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9 Avoidable Instagram Mistakes You’re Probably Making

Your social media platform of choice already gives you plenty of tools that are meant to help you make the most of your social network — but if you’re actively working on building a personal brand or on making your business more discoverable, you might feel like those tools are only taking you so far. You’re filtering and hashtagging and sticking to what feels like the right posting schedule, but where are all the followers and likes? If you feel like engagement has totally plateaued on your feed, you’re not alone. In an increasingly competitive, social media-driven world, it’s only becoming more difficult to bring in — and keep — Instagram followers. Honestly, it can feel like a lot of work.

In an effort to solve these problems and cut back on your Insta-stress, the SelfMade app launched in November 2017. Essentially a social media strategy team in your pocket, the platform connects you to brand strategists who can get you thinking about your ideal audience and aesthetic, along with what you want to achieve with your feed. You’ll get your very own mood board and strategy brief, which photo editors can then use to touch up your photos in a way that will be cohesive with your overall brand. Submit photos for edits, and they’ll be returned to you quickly and touched up with an expert’s eye.

Co-founder Brian Schechter says that SelfMade was inspired by his experience at the helm of the dating app How About We, as well as the hours he spent watching his fiancé edit photos for her own Instagram. “I knew that photo editing or working on your pictures had gone from being something that was really socially taboo to being something that had become acceptable — even expected,” he tells us. “I got excited. How could you get people access to the kind of images they want?”

Today, that access looks like SelfMade — a subscription-based service that offers a range of options for social media die-hards, depending on how much they’re willing to pay per month. Users fill out an extensive survey, which determines the mood board and strategy that photo editors will use to retouch the images that are sent through the app.

“We decided to build SelfMade not just to give you great edits, but also to build something that’s like a social media team in your pocket, where you get ongoing advice and access to professionals around building your personal brand in a way that’s truly personalized to you,” Schechter says.

And who better to speak to the mistakes that Instagram users regularly make than the team behind this mobile social media branding tool? Read on for nine missteps that might be costing you.

1. You’re buying followers and engagement. While it might be a quick way to build up that seemingly all-important “followers” number at the top of your feed, Schechter warns against purchasing fake social media engagement. As more and more people begin to understand that buying followers is an option, they’ll be increasingly tuned in to what it really means when an Instagram account has 10,000 followers, but only garners a few likes per photo. “I would really tell people to avoid any temptation to buy followers or engagement, because you can’t really sustain it — and if you try to, you’ll find that you’re not building your audience,” Schechter says

2. You use Instagram Stories and your standard image feed interchangeably. When Instagram launched its Stories feature in 2016, it seemed like little more than a Snapchat copycat (say that three times fast!) — but used properly, Stories can actually help you curate your feed in a much more cohesive, effective way. Resist the urge to share every little thing in your IG photo grid. Why post photos (even artsy ones) of your morning coffee or delicious lunch in your feed when you can include them in Stories instead? “Use Stories heavily for all the things that you want to share with your followers casually, then preserve what you share on your grid for things that are going to really continue to build out your brand,” Schechter says. You’ll be amazed by how much more impact each of your posts have if you start taking this approach.

3. You lose sight of what your followers are looking for. No one expects you to post the same images over and over again, but it’s important to remember that people are following your account in the hope that they can expect more of the things they already know they like on your feed. According to Schechter, people are drawn to accounts because of their overall look — not because of their interest in the individual images that make up the collection. Consider what your followers might be drawn to and maintain consistency across your posts in terms of subject matter, tone, and aesthetic… or risk losing engagement. If you’re questioning whether or not a post will be cohesive with the rest of your account, consider sharing it on Stories.

4. You use general hashtags. If your goal is to be discovered by slews of new followers, you’ll need to get really strategic about the hashtags you’re using — and unless you’re already swimming in engagement, non-specific tags like #love and #happy aren’t going to get you there.

5. You’re not tagging others. Manners, people! “Always acknowledge other people, whether it’s by tagging them, by commenting about them, or by linking their stuff,” Schechter says. “The more generous people are on social, the more of a return they tend to see.” If it makes sense for your personal brand, you may also want to make a habit of tagging any relevant brands or companies. Aspiring fashion bloggers, for instance, should be sure to shout out to the clothing or accessory brands they’re wearing in any given image.

6. You’re overreaching with your editing. If you don’t know how to use Photoshop, don’t try! As for making smaller adjustments to your photos, the keys are simplicity and consistency. Schechter recommends that you stay away from jumping between various photo editing apps or filters day-to-day. Streamline the look of your photo grid by focusing on one or a few filters or visual perspectives. Your followers will know what to expect aesthetically, and they’ll be more excited to follow along.

7. You’re worried about over-posting. “There are so few people that really, truly over-post,” Schechter says. Stop stressing about how people will react to your #doublepost. If you’re trying to build your brand on social media, regular posting is key.

8. You’re sharing similar images back-to-back. While it may not be possible to over-post, it is possible to saturate your feed with too many similar photos, too close together. If you snapped a bunch of beautifully lit photos yesterday at the beach, that’s great! But don’t post them all in a row. Share a favorite or two right away, then save the rest in your queue.

9. You’re trying to make your captions “Instagram perfect.” There’s a lot of talk among social media influencers about whether Instagram should be a place for long, hyper-vulnerable reflections or shorter, wittier captions. Schechter’s advice? Stop trying to fit your personal voice into either of these specific buckets. Followers will be drawn instead to your unique brand of authenticity. In terms of captions, “it’s more about finding your voice than it is about following a set of rules,” Schechter says. “That might take some experimentation. Ultimately, you have to go to your own beat and make people say, ‘I want to give some of my attention to you.'”

What makes you hit the “Follow” button on an Instagram feed? Tweet us @BritandCo!