are you just posting a picture for the sake of posting because you haven’t posted in a while (try to say that ten times fast)? I ask you, on behalf of every person with a cluttered up Instagram feed, to stop it. You aren’t doing yourself or anyone else any good by posting photos that have no traction.  

So how do you make sure your pictures have value?  

First, post a healthy mix of the “backstage pass” type photos that we discussed above along with the more professional, promo ones.  Some posts should feature your company’s products, while others should feature your company’s culture (i.e. pictures of the staff at work, or of customers using your products). If you need an example, Warby Parker does a great job of balancing these two types of posts.

Second, beware the floating image.  

Yes, the picture you just posted looks pretty.  But what’s the context?  Where was it taken? Why was it taken? The value of social media is in how much you’ve engaged your followers, and it’s hard to engage them if you’re not actually talking to them.

Give them some context when you post a picture, ask them a question — something to start the conversation and get a two-way conversation going. 


The value of social media is in how much you’ve engaged your followers.


Mistake #4: You don’t use hashtags (or you don’t use them correctly).


Maybe, out of frustration and confusion you’ve skipped the whole hashtagging thing completely. Or maybe you only use hashtags to convey emotion. While it’s all well and good to write #longemotionalhashtagsthatshouldreallybesentences, those are not the hashtags that are going to increase awareness about you and your brand.  

When used correctly, hashtags are a tool Instagrammers use to gain new followers who are looking for content similar to the stuff you’re posting. For example, if you’re a street artist in Nashville and you caption your artwork on Instagram with #NashvilleStreetArt, you’re making your posts available for potential fans to stumble on while browsing.  

Use relevant, searchable hashtags, and you'll be well on your way to effective posting.


Mistake #5: You don’t know (or care) when you’re posting. 


Maybe you’re constantly posting at 10am, and you’re not getting any traction.  Or maybe you’re just posting, willy-nilly, whenever the muses strike you. What you may not be aware of is that there are better and worse times to post. It may take some trial and error to figure out at what times your followers are the most active for you audience, but once you have a handle on that, you can target those times specifically to get maximum post engagement.

If you're constantly posting at 9am, try posting at noon instead, and see if you get more engagement. Make sure you keep track of the data though.

If you don’t know where to start, try following this schedule as a jumping off point.

Now go forth and Instagram prosperously.  


instagram mistakes

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Mindy Braasch

Mindy Braasch

Mindy is an all-star 12SM intern, design-lover, and staunch supporter of the oxford comma.

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