Photo credit: https://perzonseo.com/

It’s easy to think Instagram is a bit of a throwaway social network – but there’s a lot more to getting it right than brands may think. Here are some common mistakes to avoid.

1. Not planning

Instagram feels “fluffy” because it’s all about pictures, but that doesn’t mean you don’t need to strategize the way you would with any other social channel. You’ve got to outline your goals for Instagram, and how you plan to use it to achieve them. Do you want to increase brand awareness? Or drive more people to your website? Whatever your goal, you’ve got to strategize how best Instagram will get you there.

Start by looking at social analytics in your category and gather a little competitive intelligence. How are other brands capturing the attention of the audience you want? Are they sharing product images? How-to videos? Behind-the-scenes Stories? Figure out what your audience wants, give it to them, and measure your results – just as you would on Twitter, Facebook, or anywhere else.

2. Incomplete bio info

It might seem like a small detail, but it’s important to be sure your bio includes your location, type of business, and link to your website. And Marketing Magazin offers this pro tip: “Make sure to have a business account and add your city in the settings, this way it doesn’t take up space in your description.”

3. Hashtag errors

Hashtags can be confusing, since various social networks use them in different ways. On Twitter, for example, hashtags are used to categorize topics like #Fitness, #GlobalRetail, #Innovation – and sticking to 2-3 per tweet gets you optimal engagement.

On Instagram, however, hashtags are a bit more personalized, and any one topic may require several hashtags to reach the desired audience – e.g., #Photography, #PhotographyLife, #PhotographyFun, #Photography101, #PhotoOfTheDay and on and on. These are known as community hashtags, designed to help users find relevant accounts to follow. Use them in combination with brand-specific (or campaign-specific) hashtags for maximum effect.

Instagram actually allows for up to 30 hashtags – though using all of them isn’t necessary. And definitely don’t use more than that or “none of your hashtags will work and your Instagram caption might not post at all.” The target number is 11-13.

4. Only sharing images

The life’s blood of Instagram is not so much about pictures as it is about visuals. Yes, images are a great way to share with your audience, but don’t discount video. An average 95 million photos and videos are shared per day, according to Instagram. And don’t forget Instagram Stories – a great way to share multiple posts in a single day. They last for 24 hours and then disappear, similar to Snapchat’s Stories. Some Snapchat users are even abandoning Snapchat for Instagram in search of better engagement.

5. Cross-posting the same images on multiple platforms

It might seem easier to share the same images across multiple channels, but it’s actually a bad idea. Each social network has its own optimal size and shape for images, and going against that could mean a crucial part of your image isn’t seen by users scrolling through their feeds. Take the time to optimize images specifically for Instagram – and every social channel. For Instagram that’s 1080 x 1080 px for best resolution.

6. Stealing content

Social media often feels like a free-for-all, where copyright has gone by the wayside – but it’s not true. If you’re not going to post your own original images, be sure you use royalty-free stock image sites to source your content – and give credit as the license dictates. If you see an image you like elsewhere, get permission from the photographer before sharing, and, again, give credit where it’s due.

7. Using bots for engagement

Talk about the opposite of engaging! Sure, a bot can leave a comment on a new follower’s feed giving your brand the appearance of being interactive, but it’s completely impersonal. And most users can smell a bot a mile away. That tells them your brand doesn’t really care, but is just putting on a show.

Use your social monitoring tools to learn about your audience and respond authentically to them. Or use Instagram’s own analytics to understand best posting times and other insights if you don’t have other social media listening tools at your disposal.

You’ve got to have a business profile to use Instagram Insights – but that should be a given if you’re using Instagram as a brand or business.

8. A few words about images

Instagram is a purely visual network – so you need to make sure your images catch the eye. Using a consistent filter can give your brand a visual identity – which is why 60% of top brands do just that.

Consistency of theme is also important. Lifestyle images are typically best, along with human-interest type behind-the-scenes images and videos. Whatever you’re doing, stay on brand. Don’t suddenly post something random your followers won’t understand. That’s what personal accounts are for.

Same with sharing family pics to your brand account – keep them to a minimum unless you’re a family-run business and it makes sense to share. Everything you post should have value for your followers. It’s not about you.

Instagram is a fabulous platform for brands to reach a broad cross-section of people. Sentiment analysis and social listening tools let you refine your audience into segments based on common interests – so you can really get personal with them. Post visuals they’re dying to see and they’ll fall in love with you.

Image from Perzonseo Webbyra

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