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6 Instagram Mistakes Big Brands Made and How to Learn From Them

6 Instagram Mistakes Big Brands Made and How to Learn From Them

6 Instagram Mistakes Big Brands Made and How to Learn From Them

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It’s always better to learn from others' mistakes than to make them yourself, and quite a few businesses have made mistakes on Instagram. We’ll list six of them here, highlighting what the brands should have done differently and showing you how to thrive on Instagram.

Social media has emerged as a prominent marketing channel capable of driving significant growth for businesses. This is not surprising, considering that the average user spends 2 hours and 22 minutes on social media every day.

Human beings are inherently attracted to aesthetically pleasing visuals. Therefore, as an image-sharing service, Instagram has emerged as the top social media platform for users and brands.

My extensive experience as a social media specialist and entrepreneur (founder of, an Instagram analytics platform) has given me a unique understanding of just how vital social media marketing is to a successful business.

As popular as Instagram has become, brands still haven’t unlocked the platform’s true potential as a marketing channel. Here are 6 mistakes big brands have made on Instagram and what you should learn from them.

1. Reformation: Posts Misaligned With Business Strategy

With increasing competition on the platform, Instagram posts have to be well-planned. Each post must reflect your brand strategy in both its tone and visual appearance.

Social media content devoid of a cohesive, goal-driven strategy might look good on the app, but it adds zero value for your brand — defeating the purpose of social media marketing.

The below post is from Reformation, a sustainable women’s clothing brand. It received widespread backlash for its depiction of a model wearing a dress with factory workers in the background.



The image was viewed as tasteless and detrimental to Reformation’s organizational goals.

Posts and their captions must be crafted with care. If your goal is to drive traffic to your landing page, focusing of crafting a casual yet persuasive caption, complete with a call to action (CTA).

If your emphasis is user engagement, focus more on the quality and aesthetics of the picture rather than the captions and CTAs.

And definitely don't post with factory workers in the background.

2. Little Mix: Unedited and Unimaginative Captions

Everybody knows Instagram is primarily a visual platform, but this doesn’t justify boring, unimaginative captions.

Compelling imagery may attract followers, but captions can provide powerful context when used properly. If they’re devoid of voice or full of mistakes, however, your brand could be missing out on loyal users.

Take this caption from pop group Little Mix, for example, which was clearly not looked over before its publishers hit "post":

Little Mix


British pop group Little Mix took social copy from the marketer promoting its branded perfume and inserted it into the caption verbatim. Social media users are clever enough to see through such tactics, especially when they post something that clearly shouldn't be on there.

Captions allow users to relate to the image by forming a connection with the picture and the account. They also help brands drive engagement.

Rather than settling for emojis and generic phrases, enhance your captions with compelling CTAs or questions that engage users. You should also make sure you proofread your captions, too.

3. Crumpet Creations: Misuse of Hashtags

There is an unspoken etiquette to using hashtags the right way.

Many brands simply use "trending" hashtags to drive visibility. However, a makeup brand posting a product picture with a trending hashtag like #ThingsKidSay will not be effective.

While the goal is to increase visibility and engagement through hashtags, users are unlikely to respond to an image that isn’t aligned with the used hashtag.

British baking company Warburtons faced consequences for being unfamiliar with "furries," an online community of people who enjoy dressing up as anthropomorphic cartoon animals.

Crumpet Creations


The chain's holiday Instagram hashtag #CrumpetCreations was supposed to highlight tasty recipes made by followers using the brand’s famous crumpets.

However, the hashtag #furries is commonly used within the furry community. Anyone looking for Warburton’s’ user-submitted crumpets saw people dressed up as animals.

Proper research would have prevented such a breach of hashtag etiquette. While jumping on an irrelevant hashtag has consequences, so, too, does missing out on certain hashtags.

Relevant and industry/business-specific hashtags can be a powerful tool to maximize engagement and enable target markets to find your products.

4. Revolve: Lack of Diversity

The past few years have seen massive outrage directed toward brands that have failed to rectify discriminatory behavior or indulge in racial or ethnic discrimination.

About 75% of Instagram users are young people (18-24) who are very proactive about issues such as racism. Any brand that exhibits such behavior is bound to spark an outcry.

Take Revolve, for instance. Its failure to include women of color in its Instagram posts led activists and everyday users to comment their disgust and anger.



Source 1; Source 2

Revolve’s blunder acts as a wakeup call to the fashion industry – as well as every industry – that customers are growing increasingly aware of racial discrimination. As users of a picture-sharing application, consumers are quick to notice brands that hint at discrimination.

The result? Bad word-of-mouth and decreased revenue. As the economy grows increasingly diverse, so, too, should your Instagram posts.

5. Missguided: Overdoing Photoshop

Aesthetic has always been the propelling force behind Instagram success. High-definition images with stunning visual appeal generally rake in the highest number of likes and shares.

Brands strive to project the "perfect" image — even if they’re promoting something as natural as body positivity. This was Missguided’s intention when it uploaded images of models edited to include fake stretchmarks. Unfortunately for them, users quickly uncovered its ploy and flooded the image with negative comments.



Several professional photographers also accused the brand of using Photoshop to add the stretch marks.

Don't overdo Photoshop in your posts. Instead, take actual photos of what you're trying to portray.

6. Z Palette: Lack Of Consumer Engagement Etiquette

Social media networking is all about establishing relationships and presenting the human side of your brand.

Engagement with followers is the the hallmark of successful brands, as it helps establish trust and a long-term relationship. Studies have found that user engagement leads to consumer retention, which ultimately drives brand growth.

Simple tactics such as following people back or replying to questions and comments can go a long way in establishing trust. However, it should be done in a civil manner. Case in point: Z Palette missed the mark when customers complained about increased pricing.



Although the brand did engage with followers, the manner in which it did so was obnoxious. Z Palette issued an official apology, but it still lost followers. It certainly wasn’t a worthwhile strategy.

Without a doubt, brands should regularly engage with customers. However, they should place the utmost priority on maintaining a pleasant and professional manner.

Post With Caution

Image-sharing on Instagram has gone beyond sending selfies to friends. Marketers can use it to drive more qualified site visitors and increase brand revenue. Brands can also respond to customers, answer questions, and provide helpful context about their products.

Like any new technology, however, there is a bit of a learning curve. Spamming users with engagement, hijacking irrelevant hashtags, and failing to account for discriminatory content can often hurt your brand more than they help.

Instagram is now seeing 15x more engagement than Facebook and 20x more than Twitter. By avoiding these common mistakes, you can optimize your brand’s Instagram account.