13 Instagram mistakes you should avoid at all costs

You probably nod if I ask you:

Do you want more followers on Instagram?

We all want, right?

Sometimes it feels nearly impossible to gain new followers, and you start looking for ways to speed up the process.

And with a quick search online, you’ll find tons of experts sharing their tips on how to grow fast. These methods usually sound very tempting as they often promise you with quick results.

But if you are serious about growing your account and building your brand on Instagram, there are several methods that you should definitely avoid.

Unfortunately, many of the tips and growth hacks you’ll find online could seriously harm your success in the future. You need to be careful about what methods you decide to use.

In this article, I’ll go through some of the common mistakes people do when they try to get new followers. I’ll give my advice on what you should absolutely avoid at all costs.

1. Buying followers

How great does it sound to be able to get thousands, 10k, or even 100k followers in the next few days?

Sounds perfect. Probably too good to be true, but could it be possible?

Sooner or later, you’ll come across services that sell followers. They make you promises of fast growth.

As tempting as it might sound, buying followers is always a terrible idea.

First of all, the followers that you can buy are fake. They won’t be interested in your content because these are not personal accounts. Someone created these accounts just to sell followers. So no one controls these accounts for real – they are bots.

Why would you want these fake accounts to follow you?

There’s no rational reason. Sure the number of followers goes up, but so what? They are not interested in your content, so basically the value is equal to ZERO!

Furthermore, Instagram fights against fake accounts and regularly remove these from the platform. Therefore you could end up losing all the followers you have bought.

Money well wasted, or?

And that’s not even the worst part. You could also lose your account in the process. Yes, that’s right, Instagram does ban accounts that have bought followers. After all, that is violating Instagram’s terms and conditions.

Buying followers is, in my opinion, the worst decision you could make if you are serious about your account.

2. Buying likes

Just like you can buy followers, you can buy likes. Fake likes are no different than fake followers.

Getting a nice boost, e.g., 1000 likes, to each of your posts might sound fabulous, but in reality, has nothing but negative effects. As these likes are fake, your reach won’t be any better than without them. In the end, fake likes are just numbers.

Some experts claim that fake likes will boost your post. Fake likes will, however, very rarely help you hit the explore page or rank in top posts of a hashtag.

So save your money, focus on increasing organic engagement. That’s the only engagement that matters. Fake likes won’t help at all because the Instagram Algorithm can easily distinguish between real and fake likes.

3. Follow/Unfollow Strategy

You probably have heard about or even experienced the infamous follow unfollow method. Yes, it can help you grow your following, but it is considered a very spammy practice that gets people very triggered.

So how does the follow-unfollow method work?

The principle is very straightforward: You start following people that you think might be interested in your content and page and hope that they follow you back.

After a while, you’ll unfollow them, because you are not really interested in their content.

The goal is to have people stick with you even after you have unfollowed you. Obviously, some will unfollow you after you have unfollowed them. But then again, there’s a good chance they won’t!

The biggest problem with the follow/unfollow method is that it’s not fair to the people you follow. Some don’t mind, but some will feel betrayed. Another thing is that you’ll risk your account to be flagged by Instagram for spam.

Rather than mass following (and unfollowing) users, try to build connections on Instagram that will help you grow your audience. So whenever you follow someone, do it because you actually want to connect and see their content.

4. Instagram bots

Instagrams terms & conditions forbid pretty much any automation services. Despite this, there are several available, and these are also widely used. With bots, you could automate your posting, following, commenting, and liking. Pretty much anything you could think of.

Using a bot potentially could give you more time to focus on creating better content while automating some basic operations. Despite this, I do not recommend using them.

Why should you never use bots?

You could get banned. That’s why.

By using bots, you are violating Instagram’s rules and could end up losing your account temporarily or even permanently. It’s not worth the risk.

It’s generally always better to spend time on Instagram yourself instead of automating something. Building valuable connections is not something you should rely on a bot to do for you.

5. Loop giveaways

Giveaways are a powerful way to grow your Instagram account quickly.

When hosting a giveaway with a good prize, you can easily reach new people in days or even hours. That translates into follows because people need to follow you to participate in the giveaway.

It’s a simple but effective way to grow your account.

However, you could do them wrong too. Loop giveaways are an excellent example of that. To participate in a loop giveaway, people need to follow several accounts (accounts that are in the “loop”)

There’s no doubt about that Loop giveaways will give you with a ton of new followers. In fact, growth is nearly guaranteed with big loop giveaways. Being a co-host in a loop giveaway gives you a way more significant attention than with hosting a giveaway alone because the giveaway is shared to each host’s audience. Therefore, you can achieve thousands or even tens of thousands of new followers in a matter of days.

The problem with loop giveaways is, however, that you’ll attract people who are not, in any way, interested in your content. They are just interested in winning the prize. And with loop giveaways, the prize is usually bigger, which attracts, even more, those who don’t care about your content.

And once the giveaway is over, most of them will unfollow you.

So it’s probably not worth it, right? Getting thousands of new followers can be exciting, but once most of them unfollow you, I bet it’s less encouraging.

6. Engagement pods

Engagement matter more than the number of followers.

You have probably read and heard that multiple times. While it’s true, it applies only to organic engagement.

Engagement pods are groups in which each member needs to like and comment on each other’s posts. These comments and like groups are usually Instagram group chats, Facebook groups, or Telegram groups.

You’ll achieve a lot of extra engagement, but you should, in my opinion, stay clear from these groups.

And the reason is simple: The engagement you’ll get from these groups is no different than fake likes and comments. It’s not authentic.

Even the Instagram algorithm can notice that. The likes will not be from your followers or even your audience. You’ll get engagement from other content creators (and your competitors) that are not authentically interested in your posts.

Moreover, you’ll spend a substantial amount of time on these groups. And that time is away from everything else. I genuinely believe you can spend it more wisely by, e.g., creating better new content or connecting with new people.

The positive effect of these groups is often overrated. I’ve been part of these groups, and in my opinion and experience, there are better ways.

I’m not saying all groups are wrong, however. On the contrary, actually: I entirely support connecting and chatting with like-minded people. And if it includes sharing your posts to each other, that’s totally fine.

But it should NEVER be the only and most important part of private groups. Similar to everything else, authenticity is what matters with groups too.

7. Spamming

“Cool post! Check out my latest post too”. “You should definitely check out my page.”

Do these comments make you intrigued by their content?

If yes, I’m surprised, but I’m not here to judge! But I seriously doubt anyone has ever received positive attention this way.

And such comments are literally everywhere! You see them in almost every Instagram post, and you probably receive these in your posts too.

It’s one thing to be active and another to be spammy. Randomly commenting, liking, direct messaging, following won’t do any good to your account. In fact, spamming will always harm your account.

Whenever you comment something, make sure it’s meaningful and relevant.

8. Bad content

No matter what tips, tricks, and methods you follow, there is one thing that will make or break your success on Instagram.


Bad content is unforgivable. There’s no way around that. If you post low-quality and uninteresting photos and videos, building trust and connection with your potential audience is difficult or nearly impossible.

There always needs to be something that your audience finds useful. It could be anything: tips, personal stories, entertainment, inspiration…

As long as your content is valuable to your target audience, growth is possible. Therefore my number 1 advice to all is to focus on creating excellent content that your audience can relate to.

9. Messy Feed

How your feed looks like plays a massive part in how people will react to your account.

If your content is fantastic, as it should be, people will discover you and visit your page.

What’s the first thing people will see when visiting your Instagram profile?

If they are impressed by the feed design, overall look and bio, there’s a high possibility that they start following. But if all they see is a mess, incoherent feed, most will leave.

People are impatient and will decide in seconds whether they should follow you or not.

Making a great first impression is always super important, and it’s no different with Instagram either.

10. Using hashtags wrong

With the correct use of hashtags, you can gain a massive reach for your posts.

Unfortunately, you can use them completely wrong too. I see that happening all the time, especially with people that are just starting out building their Instagram accounts.

The most popular mistakes

  1. Too popular hashtags. The most popular hashtags, like #love and #photooftheday, are used by thousands of people EVERY MINUTE. There’s little to no chance that your posts will be discovered through these. Another problem with super-popular hashtags is that they attract a lot of bots and spammers.
  2. Random & Irrelevant hashtags: if your post is about food, you shouldn’t use hashtags that are related to fashion, cars, or anything other than food. Hashtags should always be directly related to the post. Unfortunately, many people use just some hashtags in the hope of growing their account
  3. Come up with own hashtags. Although it can be fun to come up with your super-unique hashtags, it doesn’t make any sense to use them. The goal of hashtags is to help new people find your content. They are not aware of your hilarious hashtag so they won’t search for it either.

How should you use hashtags then? What you really should do is only to use hashtags that are relevant to your post and account. NEVER use random, overly popular or spammy hashtags.

11. Being inactive

Instagram is not a one-way street. It’s a social platform, and that means you need to socialize on Instagram. Posting fantastic content is not enough if you are not communicating and engaging with your followers and audience.

You can’t just sit and wait that people will find your posts. You have to be active. If you are not replying to comments, commenting, and liking others’ posts, you are not doing enough.

My suggestion is to spend time on Instagram, and write meaningful comments, reply to people, like posts, make new connections, have conversations on dm.

It may sound like a lot of work at first, but I’ve seen it work time and time again. Plus, with the right attitude, it can be fun too!

Being active and social is the best (and only) way to build a community and allows you to build trust with your audience and clients.

12. Not using all features of Instagram

When Instagram launched, it was all about sharing square photos that were edited with Instagram’s own filter. That has changed drastically as today, Instagram is full of features.

Nowadays, you can post both photos and videos, and portrait mode has replaced the square post format. There’s Instagram Stories with numerous filters, stickers, polls, gifs, interactive features. You can do live streams, and last year, Instagram launched IG TV.

If your Instagram use is still limited only to posting (square) photos to your feed, you are definitely missing out.

That is simply not enough if you want to grow your Instagram following in 2019. You have to be active everywhere on Instagram, so if you aren’t yet, it’s time to start using everything IG has to offer.

13. Impatience

Instagram growth rarely happens overnight.

Of course, there are many examples of growth exploding, but it’s unlikely to happen to you. Unless you focus on creating viral content, steady growth is more realistic and what you should be aiming for.

When you start creating content for Instagram, you are full of excitement and have great plans for the future. After a while, you begin to feel skeptical and unmotivated because you still don’t have thousands of followers.

I’ve seen this same scenario over and over again. People get bored too soon because they have unrealistic expectations.

Patience is what rewards you in the end, but most creators never achieve that because they give up.

Trust me, your account will grow eventually if your content is valuable. It could take time, but rushing won’t grow your account any faster.

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