Instagram is a valuable channel for most businesses, unless you’re making these common mistakes.
7 min read
Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.
Instagram has now surpassed the 1 billion user mark so it has undoubtedly become a crucial marketing channel for businesses to consider. But, while some businesses are nailing it and driving significant sales through Instagram, others are floundering and scratching their heads wondering why it’s not working.
With all the various social media and marketing channels out there today, we know it can feel overwhelming for business owners today to know which channel they should focus their efforts on that will actually drive sales and show a meaningful ROI. So, here are some common mistakes we see businesses make on Instagram today.
Is your business a fit for Instagram?
Firstly, not every business is actually a fit for Instagram. Given that Instagram is all about lifestyle and things you can show in pretty pictures, it works great for consumer verticals like fashion, beauty, products and travel. But, if you’re more of a B2B company or enterprise SaaS business, Instagram may not be the place for you to drive any sales. Despite this, many B2B companies feel they “should be doing something on Instagram.” Don’t be afraid to realize Instagram just isn’t a fit for your business if it’s not the right audience channel for you. While there’s no harm in exploring it as a branding or customer engagement exercise, don’t be disheartened if you don’t see results.
However, if your business is definitely a fit for Instagram and you’re not seeing results, then you may be making one of the very common mistakes businesses make on Instagram.
1. Your feed isn’t shoppable.
One of the biggest frustrations for businesses trying to sell on Instagram early on was the fact that Instagram doesn’t allow you to post clickable links to products alongside the photos you post. However, recently some new tools, like product tagging, have come about that are making it easier for retailers to sell and consumers to buy. For example, Shopify.com became the first ecommerce platform that enabled retailers to be able to send their customers directly from an Instagram photo to a product page on their website.
2. You’ve got too many steps to conversion.
Your posts might be impeccably product tagged and hashtagged, but how easy is it for your customers to check out? One of the main rules of selling online is that every step, click or form your customer has to fill out sees potential customers begin to drop off. The fact that Amazon has one-click checkout has played a big part in its success.
Don’t forget that Instagram is predominantly experienced on mobile where your customers have less patience and smaller screens. It means you really have to consider from a consumer perspective, how easy is it for them to browse and buy from your Instagram page?
3. You bought fake followers.
It can be disheartening when a business starts out with 50 followers to try and figure out how it is going to get to 1,000 or the pivotal 10,000 followers. You may spend a few days at it, and get a few new followers, but getting to a bigger number can seem like a lifetime away. This is why so many businesses fall into the trap of buying followers, but it’s possibly one of the biggest mistakes a business can make.
Firstly, any frequent Instagram user can spot a company with fake followers a mile away. Picture an account that has 10,000 followers but only gets 10 likes a photo. It screams “bought followers!” and in turn has a reverse impact on your brand where you look very uncool. Also, you aren’t really buying real people to follow you. You are buying likes from fake, robot accounts who are not real people who will actually ever buy from you. It’s neither smart for business or engagement.
Furthermore, if Instagram picks up that you have bought followers, it can implement a shadowban — which means that it will hide your hashtags from the public and only your followers can see anything you post. When you get a shadowban on your account, it can be very tricky to convince Instagram to undo it and you may need to set up a whole new account and start from scratch again. I repeat, never, ever buy followers on Instagram.
Building your audience from 100 to 10,000 requires a lot of work and patience. It’s not going to happen overnight. If you have the expectation it will, then you will only end up frustrated and disappointed. Getting engaged, active, appropriate followers takes a lot of time and work. It requires constantly posting great content, engaging with your audience via comments and engaging with and following potential customers on their pages, and slowly and surely over a few months you should begin to see your numbers swell. Agency pros often use Instagram automation tools to visualize and plan feeds ahead of time, create a brand aesthetic and build a consistent, beautiful feed.
4. You make it all about the sales.
Instagram is a platform where people can peek into people’s lifestyles, laugh at funny memes or be inspired by powerful messages. It’s a social platform before it’s a shopping platform. Businesses can irk their customers by being too salesy. Don’t make your page all about selling your product. Include photos and messages that encompass your brand voice or show funny pictures of your staff. Use your imagination but don’t make every post a sales message.
For example, Apple sells phones and computers but its Instagram channel is mainly dedicated to showing photos its customers took using its phones. The same goes for celebrities and pop stars. They ultimately want to sell their songs and concert tickets but their Instagram is almost always full of glimpses into their glamorous lives and adventures. They may make an occasional mention that they have a new tour starting or a song but, like Ariana Grande does, most of this will come from sharing fan love or through “swipe up” Story links.
5. You don’t use Instagram Stories enough.
Building on Stories, many businesses seem to skip over using Instagram stories, despite it being a great channel to really engage your customers and get new followers. You don’t necessarily have to shoot live video. You can use stills and create text pages to create a story and use tags to make it relevant to the right channels. But again, don’t make it all about the sale — entertain, engage and make followers smile. Use this feature as a way to demonstrate brand personality, show love to followers and ambassadors and create content that people actually want to watch to keep them coming back for more. Louis Vuitton have done a great job of this with its Catogram Twist Bag marketing campaign by incorporating fun videos, interviews and highly visual content in its Story.
Avoid making these five mistakes and your brand can better benefit from the hyper-engaged community of Instagrammers around the world, instead of scratching your head to figure out what you’re doing wrong. If that still doesn’t work, it might be time to defer to a creative agency to do the heavy lifting for you.