When it comes to social media, Instagram is one of the hottest platforms out there, and with good reason. If you want to build or strengthen your presence on the platform, here are six marketing mistakes to avoid while you build your strategy.

1. Using stock photography.

This is a particularly easy thing for lifestyle influencers to use to try to grow faster to get more Instagram followers. While it sounds good at first, the reality is it makes you look like an amateur. The basis of your Instagram account is your real life, even if you do glamorize it and edit it a bit. Stock photography is rarely any kind of indication of what life is really like.

And as a business, stock photography does have its place on your website and in print materials, but not on Instagram. Your audience values authenticity, which you won’t find in stock photography – especially if you are one of thousands of brands using it.

Thankfully, the bar for original social media photography is fairly low, so as long as you have access to a smartphone you can create decent images quickly, without breaking the bank. Taking your own photos with a smartphone will definitely be cheaper than investing in stock photography anyway.

2. Not posting on a consistent schedule.

Posting on a consistent schedule builds trust with your audience. When your following is engaged, they know when to expect new content from you. Many will look for it beyond what shows up in their feed.

Even if it’s just one post a day, whatever you start with, stick with it. Don’t start with three a day, go to one a day, then take a week off, then spam everyone’s feeds with six or more posts. If you do this, you’ll see a decline in your following, more than likely after the spam posts you do to conclude your extended hiatus.

If you need some guidance on the best times to post, take a look at your Instagram Analytics to see when the majority of your engagement takes place. Then, post your content around that time so you know your followers are likely online and ready to engage with it.

You can use a social media planning tool to not only map out your content ahead of time, but even to schedule it to post so that you’re never left wondering what to post and when, or caught without content ready to go.

3. Using bad hashtags.

The more popular a hashtag is, the more people will search for it, and the more people will see your content, and the more followers you’ll get, right? Wrong.

The more popular a hashtag is, the more posts it gets, meaning your photo will only be visible for seconds before it’s pushed out the way to make room for new content that uses it. Plus, you should keep the hashtags relevant to the content and your audience – not just using something because it’s the popular option.

Take time to keep your hashtags varied, because if you’re using the same ones over and over with each post, you’re never exposing your content to new audiences. Relevant hashtags keep you in the recent posts section for longer, increasing the chances you’ll reach an actually targeted audience.

4. Not proofreading your copy.

Even though Instagram is a predominately visual platform, that doesn’t mean you can completely ignore your copy. It should be well written, and tell a story about the image you’re sharing.

It should include a call to action and direct your followers to do something – even if it’s as simple as liking or commenting.

If you don’t take the time to proofread, you could have a profile riddled with errors, which harms your credibility with your audience.

5. Not engaging with your audience.

Without engagement, you’ve got nothing. You can have millions of followers, but if they aren’t liking, commenting, and sharing your stuff, then they aren’t paying attention to what you have to say. You must take the time to engage with them, encouraging them to like and comment, then taking the time to thank them for their effort.

That’s how you build connections, and that’s how those connections eventually become customers. If people are asking questions, take the time to answer them. If people notice their comments are falling on deaf ears, they’ll just stop engaging you.

6. Not following your followers.

When people decide to follow you, make sure you follow them back at least. You do not have to comment or interact with them on their personal account, but taking the time to follow them gives you the chance to get to know them better so you can find out what interests them. You can use the information to get their attention and better meet their needs.

While there are plenty of other marketing mistakes you can make on Instagram and other social media platforms, avoiding these six will surely set you up for success.

By taking the time to create your own quality original photos, researching hashtags that are relevant to your product and audience, engaging with your audience, following them to learn more about them and show you appreciate them following you, and posting consistently, you will be will on your way to Instagram domination.

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