With millions of people checking out Instagram every day, this image-dedicated social media site is an ideal platform for businesses who want to get noticed, attract new customers, and do it without spending a lot of time or money.

Done right, an Instagram campaign can deliver a higher ROI than just about any other marketing channel. Here are our guidelines for standing out in the crowd and getting the results you want.

  1. Define what you want to accomplish.
    You may want to attract as many followers as possible; or perhaps your business would benefit more from building deeper relationships with a smaller community. You may want to showcase your products or services; or share the human side of your business with stories about staff or company events.
  2. Apply your branding style.
    Your basic marketing elements, such as logo, tagline and website address, should be the same across all media, and Instagram is no exception. Likewise, the text and photography styles should be consistent with what’s used in your other advertising.
  3. Only share high quality images.
    Your business page is not the place for badly lit selfies or confusing crowd scenes. Viewers will judge the quality of your business by what they see. Not that you have to be or hire a professional photographer; just keep focused on the purpose of the photo. You can also improve quality by taking your photos with a DSLR camera, and using an image editing app to make the photo clearer, more colorful or more interesting.
  4. Post consistently.
    The more frequently you post, the more successful your campaign will be: at least once a week, preferably more. Post at the time(s) of day when your followers usually look at your page. Analytics software such as Iconosquare will tell you when that is.  And stick to the schedule; the worst thing you can do is to disappoint people by not posting when they expect it. If that’s not feasible, schedule a bunch of posts in advance to publish at the times you choose. Free apps such as Crowdfire will do this for you.
  5. Make your posts searchable and shareable.
    Include hashtags in your post. Find ones that are popular with your audience on hashtagify.me, or use trending ones such as #photooftheday or #widn (What I’m Doing Now) to share current happenings at your business. Also, tag the locations and people in your images.
  6. Monitor your results.
    Is your Instragram marketing strategy a success? The only way to know is to look at the numbers. Tracking software will reveal which posts are most popular, so you can do more like that in the future.

Great online content is the most effective tool in the 21st century marketer’s arsenal. And the best part about it is that any business can compete, no matter how big or small their marketing budget. Keep it unique, keep it appealing, and you’ll keep your customers coming back for more.