Instagram images.

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By Paul Parcellin, Staff Writer
February 2, 2016

Instagram, a photo-based social media platform, can be a powerful tool to promote your business and develop new prospects. Both fashion and food are big on Instagram, probably because they rely on visual appeal to capture followers. But even if your products are not as photogenic as a meringue pie or a Versace scarf, you may find that Instagram can connect you with new prospects whom you might otherwise never meet.

Why would you want to be on Instagram? Instagram has 300 million users – more than Twitter, Tumblr or Snapchat have.

Instagram lets you post pictures and videos up to 15 seconds in duration, but you cannot post text updates like you can on Facebook. The name “Instagram” is a combination of the words “instant,” as in instant photography, and “gram,” as in telegram. Images and videos uploaded to Instagram are presented in a square format, rather than a rectangular one.

Instagram is primarily a mobile app, so you’ll want to download it to your smartphone.

Missing Links?

If you want to bring visitors to your site or anywhere else, don’t bother placing a link on your Instagram posts. It won’t take. That doesn’t mean you can’t share links on your Instagram account. Instead, you can share links in your profile.

That means that any links placed in captions or photo and video comments will not function. One workaround you can use is writing a note in your captions that a specific link is in your profile. You can change the default link in your bio to the one that will bring visitors to the destination that you’ve targeted. You can edit that link whenever you’re running a special promotion

Because of this, Instagram may not be the best place for you to promote lots of different websites. But if you have one page that you want to promote heavily, you may find Instagram helpful for that. With it, you can get brand exposure and perhaps more traffic sometime in the near future.

 Square Deal

If you want to post photos that do not fit the Instagram square format there are many apps that can help you do that. You might find that some photos will lose important portions of the image if you crop them to fit into a square. InstaSize, and other free third-party apps like it, let you edit your images in a way that will allow them to fit into a square without losing parts of the picture. InstaSize allows you to place white space, or patterns and colors, to the sides of your photos.

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Be Consistent

It may seem harmless to occasionally share images unrelated to your business. There are so many interesting and attractive photos of every description on Instagram that you might be tempted to share your vacation shots or pictures of crafts you make at home. These kinds of images probably have nothing to do with your business. 

If your followers are used to seeing nothing but posts related to your firm you may damage the image you’ve worked hard to burnish. A sudden shift in topics may confuse them, and they may make negative assumptions about your business – has it closed? It would also make your marketing strategy seem disjointed. Keep all of your postings relevant to your business – you want your followers to easily identify your brand and support it.

Have Some Fun

That doesn’t mean that you cannot post anything but boring, business-related images and videos. If you can find a clever way to connect more whimsical material to your marketing campaign, then go ahead and do it. You may spot something while on vacation that is interesting yet relevant. If you own a gas station and stumbled upon the country’s oldest operating service station on a remote stretch of desert highway, by all means, post it to Instagram.

Giveaways and Promotions 

Instagram can be your vehicle for any special promotions that you create. You merely post an image that announces your sale, contest or giveaway. To enter, your followers must repost the image and use a specific hashtag when they do. You can search the hashtag, collect the entrants’ names and then pick the winner out of a hat.

Use this method to get your followers to promote your brand on their pages. It’s an easy way to increase your brand’s visibility, and it just might drive more users to your profile.

Users' Comments

When users comment about your photos you have a great opportunity to speak with your followers. Responding to their comments shows that you appreciate that they are viewing your images, and that you care about their opinions. They will likely continue to follow you, and may even recommend you and your site to the friends.

Embed on your Website 

From your desktop computer, if you log onto the Web version of Instagram, you can embed code that will add any of your images and videos to your firm’s website.

This can help you show your current visitors that you're active on Instagram and you may persuade them to log on and become a follower. 

Embedding photos is easy: select the image or video that you want to embed, click the ellipses button on the bottom-right corner and select Embed. This will pull up a box with the embed code and give you the option of showing the caption. Then, copy and paste the code where you want to place your Instagram content.

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