Are you stuck on the follower rollercoaster right now and are sick and tired of your account going down as quickly as it goes up?
Do you lose followers as often as you gain them, meaning that your hard work trying to grow your audience goes to waste because you’re repelling as many people as you’re attracting?
Then you’re probably making one, some, or ALL of these five Instagram mistakes, so be sure to keep reading so you can find out what you’re doing wrong, and what things you can change, shift or evolve to make it right!
This Is Why You’re Not Growing On Instagram
Here’s the thing – I know a thing or two about growing Instagram accounts. I’ve grown the bossbabe Instagram account to 3.5m followers and my personal account to 241k, and I don’t say that to brag, I share that to prove a point.
Trust me. I’ve made all the mistakes over the years so I know what works, what doesn’t + what you need to do to grow.When I see people who AREN’T growing. I know they are probably making one of these five mistakes.
Mistake #1: Being Inconsistent
The first mistake is inconsistency. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, consistency really, truly is KEY when it comes to growing an audience on Instagram. You have to show up with a clear, compelling message each and every day, with captions written around five or six content pillars that are unique to you and your brand, and pictures/videos that look as cohesive as they do aesthetically pleasing.
I mean, how can you expect people to trust you enough to follow you and later buy from you if you aren’t delivering value regularly, and sticking to the same subjects, topics, and messages that you share?
The more you publish posts of the same or similar nature, at regular intervals, the more you’ll evoke a feeling of familiarity in the people you are trying to reach.
If people land on your feed and can immediately tell who you are, what you do, and how you’ll help them day to day, they’re much more likely to hit that follow button and return to consume the content you create.
Psst – if this is your mistake, click here to grab our free 30 Days Of Content Guide so you can start showing up consistently – without all the stress.
Mistake #2: Buying Fake Followers
The next mistake is buying fake followers. Back in the day, when Instagram was evolving it was common practice to buy fake followers, and in fact, many business coaches and mentors were advocates of it.
People thought that the larger the following you had, the more likely it would be for strangers who didn’t know who you were to trust you enough to follow you. The fact that other people were following would demonstrate to them that you have something to share and are someone worth learning from because other people were showing up for you…
…but whilst the psychology of that makes sense, what people didn’t know at the time is that it actually hurts the algorithm that’s responsible for your audience growth.
Yup. The algorithm can tell what % of your following is fake. It can detect which of your following is active (engaging with you and other people) and inactive (not engaging), and the more fake followers you have, the worse your engagement and resultant reach will be.
Well, here’s how the Instagram algorithm works.
First, it presents the content you’ve created to a small % of your following. If lots of people engage with it, it will push the content in front of the rest of your following. If lots of people engage with that, it’ll show it to more people still, by putting it on the explore page…
…but here’s the thing: if some of the “people” Instagram presents your content to are fake, then they won’t engage for real, and your engagement will be lower as a result.
Fake followers aren’t a quick fix, they’re a quick break – don’t exchange your engagement and growth for a vanity metric.
Mistake #3: Buying Bots/Faking Engagement
A similar thing can be said for buying bots to get engagement. Bots can be spotted a mile off, by your following and the Instagram algorithm alike.
Bots might like your content (but as I’ll explain in a sec, this is the least important mode of engagement), but the comments they leave aren’t worth it.
In fact – they aren’t of any value whatsoever.
Bots are programmed to comment on the likes of “love this post” or a string of emojis, which isn’t detected by the Instagram algorithm as being meaningful human interaction (and rightly so).
If a human was really, truly interested in hearing what you had to say, they’d leave a comment that was much more thought out and considered. It would be longer in form, and directly relevant to the content you created. It’d likely use some of the same keywords and phrases, or ones similar to them, and so it’d be immediately obvious what’s real and what isn’t.
Of course, humans leave short and sweet messages from time to time, too, but algorithmic favor is given to those that are getting MSI all the time, which you won’t be if you have a ton of bots engaging with you as opposed to real people.
Mistake #4: Focusing On The Wrong Things
The next mistake is only focusing on your like count. If you’re making “getting likes” your no.1 priority, then that could be hindering how quickly and easily you grow, because other engagement metrics matter more, like saves and shares.
Saves, for example, communicate to the Instagram algorithm that people are really interested in what you have to say. So much so, that they’ve put a pin in it to return to later. Not only did they like your content enough to consume it once, they want to digest it over and over. If that isn’t an indicator of content that educates, entertains, or a bit of both, I don’t know what is.
Shares are also more important than likes, according to the Instagram algorithm. Think about it – if someone shares your content, then not only did they like what they saw, they want other people to take a look at it too.
This is a mark of virality – the content spreads not just because the algorithm spots its value and pushes it to more people, but because human beings do too, and put it in front of their friends. People share for a couple of reasons – identification (this is me/you/us), because they’ve learned something new, or because they’ve been made to smile or laugh.
What content could you create that would elicit that kind of response?
Mistake #5: Not Engaging With Other Accounts
The last mistake I see people make is only posting photos and not engaging on other accounts. If you aren’t engaging with other accounts, you’re really missing a trick.
Spoiler alert: you’re supposed to be social on social media, I have a couple of pieces of advice to give to guide you on this:
First, as soon as someone engages with you, be sure to engage with them back. By starting up a conversation and chatting with your audience members back and forth, you’re saying to Instagram and its algorithm – “hey, this person is interested in who I am, what I do and the content I create, enough to talk to me, at length, about the specific subject/topic I created content on.” This is a good example of the meaningful social interaction theory in practice.
Next, engage with people who look like your audience. Just like you’d walk up to someone and talk to them in a coffee shop, a bar, a restaurant, or a party, on social media you can introduce yourself to people you think you’d be a fit for too. Ask questions. Give answers and, if you have something on your feed you think would help them solve a problem of theirs, there’s no shame in the game of specifically pointing that out. “It’s funny you say that about X, Y, Z – I actually wrote a post unpacking that very concept last week. I’ll share it via DM – let me know if it’s of any value.”
And finally, engage with people who are engaging with your competitors’ content. If someone’s your competitor, then it’s because they look a little like you, right? They’re a similar sort of person, offering a product or service that isn’t too different from your own.
Well, isn’t it fair to say, then, that their audience looks like yours too? And that the people who are engaging with their content, are the exact sort of people who’d engage with yours? You don’t need to be a math genius to note that the probability stakes are high. You’re likely to be able to move people from their audience to yours if you interact with them and demonstrate that you’re someone worth following for more tips and tricks or tools and techniques, around whatever subject matter you typically speak into.
How To Fix These Critical Mistakes
And there you have it – the five mistakes people make on Instagram that you should avoid if you want to become successful on social media.
If you want to learn how to create easy and consistent content while growing an organic audience on Instagram then click here to reserve your spot in this exclusive Influencer Masterclass.
Natalie Ellis is a serial entrepreneur and angel investor, as well as the co-founder and CEO of media brand BossBabe. Under her leadership, BossBabe now reaches more than 10M+ ambitious women per month, and has a community of 3.8M across their social media, blog, podcast and newsletter. Natalie’s expertise lies in audience growth, content monetization and business strategy. Natalie is passionate about supporting women to take action in creating lives that they’re in love with.