Become an Instagram guru in eight simple steps

Here are some best practices to use the popular image-sharing app for business

Your social media platforms are set up—you are tweeting up a storm, sharing posts on Facebook, and you’ve even made some promo videos on YouTube and Vimeo. Business is doing well, but you’re waiting for that magical moment—when an extra boost of online followers will bring more attention to your company.

There’s a lot of sensory overload happening all over the Internet right now. Visual content is in higher demand than ever before. Apps like Instagram help showcase products in a creative way, allow you to establish a colorful brand identity, and start an interactive #hashtag campaign to engage more closely with consumers.

Instagram has been touted as the “Facebook for teens.” But it does far more than serve as a hub for cute kitten photos. With 200 million active users, Instagram is a great way to spread word about your business. It’s become so popular that there are about 60 million photo uploads daily, with an average of 1.6 billion likes. In fact, 70 percent of users check Instagram on their phones at least once a day, and about half of them check it multiple times a day.

The most important part of Instagram: telling a story.

Because you have full reign over the design, you can determine how you want to present your company. Your job is to tell a personal narrative that is entertaining and creative. Use high-resolution photos, catchy phrases, and lots of hashtags to spread the word faster.

Whatever you choose to post, you have to make sure you are delivering a cohesive message about your brand that will resonate with your target audience. This will help you to find your following, and before you know it, you will have your own community of like-minded followers.

Instagram communities are easy to form and even easier to grow. If you try Instagram guru Chalene Johnson’s 5/3/1 rule, you’re likely to grow your community even further: Like 5 photos, comment on 3 photos, and you will earn 1 new follower.

Using Instagram as a marketing tool

You can become an expert on Instagram with these eight easy steps:

1. Create your story. Decide on a visual theme and use it consistently.

2. Create your content. Use high-resolution photos and third-party editing apps to enhance your photos. Use a mix of Instagram filters and no filters.

3. Put yourself out there. Share with the world. Keep in mind that the best days to post are Sunday, Monday, and Thursday. Use a mix of brand specific hashtags, industry specific hashtags, and trending hashtags (#tbt = takebacktime or throwbackthursday, for example).

4. Break down your platform barriers. Share your Instagram on Facebook. Tweet it on Twitter. Mix your online communities.

5. Nurture a clear following. Use unique hashtags to find your niche.

6. Engage with your followers. Like and comment on popular photos. @mention the creator and commenters. Follow the 5/3/1 rule.

7. Reward your followers. Coupons, contests, or previews of upcoming events are all good ideas.

8. Watch it grow. Put these steps to practice, be patient, and the good results will show. Pretty soon, your Instagram following will grow and you’ll be building brand awareness in no time.

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