Instagram Mistakes: 7 Things to Avoid Posting on Instagram As a Business in 2021

Author's avatar Marketing UPDATED Mar 4, 2022 PUBLISHED Aug 20, 2021 14 minutes read

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    Peter Caputa

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    Instagram is the 2nd most used social media platform among marketers in 2021. With well over 1 billion active users, new e-commerce features and advertisement options that make it easier to draw attention to your brand, it’s no surprise it’s a marketer’s favorite.

    But like with any other social media platform, businesses may struggle to find success on Instagram, too. Most times, the culprit is a flawed Instagram marketing strategy and avoidable mistakes you unknowingly make. That’s why we asked over 60 Instagram marketing experts what the most common Instagram mistakes businesses make are. Here are the most common ones shared:

    common instagram mistakes

    The participants in our survey have Instagram accounts of varying sizes; 29% have less than 1,000 followers. 31% of them have between 1,000 – 5,000 followers and 7.7% of them have over 50,000 followers.

    number of followers on Instagram business account

    What we found was that engagement rates go higher as the follower base increases. 48% of accounts with less than 1,000 followers have an average engagement rate that stands between 0.5% and 1%. Whereas 40% of accounts with 1,000 – 5,000 followers have an average engagement rate of 1% – 3%, and 40% of accounts with over 50,000 followers have an average engagement rate of 3% and more. 

    average engagement rate on instagram

    In this post, we’ll focus on the advice the more established Instagram accounts share because they seem to have figured out an Instagram marketing strategy that works.

    Here are the 7 mistakes you should avoid if you want to grow your Instagram account and following.

    1. Posting low-quality content
    2. Using too many hashtags
    3. Posting salesy content
    4. Posting personal opinions and views
    5. Ignoring customers’ comments and DMs
    6. Making negative comments about competing brands
    7. Posting exclusionary content

    Let’s dive in!


    1. Posting Low-Quality Photos and Videos 

    Instagram is a platform that primarily focuses on high-quality and aesthetically pleasing images and videos. Images and videos that are blurry, shaky, or unattractive are low-quality content and have no place on your Instagram business page. Uploading them can make you look unprofessional and lower the overall perception of your business. 

    Unfortunately, posting low-quality content is one of the most common Instagram mistakes businesses make. In fact, 50% of respondents in our survey said that this is the most common Instagram mistake business accounts on Instagram make. 

    These images from a clothing thrift store, for example, qualify as low-quality content on Instagram.

    Posting low-quality photos and videos  , an instagram mistake

    From these photos, the audience might find it hard to visualize how the clothes would actually look on them. 

    Xtractor Depot’s Elizabeth Weatherby emphasizes the importance of taking your time to craft content for your business’s Instagram page. “You shouldn’t post on IG if you’re in a rush,” Weatherby says. “If your photo is pixelated, if your caption isn’t worth it, save the post! It’s important to post with content, value, and purpose. Posting superfluous content, and low-quality content can sometimes give your audience the wrong impression. Keep it professional with high-quality photos, well-thought-out captions, and strategic posts!”

    How to fix: Prioritize posting beautiful visuals over trying to stick to your posting schedule. Take your photos near a natural source of light and edit them with good mobile applications like Adobe Photoshop and Snapseed or an online photo editor. The maximum dimensions for photos in the Instagram grid is 1080px X 1080px so when editing your photos, adjust their size in post-production to fit these dimensions.

    Below is the curated Instagram feed of a clothing brand, Paige Clothing. The images they post are high quality, visually appealing, and strategic. They also provide value to their audience by showing them the available pieces and how those pieces would look when worn.

    high quality content on instagram

    2. Using Too Many Hashtags

    Hashtags are a major marketing element on Instagram. When used correctly, they can effectively promote your business so that customers who are interested in what you offer can find you easily. “Using hashtags on Instagram is definitely important in helping to grow your audience,” says Disco’s Benjamin Smith. “However, it is easy to go overboard with hashtags and dilute the ones that may actually help you grow.”

    Take this post made by a wig company, for example. Notice how the marketer stuffed 25 hashtags into one post to increase visibility? This is what Smith means by going overboard with hashtags. 

    using too many hashtags, an instagram mistake

    The hashtags you use and the number of hashtags you include in each post depends on the kind of business you run and your target audience. Currently, Instagram allows you to add 30 hashtags to posts and 10 on stories. However, jumping onto a hashtag bandwagon and adding hashtags that are irrelevant to your Instagram content will work against you and can cause a loss of potential customers.

    How to fix: While there is nothing wrong with going for the maximum number of hashtags, Smith recommends that you “do careful hashtag research and find the ones that are most relevant for your brand. Avoid targeting hashtags that are already super congested with posts if you don’t want your posts to get pushed down in people’s feeds too quickly.”

    In contrast, Silqmist, another wig company, did their research and used only seven hashtags that were most relevant to their brand and target audience. 

    how to use hashtags correctly

    3. Posting Salesy Content  

    Although businesses use social media platforms to digitally market themselves, you shouldn’t become an overly aggressive marketer. 81% of people use Instagram to research products and services, true, but no one likes the feeling of being coerced to buy something. This is why it can be off-putting when businesses blatantly advertise their products and services every chance they get. 

    Jordan Duran of 6 Ice shares “Do not post overtly salesy content,” Duran says. “Instagram should serve as a vehicle for branding, long-tail marketing, and showcasing aesthetics.”

    There’s nothing wrong with occasionally mentioning a new discount or product line your business is releasing, but the main objective of your Instagram Business account should be to build your brand identity and connect with your customers on a personal level. 

    Jordan Duran shares this sentiment: “Although it is important to inform customers of new brand offers, always make it about the brand… and not the offer itself. Sales come and go, but your brand should remain consistent.”

    How to fix: Instead of posting content that pushes customers to your sales page(s) all the time, focus on posting content that provides value to your audience and shows your expertise in your industry. By listening to your audience, highlighting their pain points and providing solutions, you can build their trust in your brand and convince them that your offer is worth their while — and their money. 

    Apple is a leading brand in technology. Yet, their Instagram feed (as shown below) does not contain any post that explicitly asks their audience to purchase the latest iPhone. 

    Instead, Apple goes for a less salesy approach by posting beautiful, high-resolution images and videos that were made through iPhone cameras. Not only are they entertaining their audience with visually appealing content, they are also indirectly communicating to them the incomparable quality of iPhone cameras. 

    Apple's Instagram Business acount

    4. Posting Unrelated Trendy Content and Personal Views 

    Sometimes, you might feel tempted to use your brand’s Instagram page as a place to express your opinions and views. The pressure to do this increases in times when the topic is something that everyone’s raving about at that moment. 

    In addition to posting unattractive, low-quality images to their Instagram account, the automobile retail company below also posts viral memes and funny videos that are completely unrelated to the business.

    posting irrelevant content, an instagram mistake

    Kinder Beauty’s Andrew Bernstein shares that “it may be tempting to post that viral meme or video that is popular this week”. However, if the topic is not relevant to your business or industry, Bernstein advises that you should not post it. 

    “Your audience more than likely has already seen it, probably a hundred times,” Bernstein explains. “By posting something that is irrelevant to your brand, you’re diluting your Instagram account which is harmful to the rest of your content.” 

    Vickie Pierre of Sure Buy Car Insurance seconds Bernstein’s advice. “Unless your brand is already clearly aligned with specific points of view (i.e, a religious organization), it’s best to keep very personal views off of your brand’s Instagram account,” Pierre says. 

    Speaking particularly about posting political views on your brand’s Instagram, Melanie Musson of Home Insurance Rates advises against it as “it can cause you to lose followers and business.”

    How to fix: Simply avoid posting images, videos, and personal opinions on your Instagram business page if they don’t align with your business’ value and purpose. 

    “Here’s the deal: we are all entitled to our opinions. And there are times where it will be tough to separate oneself from certain points of view.,” says Vickie Pierre. “But ask yourself this — are your followers going to your brand for an opinion, or for a product or service? If the answer is the latter, aim to keep that at the forefront of your mind as you post. While social media can be a great place for engaging discussion, remember the “why” behind your brand’s presence.”

    The popular fast-food restaurant, Wendy’s, is popular for its hilarious social media accounts. As seen in their Instagram post below, Wendy’s loves to post funny memes. This is acceptable because they interweave humor into their brand aesthetic. Their memes aren’t random; they depict Wendy’s and are related to the foods that Wendy’s has on their menu. 

    how to use irrelevant content

    5. Ignoring Customers’ Comments and DMs 

    To be successful on Instagram, a business has to prioritize its target audience and serve them properly. Responding to remarks, comments, and DMs from followers is an important activity that can help expand your reach. According to Daniel Carter of Office Furniture Online, ignoring remarks from customers “implies that you are uninterested in what they have to say.”

    Notice how the brand below did not reply to any of the comments made by customers on this post. 

    ignoring customers, an instagram mistake

    Speaking on the negative effects that ignoring customers can have on the growth of a business, Carter recounts an experience someone had with a wine company: “Responding to customers is especially crucial as businesses reopen because hours may appear to be different, and customers may be unsure whether a retail store is open. ‘I don’t know how many times I DM’d a business regarding reservations (because it wasn’t evident on their website) and they never got back to me,’ a wine client wrote on my Instagram feed. ‘Over the span of a week, two wineries lost my business because they did not respond.’” 

    How to fix: When someone leaves a comment or suggestion concerning your product or business under a post, take some time to respond to them. If they send you a Direct Message, engage them in a conversation and provide them with genuine customer service.

    “Make sure to spend some time communicating with your audience, answering questions, and checking your direct messages every day you work on social media marketing,” Carter advises. “If you don’t hunt for it, you can miss out on some amazing questions lurking under the Instagram direct message section.”

    Forging personal relationships with your followers and responding to their messages is a great way to show that you value their time and efforts to connect with your business. 

    Buy Better, a skincare retail business understands this. You might not see it in this screenshot but they replied to nearly all the comments on this post. They do the same with other posts too. 

    responding to customers on instagram

    Related: 26 Most Engaging Instagram Brands (and What We Can Learn From Them)

    6. Making Negative Comments About Competing Businesses

    While there is nothing wrong with comparing your brand to others, followers can perceive it as unprofessional to speak poorly of your competitors to generate leads and paying customers. Not only will this bring negative attention to your business, but it can also result in you getting hit with a lawsuit.  

    Cody Iverson of Viscap Media says that you should not do “anything that sounds like it could cause drama for your brand, including talking poorly about competitors.” 

    Iverson clarifies that it is okay to compare your business to your competitors “but if you are actively saying things about another brand that might be inflammatory, competing brands may have the grounds to bring your social media posts to court.” Getting hit with a lawsuit might bring attention to your business–and not the profitable kind. 

    How to fix: Instead of speaking negatively about other competing brands, simply highlight the best aspects of your brand and keep your brand in a positive light.

    7. Posting Exclusionary Content

    Exclusionary content is content that purposely offends and discriminates against people based on their race, gender, religion, or appearance. 

    “Cancel culture is prevalent on social media nowadays. Avoid exclusionary content,” Charlie Patel of Ampfluence warns. “In our experience as an Instagram growth agency, we’ve seen a lot of content from large and small brands and one of the biggest reasons brands get “canceled” is due to their lack of inclusivity or anti-diversity rhetoric.”

    As regards businesses, the phrase ‘to cancel’, signifies the internet’s deliberate lack of support for a brand on social media. A business that uses Instagram as a marketing channel can be ‘canceled’ for posting content discriminatory content. 

    In 2017, Tarte Cosmetics, a makeup brand, posted a meme that contained a slur widely used to discriminate against the Asian community.  Social media was quick to slam the brand for making this racist joke. Even after Tarte Cosmetics apologized for the offensive meme, many people still maintained that they would not support or purchase any product made by the brand.

    exclusionary content, an instagram mistake

    How to fix: Make your products and Instagram posts inclusive of everybody, no matter what they look like, what gender they identify as, or what religion they follow. Your posts should not, in any way, alienate certain demographics of people based on elements like race, appearance, gender, and religion. 


    You Can Still Fix Your Instagram Marketing Mistakes

    Establishing your business on Instagram can have a significant impact on business growth and help drive more customers to your sales pages. If you’ve not had much success with Instagram despite your hard work, it’s probably because you are unknowingly making these common mistakes. 

    If you have made some (or all) of the Instagram mistakes mentioned above, don’t beat yourself up about it. Instead, remedy these mistakes by applying the tips provided by our experts to fix them, using a social media dashboard to measure their impact, and by so doing, make your Instagram account one of the most valuable elements in your marketing mix.

    If you want to understand your audience better, use our free Instagram Business (audience overview) dashboard template to gain insights into your user base and drive ideas for post strategies.  

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    Lily Ugbaja

    Lily Ugbaja is a B2B SaaS and Marketing Writer for hire. She's passionate about creating data-driven SEO content that ranks, inspires brand trust, and drives conversions. Connect with her on LinkedIn and Twitter @lilyugbaja or on her website

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