Guest blog: Four common mistakes made when building engagement on Instagram

Staff Writer
Columbus CEO

By Lee Esposito

Brand managers like Instagram because they can build engagement with followers who are authentically interested in their products. Some operate on the network with great success, but others struggle to gain traction. Here are four missteps businesses make on their Instagram feed when trying to increase followers and build engagement.

Not realizing that first impressions count.

When Instagram users look at a feed for the first time they will see-at least on most mobile devices-a three-by-five grid of thumbnail photos. It's how they connect with these 15 photographs that ultimately determines if they will become a follower.

Avoid using Instagram as a dumping ground for an array of disconnected photos that, although related somehow with the company, have little or nothing to do with each other. Instagram is about telling stories in a square, so create a visually exciting story of your brand to build the feed.

Misusing or ignoring resizing and editing apps.

Another common Instagram error is misusing or ignoring resizing and editing apps such as VSCO, Snapseed, and Squaready. For example, Squaready is an app that resizes uncropped, non-squared images within both the feed and thumbnail without losing details in any part of the image. The result can look haphazard if Squaready is used without strategizing before posting on a consistent pattern within the feed. Pleasing patterns can range from all horizontal or vertical photos that are sized the same, or all square, to a pattern of every other photo posted horizontally and vertically. This approach will keep sizing and patterning consistent to result in a feed that is both exciting and engaging.

Editing apps such as VSCO and Snapseed are powerful tools that can make all the difference to make a feed spectacular and inspire engagement. From cropping, to tonal contrasts, to dramatic filtering, these apps offer endless opportunities to bring out the best characteristics in a photo.

Misunderstanding Instagram's new algorithm.

Instagram's new algorithm features photos out of sequence based on the interests of each user, rather than in the order they were posted on the feed. As expected, some marketers worry that their posts will be missed by followers and key influencers, but think about it this way:

Chances are, followers will not immediately see a post unless they log on right at the moment it is published. In addition, if they are truly engaging with the Instagram users by liking, commenting, and bringing others into the conversation, it would take hours to scroll through and engage with all or even a handful of the posts.

The new algorithm analyzes users' engagement, and places the photos of the posters they most engage and interact with at the top of their feeds. While many see this as nothing more than a marketing ploy, and to an extent it is, if followers see a post at the priority top, they are more likely to engage with it. And that, of course, is the reason for having a presence on Instagram. In other words, a brand posting on Instagram will be seen more, not less, if they engage strategically with their followers.

Posting hashtags long after an image is posted.

Instagram users must post hashtags at the time they publish an image because hashtags are visible in the order an image was posted, not when the image was tagged. Instagram recently made this change because users were deleting hashtags, and then posting new hashtags to keep images at the top of the hashtag feed.

Lee Esposito is principal of Lee Esposito Associates, a public relations and social media marketing firm. He can be reached at (614) 761-0200,, and through his firm's Facebook page or personal Instagram account.