Exactly How To Use Instagram To Grow Your Business, According To Experts

If you are serious about your business, it's time to get serious about Instagram. A medium with 700 million users is not one you can afford to overlook, and most of the advertising it offers is virtually free. Instagram is considered to be the hottest social media outlet of the moment, boasting the highest rates of user engagement, and it's easy to see why. The combination of visual appeal and a simple, user-friendly format keeps plenty of people coming back for more, which is why it's so important to know exactly how to use Instagram to grow your business.

But in order to fully utilize this social media app and make it a tool in your business tool bet, you first have to realize that just having an active account is not enough. Posting too many mediocre photos, skipping captions, and failing to engage with your followers are easy pitfalls for a small business to fall into. Luckily, they can be avoided by paying attention to what successful companies are doing, and start taking notes. In order to truly use Instagram to turn a profit, you have to put in the time and effort to make a plan. So how do you effectively work its popularity to your professional advantage?

Hone Your Image

Unlike Facebook and Twitter, Instagram is all about the aesthetics. With few exceptions, businesses that benefit from the platform invest time and energy into making their profile page visually appealing. Don't expect followers to stick around if you're offering them grainy images and lackluster captions — create the content that will keep them there. Spend a little time learning how to take, edit, and curate the best possible photos (Hilary Rushford's free course, Instagram with Intention, has some great tips for this) to catch the eye of anyone who checks out your profile.

Build Community

But the strategizing doesn't stop there. Experts have found that businesses who enjoy the best results from Instagram concentrate on building a community, not growing followers. If that goal feels Herculean, don't despair: One article in Social Media Today noted, "The thought of creating a community might seem overwhelming, but you already have a community you can tap into. Use your email list to reach out to people, let your list know that you’re on Instagram and would appreciate a follow. Utilize your social media networks. Announce your account and include a link. Many of your followers will head over to check out your Instagram profile."

Be An Active Participant

Melyssa Griffin, founder of The Nectar Collective and who has 31,000 Instagram followers, has written about the importance of reciprocity on social media. "It ain't called social media for nothin'!" Griffin quipped in a blog post, reminding users to both respond to comments on their own posts and leave thoughtful comments on the posts of others. Griffin also recommended employing friendly strategies such as "liking" photos in your niche (find them by hashtag!) and putting out a call to action at the end of your post.

Dare To Get Personal

"People ask me what my key to business growth was, and I always say Instagram and authenticity," says Erica Tighe of Be a Heart Design, an L.A. based hand lettering company that was featured in Goop's 2016 Los Angeles Party Planning Guide. "It can be scary to share my own life and struggles in such a public way, but I've found that it helps people relate and connect on bigger life issues." In an exclusive interview, Tighe tells Romper that she keeps each client's social media power in mind as she focuses on high quality work. "When a client uses a product or my stationary at an event, they want to share it on their own social media, which lends itself to more work," she explains.

Whether you're running a small business out of your home, have a brick and mortar shop or restaurant, Instagram has the power to grow your clientele tremendously with some time, energy, and a commitment to learning. Implemented well, you'll see a huge jump in profits — and it's all quite literally, at your fingertips.