Since I run the MadeFreshly Instagram account, I’m active everyday checking out the feeds of small businesses, handmade brands, and indie-preneur’s trying to grow their businesses.

And every day I cringe at the simple tweaks they could be making to their Instagram accounts that would just open the floodgates for growth and engagement.

Being a fairly new platform on the marketing scene, there are a lot of businesses not sure why their posts aren’t getting them more followers and engagement that translates into sales.

So how can you make sure you’re using this viral social media platform to it’s fullest marketing potential?

Well, we’ve managed to grow the MadeFreshly Instagram account from 1,200 followers, to almost 10,000 in just 6 months. That’s an average of 375 new followers every month.

You can have that same kind of serious growth too.

Not tooting our own horn here, but since we’ve mastered it, I wanted to share my best tips with you to grow your audience.

It all comes down to crafting the Perfect Instagram Post: - Tweet This!

instagram_graphic

PerfectInstagramPost_Graphic-01

Moral of the Story: If You’re Posting Just to Post, You’re Hurting Your Business. -Tweet This!

So I’ve compiled a list here of every single mistake I’ve seen on Instagram and how to fix them so that you won’t be one of those cringe-worthy accounts.

Are you guilty of any of these mistakes?…

1. There’s No Link in Bio to Drive Traffic

Of all the mistakes you can make as a brand on IG, not including a link in your bio is one of, if not THE HUGEST. Instagram gives you a whole space dedicated for a hyperlink (that means people can click it) so USE IT! Link to your store or a particular product page if you’re running a sale for example.

The easier you make it for followers to find your store, the more traffic you will get.

MF_insta_bio_link

2. There’s No Description in Your Bio – Or It Just Sucks

What defines a sucky bio description?

  • boring
  • all about you
  • only about your products

What’s even worse? NOT HAVING ONE AT ALL. It makes you look unprofessional.

What defines an epic bio description?

  • describes the “why” or mission/philosophy behind your products
  • concisely describes what you do/sell

Here’s three steps to learn how to craft the perfect social media bio.

3. Crappy Resolution Photos Are Scaring Away Potential Customers

Think of it this way… the higher the resolution, the higher your level of professionality. Or at least that’s how it looks on IG. So take advantage of that. No matter how big your brand is, you should look totes professional if you want sales.

Here’s a lil trick. Make the resolution of your photo 2x the recommended size so when it gets compressed it still looks fab.

So for IG, your images should be 1280px by 1280 px.

4. Your Photos Aren’t Sized Right

If your images aren’t the right size (or shape – they should be square!) then your awesome products get cropped funny and important stuff gets cut out.

So make sure 1. your images are 1280px by 1280px and 2. keep the square orientation in mind when taking your photos.

If you have non-square images that you don’t want to crop, you can use an app like Instasize (for iPhone) (for Android) to properly size them for Instagram.

instasize

5. Terrible Lighting is Downgrading Your Image

And when I say ‘image” here, I mean literally your photo, and also the look of your brand. Good lighting is the difference between looking like a tween taking crappy cell-phone pics and a pro shooting for Anthropologie catalogs. Let’s make sure you’re the second ;)

Try out this $12 studio-quality lighting set up (it involves aluminum foil and a cardboard box).

6. Where the Ever-Important Lifestyle Photos At?! 

Like mentioned before, it’s not enough to just have product photos. Those are good for focusing on product details, but you ALSO need lifestyle photos showing your products in use. Why? Because they give context and your customers will be able to imagine themselves using your products! If they can’t imagine themselves using them, there’s no way they will spend their moolah on them.

greydiem_lifestyle

7. All Your Posts Look Exactly the Same

I see a lot of newbie feeds that are just photo after photo of basically the same thing. You have to think about how your feed looks as a whole, not just as individual pictures showing up in your followers’ feeds. You have to keep things interesting or your followers will have no reason to keep following you.

It’s okay if your products all look similar, or if you only offer one kind of product. Your job is to make things more visually interesting by mixing up your posts.

  • Photograph your products with different backgrounds.
  • Add lifestyle photos.
  • Incorporate other content that’s relevant to your audience (not necessarily product photos).

8. You’re Posting Inconsistently

I see a lot of people who are too sporadic with their posting habits. The most common thing I see is that someone will be super active and post 3x per day for a week, and then drop off the face of the Earth for a month. You can’t do this! Your followers need to know what to expect from you!

So being consistent it key. 1-2 posts per day is solid… as long as you do it every day!

9. You’re Posting At All the Wrong Times

It’s super simple.Don’t post when your people aren’t on Instagram! Post when they ARE. (PST, there is no one BEST time to post. It varies from business to business, from audience to audience).

If you aren’t sure when your audience is most active, test out some different times of day. Then use Iconosquare to view your statistics. It will show you which posts did the best, and when your optimal times are for posting.

times_to_post

10. Less-than Engaging Copy Isn’t Strengthening Your Images

The copy you write in your descriptions is the 2nd most important thing to your post behind your images (it’s in our DNA to process images 60,000x faster than text). Your copy should supplement your image and back it up with any relevant and important info you can’t include in your images.

If more engagement is what you’re looking for, then try asking a question. But make sure you ask a DIRECT question, not an open-ended question. If the answer is in the question, you’ll get way more answers from your peeps.

Direct Question = Would you buy blue or black?

Open-ended Question = What do you think?

11. Your Copy is Waaaaaaaaay Too Long & Distracting

I was checking out someone’s feed one time and clicked on a super cute photo (‘cause I mean, it was super cute) but the second I had to scroll to read the novel-length description I immediately clicked away. I can’t even tell you what the image was for… I was too turned off by the hella-long “omg this project was so special to me” speech written under it.

Your post descriptions are not meant to be long! Keep them as short as you can while still offering the essential information and a little bit of pizazz… or you’ll lose people just like that.

Rule of Thumb: Don’t make your peeps have to scroll to read!

12. There Ain’t No Call-to-Action in Your Copy

IF you want your followers to do something, you’re gonna have to flat out tell them. Even if it seems overly-obvious to you… it may not be to everyone. So don’t let potential customers fall through the cracks by not directing them.

If you want them to visit your store, say “Click the link in bio to shop this look!”.

CTA_insta

13. Being Too Salesy & Killing the Fun, Social (and Beneficial) Part of Instagram Marketing

The number one turn off for potential followers is directly asking them to follow you or buy when you’re personally engaging. Whatever you do, DO NOT EVER respond to comments with:

  • “Follow me, I’ll follow back!”
  • “Buy it in my Etsy store here…”
  • “It’d be great if you could shout me out!”

Car salesmen have the rep of being obnoxious for a reason. People love to buy, but they hate being sold. It’s okay to use a Call-to-Action as mentioned in Tip 12 if your post is promoting a product (you need to give them enough info so they CAN buy if they choose to) but when you’re engaging in comments, you should keep things lighter and more personable.

14. Not Using Hashtags for Exposure

Instagram posts with 11+ hashtags get the most interaction. That’s because they don’t just get buried under your more recent posts, but are archived in the hashtag group they are tagged in where people can find them forever.

Let’s say you tag your photo with #inspiration. If anyone clicks on any #inspiration hashtag or searches #inspiration, your photo will show up with any others that also use the hashtag. Like this:

Do some hashtag research on Iconosquare to find the relevant ones to your audience and post 4-5 as a comment on your posts. After 30 minutes, delete that comment and write a new one with 4-5 new relevant hashtags. This way you get the exposure of lots of hashtags without looking spammy.

hashtags_use

15. Irrelevant Content Turns Away the Right Audience

Always, ALWAYS post content for your audience and no one else. No matter how much you love that hilarious llama picture, if it has nothing to do with your audience then JUST SAY NO.

If you post the content your target audience wants to see, those are the kinds of people that will follow you – not just llama lovers. And when you build a strong, relevant audience, that’s when you can convert them to CU$TOMER$.

If you aren’t sure who your target audience is, use this template to create some buyer personas and you’ll have the perfect idea of the right content to post.

16. You’re Running Contests When You Don’t Have an Audience Yet

Instagram contests are a great way to boost engagement and excitement about your products but, I’m just gonna be honest with you… if you only have 80 followers, a contest isn’t going to do you any good right now.

The last thing you want is to run a contest and get more cricket chirps than entries… it will make your feed look kinda sad. So right now, focus on growing your Instagram audience before you try running a contest, and then hit it hard when you have the right audience!

contest_ex

17. Expecting Followers to Just Come to You

Unless you already have a well-known, highly searched brand, then chances are your Instagram account won’t just be found by potential followers. It’s up to you to bring them to you. How do you do that? You find them first!

  • Use the hashtags your followers use because then your images will be categorized with the photos they are already posting and looking at… TA DA they can find you there. Use Iconosquare to do some hashtag research.
  • Search those hashtags and comment on the people that use them (theoretically these should be your target audience). Write nice comments, “Diggin’ this photo!”, etc. They will appreciate the fact that you found them and took the time to engage with them… and that appreciation often translates to followers.

18. Your Incohesive Look Makes Your Brand Unrecognizable

When you think about bigger brands like Nike, Anthropologie, Urban Outfitters, you imagine a certain look and vibe, and that’s a huge part of how you recognize them. The reason they are recognizable is because they have a cohesive look. You need your brand to be recognizable, and be considered as professional as the bigger brands – so you need a cohesive look for your Instagram.

Iterate Social has an awesome free downloadable Instagram Style Guide with 6 key things to consider when creating your cohesive look.

iterate

19. Why Are There Selfies?! It’s NOT About You

No joke, I’ve seen way too many brand feeds with selfies. If that’s you… please stop! It’s one thing if you’re Marie Forleo and have built a brand around your persona (because then your face on your Instagram makes sense) but if you are a product based business, selfies really have no place here.

Remember, ALL your content is about your AUDIENCE, not you.

20. Following Way More People Than Follow You

Some people think that if you follow someone, they’ll follow you back. That’d be great, but it’s really not the case. So if you are following 5,000 people and only have 500 followers, that makes you look bad. You want to look credible, and your followers let others know that they go to YOU for your content… not the other way around.

21. You’re Not Using Geo-tags for an Engagement Boost!

A cool option each of your posts has is to include a geo-location tag, basically to tell your followers where you are posting from. Posts using a geo-tag get 79% more engagement. This is PERFECT ammo for anyone that goes to events.

Say you’re at Renegade in Los Angeles… geo-tag that shizz! Let everyone know exactly where you are. Or if you’re at a networking event, geo-tag your post and other cool people you’d like to meet will see where you’ll be.

geotag_insta

Post With These Things in Mind and You’ll Be an Instagram Marketing Master- Tweet This!

Whatever you do, don’t post blindly.

If you keep these mistakes in mind and avoid them at all costs, your posts will be primed for growing exposure, more followers, and increased sales!

Comment below with 1 mistake you’re fixing first!

Blogpost_Form_HeaderRach

Rachel Daley
Rachel is the resident Content Fairy at MadeFreshly, the ecommerce platform that makes your passion pay off. Click here to get her actionable tips and inspiration for entrepreneurs every week!