10 Instagram rules everyone should follow

More than just a dumping ground for your half-eaten hoagie or that funny-looking pooch, the visual-centric platform is a great place for courting customers and giving your brand some pizzazz.

Instagram is a visual social platform (with more than 150 million active users), where users capture, customize, and share photos and videos with their followers.

Though some people think Instagram is nothing more than depository for “selfies,” “what I ate for lunch,” and “look at this sunset through a cool filter,” its potential business reach is substantial.

Below are 10 ways you can optimize your Instagram business account:

1. Complete your profile. This is the best place to leave a first impression, the place to showcase who you are and what you do. Make sure you fill in all the sections on your profile. Leave a link to your Facebook page, Twitter feed, and website. Your prospects will want to check out your various profiles to find out more about your services/products. This will lead to more followers on your other platforms.

2. Find your customers by using hashtags. Search for people already talking about your business or your field. Find people in your city (#Indianapolis) or people that share your interest (#health). These are your potential customers. Find them, follow them, “like” their posts, and engage them.

3. Engage, engage, engage. Tag others, talk to others, check in with other businesses, and use your location. Adding layers to your posts gives people a better feel for who you are and increases the reach of your message. Instagram is now the media outlet for users to “check in.” (Sorry, Foursquare.)

4. Be consistent with posts. Post frequently, but do not bombard your followers with thousands of pictures. Consistency keeps your followers engaged. Depending on the type of business you run, a couple of posts a day is a typically the limit.

5. Show off your products. Everyone loves to browse products, so use Instagram to allow your followers to window-shop. Show off a collection of the products you offer or share a photo of a new or lesser-known product. Extreme close-ups can be an interesting and unique way to engage your followers.

6. Introduce your employees. Humanize your brand by using Instagram to introduce your fans to the people behind your company. It’s a great way to show the personality of your brand. This is an opportunity to have a little fun by sharing candid photos of your employees. Use Instagram to portray your company’s “behind-the-scenes” as fun and lively. Perhaps you are taking your employees on a company excursion. Use that as an opportunity to show your company outside the typical work environment.

7. Take your followers with you. If you are going to a trade show or conference, use that opportunity to “bring along” your fans by sharing interesting photographs. Show off any new developments or styles in the field. Your fans might not be able to attend, but through you they can share the experience.

8. Encourage Instagram contests. Businesses often run Instagram photo contests by organizing submissions with a custom hashtag. Come up with a unique hashtag, and encourage fans to share photos. Optimize these contests by integrating them into your other social media pages. Facebook has simplified their restrictions on contests/giveaways, so take advantage of this by running a multi-platform contest.

9. Take relevant photos. Whether they are photos of your company, employees, or current events, make certain that they are relevant and current. Every photo you take isn’t going to fit with the identity of your company. Make sure that you are posting pictures that accurately reflect your brand.

10. Take great photos. Using a cool filter cannot fix a bad photograph. Pictures should be in focus and balanced. Avoid wasted space, use proper lighting, and apply the rule of thirds for most pictures.

A version of this article first appeared on Social Research Strategies.

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