June 25, 2021

The Biggest Mistakes We See Brands Make On Instagram

After 10 years of running social for major brands, I feel like I’ve seen and done it all. From writing 6-figure contracts outlining deliverables for a corgi, to interviewing reality TV stars famous for their duck whistles, few things surprise me anymore. And while these two situations aren’t exactly ones that most brands find themselves having to navigate, the next 5 are.

Too often I see brands making the same mistakes, stuck in a cycle and not getting anywhere with their social efforts. I’ve been on Zoom calls with frustrated marketing managers wondering why they’re not seeing leads and had emails hit my inbox from previous clients asking why their engagement has dropped since bringing their social media in-house. In most cases, I just need to spend 10 minutes scrolling through their feeds to see red flags start jumping out at me.

Here are the top 5 mistakes we see brands make on Instagram:


Using Photos Not Optimized For Instagram

90% of the time when a brand approaches us, frustrated about not seeing a lift through their social efforts, we just need to look at the photos they’re posting to see why. Above all else, Instagram is a photo-first platform. You have 2.5 seconds to grab attention before your ideal customer scrolls on by. Everything that’s posted should be on-brand, high-quality, and aesthetically pleasing.

If you’re relying too heavily on graphics, rather than real photos, it’s going to be more difficult to grow. If you’re posting text-heavy content and “telling” instead of “showing”, you’re going to see a significantly reduced reach. If you’re publishing blurry, grainy, or poorly edited images, you’re making your brand appear unprofessional.

Investing in quality visuals—whether that’s by way of a photo shoot or through a quality stock photography site—is a non-negotiable.


Tasking an Intern With Running Your Social Media

Years ago I was running social media for a large automotive event. Over the course of a week in Vegas, I spent 14 hours a day running between the show floor, interviewing celebrities, amplifying evening events, and live-Tweeting keynotes and sessions. Naturally, I loved sitting in on the social media sessions—social media is constantly changing so gaining new insights is key!  At the end of one session, the speaker opened up the floor for questions.

Now, the audience at this conference was the automotive aftermarket industry, so we’re talking shop owners, mechanics, etc. One shop owner raised his hand and asked, “I have an intern running our social media and we don’t seem to be getting anywhere. Any tips?”

The speaker was quick to respond: “If your most valuable customer came in with engine issues, would you put an apprentice in charge of meeting the customer, inspecting the vehicle, diagnostics and repair? No. An apprentice is given support tasks while they learn from someone more experienced. The same can be said for employing interns for social media.”

With our always plugged-in generation, Instagram is often the first place we turn to search for new products, learn more about a brand, or to vet potential service providers. It’s your brand’s first impression, so why would you put that in the hands of someone inexperienced?

Usually when we see a brand in this position it’s because the budget is a bit tight. Fair enough. In that case, the best option is to hire a seasoned professional to create a social strategy and design a roadmap for the junior employee to execute.


Posting Infrequently

Each platform, each industry, each audience segment is different, yet one thing rings true across all—consistency is key in the success of your brand’s social presence. You wouldn’t run a commercial on a single network just once, would you? No, because staying top-of-mind and establishing a relationship with your audience requires multiple touch points.

Posting a few Stories a month or publishing a few Reels videos aren’t going to get you anywhere. To leverage the platform, you need to be publishing at a regular cadence of several times per week.


Purchasing Followers

You can’t buy love but you can buy likes. But just because you can, should you?

Like bad botox, purchased followers and engagement is always obvious. I’ve worked with a number of brands with whom I’ve had to ask the awkward question: “Any chance that someone had purchased followers before?” This is usually followed by a sheepish look before the client admits that yes, they bought followers in a moment of desperation or to unlock that 10,000 follower requirement for Story “Swipe Ups”. I then spend the next several months undoing the damage done.

Stop stressing about the number of followers you have and shift your focus to engagement. Think quality over quantity. While it may be nice to see a 5- or 6-figure follower count, real potential customers are going to see through the inauthentic following and be turned off.


Focusing on Gaining, But Not Retaining

As your follower count grows, so should the effort you put into maintaining your platforms. Often we see brands that are too focused on growth that they’re not expanding their resources to engage with their audience, manage their community, or take their social presence to the next level. The inevitable question comes: “Why am I losing a few hundred followers per week?”

Once you attract followers, you can’t ignore them and expect them to stick around. Like a bad party host, you’re inviting them only to let them stand alone by the snack table all evening. And, while most of us would never turn down a good charcuterie spread, if we don’t feel like we’re valued, we’ll eventually leave. Once you do build an audience, you’ll need to have a strategy to keep your community engaged.

Self-audit time! Are you committing any of these social media sins? Don’t be embarrassed. It can happen to the best of us. You can’t do better until you know. And now that you do, it’s time to create a plan to turn around your Instagram presence.
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