Over the past 2 years, I have been traveling the country to teach people how to develop an effective Instagram marketing strategy. I’ve been lucky enough to connect with thousands of people during that journey, and have spoken individually with hundreds of them.
Through it all, I’ve noticed the same questions crop up over and over. Questions about confirming a certain trick, tip, hack, or a proven recipe for success.
But here’s the thing: there is no such thing as the perfect Instagram marketing formula!
Yes, there are best practices and strategic frameworks that work, but no, there isn’t a proven, scientific way to gain fast traction on the Gram. The only recipe I’ve seen work is a combination of these four ingredients:
Instagram marketing is at its root about relationship-building. As in life, so on Instagram: relationships take WORK. Success on Insta requires a deep understanding of your audience and a crystal clear message that is threaded throughout all your content. It also takes grit to stay the course and continue to experiment while the platform itself shifts and evolves.
So with all that being said, let’s get down to it and bust 10 Instagram rumors that you should stop believing RIGHT NOW! Some are tactical and some are more mindset-based, and all should be banned from your brain as fast as you can say “selfie.”
Myth #1: Business profiles on Instagram are better than personal ones.
What I Hear: “Instagram limits the reach of business profiles. It’s better to have a personal account.”
The Reality: I don’t even know how you would feasibly test this myth in order to prove it so that usually makes me say something is a MYTH right off the bat. Instagram even said in a press conference last year that personal vs. business profiles are NOT treated differently in the algorithm (which remember – is basically a mathematical equation, not god).
Content shows up on your feed based on its popularity with other users, and engagement is the currency of Instagram. The more engaging a post is, the more likely it will have a large reach. That function is the same whether you’re a personal or business account.
The Takeaway: If you’re using Instagram for anything more than photos of what you ate for lunch today, then you should definitely have a business account. You’ll miss out on so many opportunities if not, including deep analytics and integrations with Instagram scheduling tools.
With a business profile, you get deep insights and features that will only help you build an effective strategy.
Myth #2: It’s better to use fewer hashtags on Instagram.
What I Hear: “You should only use 7 hashtags instead of all 30. Otherwise, it looks spammy to people and Instagram will limit your reach.”
The Reality: I’ve heard all kinds of numbers thrown out there as the “perfect” hashtag number…5, 11, 13, etc. Here’s the truth: Instagram allows up to 30 hashtags, so there is no reason to not use up to that number. You don’t have to use all 30, but the point is that you can. People aren’t unfollowing you because you use 30 vs. 15 hashtags (and if they do – good riddance), and Instagram isn’t penalizing you for using as many as they built their tool to allow.
The Takeaway: Use as many hashtags as you want, up to the 30 limit. The number of hashtags should be dictated by your research and how many well-targeted, relevant hashtags you have in your arsenal. Remember – hashtags shouldn’t necessarily be describing your image, they should be helping your target audience discover you, so use hashtags they are actually interacting with.
Put captions wherever you want them!
Myth #3: Using a third-party tool to schedule my Instagram posts limits my reach.
What I Hear: “Isn’t it better to post directly in the native Instagram app vs. using a 3rd party tool? I’ll get better engagement because Instagram prefers that, right?!”
The Reality: First of all, there are multiple tools out there that are verified Instagram Partners. That means Instagram has vetted them and okayed them to access their API. So Instagram doesn’t hate third-party tools. Secondly, they have NOT built a penalty into their algorithm (again – it’s a mathematical equation, not god) to ding you for using approved apps.
The Takeaway: Third-party tools can be a marketer’s best friend, and I encourage anyone reading this post to use one. They keep you more strategic, consistent, and organized, especially if you can implement a content batching strategy for Instagram. They can totally change your Gram game!
The drag-and-drop preview in Instagram planning tools is a total game-changer.
Myth #4: Buying Instagram followers is a good idea.
What I hear: “My social proof is awful since I’m a new account and don’t have many followers. I can buy followers for pretty cheap though – that will help.”
The Reality: RUN. Run AWAY! Do not purchase followers (or likes or comments) on Instagram. There are many companies out there selling this snake oil and you don’t want any part of it for multiple reasons:
- Bought followers are almost always low quality, not engaged, and often fake.
- Instagram has cracked down on bots and spam like this, so it’s a big no-no in their book.
- Real relationships should be valued over the number of followers you have.
- Fake followers don’t help your business’ bottom line; they just boost your ego.
The Takeaway: Focus on creating and nurturing real relationships with your target audience on Instagram. Yes, it takes way more work than inflating your follower numbers with a quick fix and your ‘social proof’ won’t be as high as you’d like, but it’s better for your business in the long run.
Myth #5: Where you put your hashtags makes a difference.
What I Hear: “You should put your hashtags in the first comment and not the caption because you get better reach that way.”
The Reality: It literally doesn’t matter where you put hashtags! Caption or first comment – do whatever you please. I personally like to put my hashtags in my captions since I use Later to auto-post for me. I don’t want to have to manually go in and add hashtags in a comment if I don’t have to, so that makes sense for me.
The Takeaway: Find a hashtag system that works for you!
I prefer putting hashtags in my captions for easy auto-posting.
Myth #: Instagram isn’t a good platform to drive website traffic.
What I Hear: “I just can’t drive people to my website on Instagram. No one clicks on my calls-to-action and it seems worthless since I can’t put links in my posts.”
The Reality: Instagram doesn’t work like the majority of other social media platforms out there. There are relatively limited opportunities to push your followers OFF the platform to your owned media like on Twitter or Facebook, although Instagram has been adding a few features of late. The reality is that Instagram was built to keep most of the engagement ON the platform. That’s also one of the appeals of the Gram for users – it’s simple and fun.
The Takeaway: This doesn’t mean you should give up hope of driving people to your content off the platform, you just have to get more creative. Instead of just asking people to go to your most recent blog without much context, repurpose a bit of it for your Instagram Stories and use a CTA to lead people to your blog to learn more. I do it all the time. Continue to push the link in your bio in your posts and Stories (if you’re under 10k followers), and use swipe ups strategically (if you’re over 10k).
Lastly, explore Instagram advertising. When set-up properly through the Facebook Ads Manager, Insta-ads can be extremely targeted, highly-effective tools to drive people to your content.
Myth #7: Instagram limits your reach.
The Myth: “Instagram only shows my posts to 7% of my audience.”
The Reality: Much to the dismay of all the tearful bloggers out there, the chronological feed is never coming back. In its wake, rumors abound. This particular one went viral, with people posting text-based images asking their followers to take certain actions in order to assure they would see their content. It got so big that Instagram itself was forced to reply in a series of tweets:
The Takeaway: The Instagram algorithm has three major factors that produce the order of content on the feed:
The more you engage with a certain account, the more likely it is you’ll see their content up top. Yes, Instagram engagement ain’t what it used to be, but that doesn’t mean it’s something bad you’re doing. It’s just the nature of an ever-evolving platform, and we must adjust our expectations as things shift.
Myth #8: Automation is a good way to grow an Instagram account.
What I Hear: “I can use automation tools or services to increase my engagement and followers.”
The Reality: Just like buying followers or engagement, using automation apps to auto-like/comment/follow-unfollow people is a BIG no-no in Instagram’s eyes because it creates inauthentic activity on a platform built on genuine connections.
Automation is usually pretty easy to spot (those people who follow you, unfollow, and follow back three days later), and with Instagram’s public stance, it’s simpler than ever for you to get reported. This could lead to the removal of your actions (as mentioned in their statement below) and even worse penalties. Automation also tends to produce low-quality followers and un-targeted engagement.
The Takeaway: Even in 2019, I still have people come up to me swearing by automation and how it “really works.” I’m not saying it doesn’t work – it sure can. But I just don’t believe it’s the best way to grow a true, engaged community that works for your business’ bottom line. You’re better off hiring a virtual assistant to do this manually. It’s also against Instagram’s policies, and I personally wouldn’t risk my presence on a platform that has become my best marketing tool.
Myth #9: I can schedule my Instagram in my existing social media publishing tool.
What I Hear: “I already use Hootsuite or Buffer for my social media publishing. I can start using it for Instagram too, right?”
The Reality: Sure – you technically can schedule your Instagram content from popular tools like Hootsuite or Buffer. But, you’ll be missing out on a lot of features that dedicated Instagram marketing tools – like Later or Planoly – have built in. Instagram has tons of idiosyncrasies that other platforms like Facebook and Twitter don’t, and tools that were built with Instagram in mind will better serve your marketing efforts in the long run.
The Takeaway: Sign up for a free trial of a dedicated Instagram planning tool (my favorite is Later) and give it a test run. You can save your common hashtags, organize your media library, and preview your grid – all things that other non-native Instagram tools either don’t have or have in a limited capacity.
Myth #10: Success on Instagram is all about having great CONTENT.
What I Hear: “If you build great content, the followers and engagement will follow. Content is king!”
The Reality: Look, having good content on Instagram is extremely important. But that’s only one half of the equation. I have seen dozens of accounts that post amazing images, but they have a small, low-engaged audience.
This usually stems from implementing something I call “The Instagram Billboard Strategy:” nice pictures but no interaction and the content is forgotten 10 seconds later. In fact, even calling this a “strategy” is a stretch; it’s akin to a traditional media approach on the most non-traditional social media platform of our time. It’s just plain lazy!
The Takeaway: Here are a few ways to get out of this rut:
- Get clear on the deeper purpose of your brand – I don’t care if you’re a plumber, you’re in business to help someone in some way. That should be a thread in everything you post.
- Decide on your overarching ethos for all your content – Are you all about education? Inspiration? Entertainment? This should inform all your content.
- Engage. Engage. Engage. – Instagram marketing is all about interactivity, so schedule 30 minutes after every post to engage with your audience! This will come back to you twofold.
Woo! We did it. We busted ten common Instagram marketing myths. I hope you have a clearer picture of fact vs. fiction and can move forward with a good head on your shoulders. Think I missed a big one or have a comment on one of these ten? Leave me a comment below!