Skip to content

My Most Embarrassing Instagram Mistakes

I made a lot of Instagram mistakes when I first discovered this lovely platform in 2016. I wanted all the followers and I wanted to post the best pictures. But other than that I was entirely purposeless and a bit desperate in my use of Instagram.

I found my ‘special sauce’ by spending time on Instagram and making some cringe-worthy mistakes. Here are just a few and what I’ve learnt from them:

1. Blindly following lots of accounts 

We’re not talking about following 20 new accounts a week, we’re talking 100s! I would choose people who had a vague connection to food (I used to be a food blogger) and follow away.  I wouldn’t check if their accounts were right for me, whether they were active or whether they were even erm, suitable (I think I may have followed a few very dogdy accounts).  And YES, it worked.  I got lots of followers.  Oh, but they were so wrong for me.  I had a highly unengaged and weird audience.

What did I learn?

To build your community on Instagram SLOWLY and meaningfully.  If you are going to follow people, follow people who are relevant. I still follow people strategically, because I am trying to find people who might approach me for Instagram coaching – but I need to like them.  It’s far better to have a highly engaged following of 200 people than a weird disinterested audience of 3000 followers.

I don’t know about you, but one of my primary reasons for being on Instagram is to promote my business and if my audience isn’t engaged with my content, they are definitely not going to buy from me.

2. Blatantly taking the same photos as everyone else

I thought to be popular on Instagram I needed to have photos of me holding flowers up against brick walls, cool flatlays of beautiful stationery and latte art, pictures of me posing in front of street art looking into the distance (oh hang, on I still do that one).  Put it this way, I didn’t trust my own photographic instincts so I’d just follow other people’s.  This allowed me to create an account that looked quite good but was a bit souless and lacked the ability to connect with people

What did I learn?

To be honest I think mimicking other people was an important way of finding my own photographic voice on Instagram.  But without a doubt the photos that do best for me now on Instagram are the ones with my own very personal stamp on them.  Taken from my perspective and with my creative input.  And quite often with a bit of humour and playfulness that was lacking in my early days.

buildings of manchester.

One of my recent photos that is very much my style

3. Broadcasting and not engaging

I’d just post stuff and wait for people to like and comment.  I didn’t really get that it was a two way street.  That Instagram is a community. That you get a much better response to your posts if you’re out there in the community chatting to people and commenting on their posts and asking questions.  Interestingly I’m very good at face to face networking – partly because I’m very nosy and like getting to know people. It just didn’t occur to me to apply this same enthusiasm for and interest in people to Instagram.

What did I learn?

Instagram is way better if you are giving more than you are receiving. I do try to get out there and engage in conversations and DM people and promote other accounts.  And Instagram will reward you for being a good community player – the more active you are in commenting and liking and DM-ing the more Instagram will show your posts to people.

4. Being a false version on myself

I mean I wasn’t being completely fake.  But I felt like you had to be quite glossy to be on Instagram.  Always pictures of me out and about eating in restaurants having a good time.  Always the jolliest version of myself I could muster. Which is fine, but it’s quite hard to sustain that, and it doesn’t show the true you, and doesn’t allow you to form deeper connections on Instagram.

What did I learn?

Whilst I don’t use Instagram to air all my dirty laundry (I think that would get a bit tedious in the end!) – I am willing to express vunerability now – especially about the highs and lows and isolation of running a business. I’ve found that these are the posts that get a lot of comments and where I form strong bonds with my audience.

5. Using crap hashtags

Until I did Sara Tasker’s Insta Retreat, hashtags were a guessing game for me! I’d look at my picture of a chocolate doughnut and I’d hashtag what I saw: #doughnut #chocolate #foodie etc etc.  What Sara taught me was to hashtag by mood and community rather than descriptively and this would connect me with my kind of people! So these days I’m all about #slowliving #postitfortheaesthetic #itsprimupnorth

What did I learn?

That it’s worth slowing down and being more strategic about my posts and the hashtags I use. Now I spend a lot of time researching hashtags.  I look at accounts I admire (eg Sara Tasker and Susan Earlam) and have a look at what hashtags they are using.  I’ll click on that hashtag and check that the type of photos coming up are my kind of pictures, and if they are I’ll use the hashtag.  I will also check that the hashtag I’m about to use hasn’t been used over one million times, because if it has, it’s over saturated and my post is unlikely to get seen under that hashtag.

What about you?

I’d love to hear if you’ve made Instagram mistakes.  What are they and what have you learnt from them? Please do comment below.

For more tips on improving your Instagram style and photography have a read of 10 Tips For Finding Your Photography Mojo.


Looking For Instagram Help?

There’s three ways you can work with me

  1. Invest in my 6 month Special Coaching Sauce package and attract your ideal clients without the overwhelm.
  2. Book a Power Up session with me.
  3. Attend one of my workshops: Beginners Reels or Instagram For Small Businesses.

And if you’d like weekly advice, sign up here for  my newsletter:

Find your special sauce

Make your Instagram account shine!