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5 Common Instagram Mistakes

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Instagram is my personal favorite social media platform and it is gaining significant popularity amongst government agencies. The latest stats show it has grown to over 800 million monthly active users and is beating out Facebook and Twitter as the preferred social media network of teens and young adults (you will hear why that is important to you later). The simplicity of the mobile based platform combined with visual appeal, easy editing tools and constant awesome updates (I am obsessed with the story highlights) are a few of the many reasons why we love Insta.

Because the platform is pretty new to the local government and public safety world, most social media managers have limited training and experience with it. Here are 5 of the common mistakes (and my pet peeves) that I have noticed on Instagram; note - some of these offenses are being committed on other platforms as well.

Mistake #1: Your Agency Doesn't Have an Instagram Account

Well this is a big no-brainer but nonetheless worthy of mention. There are still a lot of agencies out there that are not on Instagram. It is important to have a presence across various platforms because trends change and each platform has a different demographic and different features. If you don't have one, stop what you're doing and get one now!

Mistake #2: Hyperlinks in Post Captions

Public service announcement...you can't click on links in Instagram captions. People also don't want to have to read tiny font then try and manually type in the website link, even if it's a short one. Remember, if it's too much work people won't do it. It is best to direct them to your bio link. Even then you run into some issues with the fact that you only have one link and multiple locations you need to direct followers to (press release, terms of service, online forms, registration, recruitment and so on). 

Mistake #3: Posting a Text Filled Document

This is probably one of the most serious offenses in my book. First of all - it looks horrible from a design and aesthetics perspective. Second - you will have significantly less reach due to algorithms for those types of posts. Third - you can't read it (nobody wants to pinch and zoom then slide side to side to read it). Instead you should use good quality photo or clean graphic, briefly highlight the main points then direct people to a link to get full document (if they want more info). PS - using a screenshot version with grammatical/spelling error markups on it is a double felony. This also applies to other social media platforms.

Mistake #4: Posting Images Without Permission

This one is two-fold and also applies to all social media platforms. The first part has to do with UGC (user generated content). I am a big fan of UGC as it saves me a lot of content creating time and is a great way to connect with your community but….you need to ask permission - plain and simple! Not only is it common courtesy, you can run into possible legal issues; giving them credit in the repost DOES NOT suffice. The other part of it has to do with using copyrighted images and is a serious issue that I have seen done by a large number of government based accounts. More and more organizations are getting slapped with hefty fines for doing this.

Mistake #5: Crossposting

Just because Instagram allows you to crosspost to Twitter and Facebook, doesn't mean you should do it. Although it's a time saver, there are tons of reasons why you should not do it. Here are a few of the main reasons: the image formatting/sizing is different on each platform, Twitter doesn't upload the photos and videos - only a post link, post caption layout and character limits are different, you can use links in posts on Facebook and not Instagram (you don't want to direct people on Facebook to your bio link, right?) and use of tags and hashtags vary on each platform (hashtags don't have the same engagement impact on Facebook as they do on Instagram).


You have to remember that you are a professional organization that needs to have a professional tone, style and brand - just like any company trying to connect with its audience. Not only that, you are competing for attention (we all know how short attention spans are these days) and need that thumb scroll stopping content. Think about what makes your thumb stop scrolling and try to translate those concepts to your organization when developing social media content.

In our recent episode of The Law Enforcement Social Media Podcast with Tim Burrows http://www.twelvesixtysix.com/ we talked about our projections for 2018 in the social media world and what that means for government and public safety. A lot of what we talked about had to do with the need to invest in quality training and quality equipment so you can produce quality content. Take this list of mistakes and the tips from the podcast then go back, evaluate your social media game and develop a strategy.

If you are interested in Instagram or other government social media training check out our upcoming classes at: https://lawenforcement.social/classes

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