If you are a small business owner reading this blog post, chances are that you already have an Instagram account for your business. Studies show that nearly 71% of all American businesses have an account on the platform. This is for good reason – 80% of users follow at least one business profile and over 72% of them have purchased a product that they came across on Instagram.

But owning an Instagram profile for your business is only the first step. Real success with marketing comes from how you engage with your audience and how you position your product or service among your followers. Here are a few common Instagram marketing mistakes that small business owners must avoid in order to find success.

Experimenting Too Often

There are tons of articles online for business owners seeking success on Instagram. It is worth noting that while the strategies you learn may be legitimate, they may not work for all kinds of businesses. As a marketer, you must pick and choose the strategies that you think are applicable to your business. More importantly, it is important to persist with these strategies even if they do not render positive results immediately.

There are two reasons why this is important. Firstly, Instagram users expect your brand to post a certain kind of content. For instance, if you have secured a huge list of followers from a viral video that you posted, then it is likely that these followers expect your profile to post more of such content. Experimenting with different kinds of content all at the same time brings down user engagement and could also potentially distort the brand value. In effect, it contributes to an increase in the number of users who unfollow.

Another reason why you should not experiment too often is that each strategy takes its own time to deliver results. During this time, it is important for a marketer to measure results and tweak their campaign to see how these changes impact your ROI. Experimenting too often leaves you with very little data that is valuable for analysis.

Being A One-Way Street

It is true that the only reason any business would want to be on Instagram is to find followers and convert them into paying customers. That does not, however, mean that you should publish conversion-focused content at all times.

A typical marketing process involves acquiring followers, engaging and nurturing them and eventually turning them into paying customers. As a platform, Instagram is built for engagement and nurturing. In order to achieve high engagement, it is important to see what your customers like and providing them with exactly that. Some studies show that user-generated photos garner five times more conversions than those produced in-house. You may look at such strategies that allow you to focus on engagement while improving conversions at the same time.

It is also worth pointing out that your Instagram communication needs to be a two-way street. In addition to engaging with followers on your timeline, you should also engage with your followers on their timeline. This is especially important for local businesses that thrive on personal relationships. Such businesses tend to see higher conversions by building an emotional connection with their followers.

Too Few Or Too Many Hashtags

Hashtags are an integral component of Instagram marketing and studies show that hashtags help increase engagement by as much as 12.5%. More importantly, Instagram allows users to follow specific hashtags they are interested in. In other words, using more hashtags would also mean being discovered by a lot many more people who are interested in your industry. Using no or very few hashtags may fail to get your post noticed.

At the same time, too many hashtags tend to disrupt engagement and also potentially make your posts come across as spammy. One research has found that the top 91% of successful Instagram accounts use seven or fewer hashtags. Although you are allowed to use as many as 30 hashtags on each of your posts, it is a good idea to resist the temptation to go all-out and restrict yourself to around seven hashtags.

Being Blatantly Promotional

There are a number of different ways to reach new audiences via Instagram. Advertising lets you target audiences based on specific demographic or behavioral patterns. You may also partner with Instagram influencers who have a significant following among your target group. Regardless of what promotional strategies you pick, small businesses need to stay away from being blatantly promotional.

Social media users, in general, do not like being marketed to. Consequently, engagement tends to be lower on posts that are “salesy” in nature. This is especially a challenge for small businesses that neither enjoy the brand equity of large businesses nor can afford a sustained advertising campaign. Such businesses tend to go for conversion from the start and this strategy can backfire.

Instead, it is a good idea to use advertising to spread the word and build a following. If you are using influencers to promote your business, you may provide them with editorial freedom to choose how they want to review your product or communicate your offerings to their followers. Sometimes, being subtle can be quite effective.

Now over to you – are you a small business owner with experience in Instagram marketing? Share your lessons and mistakes in the comments.

About the Author: Shawn Arora is the founder of LaunchSpark, an agency that helps create explainer videos for startups and small businesses.