Instagram has become an integral part of marketing. As I mentioned in my article about how to get started with social media for your business, it can be a really powerful marketing channel for small business – at a much lower cost than traditional channels. However, I realised that there are a lot of myths and misconceptions about this social medium. It is a widespread belief that the key factor is the number of followers only. But there are many more factors to be considered when starting out with Instagram. Let’s demystify Instagram.
I Will Grow Followers Fast
If that were true, every one of our accounts would be in the millions. Instagram growth takes a lot of time and effort. And a lot of the really big accounts started their journey on the channel when Instagram just started out. Therefore, patience is key.
I Just Buy Followers
No, no and no! It may sound tempting to make your following appear bigger than it is, but this will not solve the problem. On the contrary, it will harm you. Not only does Instagram have a big commitment to detect accounts with fake followers and engagement but also will your real followers notice it. Whatever you do, stay away from what seems to be a quick fix.
Followers Mean Engagement
Today, the mere number of followers does not mean a lot. You can have 50,000 followers but if they do not engage with your content, these 50,000 are not worth much. Therefore, marketers and companies are looking into more factors than just the amount of followers. One of the most popular ones is the so-called engagement rate: how many percent of your total followers do your likes on one post represent? For example, if you have 10,000 followers and you get 1,000 likes, your engagement rate is 10%. The same calculation can be applied to comments and stories.
Setting up an Instagram Account will Immediately Result in Sales
In general, building up an active community takes a lot of time. Therefore, the mere set up of an Instagram account will not solve your problems. Think about your Instagram like a shop in a remote village: You have to make people want to drive to that remote village to shop at your place. Similarly, an Instagram account needs to be found, offer great comment and engage with its community.
Followers Equal Sales
Let’s expand the above calculation: If you get 1,000 likes on average for your posts, ie. representing 10% of your followers, these 1,000 did the first step of engaging. If you assume that the same percentage of people clicks on the link in your bio to your website, we have 100 people visiting your website. Let’s say 10%, ie. 10 people, actively browse through your website and look at products and thereof, 10% buy a product. Which leaves 1 person buying something.
You see, 10,000 followers does not automatically mean you will make a high amount in sales.
(For reasons of simplicity, I left out likes from people who are not following your account and found you over the hashtag).
I will Just Post a Picture Daily even Though They Are not Really Good
Despite the rumours about Instagram’s algorithm giving preferential treatment to more active accounts, it does not mean that you should post daily or even more often just for the sake of posting and keeping the algorithm happy. Quality over quantity. Needless to say, Instagram wants you to be as active as possible. (And believe me, the more you work with it, the more absurd are those rules. I will write a post about this later.) However, if you do not have any quality pictures, it is better not to post anything on that day and work on a really good picture and a meaningful caption.
I Do not Need to Plan
Planning is key. The above-mentioned algorithm expects you to post every day at the same time. If you really aim to become an Instagram pro, you need to develop a strategy and plan your posts ahead. How do the posts align with your other marketing activities? What will be in the stories? What will the picture look like in your Instagram grid? Will it fit in nicely into the colours and topics? Without planning, your feed will look inconsistent and unprofessional.
Furthermore, you need to know your target audience well. Your content needs to connect with them, otherwise, they will not engage. Therefore, planning your content is not only necessary in terms of the Instagram algorithm but also to make your content as valuable as possible for your (potential) followers.
Stories are not Important
I personally think that Stories have actually become much more important than the pictures you post on your feed. Due to the algorithm, it has become challenging to make your pictures seen. At the moment, stories do not apply the same algorithm as yet and you still have a very good chance of being noticed.
I also prefer stories because I feel that it allows me to better connect with my audience. It is more authentic. The grids have become overedited and – in my opinion – unrealistic and Disneyland-ish. I have the feeling that people prefer to see the real person or brand instead of an overedited reality.
I Do not Need to Engage, My Content is Good Enough
Instagram works on a reciprocal level. If you only post your pictures using certain hashtags but do not engage with other accounts, you are less likely to be seen due to the algorithm. And think about it, also in the real world we prefer that one hand washes the other: if I want you to like my content, I need to make an effort and interact with you and your content as well.
I Do not even Want to Start, Small Accounts Do not Have a Chance Anyways
Without any doubt, it has become much more difficult over the past two years to organically grow Instagram accounts. The reason being is that Instagram moves into the same direction Facebook took a few years ago: Of course, they want to make money. And their strategy is by having us pay for promotions of our posts.
Nevertheless, I would be very careful as a small account when it comes to paying for engagement. Nowadays, the metrics have shifted: micro-influencers have become as important as the big accounts because of their connection to their follower base. It does not matter if you have 800, 8,000 or 80,000 followers. The key is that this follower base is active. Therefore, if you “boost” certain posts and get a lot of likes on them but they do not make people follow your account and interact with you longterm, it looks odd.
Next time you are on Instagram, check the big accounts: what is their engagement rate? You might be surprised about how low it is in many cases. Even though the absolute numbers such as 5,000 likes look high. If the account has 500,000 followers, it is only 1% engagement. But if you have 1,000 followers and they constantly engage with you, this is a big success already.
I Will not have a Chance on Instagram, unless I Am/Have a Professional Photographer
Of course, Instagram is very visual and it is definitely an advantage if you are a good photographer or can afford to pay for someone. However, if you share genuine content, interesting captions and find a sweet spot with people, you do not have to be a professional photographer.
In conclusion, I recommend being clear and realistic about what you want to achieve with your Instagram account: Why do you employ it for your marketing? Is it brand awareness, conversion into sales or another small piece in the marketing puzzle? How much time can you invest? And what is it that will make your account stand out?
Do you use Instagram for your business? What is your view on the points above? Do you have anything to add? Let me know!