In January of 2016, I decided that I wanted to create a blog Instagram account for the purpose of monetizing. I'd like to say I grabbed the bull by the horns but I didn't. It took a little while to really get serious but by June 2016 (at about 2.5k followers), I was ready to get serious. I am at a point where I feel pretty good about my account, though I am constantly learning and have a lot of growth ahead of me. Like anything else in life, there are some things I would not do again in growing an Instagram account.
Here's a list of what I believe to be my biggest Instagram mistakes:
Turning my personal account into my blog account.
Considering that it took me awhile to mull over the idea of starting a blog Instagram account for the purpose of monetizing, I really didn't think this one through. I had opened a couple of accounts that had nothing to do with my blog and then shut them down deciding those weren't things I could do for the long haul. That's when I realized I already had a whopping 200 followers, I might as well just build on that. Lest, you think I'm a "cheater" rest assured 90% of that whopping 200 (my friends and family) have unfollowed me. And, yes, it does sting a little. I mean, I get why my cousin's husband would unfollow my mom blog account... but still.
My hurt feelings aside, I really wish I had not turned my personal account into my blog account for a few reasons. One of those being, at some point I had to delete a lot of photos because they didn't go with my brand. A couple of years worth. The good thing is they were saved to Facebook! Also, I eventually had to open up a personal account anyway. So, yeah. Big mistake.
Following everyone and their mom back.
Once strangers actually started following me, I was so grateful I would follow them back. I continued this trend for a couple thousand followers or so and then I realized, it had to stop. Instagram only allows you to follow 7,500 accounts. Yes, "only". I knew that to grow a large following, it wouldn't be possible to follow everyone back.
Participating in Instagram follow threads.
If you are not familiar with this, let me explain. Many bloggers participate in Facebook groups where we help each other promote blog posts and social media accounts. Though, some groups are exclusive to bloggers there are others that are also open to businesses or anyone, really. These groups have threads where you can get comments, likes, etc. on your posts and they often also have "follow threads" where you leave your social media account and the others in the thread follow you, you in turn follow them. I participated in a few do all follow threads ("do all" meaning you must follow everyone in the thread) until I figured out that while this could make my follow count go up, in the end, it could hurt my account. When growing an Instagram account, you don't just want followers. You want engaged followers. Unless a follow thread is niche specific (for example, we do them in my Facebook group, Mom Bloggers Tribe) or your account appeals to the masses, your engagement could really take a hit by participating in follow threads. These types of follows are literally just a number.
Improperly using hashtags.
In this post I talk about how I used to hate hashtags. For the first few months of doing my blog Instagram account, I would use no more than a handful of hashtags (and that's probably being generous.) I would also use really large hashtags that would make it next to impossible for my post to be seen longer than a couple of minutes after posting. Or sometimes I would use them as sentences, #dontaskmewhy. Once I started focusing on my hashtags - using all 30 hashtags that were in the 5,000 - 5000,000 range - I saw a big difference in engagement.
Which leads me to what I will call a "questionable" mistake because I can't be sure, at this point, that this was a mistake but in my mind it is.
Switching to a business account.
When Instagram first introduced the business account, there was no question I would switch. I am all about business and love anything that looks professional. But a couple of other bloggers I know were hesitant which caused me to wait. A few weeks later, I decided to go for it. I do not know for a fact that switching to a business account had a negative impact on my account but I saw a noticeable difference in my engagement after making the switch. Others say they have not seen any change, so again, it could have nothing to do with the business account. However, when I noticed my engagement drop I decided to check out the accounts of some fairly large accounts, two of which have made a living teaching people about Instagram. Guess what... none of these accounts had made the switch. If the experts weren't doing it, I figured there must be a reason and I made the switch back. Now, there could be other very good reasons for the change in my engagement but since it happened so close to the switch that, naturally, I question it. Perhaps instead of saying that switching was a mistake, not researching before switching was a mistake. (By the way, if you are considering making the switch or currently doubting your decision., check out this article; it really helped me feel confident about my decision and understand when it is a good idea to switch.)
Update: As of July 2017, I decided to switch to a business account but I am leaving this section in this post because I still believe it was a mistake to do so when I did. So, why switch now? Instagram has a "swipe up" feature where you can put a link in an Instagram Story and members can swipe up to visit the link. This feature, however, is only available on Instagram Business for accounts that have more than 10k followers. I felt that this feature was worth it for me because I could drive more traffic to my account. And it is definitely working!
Becoming dependent on comment groups.
I really think that one of the most helpful things I did when I was trying to reach my first 5k was joining a comment pod. Being in one comment pod helped me to get in top posts which helped me gain exposure and grow my following. Also, in this one comment pod I connected with some really amazing women. We were all in a similar stage with our account size and were able to learn and grow together. It was awesome. But then, I got greedy. I started joining more groups and started several for my Mom Bloggers Tribe members. I got in way over my head. I had great comment engagement but it was almost entirely from comment groups. I am not saying that joining a comment group was a mistake. Like I said, that original comment pod I was in really helped me grow my account. However, I became far too dependent on them. And that was a mistake. In retrospect, I think a better method would have been simply to genuinely and regularly comment on some accounts. I think it is easy to forget that people on social media are real people that we can really connect with. In real life, we don't make deals with people to tell them we like their shoes if they tell us they like ours. Right? Who does that? No one. Instead, we connect with people based on common interests like a love for shoes or whatever it is. Again, I am not saying comment pods or groups are bad. What I am saying is if the thought of quitting them scares you because you "need" them then you should probably re-evaluate some things. These groups are awesome for gaining exposure by getting you in top posts and in encouraging other people to comment but they should not be your lifeline for getting comments.
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