Instagram is a massive social media network that boasts 400 million monthly active users. In fact, 20% of all Internet users use Instagram and 62% of users follow a brand just because they like it. So, why do so many small businesses stick only to Facebook or Twitter while shying away from marketing on Instagram?

We suspect that Instagram’s unique vibe, which is less about promoting products and more about sharing good times, feels a little trickier to navigate. Here’s your guide to driving business and having fun on Instagram:

·      Instagram is first and foremost, visual content. Whatever industry you’re in, you must post high-quality, creative and professional photos. Either educate yourself on how to take enticing shots or outsource it to a pro.

·      Your Instagram feed should tell a consistent story about your brand. Choose an Instagram name that’s the same, or related to, your business name across other social media channels, and make sure your profile photo is bold and recognizable.

Your posts should all fit in the “same world.” In other words, it should be easy for someone to look at your feed and be fairly certain of who your target customer is. If you’re having trouble thinking of images your customers would like, brainstorm like a professional marketer with questions like: What magazines does my customer read? What do they like to do in their time off? What TV shows are they watching? Where do they travel? What are my customers’ priorities in life?

·      Create a post schedule so you post frequently, but stay flexible.  Set up a social media calendar (here’s a template) or set alarms on your phone so that you don’t forget to post, at minimum, a few times a week. On the other hand, don’t become predictable. Unless you’re doing a regular, time-related series (#SaladSaturdays), post at different times of the week and the day. Another great tip? When something’s trending, either online or IRL, deviate from your scheduled posts and tie it into your brand.

·      Dedicate time and effort to getting followers. Unless you’re a top-charting pop star, Instagramers aren’t just going to flock to your feed on their own. Try:

o   Linking your Instagram profile to your other social media profiles

o   Using relevant and popular hashtags (and remember that these frequently change)

o   Start following others and liking their posts

o   Embed your feed on your website, blog or in your emails

o   Follow your followers

o   Share your followers tagged photos on your own feed

o   Run a contest

·      Change your perspective. Instagram is not the place to be promoting your 20% off bike tire sale this weekend; it’s the place to show the world how to embrace a biking lifestyle. As accomplished branding master Russ Meyers states, companies need to get past their inherent interest in selling and instead:

o   Share a distinctive view of the world

o   Cultivate a unique visual sense

o   Capture things that are interesting to the brand and to the core target customer

o   Train your eye to focus on what makes an engaging image.

These are just a few ways to get started on Instagram — once you start digging you’ll see that there’s tons of other businesses to inspire you and plenty of ways to up your Instagram game.