Instagram is too big for your business to ignore, here are 3 tips.

More than 400 million active users take to Instagram to show and tell. A recent Pew Research poll confirms Instagram is the fastest-growing major social network. So, driven by the platform’s simplicity and mobile-centric interface, a brand’s approach to customer engagement now requires more than a quick crop and wash. As you or your team are tasked with ongoing management, consider these guiding principles to curate and cultivate a lively Instagram community.

1. First goals, then filters

While it’s important to take a stylistic approach that sets a nice tone, first things first. Why are you on Instagram, and what does your brand hope to achieve within this community? Not every business has the same objectives, and not every social network rallies behind the same brand calls. Retailers and ecommerce brands tend to focus on product marketing. Travel and hospitality brands typically tap the senses with luxurious locales. Business to business (B2B) companies often communicate company culture. Agencies frequently highlight client work. And so on.

Simply put, goals will be multifaceted. You need to agree upon them, and enlist the relevant teams within your organization for support. Set standards on key components, including publishing cadence, brand-approved filters and benchmarks for responding to comments. Then, measure performance. Be aware of the nuances and numbers to optimize your presence and maximize community engagement.

2. Identify your audience, isolate behaviors

The makeup of your followers should heavily influence the content you produce to elevate engagement. As is the case with other brand marketing efforts, audience segments will vary, with some of your customers more active on Instagram than others. Start by understanding the platform’s basic demographic data: According to the Pew Research Center, 53 percent of 18- to 29-year-olds use Instagram, which is more than twice as high as the next age group. Meanwhile, 29 percent of women use Instagram, compared to just 22 percent of men.

But move beyond the basics. Assess recurring behaviours from your brand and your community. Track your sent messages and publishing times to determine the type of content that sparks the most engagement. Review hashtag performance to see what keywords drive participation more than others. Identify influencers who like and comment on your posts. As you collect and analyse the behaviours related to all of this content, you will be better able to replicate and reproduce similar experiences.

3. Curate content that befits your industry

The allure of Instagram is the curated, bespoke experience that inspires and adds value for your followers. Instagram’s visual and video components lend themselves well to the ecommerce industry. Often used as a virtual lookbook and lifestyle showroom, Instagram attracts many retailers, who use the app to directly sell products.

Nothing to sell? That’s OK. While sponsored posts and organic sales opportunities should be used strategically, organic content can range from behind-the-scenes looks at product development, team member profiles and how-to videos. You might also want to incorporate user-generated content to further entertain your community and inspire participation.

Engagement Is the end goal

At its best, social media is a communications channel, and while certain networks offer greater opportunities than others, it’s important to engage as often as possible. Instagram’s increasingly brand-friendly search components enable more opportunities to join conversations that matter to your business. Monitor trending posts, explore posts of followers and search hashtags that are related to your brand, industry and category. The best way to make an impact on Instagram isn’t always through visuals—but through verbal communication.

 

Article edited and condensed for the DI, first seen here on Entrepreneur