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7 Biggest Instagram Mistakes to Avoid (and What to Do Instead)

I have been using Instagram since 2015. Here are some BIG Instagram mistakes I personally have made plus others make ’till this day!

If you want your Instagram account to grow and your followers to be engaged, then there are a few Instagram mistakes that you must avoid.

Overall, Instagram is a beautiful place – you can watch stories about people you like (or about celebrities you love) and you can see content from all around the world, garnered to what you enjoy.

In turn, this is what helps both brands and influencers grow their accounts!

But with the Instagram algorithm, it can be a tricky platform to master. You have to do the right things and you want to avoid the wrong things.

If you’re growing your account by:

  • engaging with customers or fans,
  • having wonderfully edited photos or videos that highlight your content or products/services
  • and creating stories or videos that depict the coolest aspects of your life or business,

you definitely want to avoid making Instagram mistakes that could counteract your hard earned effort.

In this article, we’re going to break down some of the BIGGEST Instagram mistakes you can make and how to avoid them.

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3 Biggest Instagram Mistakes to Avoid for Gaining Followers

Artificially growing your account is definitely one of the biggest Instagram mistakes you can make, especially if you want to become a full-time influencer on Instagram.

Yes, using these three methods will help your follower count to grow BUT you will eventually get ghost followers– followers who don’t engage with you.

With followers who don’t engage with you, Instagram will think that people are not interested in your content, which will dramatically decrease your reach.

If your reach decreases, then the people who need to see your content such as your core audience/community or prospective customer won’t see your posts. This defeats the point of having an Instagram at all.

As a result, the first three of the seven mistakes to avoid are all about what you should NOT do to gain followers quickly.

1. Using Outside (Third-Party) Application To Get More Followers

They say to fake it before you make it right? In Instagram’s case – you shouldn’t make it at all if you fake it. Let me explain.

Instagram has designed its algorithm and software to detect (and remove) fake followers and activity from the platform. What does that mean for you and other businesses? Well – you can no longer skip the growing pains that come with starting a new Instagram account, and you will have to do everything organically from now on.

Instagram wants to be more authentic, and you should too! Having fake followers or using third-party apps to get more followers to “appear” more authentic will simply lead to Instagram shadowbanning you or hurting your engagement.

You don’t need to worry (or spend money) to get more followers – all you need to do is have captivating content and posts, and with enough time, you’ll get where you need to be.

So…avoid using third-party applications to get new followers, end of story!

2. Playing the Follow/Unfollow Game

Continuing on with not faking it until you make it…do not play the follow/unfollow game.

Following/unfollowing is when you follow people just to get a follow back. Then you unfollow them when you have followed you.

This tactic might’ve worked back in the day (let’s say 2015 and earlier) when Instagram didn’t crack down so much on inorganic methods, but now it doesn’t work well.

Plus, from personal experience (yes, I used this method back in 2015; yes I can attest that it ends horribly for your engagement and yes I am writing this post so you can avoid Instagram mistakes I personally made), most people who blindly follow you back tend to do it just because you followed them and are looking to gain followers too.

The people you want to follow you are the ones who are going to engage with you and increase the reach of your posts; NOT people who follow you simply because you followed them and probably will unfollow you when you unfollow them anyways.

3. Growing With Giveaways

Last method of growing followers quickly, which you should absolutely avoid, is through giveaways (for the most part).

I tested out growing with a handful of giveaways back in 2018 and again, just like doing the follow/unfollow game back in 2015, it hurt the engagement on my account. However, I have seen my friend do giveaways and it help her account!

Here’s why you should avoid giveaways.

  1. First off, the people who follow you from a giveaway do not care about your content. They care about the iPhone or trip they might win. They’ll most likely unfollow you after the giveaway is over.
  2. The giveaway followers that do stick around and don’t unfollow you probably won’t see your posts if they have never engaged with you. This will create ghost followers and hurt your engagement.
  3. Some people who join giveaways create second accounts simply for giveaways. These for sure will result in ghost followers.
  4. Giveaways can be expensive!
  5. Giveaways can target the wrong audience and result in you having a different audience than what you wanted to build.
  6. The fall off from a giveaway will show that you have a negative loss, which will signal to Instagram to limit the reach on your posts.

There are so many reasons on why growing with giveaways is such a big mistake to make on Instagram but if you really feel compelled to do giveaways, here are some tips from my friend for choosing a good one:

  1. Don’t participate in giveaways that promises massive growth. In fact, small growth will help manage the wide swings in follower count that comes with giveaways.
  2. Make sure you check the niche and stats of those sponsoring the giveaway. If their niche and audience location doesn’t match yours, don’t join. You want followers who will like your content and stick around.

If you’ve made any of these Instagram mistakes above, you can learn how to remove ghost followers from Instagram here.

Removing ghost followers will help increase your engagement, which helps your posts get seen on the Explore page and hashtag pages and ultimately get you more followers organically.

3 Instagram Mistakes to Avoid for the Algorithm

The Instagram algorithm is a fickle one so we need to post and use its features properly in a certain way to train the algorithm to:

  • understand what our account is about
  • and show it the right people we want as part of our core audience.

Here are Instagram mistakes to avoid if you want to make the algorithm happy!

4. Not Niching Down

If you’re looking to grow quickly, it’s true what they say- niche down.

Niche accounts grow faster than lifestyle accounts, and although yes, you can grow with lifestyle accounts, it is definitely “easier” with a niche.

I learned this the hard way as I started out with the travel niche but branched out into lifestyle too quickly.

My best advice is to start out with a niche until you built a core community and then slowly add in other topics that you want to post about.

The reason that niching down is super helpful is because it signals to the Instagram algorithm what your account is about.

The more easily the algorithm can learn what your account is about, the better it can show it to the people who want to see it!

5. Not Posting Enough or Posting WAY Too Much

Instagram is much like life (sort of…) and in life, we must always find balance within whatever we do. The very same can be said of posting on Instagram.

You see – there is a very fine line to posting content on your Instagram page. Post too much and you can effectively drown out your audience because:

  1. They see your posts way too often so they unfollow because your posts are getting annoying.
  2. The quality of your posts start to decline because you post too frequently.

Alternatively, not posting enough can lead to:

  1. Losing followers and engagement because there is no new content to consume.
  2. Followers and potential followers lose interest because you don’t post enough, and then they unfollow you.
  3. Most importantly, less opportunity for the algorithm to learn what your account is about.

Here are a couple of things you can do to remedy posting too much, or too little:

  • Prepare posts ahead of time (you don’t need to plan out months ahead, but a couple of weeks in advance will help with your engagement and your work-life balance.)
  • Use Instagram Analytics to see when your audience consumes content, and plan accordingly.
  • Post once during the weekend, and only 3 times a week (the golden rule of content sharing on Instagram.)

So… avoid posting way too much, and avoid posting way too little. It’s all about hitting that sweet spot to entertain your audience and help the algorithm understand what your account is about.

6. Using Too Many Hashtags

In 2021, Instagram announced that you should only be using 3-5 hashtags!

WHAT? 3-5? What happened to using all 30?

Although, many of us have ignored this 3-5 hashtag guideline, it does tell us one really important thing– use highly relevant hashtags.

If you use too many hashtags that are not relevant to the photo, Instagram will not understand what your photo is about and won’t show it to the right people.

This includes using hashtags that aren’t as widely used such as #fashion. Instead use hashtags that are niched down like #petitefashion.

Need help finding the right hashtags for your account size? I use Flick.

Worst Instagram Mistake to Make in 2021 and 2022

If there’s one thing to help you grow the most with the latest Instagram algorithm, it’s Reels!

As a result, if you don’t use Reels, you are seriously missing out on viral growth potential.

7. Not Making The Most Out of “Reels”

While Reels may seem challenging to use and learn, they can greatly expand the amount of content you can create, while also giving more value to your brand with short, bite-sized videos.

The best part about Reels is that you can use them as another way to set yourself apart from your competitors, or other content creators that don’t already use them.

On top of all that, they’re easier to share and easier to view, and they won’t vanish as your stories will after 24 hours.

They can also help with brand awareness too, as more potential followers can find them on their explore pages, leading to more engagement.

Because Reels are fairly new, Instagram wants more users to use this feature as well – and you will be surely rewarded for it. 

How to Grow Quickly on Instagram in 2021 and 2022

The best way to grow quickly on Instagram in 2021 and 2022 is to post high quality Reels.

I’ve seen my own friends grow 30,000 to 200,000 followers since Reels came out!

Here are some ways you can use Reels to capture more followers and more engagement for your page:

Showcasing New Products

  • Many users don’t like to watch long videos on Instagram about products (especially newer viewers) so use reels to talk about the benefits of your products, or how they work! Providing quick, detailed information about your stuff will give you a better chance to wow them, while also providing them an easier way to share with friends and family.

Providing Helpful Tips and Tricks

  • If you provide value in showing people how to do things, such as arts and crafts, showing them simple techniques or creating How To’s are an easy way to get new followers, while also providing value from your brand. It’s quick, easy, and makes you a source of knowledge for new or old followers.

Use Trending Songs For A Chance To Go Viral!

  • With Reels, there’s always a trending song, dance, or meme you can use to get on the explore page. The funnier or more captivating you really are, the bigger the chance you will have to go viral!

Psst… as an added bonus, you can make Reels and then save them to post on TikTok or vice versa!

So… avoid staying out of date with all of Instagram’s features, and use Reels to your advantage!

In conclusion…

Out of all the Instagram mistakes to avoid, definitely don’t use third-party applications, outdated methods and giveaways to get followers. Doing things the holistic way is far better.

Instead, create a schedule and plan out high-quality content to grow your account organically, especially with Reels.

By utilizing these tips, your Instagram page will not only grow but so will your brand.

Want to learn more? You can find more helpful blog posts here, get consistent page views to your blog with my SEO course, or follow me on social media to get daily tips:

Until next time,
Sarah Chetrit

Grow your blog the smart way with my SEO course here.

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