Neil Patel

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7 Instagram Marketing Mistakes to Avoid at All Costs


Who would have believed that a Facebook-owned app could become home to more than 300 million active users?

Since 2010, when Instagram came into social media existence, top brands, social media influencers, celebrities and smart entrepreneurs have taken advantage of Instagram to engage their target audiences. 

Social media marketing strategies adjusted almost immediately.

Humans love visuals. And, that’s one of the core reasons why Instagram is so wildly popular.

Image sharing has gone beyond sharing selfies with friends. Now, you can actually plan your campaigns to drive more qualified site visitors, leads and revenue to your business.

For example, Jeremy Page’s sales nearly doubled from November to December in 2012 – from $1150 to $2100, or about a 46% increase – all by leveraging his Instagram account and the principles of attraction marketing and engagement to reach the right people with his offers.

A recent study shows that Instagram has more engagement than other social media networks. Specifically, Instagram is now seeing 15x more engagement than Facebook and 20x more than Twitter. Thus an Instagram post is a viable social network for your marketing strategy.


I could go on and on, singing the praises of Instagram and espousing why you should embrace this social media image-sharing app.

However, there are some rookie mistakes that people are making. There are Instagram marketing tips that can help you avoid falling into the same traps. 

Let’s explore the 13 Instagram marketing mistakes you need to avoid at all costs: 

1. Lack of a goal-driven strategy

Goal: It’s one of those common business words that’s often neglected. But, goals form the foundation of your plans and strategies.


Let’s say that you attend a conference or webinar and one of the presenters advises you to set a goal first, while another says you should monetize your email list – which of these two pieces of advice would you follow?


I’m sure you’ve read enough about “goal setting.” You’d rather monetize your email list and make some money, right?

But, when it comes to Instagram marketing, not having a goal-driven strategy will result in wasted opportunities and effort. You might even give up, or conclude that Instagram or social media marketing just doesn’t work.


But, social media marketing does work. Yes, most brands use Instagram to improve their brand, but it goes beyond that. This is a powerful social media platform.

For example, whenever Warby Parker posts creative photos of their eyewear on Instagram, they generate more than 2,000 likes per post and engagement that often leads to sales as well as a loyal Instagram follower or two.


Make no mistakes about it: Your success at Instagram marketing begins with a goal-driven strategy.

Sure, you can tell your story through video clips and photographs, but don’t do it blindly. Know what you want and develop a strategy around your goal.

For example, if you want to drive more traffic to your landing page, then your photo captions must be persuasive and include a call-to-action in your copy.


On the other hand, if brand awareness is your primary focus (which means that you’re more concerned about the future of your business), you should pay more attention to your photos – you must never sacrifice quality for anything.

And, since we’re talking about developing a goal-driven strategy, one of the brands you can learn from is Quest Nutrition.

According to TOTEMS Analytics, Quest Nutrition increased its follower count by roughly 15,000 per month.

They’re effectively connecting with their audience by creating visual content that helps their followers take control of their diet and fitness plans.

Here’s one of Quest Nutrition’s 15-second video clips that sticks to their message and goal-driven marketing strategy.


2. No link in bio to drive clicks and traffic

Traffic is the lifeblood of your website. Very simple Instagram marketing tips include a link to your actual business.

A website that doesn’t generate traffic will fizzle out, sooner or later. It’s only a matter of time.

Instagram generates up to 1.2 billion likes per day and 1,000 comments per second from real people – the same people you’d like to visit your website or landing page.

You might not realize how deadly not including a link or call-to-action in your bio can be. Most Instagram users don’t even give it a thought.

Nordstrom is a good example of a brand that knows how to drive users and buyers to their store. Take a look at their bio link:


Iconosquare’s 2015 Instagram study shows that 70% of IG users report having looked up a brand on the social media platform. Plus, 62% of users follow a brand just because they like it!

You’ve got to understand that Instagram’s audience matters to brands. And, if these users like you or your brand, they’ll follow you.


However, if you don’t have a link or call-to-action in your bio, you’re lost. My buddy Anthony Carbone drives a large portion of his Instagram sales purely through his bio link.

Instagram lets you include one clickable link in your bio. So, make sure that you take full advantage of it.

To add a link to your bio, go to “Edit Profile” and type it into the “website” text box.

In Birchbox’s Instagram bio below, their link directs followers to a customer appreciation day promotion on the company’s website.


When you’re new to Instagram marketing, the first thing isn’t to post quality photos (as good as that may sound), but to update your bio with your link.

It could be a link to your website, landing page, social profile or product page. The choice is yours. The only caveat is to ensure that the link is relevant to your offers and subsequent photos.

3. Making your Instagram account private

You’ll lose a lot of followers, if you make your Instagram account private.


You can choose to make your personal profile private.  But, if it’s your business profile, it needs to be publicly accessible. After all, you want more followers to follow, like, share and recognize your brand through social media marketing.

The harsh reality is that when potential Instagram users see a private icon, they’ll likely steer clear.


And, why not? You’re basically telling them you don’t want them as an Instagram follower, by making your profile private.

A private profile means that when users follow you, they’ll have to wait until you find time to log in and approve their request.  

Also, they can’t see your new photos and other content types from your profile, until they’re approved.

If you want to double-check that your business profile isn’t set to private, go to your profile and below the profile photo, click “Edit your Profile.”


Then, scroll down and uncheck “Photos are Private.”

4. Continually posting duplicate photos

Trust me, loyal Instagram users will be quick to unfollow you, if you’re constantly posting duplicate photos and videos.

Sure, once in awhile, there might be a good reason to repost a photo or video that you’ve shared with your followers before, but don’t make this a habit.

New research found that Instagram users love to shop. Sadly, you’ll discourage many of them from purchasing your product, if your content isn’t unique or engaging.


Nobody likes duplicate content online – not users and certainly not Google.

Instagram is no different. Every Instagram follower wants to see something new.

Don’t be lazy. Instead of resharing a photo that you took while camping, take another shot while you’re working, for example.

As long as it’s relevant to your goal, you’ll be fine.

When Instagrammers follow you, they want to be entertained. And, they want to benefit from your content. You already know that sharing the same content again won’t deliver any new result or benefit. So, ditch it.

Of course, you can post selfies and use them to engage your audience. Kim Kardashian does this frequently.


But, when it gets out of hand – when you start posting the same selfies over and over again – your followers will get bored and possibly leave.

You need to strike a balance. Experiment with posting different types of content (images, photos, memes, quotes, etc.) and see which one resonates with your audience more.

Also, experiment with colors, fonts, positioning and branding.

5. Not responding to user comments promptly

Comments are a user engagement metric that Google looks out for. That’s because user engagement leads to retention, which leads to growth.


No, social media comments aren’t a ranking factor, but a post that generates a lot of comments (50 or more) signals to Google that users love it.

And, Google is passionate about content that users like, read, share and comment on. After all, nobody wastes time on generic content that doesn’t offer some kind of help.

I respond to every comment on my blogs. And, I’ll continue to do it.


When users leave a comment on your Instagram content, you’ve got a responsibility to respond promptly.

Since Instagram is good for creating brand awareness and building trust with your target audience, responding to their comments – answering questions, elaborating on your content or giving a reminder about your upcoming event – can help achieve this goal.


Remember that if you don’t reply to comments, eventually it’ll be interpreted as a sign that you really don’t care about your followers and fans. They’ll take their Instagram account – and all its social media marketing juice – elsewhere where they get some love back.

Therefore, make it a point to always respond to comments. I know you’re busy (every digital marketer is), but don’t let that flimsy excuse affect your relationship with your Instagram followers – especially those who always comment on your content.

To ensure that your followers get your replies, just “@” tag their Instagram handle in all replies.

Once you do that, they’ll get a notification. This will bring them back to your profile and further cement your social network relationship with them.

6. Focusing on quantity, not quality

Instagram is a unique image-sharing app. Just by studying top brands and how they get followers, you can learn a lot about Instagram marketing.

For example, one of the lessons I learned, after I generated $332,640 in 3 months from Instagram, was to focus on the quality of my photos and videos and not on quantity.


MAC Cosmetics increased its Instagram follower count by roughly 231,000 per month.

A single Instagram post that’s helpful and inspiring can generate up to 34,000 likes and over 300 comments, on average.

Quality matters.

Of course, if you can post often, without sacrificing quality, then you’ll get better results. On average, MAC Cosmetics posts to Instagram 4.54x per day and the photos and videos are always top quality.

In fact, on March 5, 2015, the brand posted 8 quality photos and garnered 33,000 likes within a short time. Again, the brand has made quality their watchword. Take a look at one of their photos:


Whether it’s video clips or photos that you want to share on Instagram, make sure that you consistently put quality first.

7. Misuse of hashtags

Trust me, you can misuse hashtags on Instagram, the same way brands and marketers misuse hashtags on Twitter and Facebook.

Creating and promoting hashtags is part of the goal-driven strategy that we talked about, because it can help build brand awareness. But, make sure to abide by a few simple rules, when creating or using hashtags.


The truth is, most brands are confused, when it comes to the optimal number of hashtags a post should have.

In the Ultimate Guide To Hashtags, you’ll discover that posts with 11 or more tags receive nearly 80% interaction, compared to posts that contain just 2 hashtags (41% interaction).

Note: Instagram allows up to 30 hashtags per post.


There are more research studies supporting this data.

For one, AgoraPulse conducted a study and found a correlation between hashtags and engagement in the form of comments and likes.


Although Instagram allows up to 30 hashtags per post, I don’t recommend that you use that many for each image or video. It can overload your marketing strategy performance factors.

You want to be relevant and engage the right users. You’re not obsessed with vanity metrics that won’t impact your brand. You’ll likely lose credibility if all of your posts are crammed full of hashtags.

It’s really important to use hashtags for what they’re meant for and not to manipulate users or the Instagram algorithm.


Instagram is a platform that’s built on authenticity and quality, so don’t allow hashtags to obscure your vision of helping your loyal followers achieve their goals.

GoPro is a brand that understands how to use hashtags, not only to their benefit, but to help their users find what they’re looking for.

As the creator of the “world’s most cherished camera,” used by athletes, photographers, and event planners, GoPro gains followers on Instagram at a rate of approximately 221k per month.

With 8.9 million followers on Instagram already, and still counting, GoPro utilizes multiple hashtags, all of which are relevant to the photo.



Instagram is here to stay. So leverage its power to grow your followers, generate traffic to your website and build a loyal audience that’ll trust you.

I’ve only listed 7 Instagram marketing mistakes, but there are others, such as:

  • Posting pictures that aren’t properly sized
  • Posting content at the wrong time
  • Omitting a call-to-action from your copy
  • Purchasing followers or engagement
  • Being overly promotional
  • Not posting videos

Don’t be overwhelmed by these mistakes. All you need to do is double-check if you’ve fallen prey to any of these. Then, if so, fix them immediately.

As usual, I would love to hear from you. What do you use Instagram for: to drive traffic to your site, build your brand, or some other goal?

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