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5 Worst Instagram Mistakes To Avoid At All Costs

You’ve already heard about using relevant hashtags, posting consistently, and curating a cohesive feed to grow your Instagram account. But what about the things you should NOT be doing on Instagram?

Many bloggers and entrepreneurs unknowingly fall into common traps that not only hurt their Instagram accounts but also their brands. That’s why it’s important to be aware of common Instagram mistakes that people make. Let’s go over the worst Instagram mistakes you should avoid at all costs. 

Buying followers

Don’t do it. Just don’t. Buying followers is the worst sin you can commit on Instagram. It’s not only tacky, but it can actually get your account banned. When you’re first building up an Instagram following and growth is slow, it can be tempting to take this shortcut. But it’s not worth it! When you buy followers, you’re essentially paying for a bunch of bots, fake accounts, and random people who will not engage with your content. Your follower count may get bigger. However, your engagement rate, the percentage of your followers who like and comment on your, will almost certainly decline. 

If your goal is to become an influencer and land paid brand deals, buying followers will not help you. Brands are quite savvy when it comes to sussing out wannabe influencers with fake followers. For instance, if you have 20,000 followers but only average 50 likes on your photos, that’s a red flag. Follower count is only one of many factors brands consider when deciding whether to work with you. In fact, some brands prefer to work with microinfluencers who’ve built a close-knit, engaged community.

Buying followers is even dumber if your goal is to attract your ideal customers using Instagram. Why on earth would you want to fill your follower list with random people and bots? They certainly won’t care about anything you have to say or buy from you. It’s just an all-around stupid idea. Plain and simple. 

Lastly, Instagram can shut down your account because purchasing followers is against its terms of use. As you can see, there’s really no benefit of buying followers unless the illusion of being popular on Instagram gives you some sort of validation. But I’m sure you’re not one of those people. So focus on posting great content and growing your audience organically. It may take a year or two to reach, let’s say, 10,000 followers. But at least you’ll attract real people who care about your content.

Participating in Instagram Pods

Instagram pods are communities on Instagram created with the sole purpose of sharing each other’s content. When members of the community post a new Instagram photo, they share it on the Instagram pod, which is usually managed on some chat like Facebook messenger or Telegram. Every member of the pod is required to like and comment on every other member’s photo. If you can get a certain number of violations, you get kicked out of the pod.

The purpose of Instagram pods is to artificially boost a post’s engagement and make the Instagram algorithm think that it’s good content. That way, the algorithm can show it to more people. These Instagram pods can have hundreds of members. That means you may spend 3-4 hours a day commenting and liking random people’s photos. Do you now see the absurdity of this tactic? You waste so much time reciprocating likes and comments. And what do you get in return? Likes and comments from people who are required to give them to you. Wouldn’t you prefer real engagement that tells you whether or not your content is any good?

Playing the follow/unfollow game

Following people in hopes that they will follow you back is another dumb tactic for growing your audience. It’s a massive waste of time because the math isn’t in your favor. Let’s say that 20% of people you follow reciprocate the act (that’s being generous by the way). You would have to follow 1,000 people to get 200 followers. Then you waste more time unfollowing the 800 people who didn’t follow you back. Whether you outsource this activity to an Instagram manager or do it yourself, you are getting a negative return on your investment.

The follow/unfollow game is also problematic because it’s a short-sighted tactic. Instead of focusing on big-picture activities, like taking high-quality posts and writing thoughtful captions, you obsess over getting one follower here and 10 followers there. There are so many more productive activities you could be doing to grow your business. Don’t play the follow/unfollow game because you’ll most definitely lose. 

Participating in paid mass giveaways

Giveaways can be a great way to attract more of your ideal audience on Instagram. But there is a right way and a wrong way to do an Instagram giveaway. Mass giveaways, the ones that involve dozens of Instagram accounts across many niches, are the wrong way.

When I first started growing my Instagram account, I participated in a few mass giveaways. In hindsight, they were a terrible investment. These giveaways sometimes involve 100+ Instagram accounts that come together to help each other get more followers. A mass giveaway typically works like this:

  1. A group of Instagram accounts (usually 20-100) come together to participate in a giveaway created by a host. The host is usually a big influencer or a social media agency that has pre-selected a giveaway prize – something like a 3-day island getaway or a MacBook Pro.
  2. Each Instagram account owner pays a fee to participate in the giveaway (about $100-$400). The more luxurious the price, the more expensive the giveaway. 
  3. At a specified time, every Instagram account posts the giveaway announcement with the same image and the same caption describing the rules.
  4. Giveaway participants are required to follow all the Instagram accounts hosting the giveaway to be entered to win the prize. The giveaway lasts a couple of days, and at the end, the host announces a winner.

When you participate in such giveaways, you’ll see a rapid increase in your follower count over the duration of the giveaway. Then afterward, you’ll notice people start to unfollow. That’s because many of those people followed you just to be entered to win the giveaway prize. So you just paid all that money to attract followers who aren’t interested in your content. 

If you want to grow your account organically and build an engaged audience, participating in these mass giveaways is not the way to do it! A better approach is to partner with a brand that appeals to your target audience to host a giveaway. The brand would provide the giveaway prize so you don’t have to pay for anything. In the rules, you can ask participants to tag three people or share the post for multiple entries. That way, you’re giving your existing followers an incentive to spread the word about your giveaway and draw in more like-minded people. 

Using highly competitive hashtags 

The purpose of hashtags is to help people find your content on Instagram. That’s why you want to use a mixture of hashtags that are relevant to your post. If you post a picture of yourself at the beach, and include #beach in the caption, you’re not doing that photo any favors. Photos that people have posted from every possible beach in the world would fall under that hashtag. More specifically, there are 256 million results for #beach. How are Instagram users going to find your photo when there’s probably another #beach photo posted every five seconds?

How do you determine the right hashtag to use?

Tailwind, a social media scheduler that I use, has a feature called Hashtag Finder.  When you schedule a post, it suggests relevant hashtags based on your niche. These hashtags are also organized and color-coded based on competitiveness – green is easy, yellow is medium, and red is hard. This helps you choose a mix of hashtags with easy to medium competitiveness. As you grow your account, you can compete for more difficult hashtags. Eventually, you may not even need hashtags at all because you’ve built a strong brand and following. Your content will show up on the coveted Instagram discover page and Instagram users will naturally share it. Until then, you have to be intentional about the hashtags you use. 

Have you made any of the mistakes listed? I certainly have. Comment below on which ones you’ve made and what you learned.  

One more thing, if you found this post helpful, please share it!