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Are you wondering whether or not you should be using Instagram for business?? The answer is a resounding YES.

In just four years, Instagram has amassed a user base of over 300 million monthly users that share over 70 million photos and videos every day. Almost 50% of millennials with smartphones are using this platform, and on average, they spend over eight hours using the app every month (in one year, that’s over 100 hours…more than twice the amount of time I spent binge watching all three seasons of House of Cards this spring). Not only that, but half of all Instagram users within the United States report using the app at least once every day.

Engagement on Instagram is up by 416% from two years ago, but how does this young social network measure up against Facebook and Twitter, which have been around for almost a decade? Despite the app’s young age, recent reports show that Instagram is rising to be the King of Social Engagement…a title that is very well-deserved when you consider the fact that Instagram users engage by pressing the like button 30,000 likes every second.

In 2014,  both Facebook and Twitter experienced engagement rates lower than 0.01%. Instagram users were 58 times more likely to engage with content than Facebook users were, and these Instagram users were also 120 times more likely to engage than Twitter users were. That being said, it’s definitely starting to seem like Instagram is today’s most brand-friendly social platform.

This remarkable growth has really shaken up the way brands should think about their visual content, which means you should be brainstorming about how to take advantage of these new mobile opportunities. Creating visual stories with a consistent and vibrant voice that resonates with viewers is truly an art, and in order to harness the full potential of Instagram for business, you’ll need to actively create captivating content that is not just engaging, but also discoverable for your target audience.

Make the most out of your Instagram presence by following these eight tips:

  1. Create awesome visual content. Your Instagram followers are looking for photos that speak to them–and you need to actively provide that voice. You can accomplish this by sharing beautiful images that resonate with viewers, which means they’ll be happy to see you appear on their feeds.  You can also take the “behind the scenes approach,” and share exclusive snapshots of your business at work, which creates a sense of intimacy between your brand and your followers. Having great visuals will help you tell your brand’s story while also helping your followers establish trust with your online presence.
  2. Communicate with your followers. Individuals typically use social media as platforms to interact with friends, so you don’t want to seem like a robotic intruder in this social experience. You can prevent users from perceiving you in this manner by breaking out of the social media silo and really embracing conversation with followers. While generic responses can help you save time in certain circumstances, they should be used with caution. Replying to comments in thoughtful and personalized ways will make your followers feel like they’re really getting to know the people behind your logo, and this will help develop long-term brand love and inspire customer advocacy.
  3. Post consistently. Studies suggest that highly engaging brands post to Instagram 1-2 times each day. Often, we assume that when a brand shares images multiple times a day, it will see less engagement with each succeeding post. In practice, however, this assumption does not hold true. However, posting at a consistent frequency on a regular basis is the more important factor, because once your followers are conditioned to expect a certain amount of posts, a sudden decrease in posting frequency can result in a loss of followers.
  4. Caption is key. The average Instagram caption is 141 characters long (hashtags included), but there is no apparent correlation between caption length and engagement. Keep in mind that your photos are the root of interest on this network and that users want to be shown rather than told. So, instead of focusing on writing long captions, let the images speak for themselves and make sure that the captions you do share compliment your visual content.
  5. @Mention other users. Only 38% of brand posts mention users’ handles in the captions, but these posts experience 37% more engagement than posts that don’t! @Mentioning other users in your posts is a great tactic for reaching and interacting with wider audiences for increased engagement.
  6. Use hashtags (#wisely). Using hashtags can not only increase engagement on your posts by 15%, but it can also help larger audiences discover your brand. Instagram recently launched a new “People” tab to its “Explore” page, and using hashtags will help Instagram match your brand’s profile with users’ interests so that you can be highlighted as a “person” they should follow. Be sure to choose your hashtags wisely! You can target a wider audience by using specific hashtags; a better-targeted audience yields more engagement. Just don’t use hashtags that are too long or too offbeat because people are less likely to search for #StarbucksTripleVentiSoyNoFoamLatte than they are to search for #StarbucksLatte.
  7. Tag your locations. Instagram’s Photo Map allows you to showcase where your photos are taken, and this provides your target users with another opportunity to discover your brand! Right now, relatively few brands are sharing geotagged images–this is a huge untapped potential resource considering the fact that geotagged content receives 50% more engagement than non-tagged content. Instagram just released version 7 of its app, and this update allows users to search by location for the first time. Now, geotagging is more important than ever: it offers another means for users to discover your brand while browsing.
  8. Social shopping. If you’re a retailer, utilizing programs such as Soldsie or Like2Buy can help you bridge the gap between social media and e-commerce. With Soldsie, after you share an image of a product on Instagram, your followers can reply with a simple comment or hashtag (of your choosing), and Soldsie will complete the transaction by emailing an invoice to the customer. Like2Buy takes advantage of the fact that Instagram allows its users to share one functional URL in their profile summary. With this program, when you share an image of a product, it will be geotagged with “link in profile” and if the potential customer clicks on the provided link, he or she will be taken to the product’s page on your store’s mobile website in order to complete the transaction.

At the end of the day, your target audience is looking for posts that will add value to their lives in some way, shape, or form. If you create amazing, engaging visuals and effectively leverage the tools Instagram provides for you to find your audience, you can become the brand your customers want to see on their feeds (getting to know them a little better can also help). While many brands are on the platform, few are actually nailing Instagram for business and there’s no reason for you not to be one of them. What are you waiting for? Get posting.

So, which brands do you think are #winning the game of Instagram for business? Let us know below!

Forrester “Use Instagram Now” (April 2014)
Simply Measured “Instagram Study” (Q4 2014)