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Instagram is a social media service and smartphone app where people share pictures with friends. A business with a visually appealing product is a candidate for using Instagram, which is the third most-used social media (after Facebook, which owns Instagram, and YouTube). Pick Instagram only if the products or services offered are visually appealing.

With Instagram, businesses reach a passionately engaged audience – moreso than other social media. Passionately engaged people are great prospective new customers.

Start by downloading the app using an iPhone, Android smartphone or Windows Phone. Create an account using a business email address and a user name that relates to the business. Complete the profile, including adding a business logo.

Great content drives traffic – whether to a website or a business’ social media page. As the primary content on Instagram is photos, posting good photos that relate to a business will bring traffic that can in turn visit the business. Use the phone to shoot, edit and share photos on Instagram, which offers excellent editing tools. Add a caption, hashtags and a call-to-action button. Include a link to the business’ website in the call to action.

Once content has been added, let Instagram find people to follow, especially people who post photos that match the business. When people follow, follow them back. Like and comment on their photos to further increase the number of followers.

Post often but only when there is a reason to post. Reasons can include exclusive behind the scenes peeks at the business, special offers and exciting new products. Include fun photos and photos related to the community.

Typically a local business has the time and inclination to develop one social media service. If there are more than one, Facebook, Twitter and others can be linked to a business account by tapping Linked Accounts under Options.

This article is not about creating an Instagram strategy, as with everything else an owner/manager does to operate a business, time to create social media strategies usually does not exist. Instead, get started posting photos related to business, community or industry that people will want to look at and share. Then use their analytics to move forward.

Analytics, called Instagram Business Profiles, show the most popular times and days that followers are on Instagram. Use that to choose when to post (as long as customers don’t walk into the brick-and-mortar location to buy something at that time).

Use Profiles to see where followers are located. For local businesses, narrowing the scope to the city where the business is located provides useful information about people most likely to move from online to offline, becoming paying customers.

Followers’ gender and age, also available in Profiles, is valuable for local business with a gender or age focus.

Most importantly, look at how many times each post has been seen, number of different people who saw it and how many tapped on the website link in the profile. In general, post more photos of the sorts that bring the most people looking at them while continuing to post a diverse selection of images.

Internet Marketing

Instagram works to grow businesses without spending any money. To grow faster, use Facebook Boost to advertise on Instagram.