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April 13, 2018

5 major Instagram myths debunked

Instagram can be as powerful for brands as it is for influencers. As an influencer, it not only allows you to showcase the best of your visual work, it also lets you get to know what your audience really likes and dislikes – insights that are just as valuable for brands.

But there’s an ever-increasing fog of opinions on how to interpret and act on those insights. Particularly since 2016, when Instagram changed its algorithm to prioritise meaningful interactions rather than simply organising the feed in chronological order, there’s been a slew of commentators weighing in.

So we thought we’d address some of the most widespread and persistent myths to help you navigate the social space that little bit more easily and efficiently.

1. Hashtags annoy users

There are so many bold statements when it comes to hashtags on Instagram. “Never hashtag”, “always hashtag”, “limit to X per post”, “only hashtag in the comments”, “thou shalt only hashtag on the second full moon on spring” – you get the picture.

An often-cited concern is that hashtags aren’t the most attractive visually and can look salesy. While we agree that going right up to the 30-hashtag limit can look this way, if you fail to include any, you run the risk of your post not getting found at all. If you’re worried about your post looking messy, add a few rows of dots before listing your hashtags, or even add them in the first comment so they’re hidden from viewers’ eyes but are very much visible to Instagram’s algorithm.

2. A post needs 5 hashtags to succeed

Everyone’s heard the “no more than five” and “11 hashtags are optimum” myths. The reality: there is no ideal number that will work for every post.

Instead, it’s more a case of doing what feels natural and what fits the post. Filling your caption with hashtags that are too similar just to fill a quota won’t benefit long-term (using #travel and #traveller on every post likely won’t broaden your reach). Similarly, filling your caption with irrelevant hashtags won’t get your post in front of the right audience and won’t result in engagement.

However, it is important to make sure you’re using a variety of hashtags throughout your posts. Though it’s tempting to use #travelblogger in every post, bringing in new followers generally comes from using new hashtags. This isn’t to say that once you’ve used a hashtag you can’t use it again. But using a new one holds the potential to attract more followers – so mix it up.

3. Instagram is for spontaneous posts only

While Instagram is great for sharing spontaneous and otherwise unseen moments, it is also ok to have a well-planned advance strategy in place – particularly when you’re operating on a larger scale. In fact, photographing and editing high-quality images, taking time to think through your caption and posting at the correct time are all vital to success on Instagram. Spoiler alert – we all know by now that selfie you posted with the wind catching your hair at just the right nanosecond wasn’t a one-shot-wonder.

That said, there are some occasions where being timely can make a difference. At an event, for example, you might want to think about reacting quickly, just as you would with Twitter. Likewise, posting a picture of your breakfast at 3pm probably won’t gain as much engagement as posting in the morning.

4. You should only post between certain times

Remember that 2016 algorithm change that everyone’s still caught up on? Well it could actually benefit you in some ways. Firstly, the time you post at is not as vital as it perhaps once was, since engagement and content are prioritised.

Of course, you still need to post when most of your audience is online and able to interact. Hopefully you’ll have some idea of when this is – and if not, there’s no harm in experimenting along the way.

You should also consider your demographics. If you’re a travel blogger or you have a global following, you’ll want to consider time zones. The optimum time may be when both your US following and your UK following are both awake and likely to be using mobile devices. Equally, if you’re a mum blogger and your following is largely made up of other mums, try to stay away from school-run times. Think like your following – when would they be online?

5. To increase followers you just need to go on a follow-spree

We know just as well as you do that bloggers are quick to support other influencers, and we love this. Take any niche and there’s a real community that’s both alive and thriving on Instagram, so the follow-for-follow technique (without declaring it as such) works in this respect. Particularly if you’re new to the influencer game, it can be a good starting point to follow those who inspire you most.

However, to grow a following beyond your fellow Instagram gurus, this method can be less successful. It tends to be less natural and any followers you gain this way are unlikely to stay with you for the long haul if you don’t keep growing.

The reality: there is no top-secret method to reach outside the influencer-sphere and into the influenced sphere. Only a stream of really meaningful, current and inspirational content can lead to natural growth in followers.

A final home truth
Ultimately, try not to get too bogged down on any of the above Instagram myths. The key point as an influencer is to be authentic: be you, and use your voice to influence just as you know how. The rest will come along the way.

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