by Leah Latini
Most business owners and solo entrepreneurs would agree that having a strong Instagram presence can be a game-changer in terms of growing their audience. However, many businesses we consult with, struggle to find their groove when it comes to creating content that engages their audience in an authentic and sustainable way.
Engagement directly influences the reach your content receives on Instagram and builds upon itself over time. So, it’s incredibly important to ensure you’re encouraging maximum engagement with every post. Especially now with the latest Instagram update, engagement rates can make or break your content strategy and determine whether you continue to grow on the platform or stagnate and decline.
The following list includes the most common mistakes that can cripple your growth on Instagram, even if you have a healthy following.
1) Yeah, but what IS that? – No Context
How many times have you been browsing your Insta feed only to come across an intriguing photo that stops you from scrolling, but then ultimately confuses you? For instance, you see a food pic that looks delicious, but when you stop to learn more about this mouth-watering post, you find that there’s zero information about what it actually is or what restaurant it came from.
Many content creators would argue that a post like this can stand on its own, and people will like it regardless of the caption. The biggest problem with this argument is that it promotes a superficial engagement. It’s easy to get a quick “like” on a post based on aesthetic beauty or visceral reaction. But now, Instagram wants to reward content creators that go the extra mile to create conversations and deeper connections with their audience.
This means that if you leave out the basics of who, what, where, and when you are cutting out a massive portion of your audience that might have otherwise engaged. Give them details about what they’re looking at, and a reason to comment, question, and save your content!
2) Wordplay Overwhelm
While the story behind a photo or video is essential to building a deeper relationship with your audience, many entrepreneurs take editorial content to an extreme and overwhelm their audience with novel-length posts.
I know what you’re thinking, “But you just said that people wouldn’t engage with my content if I don’t include enough detail!”
Oddly enough, both of these concepts are true!
You have to find your audience’s sweet spot or your “Goldilocks Content-Length”. It’s the post length that’s just right and allows you to include a sufficient amount of factual detail but is brief enough that you don’t lose the majority of readers halfway through your post.
Identifying this ideal post length can be a process of trial and error to find what your audience responds to the most. However, a general rule of thumb is to limit the editorial content to under 150 words and save larger pieces for other platforms. If you’d like to create longer narratives on Instagram, consider doing so in video format and experiment with features like Instagram TV. These features are relatively new to the platform and allow you to get a boost in reach just by using them regularly.
3) Too Glossy
The third most common mistake I see with Instagram content strategies is an overuse of stock photos and graphics that are over-worked. By over-worked I mean too corporate-looking or slick.
There is a trend toward the more organic and authentic in the social media space in general. Meaning, we don’t want to be sold to and treated like just another number on a sales list.
So, while it is still important to build an Instagram feed that is aesthetically coherent and cohesive, don’t overdo it on the stock imagery and graphics. Focus on building your look and voice on the platform in an authentic, and sometimes imperfect way. Your audience will connect with your imperfections and trust you more because of them.
Many larger corporations spend a lot of time and resources, figuring out how to “look authentic” to their audiences. In a sense, how to fake small business authenticity while still operating as a mega-global corporation. This alone illustrates the power of personal connection with your audience.
For entrepreneurs, the ability to “be real” is inherent in who we are. Embrace your imperfections and don’t be afraid to add a little grit to your content strategy!
Leah Latini is the founder of Marketing to Scale, a digital marketing agency and consulting firm. She’s worked for nearly a decade with businesses of all sizes and within a wide range of industries.
She loves geeking out over the latest advertising and marketing tech, but her first love will always be writing. If you love talking shop, connect with her on her podcast, Influence and Entrepreneurship.