Raise your hand if Instagram makes you want to throw your phone out the window.
YEP. Me too.
I will admit, it’s everyone’s guessing game on what to do next in order to promote growth on Instagram. However, I think right now, it’s just as–if not more– important than ever to focus on what NOT to do that could be hindering your growth on that platform that we all love and hate.
Are you making any of these mistakes?
#1: Participating in comment pods
I realize I will probably catch a bit of heat for this, and that’s fine, but I’m going to go out on a limb and say it anyway, because it needs to be said.
Yes, YES. I know. It’s really tempting to watch someone else you know skyrocket their following seemingly because of comment pods. But believe us–it’s a trap. Don’t do it.
I’ll admit, in the beginning when they were gaining traction, I gave it a try, but to me, it certainly was not worth my time and effort.
Not only is it spammy and misleading, it’s also not fair to brands who look at your engagement and say, “Wow! She got 50 comments on that photo!” only to find out that they’re ALL bloggers who A. aren’t their target audience and B. have no intention of buying any products! When they find out they paid you to reach an audience that isn’t even real, they aren’t going to be happy about it, and this will do far more damage than your smaller numbers ever would have.
Additionally, the marketing world is wising up. They know how to spot people that participate in comment pods, and they avoid working with those people because they don’t trust that their followings are legitimate. I have a lot of friends in PR, and they will all confirm this sentiment. This is not me pulling this out of thin air.
Furthermore, while big numbers are great, they aren’t everything. If the majority of people who engage with your photos are bloggers–that’s definitely not helping your bottom line. They are certainly not going to become loyal, engaged followers who REALLY care what you have to say, and too put it bluntly–those people are going to do you zero good when it comes to monetizing your Instagram, either.
Finally, Instagram moves fast, and they are smart. They are constantly looking for ways people are cheating the system and trying to figure out how to shut them down. Comment pods are no exception, and they are already coming up with ways to put a stop to them. Continuing to participate in them risks you being punished in the algorithm or who knows–potentially losing your account all together? If you read their platform policy which may a may not also apply to their users specifically (as we know, Instagram can be very mysterious), you can find the following under “General Terms”–bullet point #17: Don’t participate in any “like”, “share”, “comment” or “follower” exchange programs.”
So…basically…moral of the story: Don’t do it!
#2: Not having a niche
In my earlier years of blogging, one of the biggest mistakes I made was assuming that my audience on Instagram was the same as my blog audience.
Believe it or not, you likely have different audiences on both platforms, and those audiences might want different things.
I also made the mistake of having a niche that was too wide. Now, I will say, this hurt me more on Instagram than it did on my blog, but narrowing down your niche for both is a far smarter decision than trying to write about 40 different topics. (For more on that, see this post on why narrowing your niche is so critical.)
I realized that my Instagram audience primarily cared about style posts. My cute coffee shop shots? Nope. Photos of my pretty avocado toast? Nah. Mirror pics of the outfit I wore that day? BINGO.
I then started to edit my Instagram feed, only posting style related photos. If I happened to write about something else on the blog that day that wasn’t style related, I still posted a style photo, and just mentioned it in the comments. Or, for example, if I did a home decor post, I posted a photo of me in my living room, wearing a cute outfit. It shows off the decor, but also satisfies people who are only coming to my feed for style advice.
The truth is, you can’t lump all of your audiences together as one–you have to treat them separately and figure out exactly how to deliver what they want if you want to grow faster.
Take a second to really go through your content and see what performs best. Put up an instagram story and ask your audience what they want to see from you. Everyone is different. I have friends who post fashion incredible photos but never show their faces, because the more anonymous, mysterious fashion photos of theirs perform much better. There are accounts that only show aerial shots of food, because other angles don’t perform. For me personally, product shots do TERRIBLE, but if, say, I’m holding the product in a cute outfit or a pretty robe, that gets much better engagement.
Experiment often, and get as specific as you can with the type of content you’re posting!
#3: Poorly quality photos
This is probably the steepest learning curve of all when it comes to building an Instagram following: learning photography. Now, it’s hard enough to shoot beautiful photos with fancy camera equipment–but honestly, sometimes, I think it’s even harder making something look good with just an iPhone!
Make sure that you’re posting clear, crisp images that are edited consistently (we like Snapseed and VSCO for editing!) but not overly edited. Blair wrote an awesome post over here on how to improve your iPhone photography. If you’re taking DSLR photos and posting those on Instagram as well, you’ll definitely want to check out BFK’s photography section that gives tons of pointers on mastering your DSLR photography skills.
I think one of the biggest mistakes people make is that they feel the pressure to get “something” up–and rationalize posting poor quality photography as a result. Don’t fall into that trap!
#4: Lack of “real life” photos
On the flip side, more and more consumers are becoming sick with the perfectly curated Instagram feeds that used to be so popular–because, well–they were rare works of art. Now, Instagram is overflowing with them. If you’re an up and comer, it’s much easier to strike a cord and resonate with an audience who is starved for “real life” on social media. (Because honestly, who needs one more perfectly curated feed to make them feel bad about themselves?)
I’ve found that my “in the moment” iPhone photos perform much better than the DSLR photos that I post on my blog, even though they aren’t as pretty, and I try to pepper in those kinds of photos whenever I can. Experiment with what works better for you!
Also, this article was an interesting read on the subject–Even Eva Chen agrees 😉 Shout out to Sarah for sharing this great read in our BFK BFF’s Facebook Group!
#5: Caring way too much
Ah, didn’t expect this one coming–did you?
Here’s the thing. We can’t control Instagram. As much as we wish there was a magic button you could push, or heck, even a large sum of money we could pay to get a big, engaged following on Instagram–it’s just not how that works.
You cannot control Instagram.
And here’s the thing–you can lose yourself in a downward spiral of comparison. Social media for bloggers is becoming more and more like a drug. If instagram is making you feel poorly about yourself, sad, or overwhelmed–put down the phone.
Learning how to manage these emotions that are associated with constantly putting yourself out on the internet for comparison is a struggle, but it’s really important. Blair and I both go through waves of struggling with this, and so does every other blogger. But it’s JUST a social media account.
The really good news? Instagram is definitely NOT the most lucrative way to build your following. We get 100x more traffic from Pinterest and Facebook. In terms of amount of hours put in, you will get FAR more out of focusing on those two channels than you will with Instagram.
Kind of a double edged sword, because Instagram numbers are something that brands care deeply about. And if we’re being honest, I think it’s a pride thing, too. Because Instagram numbers are what your friends and family sees on a daily basis. Your blog numbers aren’t visible for all to see–so, of course, it’s hard! But don’t let your ego get in the way. If Instagram isn’t working for you, try channeling your energy into another platform for awhile, and see what happens.
The last thing I will leave you with, is this:
Your blog will always be more important than any social media channel. Remember Myspace? It’s gone now. Do you really think Instagram going to be the same in 10 years? Your website is the only thing you own. Blog posts will always be far more lucrative for brand partnerships, simply because great content will live on the internet forever. A instagram post has a life span of MAYBE a a couple of days before it’s gone for good. Ask any smart brand, PR person, marketer–you name it. They’ll all tell you the same.
If you want more proof on why your blog matters more than Instagram, you can actually head over to this post, where we give you a whole lot more reasons, and tips on what to focus on instead!