When a little app called Instagram launched quietly in October 2010, who could’ve predicated that it would become a social networking powerhouse? Well, maybe the company’s 28-year-old founder Kevin Systrom…

Now that the company has been acquired by Facebook (April 2012) and amassed a cult-like following of over 100 million users, it’s no surprise that top brands have begun to leverage Instagram. In fact, Simply Measured reports that 54% of top brands are now active on the social sharing app.

The top 8 most active brands? MTV, Starbucks, Burberry, Nike, Gucci, Tiffany & Co, Audi, and GE.

But Instagram marketing techniques are not just for the big budget brands – far from it. Like other social networking platforms, Instagram is a great way for small businesses with limited marketing resources to connect with customers and build their brand.

Here are 5 best practices that will have you marketing with the big guns in no time:

1. Set up a fantastic Instagram web profile. Instagram announced on its blog a few weeks ago that they’d begun rolling out new web profiles on the previously mobile-only network. Want to be inspired? Try typing in Instagram.com/[username] and see what the users you follow have done with their profiles.

2. Get your Instagram badges! Savvy small business marketer that you are, you already link to your Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and Pinterest profiles from your website. Now you can get your official Instagram link so your visitors can link to your snazzy new web profile.

3. Post with purpose. No doubt, sharing photos is great fun. But as a business, keep in mind that your goal is to drive engagement and traffic. Post compelling, shareable images, like you would on your Facebook business timeline. And when you do, make sure to include links to your website and content in the comment on your images so users can connect with you instantly. (It’s also good for your search rankings to have more links to your website!)

4. Use Instagram’s Twitter-like features to create conversations, contests, and community. Hashtags (#pagemodorules) and @mentions (@pagemodo) work in Instagram the same way the do in Twitter to involve your followers and rally users around certain searchable topics. Instagram recently added a very cool feature that translates Instagram usernames into Twitter usernames for people who share their posts on both networks.

5. Integrate Instagram with other marketing platforms. Using contests and calls for entries, you can find creative ways to interact with your users and build engagement. A photo contest where users post images of themselves interacting with your brand is a great place to start!

What other creative ways have you seen your favorite brands using Instagram in their marketing plans?



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