I currently don’t have Photoshop so I lost the opportunity to make that say Sin-stagram. Pitty.

7 Deadly Sins of Instagram Marketing

Some basic wisdom gathered from managing several social media accounts, running countless campaigns and growing a pet blog to to 75k plus followers (don’t judge the stats, I’ve neglected growing it lately OK!). Avoid doing these things and you will get some great traction with your Insta-Endevours.

1. Trying to make every post an advert

Instagram, or any social media platform is not for sticking your product in a person’s face. You know who you become when you do that? You become that one guy that everyone knows, who’s constantly trying to sell you something. You’re the digital version of that. Don’t be that.

Instead, use your profile to congregate people that enjoy your content that will likely be interested in your product. Your profile should be a home for your customer. If you’re selling beard oil. You shouldn’t be posting your product in the foreground of every photo, not even in the background. You should be finding models with killer beards, videos of barbers doing their styling on a customer, beard maintenance guides. Build social arbitrage. If you’re providing entertainment, information and value to your customer, your product will sell itself. Every now and again, promote your product. And for fuck sake make it personal, don’t talk in corporate-language. We’ll get to that..

2. Loading every post with every somewhat relevant hashtag under the sun

Look it’s fine to load your post with hashtags as long as they’re relevant and thought out. You get 30 hashtags and each one has the ability to lead a potential customer to your content. Is your product related to cats? Cool, #cat and #cats are probably the most mediocre hashtags you could tag your content with. Why? Because they’re not targeted at all, completely broad and off the mark when you’re trying to find enthusiastic cat owners. Instead think of tags as small communities. Say you product is a cat toy — you’re looking for cat owners, who are enthusiastic about cute fluffy things and regularly active with their pets. Try tagging your content with #dailyfluff, #petscorner, #kittenlove. Try finding large blog accounts that have their own hashtags, that they use for selecting content to feature, use them. Don’t just load a post up and wait for magic to happen, find a good mix of small and large hashtags to grow your account. Tagging all your content with hashtags that have 20 million photos attached to them will only drown your content and make it compete with thousands of other photos.

Pro Tip #1 — If a significant part of your audience (say 15% or more) is from a different country or has a different first language, it may be worth it to use a few of those 30 hashtags to cater for that segment by using their language.

3. Neglecting the Caption

Have you seen a post with just hashtags under it, without a caption? If you have, you’ve seen the Instagram equivalent of a pizza without cheese. Is it a pizza? Sure, it’s got the sauce and all… Am I eating it? Get that abomination out of my face.

The caption is the content, just as much as the picture is… Instagram lets you post a picture and a maximum 2200 character caption. You’re absolutely nuts if you don’t use that to your advantage. How bland is a picture on it own? A picture says a thousand words but 2200 characters is about 400 words extra. That’s almost half a picture and you could probably use it to 10x the value of your post. Why do you think memes are so popular? It’s not because of the picture, it’s the picture and caption combined that’s making that fucker go viral. If you’re selling wine and you post a picture of your co-founder and yourself having wine together, why wouldn’t you caption that and describe what’s happening. If I saw the picture and read “Nothing beats enjoying a lovely Sauvignon blanc and some cheese on a Sunday afternoon by the coast, with your best friend — Have a lovely weekend everyone!” — I’m now instantly craving wine and cheese, and likely to be your customer at some point since you conveniently sell the wine I just saw. As opposed to seeing the picture and not knowing the context at all. Be smart, write a well written caption.

Common Sense Tip #1 — Don’t neglect your profile Bio either. Describe what you’re about and invoke some interest — and for fuck sake, utilise that 1 link you get. Link them to your latest product, e-mail list, video, god… something… If I see one more blank bio or one less link, I’m going to shoot myself.

4. Spraying, praying and making it rain when approaching influencers to promote you

Not all influencers are created equal and just because an account has 100k followers, doesn’t mean it’s going to be effective for your purposes. You might be thinking. “Well yeah, we have to check if the followers are legitimate, we have to check the engagement rate and make sure it’s a real account.” You would be correct in thinking that, and if you weren’t thinking that, please do that before committing to a promotion… What I’m actually talking about comes after all the vetting has been done. My problem is with marketing campaigns that set a budget and go nuts with any old account that appears to be somewhat related to your product/service. Even if these accounts have been vetted and confirmed to be real, you need to apply the same principles as we covered with the hashtag situation.

The influencer accounts have to be relevant to you niche, highly targeted, have enthusiastic followers that trust the influencer. No matter what your product is, there will be accounts out there that are pumped about that product, so find them. When spending your money, don’t go wide and shallow, go for depth where it counts. 7–8 generic 100k accounts will be less effective than 3–4 high quality accounts, even if they’re less than 20k each.

Pro Tip #2 — Micro-influencers seem to be the best bang for your buck these days. These are accounts with less than 10k followers who have built deep trust with their followers not unlike that of a friendship. Their followers are highly engaged and will take their recommendation at high regard. They’re also very lovely to work with for the most part and will go the extra mile if your product fits their audience. Start DM-ing ladies and gentlemen.

5. Not keeping up to date with the rollout of new features that could greatly benefit you

How many of you have created a serious strategy or routine for Instagram stories and Instagram carousel? Scratch that, how many of you even regularly use those features? Instagram’s story feature has eclipsed Snapchats by 2 fold as of the beginning of this month. That’s 300 million users that are actively engaging with this new feature. A feature that lets you embed locations, links and even polls… polls! People crave expressing their opinions and Instagram Stories lets you give your audience just that! Look if you aren’t getting aroused by that piece of information, then this article is not for you.

You need to keep up with what Instagram is doing and you need to follow the stats that inevitably become available for those new features. This isn’t even a Instagram thing, it’s a marketing thing. Create a strategy around what you’ll share using stories and carousel, how frequently you’ll post them and how best to engage with your followers using them. You can do so many things with Carousels. You can treat them as comic strips if it works for your business. If you need to hire someone to tell your business’ story, then do that. You’ll find thousands of young up-and-coming marketing professionals, that would kill to create Snapchat and Instagram content to tell your story. Just make sure you’re at least experimenting with the new stuff.

6. Not engaging with your followers

If you’re serious about selling and serious about Instagram, you better be replying to comments left right and center. If your post has 4 comments and 2 of those aren’t from you replying to the other 2, you’re doing it wrong (the exception being people tagging each other). If you have a direct message in your inbox that you haven’t replied to or acknowledged, reply! If you are replying, but you’re doing it in corporate lingo resembling that of a PR statement, you’re coming off as disingenuous.

Remember when we talked about the micro-influencers in our second pro tip. They have built trust by befriending their followers. Friends talk and interact with each other, don’t take each other too seriously and are there to help. Be that friend for your follower and they just might become your customer.

Pro Tip #3 — As much as we want it to, Instagram doesn’t solely revolve around our content. Engaging with our customers means engaging when it’s their content as well. Sounds hard? It could be if you’ve got a fair few followers but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try your best in this department.

7. Being out of touch and not tailoring your content.

Have you ever seen an Instagram post that is a cropped flyer with the caption that goes something like — “Hello dear followers, we are extremely excited to announce that we are running a new program called x and we are inviting you to join our e-mail list so we can update you on our upcoming blah blah blah” — this isn’t an e-mail, this isn’t a flyer, this isn’t a notice board. This is social media, learn to be social for god sake.

When you try to become a part of a community, a platform, you need to tailor your content for those eyes. If you go around like you’re at a networking event handing out business cards, you’re just not going to get any business here. You need to appeal to your audience AND optimise for the platform. No matter how much I love burgers, I’m not going to get excited about a burger joint that’s on Instagram posting clear cut stock image bullshit and captions that sound like the human equivalent of a terms and conditions copy. For all the people who haven’t seen this… you haven’t seen this because those profiles never ever grow. They do exist however, they are there and they are infuriating.

Instead of doing that, make sure the photo/image is actually aesthetically pleasing or interesting. This is an image platform after all. Also, make your caption informal. It can still be professional and informal without going full suit and tie. Define the purpose for your Instagram account, research how hashtags work, observe how your followers interact with you on the platform and tailor you content accordingly.

If you enjoyed this article or found it useful, I’d really appreciate that lovely digital clap that seems to be the writers equivalent of crack cocaine on here.

You can follow me on the things @sahkilic | I don’t particularly use twitter but I’ll post a very occasional Instagram photo that you won’t like… Look I use Instagram way too much to use it for myself…

Here’s a recent article that I think you’ll like — It’s 4 Practical Strategies for Dealing With Procrastination.

I’ve also go this newsletter that you might be into. I send a tiny email every other weekend with some useful or cool stuff I’ve found/made. Don’t worry, I hate spam as much as you. Feel free to subscribe :)

Sah out.




I talk a lot about lessons in life, work, and creativity. Level up with me here: http://sah.substack.com 💪 Have a chat with me: https://twitter.com/sahkilic 💬

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Sah Kilic

Sah Kilic

I talk a lot about lessons in life, work, and creativity. Level up with me here: http://sah.substack.com 💪 Have a chat with me: https://twitter.com/sahkilic 💬

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