Do you want your brand to reach a bigger audience? Would you like it to be a popular name in social media? Are you looking for a much bigger and better place to showcase your unique products and services?

Welcome to the world of Instagram—an immensely creative and engaging platform where you can connect with millions of users and promote your brand effectively. With almost 70% of brands across the world finding new ways to engage with the Instagram community, it's high time your brand followed suit.

To discover how you can use Instagram skillfully for promoting your products and boosting sales, read on for salient pointers we at Hashtag17 have compiled.

Create an optimized business Instagram account

This is the virtual space your brand or company will occupy; accordingly, it needs to be designed and customized keeping in mind your brand's unique identity and its core values.

You should include a link to your website or a target landing page in your bio, since that's the only place Instagram allows you to post a webpage link.

For example, the Pottery Barn Instagram bio includes a link to its website; customers can view the company's products on Instagram, and they are then driven to visit the website through that website link.

Describe your brand creatively, without sounding too "salesy." A simple trick to keep that tendency in check is to follow the formula: who you are+ what you do+ dash of personality.

Promote engaging content

Consider the Instagram account of National Geographic magazine. The pictures shared here appeal to the spirit of travel and adventure of its followers. Each post compels the user to read and browse more through the magazine. The readers feel excited and exhilarated by the photos. To instill a similar rush of emotions among your followers for your product, grab their attention via catchy and unique photos.

Use life-inspired backgrounds, scenes, and people to add more character and soul to the pictures. Doing so will automatically bring to the attention of the consumers the essence of your products/services.

Consider this Instagram feed of Nike. In 2014, 60% of Nike's Instagram feed contained life-inspiring pictures, compared with Adidas's 32%. The result was that Nike generated eight times more online engagement, which in marketing terms implies strengthening of brand equity.

Provide exclusive offers and incentives to your Instagram followers, and you will enhance your online presence. This Instagram feed of MVMT watches successfully engages Instagram users by giving away free watches to contest grand winners and guaranteed rewards to every user who enters the contest.

Use the Geo-tagging feature of Instagram to show your followers where you are physically located. Posts with a geotag get 79% more online engagement, on average. Using geotags will also help in boosting your sales among local users and increase regional loyalty.

Use the 'human-face factor' in your Instagram feeds. An Instagram image with human faces tends to generate, on average, 38% more likes and a 32% increase in the comments. Look at the Instagram feed of Micheal Kors, where a behind-the-scene selfies of the models was posted and garnered more than 70,000 likes.

Grow your Instagram followers list

No amount of attention-grabbing pictures or lucrative incentives will help your company grow unless you are reaching a large-enough crowd. To increase the number of your Instagram followers, try incorporating the following techniques.

Smartly use hashtags

Hashtags are just about the only way to increase the shelf-life of your Instagram feed. Remember the magic number 5 when hashtagging your Instagram image; too many hashtags look too salesy. When deciding what to use as a hashtag, think of relevant key words associated with your brand; also look for trending hashtags (use Iconosquare). Keep a mix of popular and specific tags to strike a balance. You can also create your own hashtag.

This handy cheat-sheet will help you remember what you need to know about hashtags:

To keep your post clutter-free (i.e., avoid too many hashtags), a smart thing to do is to add hashtags in the comments section:

Share your followers' tagged photos

In your own Instagram feed include photos of your users in which they have tagged you. Doing so increases goodwill among your followers, and they start feeling personally associated with your brand: 65% of Instagram users say they have felt honored when a brand/company mentioned them in its feed.

Observe how Urban Outfitters tagged Chelsea Claire in its Instagram post.

Write inviting captions and simple calls to action

Including appealing captions, questions, and simple calls to action will open a dialogue between you and your followers. A key mantra to writing inviting captions is "Don't just repeat the image, accentuate it." Try to keep the users in a loop: They see your image, they read the caption, they discover something new, and they again take a closer look at your picture.

Use Instagram shopping tools

Third-party apps, such as Like2Buy, are being increasingly used by brands to bridge the gap between their Instagram content and online purchases. See how Target shares its Like2Buy link in its bio. Clicking on that link takes the users to all the Instagram photos that contain the products, and clicking an image takes the customers directly to the shopping website page of that product.

Keep track of Instagram data

To gauge which kinds of posts garner more publicity, keep track of your Instagram data. Iconosquare is one of the most widely used Instagram data-analytics tools. Use it to track who your most loyal users are (to give them a shout-out later), optimize your posting schedules, and find your most-liked media.

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How to Use Instagram to Engage With Your Audiences Intelligently

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image of Meenakshi Venugopal

Meenakshi Venugopal is a co-founder and the managing partner of online marketing company Hashtag17.

LinkedIn: Meenakshi Venugopal