Instagram is one of the fastest growing social media platforms today. While marketing on Instagram has some similarities to other social media channels, it is also unique and requires implementing new tactics.

Instagram launched in the fall of 2010 and today has over one billion monthly active users. On the World Wide Web, you’re competing against other brands for recognition. Instagram allows brands to write a story and capture the imagination through strong use of images and themes using hashtags. It’s like a mix between Twitter and Facebook, but yet has its own unique rhythm.

Marketing on Instagram requires fully understanding the ins and outs of the marketing platform and studying what works for other brands. Here are 11 tips to help you ramp up your marketing on this social media giant:

1. Switch to a Business Account

Your first step, if you haven’t taken it already, is switching to a business account on Instagram. You can switch a current account by going to Settings and then choosing “Switch to Business Profile.” A business profile allows you to:

  • Add a contact button.
  • Run ads.
  • Study analytics and get a better handle on your Instagram audience.

A business profile helps you appear more professional and separates your business activities from personal activities.

2. Build an Amazing Profile

Once you have a business profile set up, you want to make it amazing. Upload your logo and make the appearance match your overall brand image as closely as possible.

  • Utilize the bio space to share your mission with the world.
  • Add a link to your landing page.
  • Use hashtags and user profile names — Instagrams converts them into clickable links.
  • If you have a physical location, add details such as your address and phone number to your bio.

Choose a profile image that explains your company. Your profile image can be a logo or some other iconic image.

The Honest Company does a good job utilizing the elements on their profile to draw in new customers. Note how they use their logo as their profile image, and then they have a concise bio, hashtag and a link to their website. The overall look is effortless and drives followers to learn more about the company and its products.

3. Reach Generation Z

If you want to reach the younger generation, Instagram is one of the best resources online. Gen Z might be young, but they hold significant influence over at least half of family spending

The digitally native generation prefers Instagram, with 72 percent stating they use the platform. If you want to reach younger people, Instagram is a must, but understand they are savvy to advertisers and they crave true relationships and engagement.

4. Utilize Mentions

In one study, posts that included at least one mention had 56 percent higher engagement rates. Posts with an @mention had 24,400 engagements per post, while those without an @mention had only 15,600 engagements per post.

5. Reach Current Customers

Making a sale to a current customer is much more likely than selling to a new one. Utilize Instagram to keep that ongoing connection with your customers. If a customer shares one of your posts, respond and engage with them. Even if you hire a social media manager to keep up with mentions and post items for you, etc., the investment pays off in the relationship built with your clients.

6. Use Relevant Images

When it comes to creating a story on Instagram, make sure you use highly relevant images that highlight the product or service you’re selling. Instagram isn’t a place for stock photos, but a place to share a recipe that utilizes a specific product or people wearing your product or some other direct use of your product. Stories include links to blog posts, videos and amazing images with captions that grab the user’s interest.

Hint Water does an excellent job of regularly updating their Instagram story with news and enticing images of flavors. Whether you’re new to the brand or a long-time customer, you’ll find highly focused images highlighting different flavors and the benefits of drinking their product.

7. Create Engagement-Based Content

Photos of your product are interesting, but they don’t engage the user. Instead, look for opportunities to create engagement with your content. Ask your customers to use your product and create a post, run a contest, add a video on the many different ways to complete a task that relates to the industry you’re in, or interview an expert in the industry and share a short clip of the interview and a link to the remainder.

8. Post at Night

Just as with other social media platforms, there are times when people are more active on Instagram than others. As a rule of thumb, between 8 p.m. and 9 p.m. is when people are most active. However, you’ll want to study your specific audience and ascertain what times they interact most with your posts. Once you have a range of time when your followers are most active, consistently schedule posts for that window.

9. Run a Contest

Contests work particularly well on Instagram, but you need to choose the type of competition you’ll run to create the most engagement possible. Start by creating a unique hashtag for your contest and then run a photo contest, comment contest, or even a like contest. Engage your customers by asking them to snap a photo and share it with the hashtag for the contest. They should also @mention your brand. A mention gives you additional traction and allows you to reach all of their followers as well.

10. Offer a Discount

Offering coupons is a powerful way of attracting new customers, and Instagram enables you to do this in a subtle way that builds your social media following while also rewarding people for sharing content for your brand. It’s almost like free advertising, but the posts stay around for weeks, months or years, giving you additional traction.

One idea is to offer a discount if the person shares an image of your product or them wearing one of your products. You will need a social media manager to track the mentions and send out coupon codes accordingly. However, you gain a brand ambassador for the cost of a discount.

11. Repurpose Influencer’s Content

One of the best ways of connecting with influencers on Instagram is repurposing their content and sharing things that apply to your own audience. Engage with the influencer and build a relationship before approaching them about representing your brand. Once you’ve developed a relationship, get in touch and see if they’d like to try out your product or service and see if it’s something their readers might find interesting.

Most influencers get paid for promoting a product, but they also won’t promote something they don’t believe in, because their reputation is everything. Building that initial relationship is key to getting an influencer on board with your brand.

Follow Basic Rules

Although Instagram is unique in some ways, there are still basic rules of netiquette you should follow. Don’t blatantly self-promote non-stop, but add things of value for your followers. Put yourself in your target audience’s shoes and figure out what you’d like to see in the way of content if you were on the other side of the screen. With a bit of attention to detail and consistent effort, your Instagram account can drive traffic to your landing page.

About the Author: Lexie Lu is a freelance designer and writer. She enjoys researching the latest design trends and always has a cup of coffee nearby. She manages Design Roast and can be followed on Twitter @lexieludesigner.