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  • Writer's pictureElton Cilliers

Top 9 common mistakes on Instagram

Updated: Apr 7, 2021

9 common Instagram mistakes. Social media. Social media tips. Instagram tips. Small business tips. Small business owner. Instagram for business. Instagram for business owners. Business mentor. Social media manager. Cambridge. Haverhill.

In this post I'll explore 9 common mistakes I notice small business owners making on Instagram.

Remember, as a small business owner your main objective with any content you put it is to generate sales/leads. To do this, you want as many eyes on your content as possible. The more people that see your content, the more chance you are at creating an inbound lead.

So with that in mind, let's explore 9 common mistakes made by small business owners on Instagram. Whilst this post focusses primarily on Instagram, some of these mistakes can apply to other social media platforms also.

Consistency is key!

A lot of people worry themselves with questions like, "How often should I post to Instagram?" or "When is the best time to post to Instagram" etc.

And whilst those questions are absolutely valid of course, the main thing with any social media account or any online presence you have, is consistency.

Whether you decided to post 3 times a day, once a day, every other day or once a week, the main thing is to be consistent in that.

I see so many accounts that do not seem to have any rhyme or reason when it comes to posting on Instagram.

They will go days, sometimes weeks without posting. Then suddenly they will drop 5 posts in an hour (more on that below).

If you are a small business owner, and you are looking to grow your brand on Instagram then creating a plan that will mean you post consistently is crucial to your growth.

If you simply do not have the time to write and post content on a regular basis yourself, and if finances allow it, perhaps consider getting a social media manager to work with.

If finances don't allow, figure out how much time you can dedicate to creating content and posting to your social media accounts. Something is better than nothing. But again, consistency is absolutely key!

Start as you plan to continue. Your followers will become accustomed to how often you post.

Flooding your feed

Flooding social media. Flooding Instagram. Social media. Social media tips. Instagram tips. Small business tips. Small business owner. Instagram for business. Instagram for business owners. Business mentor. Social media manager. Cambridge. Haverhill.

Another common thing I notice on Instagram are accounts that will post several posts in very short succession. Like 3-5 posts minutes apart.

The problem with this is that you can be affecting your own reach!

Reach and engagement are the two main reasons a business uses social media. Even though a lot seem to be obsessed with vanity metrics like how many followers they have.

Why is engagement important on your content? Because it is the engagement on your content that determines how much reach it gets.

What is engagement? It's any action that is taken on your content. This could be someone liking the post, commenting on the post, saving or resharing the post or visiting your profile after seeing the post.

The more engagement you get on your post the more reach Instagram will give it.

What is reach Elton!? Reach is the number of people your post is shown to. Obviously, as a content creator, you want as many people as possible to see your post right? Otherwise, what's the point of spending the time creating an image, coming up with the caption/text for it and posting it?

By flooding your feed/followers you thereby can limit the reach of your own posts by making it less likely that your followers will engage on your posts if they see 3, 4, 5 or more posts in quick succession from you whilst scrolling through Instagram.

It really is not a clever tactic and it certainly isn't going to increase your reach or following.

Instead, space the posts out over the day. Leave a few hours between each post.

And remember mistake 1 above, be consistent and not spammy.

Not engaging with your audience

Social media is a give and take relationship. As a small business owner, you have to put serious efforts into raising brand awareness, growing your audience and getting leads/sales through your social media accounts. That's why you post on Instagram as a business owner right? To get more leads or sales?

Engaging with your audience is absolutely crucial in raising brand awareness.

I see so many accounts that simply post a picture and a bunch of hashtags. There's no value in that image to your audience, unless perhaps you're a photographer and people follow you for your images.

Remember, engagement on your content is your aim when you post anything to social media. Especially so for those new start-up businesses. So to encourage engagement, you have to provide engagement as well as ask for it.

When you post something, always include a call to action in your post. That doesn't necessarily mean a salesy type of call to action. Invite your audience to provide their opinion on something. Start your post with a question. It can be related to your industry or something a little more personal, like what their favourite book is.

The key is to always invite your audience to engage with you.

But back to my initial point, social media is a give and take relationship. You need to put time into engaging with your audience also. Follow accounts back that are within your niche or can find inspiration from. Engage on their posts with likes, a comment, or if you find it truly useful, save or share their content. React to their stories. Comment on their IGTV or Reels content.

By engaging with your audience and those you follow will encourage them to reciprocate in kind. And more engagement means? More reach. Which means more eyes on your content. Which means increased brand awareness.

Not responding to comments

Remember, your ultimate goal on social media is reach and sales. The more reach, the more eyes, the more possibility of leads.

Hopefully, by now you're getting the idea that engagement is important yes? And yet, I see so many accounts that do not respond to comments they get.

Even the largest organisations in the world have teams of social media managers whose entire role is to respond to comments made on the companies content.

"But Elton, I don't have a team!".

Neither am I. However, if you are looking to build fans out of your audience, you can't be a drop and run type account. You know, those accounts that post something but are never heard from again until their next post? Despite the several comments on their content?

You wouldn't walk into a networking event, ask a bunch of people a question, turn around and walk out before anyone has said a word, would you?

If you do not respond to comments on your content, the very thing that you hope for, then people will not continue to engage with your content. You will see, despite your content quality you are just not getting the engagement you would hope for.

If someone takes the time to comment on your posts, have the courtesy to respond and your brand will be recognised as being engaging! Not many small businesses are. So set yourself aside. Be a brand your audience enjoys engaging with.

Cold pitching doesn't work

Cold pitching doesn't work. Cold pitching. Cold sales. Social media. Social media tips. Instagram tips. Small business tips. Small business owner. Instagram for business. Instagram for business owners. Business mentor. Social media manager. Cambridge. Haverhill.

One of my personal pet peeves on Instagram, and all the other social media platforms, is the cold pitchers.

You would have come across them by now I'm sure. You know, those randoms that message you, who are typically not even connected or following you that try to sell you on something.

Typical sales pitches I get are:

  • "We can build you a website...." (Umm hello? More of that in next mistake)

  • "We can get your website to number 1 on Google...."

  • "We have chosen you to be a brand ambassador, you just have to pay extortionate postage prices"

You get the idea.

From experience, 99% of the message requests I get on social media are for questionable sales pitches.

But cold pitching isn't a great idea in my opinion, not the best way of getting leads from social media. Sure, you may get a bite or two for copy and pasting the same message to hundreds of accounts whilst using fake accounts. These accounts are easy to spot, they typically have 0 posts and follow 0 accounts. This is because these accounts are typically blocked on Instagram within days.

Now I know this is a very sensitive subject because there are many that say cold calling is absolutely fine and we all still get those cold calls and junk mail right? But how many times have you bought something off a cold call? How many times did you purchase from a flyer in the post?

Most people I speak to will use people they know personally, whether this is in person or a relationship they have formed with a business owner online.

So my advice to those small business owners out there is to forget about spamming hundreds of people and put that time into creating content of value. Content that encourages engagement. Whilst cold calling can bring in a few quick wins, you are also likely to lose several followers who do not appreciate the cold calling approach. These are intentionally followers, who, if you have provided content they enjoyed and saw value in, could have been turned into a lead.

Put good content out, build fans out of your followers and your efforts will be rewarded. So much more so that cold calling people you are not even connected to.

If someone cold pitches me and they don't follow me, I pretty much immediately disregard their message. My thinking is if you can't be bothered to try and work for my money, then you won't be getting it.

"But Elton, cold pitching (the act of sending sales pitch messages to accounts you don't follow or have just connected with) is no different to seeing those Sponsored posts!"

Well, I expect to see the ads in my feed now. It's just one of those things I've had to become used to on social media. Some people may remember social media platforms pre ads.

What I don't appreciate are businesses invading my inbox with unsolicited sales messages. Especially so if it's someone who doesn't follow me or that I follow.

Court me a little before asking me out!

Research before you pitch

Research. Research your client. Research ideal client. Social media. Social media tips. Instagram tips. Small business tips. Small business owner. Instagram for business. Instagram for business owners. Business mentor. Social media manager. Cambridge. Haverhill. 9 common Instagram mistakes.

If you are going to pitch to an account be sure to do a little research before you do. A few things irritate me more than receiving a cold pitch/unsolicited message from an account offering me one of my own services!

My immediate reaction is to reach for the block option.

There is absolutely no doubt in my mind that you have just sent me a copy and paste message. The same message hundreds of others will get.

What do I think about your business? What do, or would you think when someone pitches your service or product to you?


That's the first thing for me. That this business is so interested in my business that they didn't even take 10 seconds to check out my profile so that they'd know I didn't need them to build me a website. Or that I'm a man and therefore have no purpose being their brand ambassador for their new lingerie set.

That brand has just removed itself from my radar.

So if you absolutely have a need to cold pitch, someone, do your research! Make your pitch personal to their potential pain points or needs and how you can solve them.

Show some effort.

Neglecting Instagram when work gets busy

Another common mistake by businesses on Instagram (and other platforms) is that when their business starts to pick up and the work is coming in, they find it difficult to make time for social media. As a consequence, the audience they worked so hard to turn into a community starts to dwindle. Engage starts to decrease. Posts become inconsistent.

If you capture where your clients are finding you, and you're absolutely sure it's not from Instagram then fair enough, you can decide whether you want to continue putting time into a platform that isn't bringing you any leads. However, if you do get leads from your social media accounts then taking your foot off the pedal can have some disastrous results when your current workload start to drop and you're finding it difficult to get new leads to replace lost/closed clients/projects.

When you do start getting busy, you need to keep up with your consistency on Instagram. You could look to reduce the number of posts you do. Perhaps historically you've been posting twice or three times a day. You could consider reducing this to once per day if you are pressed for time.

Or, should finance allow it, you could engage with a social media manager to manage your accounts for you ensuring that your lead potential and brand awareness is kept forefront in the minds of your audience.

Not using hashtags

Use hashtags. Importance of hashtags. Should I use hashtags. Social media. Social media tips. Instagram tips. Small business tips. Small business owner. Instagram for business. Instagram for business owners. Business mentor. Social media manager. Cambridge. Haverhill. 9 common Instagram mistakes.

One of the best ways to ensure your post doesn't get reach is by not using hashtags.

Hashtags are how people find the content of interest on Instagram. When you search, you're essentially searching hashtags or accounts/people.

When you don't include hashtags on your posts on Instagram, you're limiting the reach of those posts to your followers only. You're not exposing your content to others who may well be interested in your content.

So be sure to include relevant hashtags on EVERY post that you make to Instagram.

You can use up to 30 hashtags on each post on Instagram, just ensure they are relevant!

Not geotagging your posts

By adding a location to your post, ensures that anyone looking at content tagged within their area of interest will see your posts. For example, if I tag my posts with Haverhill, Suffolk, then anyone looking at the Haverhill geolocation will see my posts.

It takes but a few seconds to add a geotag to your post. And because we are all obsessed with reach, it's a few seconds I highly recommend you spend adding your location.

What to do now

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If you need assistance in your business, whether that be training on how best to use your social media accounts or would like an audit of your website and social media accounts, need a new website or someone to manage your social media accounts, then use the contact form below and I'll get back to you as soon as I can.

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