Instagram - which currently has 700 million monthly unique users - is the fastest growing social media platform on the planet. Where there are millions of users, there is a huge potential market to target - so how best to go about it?

First let's get to the core of what Instagram is all about. While Facebook and Twitter permit images to be posted, there is a large emphasis on text with these networks. When it comes to Instagram, the text you use is just a side show - and taking centre stage are all your wonderful images.

In the age of the smart phone, a huge share of us have become amateur snappers. See something of interest and we just can't help reaching for our device to capture the moment - and Instagram has grown to become the perfect online home for our images.

But while lazily snapping a selfie or your latest meal might be the main focus of casual account holders, for businesses there is a real opportunity to present some stunning, imaginative, entertaining and evocative images to your target audience. In this blog, we take a look at the best way of using Instagram for marketing your business.

Your Username Matters on Instagram

Starting with the basics, don't rush into choosing your Instagram handle. If the name of your business is already taken, select a catchy username which represents your brand as accurately as possible. You can always add 'Insta' to the front or end of your business name and see if this handle is available.

The Beauty of the Hashtag

While the hashtag has been somewhat hijacked in modern culture, and is now put in front of just about anything, it also has an important marketing function. It has the ability to group your Instagram posts with others on the same subject - e.g. #Premiumproperty #Luxuryproperty #Topproperty - so while you can get creative with hashtags, also remember they have an organisational purpose. Hashtags also extend your posts to a wider audience than your followers.

Play an active role

Your Instagram account shouldn't just be about taking your pics, uploading them, then sitting back and waiting for the likes to appear. You should aim to play an active role on the network, liking and commenting on relevant feeds, including the accounts of your followers. This can give you added exposure and make you a positive contributor to the Instagram community.

Square setting is your friend

Instagram publishes images in squares, which means that portrait or landscape images need to be altered or cropped. But if you use the smart setting on your smart phone or camera, you can stay one step ahead and save the time it takes to crop - it is a handy short cut to great images!

Get app-tastic!

If your images lend themselves to it, there are a truckload of editing options and special effects which you can utilise with apps such as Snapseed and Pic Stitch. Do you want to blend two photos, added rounded corners, shadows or patterns? These apps will allow you to do it, so check them out. 

Location, location, location

The success of having a locally registered business on Google proves that location matters. Instagram allows geotagging which attributes a location to each image. If you have any kind of physical, local presence, it can pay dividends to start geotagging, and it doesn't take much time.

Start an Instagram competition

Think of some tempting giveaways and build your follower base with a competition via Instagram. It could be a simple 'like to enter' format, or for a higher level of engagement you could start a competition hashtag and invite your followers to contribute their own photos and pick a winner. Ensure that you state the terms and entry steps of your competition clearly, and if the contest proves to be successful, why not make it a regular activity in your Instagram marketing strategy?

Build in order to blossom

Where many businesses which dabble in Instagram may fail is their lack of determination to persist. As with cultivating any social media platform, building an Instagram presence takes time, as well as the creative acumen to keep coming up with new ideas. Keep your images fresh, but also don't underestimate the importance of consistency, especially when you find a variety of images which achieve a good response.

It looks like Instagram will only continue to grow, so to give an essential visual element to your business, it is time to understand how to market your company on Instagram to widen your marketing net, while bolstering your brand. And if you don't already have one, ensure you are equipped with a good quality smartphone or camera.

We hope this blog can become a valued part of your Instagram armoury - time to get snapping!

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