I’ve had a lot of “wth am I doing?” moments on Instagram. I’m sure everyone has with new platforms. But there are some obvious errors that I see people making over and over. They will have hugely negative impacts and are easily remedied.
I thought I’d throw together a quick guide to follow to make sure you aren’t shooting yourself in the foot every time you put in the work.
Without further ado, here are the 5 Deadly Sins I see people make on Instagram, and (importantly) how to learn from them so InstaGod forgives you.
1. Linking in posts rather than your bio
If there’s one thing ‘grammers want, it’s immediacy. This is probably the most impulsive social medium out there. They want all the work done for them. If you want to take them away from the platform, make their journey as easy as possible.
Link in your Bio, they’re only two taps of their phone away from where you want them to be.
If you link in posts, they have to hold down, try to copy the exact URL you’ve typed in, close insta, open their browser, copy the link…it’s a lot more complicated and, unless yours is the first one they’ve ever tried it on, they’ll know that. More often than not, they won’t be bothered.
"Link in Bio" is the done thing on insta, it’s what people are accustomed to, so play by the rules and you’ll get more traffic.
A little bit more in depth depending on how frequently you post…
If you post a lot, just link to your website's news/blog landing page rather than specific posts. If people see a post that’s a few days old, go to follow a link that’s to a different article, they’ll get lost and leave immediately.
But if they get taken to the news page and it’s clear where the article is that they’re looking for, they’ll be able to navigate from there.
2. Not Using Hashtags!
If you want to get your message to an audience outside of your followers, hashtags are a MUST.
Using hashtags gets your message to the people who want to see it, providing you use them rather than abuse them.
Instagram is not like Facebook or LinkedIn where you’re shown so much stuff because your friends liked it. It’s targeted, it gives the users only what they want to see, plus sponsored content (which should also be targeted.)
Consider you’re posting a picture of an amazing pie you just got from a local bakery. Now, the 200 people you have following you on Instagram may or may not give a chip about pies. But if you whack #pie on the text with your picture, people who love pies and follow that hashtag or search for it on Instagram can now find it.
If they find it, they can like it. If they like it, they might check you out. If they like your style, they might follow you. Before you did that, they could not.
This one could cause controversy, as a lot of people will argue that even just the appearance of having a lot of followers brings a value with it. People might be more likely to follow an account if it has thousands of followers, as people like safety in numbers.
So, for those not in the know, #Follow4Follow is like a not-so-secret handshake, an agreement that if someone follows you after seeing your post, they will follow you back.
There's an interesting article which anecdotally shows that using a Follow/Unfollow strategy can increase your followers as well as raising engagement. But, even in that article it specifies you still have to do it tactically.
It undermines the whole system and is a pretty insidious problem on Instagram, with people who use this tactic inflating the amount of followers they have.
My biggest issue with it is that it feeds bots on Instagram, which perform automatic functions with the sole aim of growing people’s following. I've gone into bot activity on instagram before.
It also undermines your own attempts to engage with people, which is surely your primary aim of using social media in the first place. When people check out your profile, it looks tacky if you have #follow4follow in your posts.
With so many bot accounts now following your profile, you'll get a lot more generic automated comments on your posts which, again, just looks terrible and is off-putting for anyone who wants to genuinely comment.
Posts I’ve made with less than 100 followers have far more engagement than some pages I’ve seen with hundreds. Followers doesn’t mean anything. Especially when you resort to #Follow4Follow.
If you’re going to carry on regardless, my tip would be to delete the hashtags from your photos about a month after you’ve posted them. All the bots will have followed you by this point. And you won't look like such a sneaky snake.
But my final advice on this is, even if you're running a follow/unfollow strategy (which I still disapprove of, and if you use software to do it, you risk having your account suspended) - you should focus this strategy on specific types of accounts and people who follow certain hashtags, not just anyone who is also looking for more followers. Doing so will mean that you at least have something of a relevant target market.
But people are getting savvy to this whole strategy. So don't expect it to last for long, and expect to annoy people along the way.
4. Not Being Consistent
Of course, the attention > trust cycle applies here.
If you’re posting garbage, it doesn’t matter how consistently you’re posting it. You’re going to get muted, unfollowed and that’s counter-productive.
It must be consistent with a standard of quality.
Algorithms want people on the platform. They reward people who put a boat load of content out by boosting them in the algorithm.
People also have short-term memories. They need to think about you a lot before you get committed to long-term memory. If I try to remember the people who follow Arkom off the top of my head, the ones I can remember are the ones who post all the time, for when I go on the feed, they’re the ones who are there in my eyeline.
I feel like I get to know them more and more because I see the different aspects of them as a person, they seem real and well rounded. So I engage with them. Which drives them further up my feed, in a positive cycle (for them.)
5. Not Being Social
Not only should you reply to people who make the effort to comment and engage with you because…well, it’s just polite, but it also boosts how the algorithm sees you.
Remember, if something is free to use, you’re the product.
The platforms want one thing and one thing only, eyeballs on their app. If you keep people returning to the app to see a comment you’ve replied with, this is good for Instagram. If you’re good to Instagram, Instagram will be good to you.
Algorithms aside, people also work this way. If someone interacts with you and you take the time to respond, there’s a good chance they’ll interact the next time they get the impulse to.
If you ignore them, well, what would you do if you tried to talk to someone and they ignored you?