Instagram (or “IG”) started as a visual feed of curated photos, but new features such as Instagram Stories and IGTV have made it the epicenter of cool—and perhaps the trickiest social media channel of them all to master. Fads change from day to day, and one wrong IG post can leave your brand looking very unhip. In this post, I examine some classic mistakes that could make your brand look dated—and how to fix them.

Mistake 1: You don’t make it look real.  

Influencer marketing used to be exclusive to celebrities and a few full-time, dedicated bloggers. As more and more influencers started making careers out of recommending products and brand deals, we saw an increase in the use of DSLR cameras, heavy Photoshopping, and cohesive IG branding.
But, while Millennial influencers were staging their cappuccinos and taking pictures in front of hipster-esque bright urban walls, Gen X began posting candid, unpolished images to show actual human experience and using apps like Huji Cam to make their iPhone photos look vintage. Selfies are also making a comeback in many Instagram feeds. Trends are clearly shifting toward authenticity, with influencers and brands showing their human side.

Amy Schumer has won hearts with her unfiltered take on her pregnancy journey, and the birth of her first child

Tip: Let your audiences see the real you. Increase your authenticity by including some unpolished, unfiltered posts of you, your organization, or your products in your feed.

Mistake 2: You’re sticking to the “twenty words or less” rule for captions.

Uplifting self-affirmations, revealing personal confessions, and self-help digests have transformed Instagram into a storytelling platform. The trend toward super-long captions started in 2017 when people started using Instagram as more of a personal blog than a social media site. This contrasts with the idea that Instagram’s popularity and appeal is based solely on its strength as a visual social media platform. Captions, particularly longer ones, provide context and depth to the visuals.

You don’t have to be 20 to be cool on Instagram—the Rock is one of Instagram’s biggest influencers, using it as a blogging platform about food, fitness, and life.

Tip: Capture an intriguing moment with your photo, and then use the caption to tell a story that brings the image to life. Don’t be afraid to add details and insights, even if doing so makes your caption a little on the long side.

Mistake 3: You forgot that honesty is the best policy.

For a brief time, influencers and paid sponsorships seemed beyond the reach of the Federal Trade Commision. Not anymore. Now influencers are required to disclose their paid partnerships Instagram. Influencers like Kim Kardashian (with 138 million IG followers) have found themselves in hot water when accepting money in exchange for promotions but failing to disclose this to their Instagram followers. More recently, many celebrities (including Kim herself) have been promoting meal replacement shakes that have some not-so-great side effects and have been accused of targeting young girls and promoting disordered eating.

The Kardashians (who are reportedly paid $1 million per post) often find themselves at the center of controversy by promoting non-FDA approved weight loss shakes and teas.

Tip: Be transparent with your audiences. If you’re promoting a specific brand and are getting paid for it, say so. Your followers will appreciate you for being real, and you’ll reduce scrutiny from regulators. Also, think carefully about what, who, and how you promote products and brands—including your own. Are you staying true to your brand values?

Mistake 4: You ignore the comments section.

The comments section of Instagram posts allows you to connect with like-minded people who share your interests. For more and more IG accounts, the photo is simply an entry point for deeper conversation. The comments section now offers an interactive chat-room like atmosphere where people can exchange ideas with others users. With more and more engagement in the comments section, there’s also more negativity—but the platform rolled out a “mute comments” feature to help you filter out what you don’t want to read.

You may have also noticed that any celebrity and influencer comments are now at the top of the comments section. This is the result of a recent system update that implemented threaded comments and an algorithm that elevates “high profile” commenters.

Accounts like @commentsbycelebs highlight Instagram interactions

Tip: Use the comments section as ad-hoc market research to better understand what matters to your audiences and their opinions. Respond to their comments to increase engagement and create connection.

Mistake 5: You only post product shots

Social media offers a unique way for brands to create a persona and engage with customers. Instagram is not just for product display anymore. Many brands have found that curated social media content—including lifestyle advice, humor, feel-good stories, and user-generated content—can increase customer loyalty. Brands like the makeup and skincare company Glossier embraces humor by encouraging followers and product users to share images of their pets with Glossier products. Using this approach, Glossier sends the message that it doesn’t sell skincare, it sells a youthful and trendy lifestyle. Patagonia’s Instagram feed uses customer-sourced images of nature shots and outdoor fun intermixed with product use. The company’s social media doesn’t sell just clothing, it sells conservation and preservation of the outdoors.

 Brands like Glossier are intermixing humor and lifestyle blogging with product promotion.

Patagonia pulls content from followers, making a feed that’s fun, informative, and builds their brand persona.

Tip: It’s easy to forget to embrace humor and heart when it comes to social media—and for some brands, serious is the way to go. Consider your brand values, and build your Instagram presence off those.

The glossy, carefully presented Instagram aesthetic is now old school. It’s time for your brand’s feed to change as well—and create a comprehensive, personal experience that conveys authenticity and honesty. Want to know more about how to create a solid social media strategy that includes Instagram? Contact one of LMD’s expert marketing strategists.