Instagram is here to stay. In the world of social networks, it has become the way for people to share images with their family, friends, and followers. As people increasingly communicate with images, this visually focused medium has found a dedicated and growing base of users.

Instagram has some of the most engaged users out of all the social platforms. 70% of Instagrammers check the network at least once per day, and 35% view their accounts multiple times. Instagram users are also 15 times more engaged than Facebook, Google+, or Twitter users – which is something to consider when you are prioritizing your marketing activities.

Why should a Business have an Instagram Account?

If you own a business, there are many reasons to use Instagram. It is a way to show off your products, to give users a peek behind the scenes, and to humanize your company by communicating directly with your audience.

For example, if you’re starting a t-shirt company, you’d want to create an Instagram that showcases your products in creative, attractive ways. Not only does this encourage follows and shares – thus building positive sentiment and overall share of voice for your company, it can even sell products directly. Don’t forget to include links to your products in your Instagram captions. Of course, if you’re using a social hub to pull that Instagram content into your website, you can make the images link directly to product pages with a “Buy this Now” button. For fledgling companies selling off a third party platform (like Amazon), buttons connecting Instagram posts to those 3rd party pages is a great way to quickly build a visual and curated ecommerce site.

Using plenty of popular hashtags also helps (the most effective IG posts have eleven), along with getting your design team (if you have one) involved with choosing images and filters to ensure your products look their best.

Creating Visual Continuity

Your company Instagram account can help improve brand awareness by creating a specific visual identity that’s linked throughout your brand social media accounts and overall digital presence.

Conveniently, IG makes it easy to share images on other sites – in fact, there are many tools that let you automatically post your Instagram images and videos to other social media accounts. Pinterest users can also pin your IGs quickly – making it ideal for business owners whose target audience overlaps on both visually-focused social sites. What’s more, the majority of Instagram users also use Twitter, ensuring there are more than twice as many chances for your target audience to see your content.

Help Influencers Find your Company on IG

Instagram is also one of the best ways to discover key influencers and make them loyal followers of your brand. It goes both ways. From a marketer’s perspective, you can discover a lot about an active IG user via their feed (after all, a picture is worth a thousand words, and a video is worth even more). Therefore you can easily see if they are part of your audience and share your brand’s key attributes.

From a user’s point of view, sharing their Instagram photos under a branded hashtag can be very rewarding – winning a contest, getting special discounts, coupons, or other bonuses, gaining a new audience from followers of the hashtag (especially if the business shares their image with their followers), or even just being on a coveted brand’s marketing radar. After all, community managers tend to keep a close eye on who generates content that helps promote their influence.

Best Practices For Instagram are Universal

The fundamentals of Instagram marketing apply to almost every business. Restaurant owners can ask fans to share their meals, software companies can show off images of what their clients created using their products, and virtually every business can share pictures of employees, products, and more. Even companies that offer services instead of tangible products can take advantage of IG – show a team member at work or the results of your efforts.

So what are you waiting for? Get Instagramming! Without further ado – here’s our guide to get your started:

By Guest Contributor Ivan Serrano

Ivan Serrano is a web journalist and infographic wizard from California. He has covered a large variety of topics, but is especially adept at writing about social media, technology and business. Ivan is a worshiper of the sports god, and will begin his annual, four month prayer session now the football season has begun. As soon as hockey starts up again, Ivan may not be seen for several months.