Want to expand the reach of your brand, improve your company’s reputation, build your social media following, and drive conversions? Instagram is an excellent resource that any small business can use. It’s currently the fastest-growing social media platform, and it offers incredible marketing benefits to any business.

Boasting more than 500 million active users, Instagram has the potential to catch a lot of attention. It’s one of the best ways for customers to connect with brands on a more personal level. Through interactions and regular posts, your company can discover what its target audience likes and dislikes, and use that to shape your entire marketing campaign.

There’s also the ability to reach new audiences. With every photo you post and person you connect with, Instagram can launch a chain reaction that will carry your business to new heights. This social platform can serve as excellent fuel for your other marketing channels.

The potential benefits of using Instagram are many. But reaping the rewards of marketing via Instagram will take some work. Success comes only with knowing how to apply the rules.

1. Find a Target Audience

This is a simple step if you’ve already developed a target audience for the rest of your social media strategy. If you haven’t, here are some strategies for doing so:

● Create customer personas that detail demographics and customer demands.
● Follow businesses that are similar to yours and observe their target audiences.
● Use your existing customer base to branch off and find more followers.
● Run surveys to discover people who are truly interested in your business.

2. Drive Content Creation to Appeal to the Target Audience

After you’ve defined your target audience, hone your content on appealing to them. The material you post should encourage engagement, whether you do it with engaging photos or through the captions you post. The data you collected when you were locating your target audience should give you a good picture of the things they like.

3. Focus on Branding

Keep all the content relevant to your brand. Follow a strategy that will establish your brand as a content leader in the industry. With a strong logo, culture, and personality, your Instagram photos can become a powerful reminder to customers about who you are and what you stand for.

4. Post Business Photos and Captions Every Day

It’s not sufficient to post on Instagram a couple of times a week. You should offer relevant, striking, and captioned photos on a daily basis to keep followers engaged. This will give them a reason to keep following you and encourage steady engagement.

5. Be Fun

Professionalism is good, but Instagram users connect with businesses more out of a desire for entertainment than education. Images posted on your business account should be a reflection of your personality. They can be humorous, inspiring, or thought-provoking, but they should always make your followers feel something.

6. Experiment with Video

The video feature on Instagram is fairly new, but it’s quickly become popular. The video function offers a 15-second window during which you can do a quick glimpse of something relating to your business.

You might show a product in action, provide an exciting reveal on a new product or share behind-the-scenes secrets. Videos are typically more engaging than static images and can create a stronger connection between your brand and the customer.

Videos posted on Instagram can also be embedded onto your blog or Website. This will bring your Instagram marketing strategy full circle and further your branding efforts.

7. Boost Your Hashtag Game

Hashtags were developed to group useful posts together. They’re one of the most powerful branding tools in social media. You can build an entire community around a single actionable hashtag. Businesses do this all the time, and you can do the same through a little thought leadership and regular hashtag use.

8. Write Your Bio Strategically

There should be a pretty big distinction between the bio you post on LinkedIn and Facebook versus the one you’ll use on Instagram. Boring details about your resume or professional qualifications are unnecessary and even counterproductive on an Instagram profile.

Instead, followers are looking for a bio that humanizes your brand. It’s perfectly acceptable to use emojis and humorous one-liners here to attempt a more meaningful connection.

9. Work on the Copy

Yes, Instagram posts are more about the images than the text, but that doesn’t make your copy insignificant. A caption can establish or alter the meaning of a photo instantly, so it can mean the difference between 2 likes and 2,000.

Tailor your message to match your brand. It can be short, long, positive, funny, serious, or anything you want it to be, as long as it fits into the parameters you’ve already set and inspires your followers to action.

10. Use Apps to Improve Posts

You can find lists of useful apps that can make any Instagram experience better. There are apps to transfer print photos to digital, search tags and keywords, download photos, edit and add captions, and more. Try some of these apps to see if you can transform your marketing tactics.

11. Try Contests

Looking for a way to drive instant engagement? Contests are effective at doing the trick. Photo contests are the most obvious form of friendly competition here. You can offer a prize to someone who comes up with the best photo interpretation of a concept attached to a hashtag.

You might be surprised by the participation you receive and the number of followers who emerge from this exercise.

Anna Johansson is a contributor to BusinessTown.com.