Instagram #FAILs We See All the Time…

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Perhaps our favorite social media platform, one we wish we had more time and energy to fully leverage, is Instagram. Where else can you find such amazing photos, such creativity and such interesting stories at the flip of a thumb? It’s ridiculous! But just as ridiculous is the abuse of some who don’t seem to understand how to use Instagram. Perhaps a late arrival at the party meant that the users didn’t get the protocal memo. Yes, we’re here to help! Here are our tips on how businesses can avoid Instagram #FAILs and get more engagement from Instagram.

Instagram #FAIL #1: Bad Description

Does your profile say enough about you? Is there a link to your website (yes, there’s only one at the moment, so make it count). Do you have hashtags?

Instagram #FAIL #2: Sell Sell Sell

If every post in your feed is about your company’s products, people will tune you out. Think about it – they’re all ads. We learn to stop reading them. We even have clients that unknowingly do this. Share behind the scenes, tips, things you like – don’t just post Widget A followed by Widget B followed by Widget C (or three of A, three of B and three of C). Instagram, as you will see as we dig in deeper, is about storytelling. Is your story SELL SELL SELL? We’ll all tune you out…

Instagram #FAIL #3: Personal on Business

Yes, you can overshare. Think about how your audience might perceive your business from your post. Don’t put the kids on your company Instagram (unless they’re adorable and at just the right moment to tell a good company story in the caption). Restraint is your friend when it comes to sharing. Step outside your own head and think about how your new customers would receive the message.

Instagram #FAIL #4: Cobwebs

Like your blog or any social media platform, Instagram needs regular care and feeding. Post regularly (if you can, post at least daily). Make it part of your company routine.

Instagram #FAIL #5: Machine Gun Posting

12 photos in a row is not a good idea. You’re better off “striping” a series of images over the day to get more engagement than to fire them off like a fifty caliber machine gun. If your photos belong in a group, consider creating an Instagram Story or a layout with an add-on app like Layout.

Instagram #FAIL #6: Lurking (No Engagement)

In addition to posting photos on a regular basis, spin through your feed and like a few images. Add a comment if you see something interesting and worth commenting about. We all love likes and comments on our posts – it creates a little spike of neurochemicals – so those Instagrammers may pay more attention to yours. Here in Manhattan Beach, we have a couple of favorite Instagrammers who not only put up beautiful, interesting photos, but they engage ours. Guess who we like frequently?

Instagram #FAIL #7: Hit & Run (yes, you, unfollowers)

Have you tried Instagress? Touted as ‘the best service for Instagram automation’, we find it a little disturbing for someone to comment or follow, then unfollow a few days later (even if we follow back). Yes, we tried these services to see if they worked, and they did to a degree. But now we see those “fake follows” come and go, and it isn’t cool. Real engagement trumps automation. Fake comments look like fake comments. Unfollows show your true colors, so we unfollow you back.

Instagram #FAIL #8: Improper Hashtagging

Do you place hashtags on your posts? Are you looking for similar posts to what you want to be found for and using those? Looking for popular or comparable hashtags serves an important purpose – you’ll be found. You can have fun with hashtags too – to entertain – but the best tags are used by others. A little research on hashtags goes a long way. Look at your local market, your competitors, your industry and the Instagrammers you follow for good ideas.

Instagram #FAIL #9: Not Storytelling

The reason Instagram grew so popular is that it enabled storytelling, better than Facebook, Pinterest or other networks. You get access to a growing, global community, with great visual tools and freedom to express. Show what you’re made of. Tell a true story (or a reasonably accurate one – more on that in the next #FAIL) about your company. Weave in a few sales stories, but focus more on showing more of what you makes you unique, like company events, processes and lessons. Show a wee bit of the sausage being made so people will know what you’re about. Weave together a bunch of posts and you have a story.

Instagram #FAIL #10: Not Being Real

We recently shared a quote on our own Instagram:
The reason we struggle with insecurity is because we compare our behind the scenes with evreyone else’s highlight reel. – Steve Furtick
Instagram can be overly staged to show only your best side. Unfortunately, after a while, it shows. We too often are told to “be authentic”, but in social media, it’s essential. Having a bad day? Share something that people can identify with. Got a blooper pic? Perfect.


As of the end of 2016, Instagram stated that they have 600 million Instagrammers, a decent sized audience! With that many eyeballs scrolling and engaging, you don’t want to suck, and even better, you probably want to be seen as a strong visual storyteller and an upstanding member of the community. It’s becoming imperative to understand how to use Instagram properly, so learn and follow community protocol. We hope our tips help your business avoid Instagram #FAILs – play well to develop your voice, your audience and engagement with your community.