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Since its introduction more than 4 years ago, Instagram has transformed from #selfies and food pics into one of the most powerful social networks on the block. Today it is THE place to be for more than 300 million users, and that audience continues to grow every day. In fact, the Pew Research Internet Project released a report in January that found Instagram to be the fastest growing major social network among U.S. adults.

However, as any good social media manager knows, when it comes to social media it’s not the size of your audience that matters, but how active they are. And the Instagram audience is extremely active. About 150 million users open the app each day, spending an average of 21 minutes per day on it. When you think about the number of apps available out there, that’s a long time.

Okay, so once you’re officially sold on the importance of Instagram for your content marketing strategy, you just post some photos and throw on a Valencia filter, right? Ehh kind of … but trust me, there’s a lot more to it than that.

The best way to learn to do something right is to understand when you are doing something wrong. Which is why I’m going to explore a few of the most common mistakes brands make on Instagram.

Mistake #1: You Aren’t Focusing on the Quality of Your Images

Think about how Instagram works for a second. You scroll through a single column feed of photos. You quickly skim images and captions for something that catches your eye. If you’re anything like me, that usually looks something like this …


The more focus your brand puts on the quality of the images that you’re publishing on Instagram, the more likely your audience will be to slow down and engage with your account and content. So, does that mean you need to go out and spend an arm and a leg on a professional photographer to successfully market your brand on Instagram? Not at all. Spend a little time on the platform and you will quickly notice that although the imagery is beautiful and engaging, it’s still relatively raw and unpolished. Your content should have a similar tone. This leads me to my next point, and the second most common mistake brands are making on Instagram.

Mistake #2: You Are Too Promotional

More than any other social media network, the Instagram crowd values authenticity. They don’t want ads shoved down their throats. That doesn’t mean it isn’t a good place to advertise your brand, it just means you have to adapt your content strategy. The brands that succeed on Instagram are the ones delivering powerful messages, presenting their culture in a visually interesting way and engaging with their audience.

Exhibit A: Michael Kors. They were one of the first brands to test Instagram ads, and they received overwhelmingly negative feedback from users, who deemed the images as too “composed” and “polished.” I know you spent a pretty penny on those promo shots and you want to get the most mileage out of them that you can. But if you want to connect with the Instagram audience, those shiny, professionally-staged photos on your website and catalog won’t cut it. Posting photos that have an authentic and user-generated feel will humanize your brand and make your customers feel comfortable engaging with you.

Mistake #3: #You #Aren’t #Using #Enough #Hashtags

Wait, WHAT?

Yup, you read that right. Before you stop reading, hear me out …

It has long been considered a faux pas in the social media world to use more than two hashtags at a time. However, according to recent data from TrackMaven, larger brands with more than 1,000 followers received on average 21.21 interactions per post, while smaller accounts with less than 1,000 followers received 77.66 interactions when they used 11 hashtags per post.


Did I just blow your mind? Before you race off to Instagram and go all hashtag crazy with #every #other #word, remember that using the right number of relevant hashtags will make it easier for users to discover your brand. But don’t take my word for it … let Jimmy Fallon and Justin Timberlake explain:


Mistake #4: You Aren’t Engaging With Your Audience

I can’t emphasize this enough — if you’re not using Instagram like a real, live human, even your brand’s biggest fans aren’t going to want to follow you. That means following users back, responding to comments, answering questions, in short, engaging with them. In fact, users flock to the platform for that very purpose. Last year, Forrester analyzed more than 3 million user interactions with more than 2,500 brand posts on seven social networks. Those brands achieved less than a 0.1 percent engagement rate on six out of the seven platforms, including Facebook and Twitter.


Instagram posts, however, generated a per-follower engagement rate of 4.21 percent. That means the app delivered brands 58 times more engagement per follower than Facebook and 120 times more engagement per follower than Twitter. Social media relationships are very give and take. You can’t expect someone to share, comment or like your content if you’re not doing the same with theirs. Like any social network, Instagram works best as a conversation, not a megaphone.

Are you or your brand guilty of any of these common mistakes? Let us know in the comments!