3 Instagram Mistakes to Avoid in 2021

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Growing on Instagram hasn't been very easy in the past few years. In fact, it is getting harder and harder to attract followers

And growing isn't going to be easier in 2021. We can pretty safely assume that it will be more challenging than ever.

It may be tempting to blame it on the algorithm. It's been almost everyone's favourite thing to do for the past four years. But the truth is, the algorithm is quite simple: it's here to provide the right content to the right people. It's not some evil program that's here to reduce your reach and push you to pay for ads.

Instead, it could be because most people aren't focusing on what truly matters. In fact, after spending the past two years helping businesses and entrepreneurs grow on Instagram, I feel I’ve been able to identify three common mistakes that most people are making on the platform.

In the following article, I will tell you what these three mistakes are - and how you can best avoid making them this year.

Instagram mistake #1: Posting (and waiting)

There was a time during Instagram's existence when posting ‘now and then’, and using a few hashtags was enough to drive new people to your account.

This isn't the case anymore.

The competition on Instagram is fiercer than ever. There is much more content out there than there is demand for it. This means that the quality of the content you post should be high, but you should also make sure that it's as ‘discoverable’ as possible.

People need to be able to find your account - one way or another. But they won't magically land on your profile because of your two posts per week and your five randomly-chosen hashtags…

It's not that frequency of posting and hashtags isn't important. It does matter. But they can't be the only thing you do if you want to grow on Instagram and build a loyal audience.

You should also look at how you can:

  • Engage with other people in your niche
  • Find accounts that share similar content
  • Identify the biggest fans of your competitors
  • Go in the comments and interact with them
  • Be a conversation starter
  • Provide valuable inputs to people in your niche

By being part of the conversation, you’ll drive more attention towards your brand and your account. This will help your content and account to become more discoverable.

Most importantly, do it through your own manual efforts. It may seem tempting to use a bot to automatically follow accounts within your niche, comment on their content and like their posts. But these bots won't work long term, and Instagram can identify bots far quicker these days (and they’re likely to penalise your account as a result).

So, keep it organic and sincere. Relationships can help your brand be more discoverable, but they can’t be automated.

Instagram mistake #2: Being too self-absorbed

Instagram is all about showing who you are. It's the most ‘egotistical’ social media out there. We get exposed to perfect pictures, perfect lives, perfect lighting, perfect models, perfect landscapes, and perfect products. Everything that’s popular on the platform has been highly curated, retouched, enhanced, and polished. People are obsessed with their image and their content.

This Instagram culture pushes people to publish highly personal content. They want to link their self-image with this perfect lifestyle and visual representation they are conveying. This can result in a high proportion of accounts talking only about themselves.

This is a significant mistake to make if you are trying to build a community. Your audience will appreciate it more if you talk about them, their problems, their beliefs, their desires. If you started a business in the first place, it was ultimately to solve someone's problem(s.) - so this is what you should be creating content about on your social media.

Talking about your product's different features over and over, showing how great/well known your brand is and so forth will bore your audience and prevent them from truly ‘connecting’ with you. Instead your Instagram channel should trigger discussion, exchanges and create a community around you, your products/services, and your fans.

A relatively simple way to correct that is to use ‘I’ less, and ‘you’ more often. This will change your perspective when you’re writing your captions, and force you to include your audience in your communication.

You could also try asking questions and asking for your audience's opinions. This will encourage your audience to respond to you through comments, and maybe even engage in a bit of a discussion about something with you.

Instagram mistake #3: Being too pushy

Monetising an Instagram account has been a priority for lots of businesses over the past few years, and recent changes in the platform's interface are encouraging e-commerce sites to list their products. However, at the heart of it all, Instagram remains a social media site. It isn't an e-commerce platform just yet.

Many brands and businesses are making the mistake of monetising too early or treating Instagram as an alternative retail site. The thing is, the platform is made to build a community around your product.

Sales will come through community building and relationships.

So, use Instagram to answer questions, build trust, gather a community of people sharing the same interests, start conversations. Use your website and social media ads and marketing campaigns to convert this loyal audience into paying customers.

The interface itself isn't helping businesses and brands to make sales on the content you post. This is why the only universal location for a clickable link on Instagram is the link you can add to your bio. If your account is big enough (i.e. you have more than 10,000 followers) you will have the swipe up feature on your stories and the ability to add a link there too - and you could experiment with that tactic. But, they usually don't convert well into product sales.

Work on your content and your tone. Try being more inclusive, more of a listener than a talker. Let your audience do the talking for you. Once you figure out what your audience wants, you will have close to unlimited inspiration for your future content.

To grow on Instagram in 2021 - build relationships

Hacks and tricks aren't working as well as they used to. The ‘follow-unfollow’ method is practically dead, engagement groups don't work anymore at all, the bots watching thousands of stories per day are blocked. Now, to grow on Instagram, you have to play by the rules.

And what better way to do what Instagram has been trying to do since it was launched than building relationships and partnering with others?

One of the best ways to grow an audience on Instagram nowadays is to partner with similar accounts and create content together.

To do that, find a few other creators that have similar audience sizes than yours. Send them a direct message on Instagram, asking if they'd like to collaborate. Then, all you have to do is find ways to promote the other's content on your page, and vice-versa.

You could do giveaways together, guest Instagram posts, run an influencer campaign...

These partnerships and relationships will go a long way. Focus on your content, provide as much value as you can, and followers will start following you.

I know this strategy doesn't sound sexy. You would probably have preferred a simple hack to follow and get hundreds of followers per day. But unfortunately, such methods don't exist, and partnering with other accounts and putting in the legwork needed is really the best and quickest way to build an audience (and eventually monetise your Instagram account).

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