Just as you’ve come to accept the fact that green vegetables deserve a spot on your dinner plate, you also realize that running a business today can’t survive without social media. Love it or hate it; Instagram is here to stay.
“God, grant me the serenity…”
While I would love to have my mornings back and not be obsessed with what my post will be for the day, those days are gone — at least for the time being. Best to adapt, accept the continually changing algorithms and get on board.
And if we are going to be spending so much time on the platform, we might as well be effective at it, right?
Mistake #1 – Allowing ghost followers to linger in the kitchen
These are the people that come over for Superbowl potluck Sunday but forget to bring any chips and dip. Hell, they come through the front door with their hands in their pockets and head straight for your beer fridge. It turns out; they don’t even like football! So they hang out in the kitchen, eating all the best cheesy bits off the nacho platter and when the home team scores, they say nothing.
Yes, these are your followers who creep on your account and don’t leave likes or comments. They don’t share and most definitely aren’t going to save. So, friend…these are the people you must remove from your list. Ugh…I know. We work so hard to get followers, but followers who don’t contribute can hurt your engagement rates. And low engagement rates are a sign to Instagram that your account just isn’t that appealing. Instagram is in the business of keeping its users happy, so they have a vested interest in pushing out only content that people seem to like. And if your account has low engagement rates, it simply won’t get seen by many.
There are apps you can download that will show you who your ghost followers are. It’s worth showing them the door because Instagram rewards those who know how to throw a kickass Superbowl party.
Mistake #2 – Posting and ghosting 😱
Speaking of ghosts, are you the type of party host that invites everyone over, takes their coats and heads to the closet — never to return?
The most critical timing when posting on Instagram is the first thirty minutes immediately following your post. This is not when you want to plan your daily meditation practice. Have to say…I used to do this all the time. I’d post first thing in the morning and then hop in my car and drive to work, ignoring all those who immediately commented. So then Instagram thought — well, that’s odd. There is no point in sending out her content to more people if she’s not even around to interact with anyone. Oopsy didn’t know. I was trying to be efficient. Live and learn.
If you are going to put in the work to come up with a fantastic post, be sure to stick around and engage in the conversation that ensues. After all, they don’t call it social media for nothing.
Mistake #3 – Posting when no one is paying attention
It’s like throwing a Superbowl party in March on a Tuesday at 3 PM. There will always be a few diehard fans who show up, especially if you are known to make a mean basket of buffalo wings, but for the most part, there will probably be many no-shows.
So when is the best time to post on Instagram? Well, it depends on your line of business, but studies show that for the Travel and Tourism industry, the two best times of the day are between 11 AM and 1 PM and recently, that has expanded to between 9 AM and 10 AM. The best day of the week is Friday, followed by Tuesday and then Monday. On weekends, the travelling community tends to be…well, you know….travelling.
Instagram “Insights” can show you exactly when your audience is the most active as long as you have a business account. As I said, I used to post at 8 AM, but I was missing out on all my west coast followers because I’m in the New York time zone.
Mistake #4 – Not decorating your home properly for the big game with the colours of the home team
I’m talking about your bio section here. It seems obvious, but so many bios I come across don’t effectively tell the story of who is behind the account and what the purpose is. If you are in the travel and tourism space, be clear about the travel niche you specialize in. You only have 150 characters to make a great first impression. Don’t waste that valuable real estate.
Note: Your Username and your Name are the only searchable fields in your bio, so use them wisely. You may choose to go with just your first name and your travel speciality.
Your photo: Use a headshot for your profile image. If people can see your eyes, even better.
Use Linktree – the free version is all you need. Instagram only allows one clickable link in your bio. Linktree allows you to set up multiple links.
Bottom line, you have only two-tenths of a second to make a great first impression with your bio. And you have to hope that’s enough to get someone to head over to your website, which is your ultimate goal.
Mistake #5 – Not being a great hostess
Can you imagine throwing a party, and as people walk through the door, you spew out a litany of useless facts. And then you just walk away? Of course, you wouldn’t do that in a social setting. Instagram is a social platform that replicates life, yet I see it all the time.
A great way to boost your engagement is to start conversations that your audience can engage in. Ask questions. Start a dialogue. Instagram LOVES it when there is a back and forth exchange between a poster and their audience. And it should go without saying, but I can’t help myself, if somebody comments on your post, comment back. It’s considered being a good hostess.
Mistake #6 – Karma is a two way street
As humans, we sometimes have a very me, me, me, and what do you think about me mentality. While it’s great to start conversations with your Instagram friends on your feed, it is equally nice to return the favour. The more you reach out to others and leave honest and thoughtful comments, the more likely they are to reciprocate.
Gary Vaynerchuk offers a great strategy that he has coined the Instagram $1.80 strategy. It loosely translates to you leaving your two cents on the top nine trending Instagram posts for the ten hashtags that are most relevant to your business.
I can appreciate that might seem like a lot but at least comment within your own Instagram community of followers.
Mistake #7 – Not taking full advantage of the preview section of your caption
Everyone knows that Instagram is an image-driven app. You need to be posting photos that will stop the scroll. So much easier said than done, but it’s clear that we must endeavour to master the craft of choosing jaw-dropping images.
The mistake you might be making is neglecting the importance of the preview section of your caption. It’s the part that everyone can see without having to click onto “more…” This is where you need to add an attention-grabbing headline, ideally, one that causes the scroller to stop and want to interject themselves into the conversation.
A good photo may get the eyes to stop but remember that Instagram rewards those who bring great engagement. While the photo makes them pause, it’s the caption that will entice them to leave a comment. And you are lucky if someone takes the time to open your post fully to read it in its entirety. Give them a reason to want to.
Mistake #8 – Not using a good hashtag strategy
To be honest, despite doing a ton of “In Real Life” research, I haven’t settled on what the truth is concerning hashtags. I have heard all sorts of experts weigh in on the proper hashtag strategy. Many of them are now saying that too many hashtags can negatively impact your account. That just doesn’t make sense to me. Why would Instagram give you thirty hashtags to use and then penalize you for doing so?
A hashtag, in its most simplistic form, is just a search gateway to your content. If someone is looking for a travel advisor who specializes in foodie tours of Bangkok, they might search #bangkokfoodietours. Or they might search #bangkokstreetfood, or they might search #thaifoodie – The point is…who knows how they will search? Why not add in as many doorways to your content as you can to help them find you. To me…that just makes sense.
But choosing the best hashtag to ensure your content gets seen can be a bit tricky. “#travel” has over 524 million posts, and posts using that hashtag don’t appear in chronological order, so should you choose to use that hashtag, you are competing with 524 million other travel lovers! What do you think your chances of floating to the top are when you are just starting. Nil, nada, zero.
I would suggest instead using less popular hashtags. Anything around the 100K to 700K posts seems to work best. But again, if it’s not a search term your audience would ever use, then there is no point in using that hashtag in the first place. Your hashtags should be relevant. So if you can’t come up with thirty relevant hashtags, then using less makes more sense.
Mistake #9 – Not using Direct Messaging to connect
Using direct messaging is a critical piece to building engagement. Through the direct portal, you can begin to build one-on-one connections with your audience. The DMs are where the relationship with your customer begins. In a travel business, it’s a great practice to reach out to potential clients through their DMs.
Let’s say you post a pic on Iceland. And one of your follower’s comments, “This has always been on my bucket list!” Shoot them a DM. Send them a link to your “Top 5 highlights of Iceland”, a post you wrote three months ago, with a message that simply says…thought you might like to read this.
You don’t have to be spammy about it. Chances are, they will appreciate the info, and they’ll be shocked that you took the time to notice their comment in the first place.
The added benefit to the Direct Message strategy is that as soon as you begin to engage with someone using a DM, Instagram thinks…” huh…those two must be close,” so your posts will be more likely to reach that person the next time around.
You are probably already aware that just because someone follows you does not necessarily mean they’ll see your content. In fact, on average, your posts will be seen by less than 10% of your followers. But if you engage with someone via direct messaging, they are more likely to see your content. Because Instagram thinks you are pals.
Mistake #10 – Not taking full advantage of all the engagement tools Instagram has on offer
I’m going to end this top ten list of mistakes with the one I struggle with the most. 🙋♀️ Yep, just because I know better doesn’t always mean I do better. Instagram gives us a ton of tools to boost our engagement, and I suspect that they have a crack team of inventors working in Menlo Park whose job is to create fun and interactive tools to bring more people to the platform.
Back to my Superbowl analogy, say you spend two nights prepping for the big party. You’ve put up all the decorations. You’ve stewed the chilli to absolute perfection. The pigs are gently snuggled up in their blankets — you’ve really done your best to create the optimal party atmosphere. When your guests arrive, you want them to notice all the effort you put into the event. You secretly give those who seem to appreciate the effort a subconscious 😉.
Except, maybe this is a horrible analogy, because you’ll want your guests to eventually leave whereas Instagram wouldn’t mind at all if their users stayed the whole dang night and into the next day.
The point is, the more we take advantage of Reels and IGTV and Stories and adding polls, sliders and questions – enticing our followers to interact, Instagram gives us a metaphorical high five, a 😉, and boosts our content. So what do you say…I’ll try harder if you will?
Oh and btw…no idea where the whole Superbowl analogy came from in the first place.
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