Instagram is big. Huge, actually. And very important for businesses nowadays, whether you like it or not. It counts 1 billion users monthly, behind only Facebook and YouTube. With these statistics, we cannot deny the social media platform’s reach and importance in modern day-to-day life.
Instagram is great for businesses and people who are seeking to expand their following. We know that 80% of users (about 800 million people) follow at least one business profile on Instagram, and 75% of these users actually engage with it by visiting the website or buying the product that is being promoted.
Still, knowing all of this, many businesses and people struggle to gain followers and engage them. If you are one of them, fear not. I am here to share with you what learned at a recent workshop on “Instagram marketing for businesses.” It was led by Franziska Müller (@francis_mueller) and organized by Edwin Schmierer (@edwin.schmierer), both having thousands of followers and lots of experience to share.
So, here are the five mistakes you’re probably making on Instagram:
1) You are not present.
In a nutshell, you have to post everyday or every other day. Essentially, you cannot be forgotten by your followers. But you have to plan ahead. The use of Instagram organizational apps is extremely important for that (see mistake number 3 for more details).
Your profile has to include contact information. That can consist of your phone number, e-mail address, website and physical address if you have one.
Being present also means engaging your followers and potential followers. You need to reply to direct messages and comments on your own profile and comment on other profiles’ posts. You can also call your followers to action, which basically means telling your followers to interact with you. You can use certain features on your “Instagram stories” like a poll, inviting people to ask you questions, or quizzing your followers.
Don’t forget to create your own hashtag! This way other people can see your posts, or you can see people using your hashtag as a way to tag a post that relates to your business. It’s a win-win situation.
2) You don’t know your profile’s value.
What do you have to offer? Is it jokes? Are you a news outlet? Or do you sell children’s toys? You have to give people reasons to engage. Something that they need and only you can offer.
For that, you need to know your target audience. Who follows you now and who do you want following you? If you have an online shop that sells children’s toys, you want your audience to be mainly parents and children rather than childless adults. Knowing your audience allows you to give them what they want. If you sell children’s toys, posting a picture of the view from your balcony may not be a good idea.
Instagram also helps you with that. If you have a business profile, you can check the “Insights” feature, which will show you how many times your profile was visited, how many times people clicked on your website, and how many accounts you reached during a certain period of time. Not only that – it shows you where your followers are, their age range and their gender. This way you can know who exactly your followers are and what they are expecting from your profile, allowing you to build a concept and understand in which category your profile fits.
3) You don’t use Instagram organizational apps.
You may not know it, but there are countless applications that allow you to organize your Instagram posts ahead of time. They can cost money or be free. These apps allow you to organize your posts ahead of time and see how your pictures fit in with one another and how they look as a whole.
The ones recommended in the workshop were Planoly and UNUM. But you can test them out for yourself and see which one you prefer.
These apps allow you to plan ahead, whether that’s for the next weeks or months. And change it up if you feel like it. For example, for your hypothetical children’s toys business profile, you can plan special posts for Christmas or Children’s Day, thus optimizing time and energy.
4) You don’t post at the correct time.
Research shows that the best times to post are between 7 and 8 am and after 7:30 pm. Why? It’s when people are most active on any social media: waking up and checking their phones and after getting back home from a long day outside.
Granted, they can see your picture even if you don’t post it at these times. But the engagement with it may be lower than at the hours mentioned above. In other words, if posted at such hours, your picture is more likely to be one of the first that your followers see when they open the app.
However, you have to test it out for yourself, because no two audiences are completely alike. Maybe if you post at 12 pm you’ll get more likes. It all depends on the particular activities and habits of your followers.
5) You don’t use the video features on Instagram.
Instagram has a variety of video features. And engagement is more likely to happen on video posts than on pictures.
There are the regular one-minute videos, which can be fun to use but are a little bit constricted in time and, therefore, content. There are the “Instagram Stories,” which can also be limited in time but are a quick way to reach your audience. And there is the IGTV, a new feature created by Instagram to compete directly with YouTube. These videos can be of any length, allowing for more detailed content. One thing to keep in mind, though, is that filming for IGTV needs to be vertical and not horizontal like the YouTube format we are used to.
Another very interesting feature on Instagram are the live videos. These can be used for a number of things, like Q&As or events that can be live streamed, raising even more the engagement of followers who could not be at the event themselves.
That’s mostly it. Here are a few bonus mini-mistakes:
You don’t show your face.
It seems counter-intuitive to show your own face on a profile when you want to highlight a product. It is not about only posting pictures of yourself, but showing the face behind the profile once in a while is a way to make it more personal. People want to know you. They want to see who is behind the profile.
You don’t use the Story highlights.
Using this feature allows people to see important information long after you’ve posted it. Don’t forget to put titles below them and a cover to make it neat.
You put similar pictures close to one another.
This is controversial. Some prefer to not put similar pictures beside or below one another, because it can make people engage only in the first one you posted and not so much on the other ones. Others like to stick to a sequence of three of the same style of pictures, which makes for a very cohesive overview of the profile. But again, you have to find out what works for you and your account.
You don’t know how to use hashtags.
On the other hand, you can’t be too specific. Using, for example, #buychildrenstoysinleipziggermany is too much, too complicated for people to read, and won’t do much for you. You need to find a balance: starting with the name of your company and going broader from there is the way to go.
You don’t edit your photos.
If you don’t have professional photographers at your disposal, I suggest you use photo editing applications. They can make your photos look professional (if done right), and can be more pleasing to the eye for your followers. Long are the days of low quality and pre-made Instagram filters of your food. Nowadays, people want to see high-quality content, with high-quality pictures.
Personal tip: be consistent with your editing techniques (contrast, brightness, filter). In my humble opinion, your profile will look more “put together” than if you use different filters for each picture.
You don’t use stories daily.
Stories keep the engagement up. Even if your posts are not coming out daily, your stories should be. This is important because, since it was created as competition to Snapchat, people usually check the Instagram Stories first – even before looking at the posts. Ideally, your picture should be one of the first ones that followers see when they open Instagram.
This can be a lot. You don’t have to do this all at once, or at all if you don’t want to, of course. Instagram is supposed to be fun, most of all. So don’t take it too seriously and be experimental with it!
I hope that with these tips, you can improve your Instagram game. And don’t forget to follow us at @leipglo. We can follow you back! 😉