Drew Hubbard explores the seven most deadly sins for PR’s when it comes to using Instagram. Follow PR Daily on Twitter: @PRDaily
You know this, but it bears repeating: Your brand should be on Instagram.
It's not too late—as long as you know what you're doing.
It's disturbing to watch sophisticated brands make rookie mistakes. Like any social network, Instagram must be learned. The following guide can teach you the ropes. If you're committing any of the gaffes below, please stop. Make Instagram a better place:
1. Advertising in other people's comments
Self-promotion is tricky. After all, you're on Instagram to promote your brand, right?
Like most social networks, Instagram is more complicated than that. You need to invest time and energy to cultivate an audience by building goodwill in the community.
One of the fastest ways to anger Instagram users (and lose followers) is to leave an irrelevant, annoying comment like, "Want to earn BIG $$$ with no work? RIGHT now??" on someone's post.
2. Posting inconsistent content
The most popular Instagram posts have clear messages. "Behind the scenes with your favorite celebrity" is probably the most used angle, but many accounts have great success by using other immediately understandable angles for their messages.
An account that only posts photos of weird-looking pumpkins is much easier to understand and share than one that posts random snapshots. Your brand should send clear messages on all online channels, anyway.
Begging sometimes works. Say you are an agency charged with building an Instagram account, and your only metric for success is total followers. Begging will probably achieve that goal, but you'll annoy many people. If it's worth damaging your brand, go for it. But you'll degrade your audience, consisting of users who don't mind shamelessness.
Be aware that most Instagram users don't like those who post, "Yo, dude! Follow me for awesome pics!!" in the comments. It's irrelevant and adds nothing to the conversation.
4. Ignoring comments
Instagram is a social network, so if you're not social, you miss the point. When people comment on one of your posts, they speak to you. Respond like the polite, interesting person you are. And since you speak on behalf of your brand, judiciously bring the brand into the conversation.
5. Not using hashtags
Hashtags are Instagram's backbone. They organize content and help users discover content. But hashtags can be awkward at first. It might feel silly to tag every fifth word in your caption, but if those tags place your post in a content category, it was the right thing to do.
If you don't tagging your posts, start. To familiarize yourself with hashtags, Google the most popular tags, and click through them on Instagram. Notice how popular accounts use them, and follow suit.
6. Posting other people's images without credit
This is obvious, but people still do it.
I guess if you post uncredited work, you probably don't care much about my advice.
Instagram doesn't have a mechanism for re-sharing content, so users often turn to third-party apps that watermark content as re-posted. Responsible users also tag the creator in the post's caption.
Users usually encourage re-posting since their content reaches a wider audience, but re-using other people's photos without credit is creepy. You'll be exposed as an image thief, and you'll suffer mass unfollows.
7. Buying followers
You can buy new followers pretty cheaply. Sometimes buying followers might make sense; for example, you launch an account that quickly needs to looks legitimate. The quality of bought followers will be terrible. They won't care about your content or like or comment on your posts.
Buying followers doesn't make sense long-term. The point of Instagram is to build rapport with a new audience. Buying followers only means a larger number on your profile page.
Drew Hubbard is a social media and content marketing strategist and owner of Foodie Content Studios. A version of this article originally appeared on iMedia Connection.