11 Reasons You’re Not Gaining Instagram Followers (and How to Fix It)


Despite your best efforts, your Instagram marketing plans are simply not panning out. Existing followers are not engaging with content in the numbers you had hoped, and new followers who are a part of your target audience are few and far between.

If this scenario resonates with you, welcome to the social media void. The void is a 21st-century challenge, in which social media marketers must find a way to gain traction among users who are fully invested in social media celebrities and global brands that have endless marketing budgets.

This article is intended to help those of you who are struggling to gain a meaningful number of Instagram followers. By reevaluating your Instagram marketing strategy, you’ll be able to determine if you are making one of the 11 mistakes on this list.

If you discover that you are indeed making Instagram marketing mistakes, simply follow the steps outlined in this article to remedy your strategy and watch your followers grow by leaps and bounds as a result.

1. Speaking to the wrong audience.

It doesn’t matter how great your content is if you’re addressing the wrong audience. Before developing any content, the world’s best marketing teams first take time to think about the needs and wants of their target audience. They then confirm  through market research that the target audience does indeed need and want those things. Only after this understanding is in place do the best marketers begin creating a content strategy.

2. Ignoring the data.

Instagram users are constantly communicating with you; however, if you aren’t collecting the appropriate data, you are ignoring their messages. Using an Instagram analytics tool like Owlmetrics is a good way to conduct continuous research in order to understand what does and does not resonate with your target audience.

Using an all-in-one third-party analytics tool, marketers can determine what types of content are most successful and when this content should be published in order to achieve maximum exposure.

Best of all, analytics can be used to correlate follower growth (or decline) with particular strategies, making it easier to make effective strategy adjustments in real time.

3. Homogeneous content.

If you take a few minutes to browse content created by some of the world’s most successful Instagram brands, you’ll quickly realize that the content is varied in form and consistent in message.

Social media marketers often make the mistake of assuming that content needs to be uniform in order to be loyal to a particular brand voice. But this is a mistake.

Brands like Nike and Netflix communicate consistent messages in different content formats, delighting followers who might otherwise grow tired of homogeneous content strategies.

4. Overlooking the importance of influencers.

There’s a reason that some Instagram influencers make over $500,000 per sponsored post. It’s because influencer marketing works.

One study found that 96 percent of marketers who use some sort of influencer marketing strategy believe it is effective. If you have eschewed influencer marketing, it is time to rethink this decision. By embracing influencers or micro-influencers, you can quickly establish your brand as a meaningful voice in your industry.

5. Misunderstanding Instagram’s feed algorithm.

A great way to grow Instagram followers is to develop content that is amplified organically through Instagram’s feed algorithm. Content that is posted at the appropriate time and receives significant engagement in the form of likes, comments and shares is more likely to be placed prominently in other users’ Instagram feeds and in the Explore tab.

6. Forgetting about user-generated content.

As shoppers place more trust in online reviews, user-generated content has become increasingly popular and reputable. A study reported in AdWeek found that up to 47 percent of social media users trusted user-generated content when making a purchasing decision.

Instagram marketers should consider finding and re-sharing user-generated content as a way of thanking the original poster for their support and developing trust among existing followers. Brands like BMW are already using user-generated content to great effect on Instagram.

7. Focusing on bottom-of-the-funnel actions.

Some marketers become so obsessed with generating a clear ROI from social media marketing that they forget about creating an effective customer journey.

While it is true that Instagram can be used to drive bottom-of-the-funnel actions like making a purchase, it is often the case that Instagram is better used to generate brand awareness or top-of-the-funnel actions.

Instagram users want to connect with brands that generate fun and unique content, not brands that take a heavy-handed approach.

8. Underestimating the effectiveness of a competitor’s strategy.

If your competitor has developed an outstanding Instagram marketing strategy, it may make it difficult for your account to connect with the same target audience.

Before making changes to your existing strategy, be sure to collect some competitive intelligence in order to understand if a competitor is winning over Instagrammers.

If they are, it is time to develop a strategy that creates a uniquely valuable experience for members of your target audience, rather than a strategy that mimics what another account is already doing well.

9. Relying on an overly broad definition of your target audience.

Trying to speak to everyone will mean you are speaking to no one. Create an Instagram marketing strategy that targets a niche audience. Your account will be much more likely to gain traction if you develop unique, targeted content than if you develop generic content.

10. Neglecting Instagram Stories.

Over 300 million people use Instagram Stories, even though the feature has only been live for a little over a year. Moving forward, millions more Instagrammers will use Stories to connect with friends and brands.

Marketers at companies like Sonos are already using Instagram Stories to announce new products and drive Instagram users to company web pages.

11. Disregarding Instagram ads

Over 2 million brands have invested in Instagram ads this year, and that number is expected to grow significantly in the coming year. Marketers who are having trouble connecting with members of a target audience should consider investing in Instagram ads to gain initial traction. Since Facebook owns Instagram, Instagram advertising options are robust and ads are simple to set up.


Developing a successful social media marketing strategy on Instagram can be challenging, especially for startups and small businesses. But once a successful strategy has been established, the results can be remarkable.

Some small businesses have generated a significant amount of revenue as a result of good Instagram marketing campaigns.

Readers who are struggling to grow followers and engage existing followers should analyze their existing approach to determine if one of the 11 mistakes listed in this article are being made.

About the author

Deep Patel

Deep Patel is a serial entrepreneur, marketer and bestselling author of A Paperboy’s Fable: The 11 Principles of Success. The book was dubbed the #1 best business book in 2016 by Success Magazine and named the best book for entrepreneurs in 2016 by Entrepreneur Magazine.

Also recognized as a top 25 marketing influencer by Forbes, Patel has worked with VC-backed startups to Fortune 500 companies. He is also a contributor at Forbes, Entrepreneur, The Huffington Post and Success Magazine.

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