Don’t let the filters fool you — not even Valencia can cover up the most common Instagram mistakes. While it’s more clear than ever that this photo sharing platform can convert consumers into customers, too many brands that could be tapping into 150 million monthly users are instead underutilizing Instagram. How can you turn a lackluster feed into tons of likes and followers (and loyal customers?). For starters, make sure you’re not making the following five “unfollowable” mistakes and take a few hints from some of the brands that are getting it right below.

1. Too many hashtags.

Nothing screams spambot more than #thirty #hashtags #per #post (and, as you can see, it’s nearly illegible). Hashtags will help people with similar interests find your photos and learn about your brand, but one too many can alienate users and simply looks like follower bait (read: desperate). Try to cap it at around three to five hashtags, and make sure they’re relevant to the photo — using a popular hashtag like #nofilter won’t work well if your image has clearly been edited.

One brand to look at: Sharpie’s Instagram has a good balance of hashtags, plus they cleverly design images for timely topics and add an appropriate hashtag — a smart strategy to draw in new followers that are browsing by keyword.

2. Ignoring key revenue opportunities.

Even though Instagram puts a spotlight on products, there’s often a disconnect between the app and ecommerce. But that doesn’t have to be the case: Instagram can and does drive revenue. It can be as simple as including an easy-to-remember link in the caption (avoid links because Instagram currently doesn’t have the functionality to hyperlink within posts). Warby Parker is just one example of a brand which effectively includes full links to their ecommerce site in product posts.

Curalate’s newest product, Fanreel, bridges the gap between liking a product on Instagram and purchasing it onsite — Fanreel helps brands maximize user-generated photos by managing these images through hashtags and posting them on ecommerce sites., one of the first companies to test out the product, noticed an engagement rate of 30 percent in their user-generated web gallery.

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3. Being a recluse.

Instagram is a social media platform, but it’s all too easy for brands to forget the social aspect and entirely focus on celebrating their own products. Remember your fans: Like photos when users include your name as a hashtag, re-gram when your fans post high-quality photos, and have a little fun with questions and calls to action. You’ll guarantee engagement and good will toward your brand — once you establish a good social rapport, they’re more inclined to hit the stores (and tell their friends where they got it). For instance, men’s retailer Bonobos invites its customers to share photos of them having a good time in their clothing with the hashtag #thatsBonobos, and the images often make it onto Instagram. A little flash of fame is just all the more reason to buy a Bonobos product — and share when you’re wearing it.

4. Low quality photos.

It should be a no brainer, and yet no feed is free of grainy, cluttered photos. Even if your social media manager is no Ansel Adams, there are plenty of quick fixes — for example, Instagram now has an in-app straightening tool to alter off-kilter pictures. You can also try photo editing apps like Snapseed (free), AfterLight($0.99), and VSCO Cam (free) to easily enhance images. Over($1.99) is another useful app that allows you to quickly design images with a text overlay.

5. Failing to measure and optimize.

One way to really know what’s working on Instagram: Take a look at analytics. A tool like Curalate can identify important information, like a user-generated photo of your product that’s drumming up buzz on Facebook (which you can pass on to your merchandising team) or which hashtag is generating the most engagement. Take the guesswork out of gaining impressions, and your likes, followers, and sales will skyrocket.

Keep these five rules in mind and you’ll already be ahead of most social marketers on instagram today. In the past we showed you how to convert a community of fans on Instagram into loyal customers,  now that you also know what insta-taboos to avoid, you’re well on your way to growing a successful community. As such, we’d love to see what your social team is doing on Instagram. Share your profile in the co

Kara Solarz is a Brooklyn-based web editor and copywriter who has written for,, and She has yet to finish the New York Times Sunday crossword puzzle without cheating.

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