Did you know that Instagram had 600 million monthly active users as of December 2016 and is currently the fastest growing social app?

Visual storytelling is now key to a successful marketing strategy – consumers devour everything visual, from beautifully crafted images to cinemagraphs to video. And with 77% of Americans using smartphones to find great content while they’re on the go, visual marketing is the most effective ways for prospects and customers to engage with your brand without having to slow down and read a gazillion word post.

And Instagram is a great platform to do it.

Here are five tips on how to improve your Instagram game and maximize the opportunity

Here are five tips on how to improve your Instagram game and maximize the opportunity.

1. Advertising

All businesses can advertise on Instagram with photo ads, video ads and carousel ads.

Instagram ads will have a Sponsored label at the top and a call to action button at the bottom, which can be either ‘Learn More’, ‘Download’, ‘Install App’ or ‘Shop Now’

5 Ways to Improve Your Instagram Game | Social Media TodayA great way to grow brand awareness with Instagram advertising is by focusing on a specific design aesthetic for all of your imagery. As users scroll through their feeds, they’ll learn to recognize your ads by the look of them.

2. Know Your Message

Consumers are attracted to brands they can identify with, so knowing what your brand stands for and telling that story consistently helps cement your authority. Now do that with attractive images and video and your followers will keep coming back for more – because you’re no longer a company to them, you’re a brand that enhances their lifestyle.

Patagonia’s Instagram page is a great example of this.

With 2.5 million followers and a mission statement that takes no prisoners, they know their brand’s values and their target customer, and they use stunning visual marketing to show how their products align with both.

3. Leave Breadcrumbs

You can use geotagging to add your location to your photos and help people find your physical location. You can also add custom hashtags and/or your Instagram handle to your posts so that other users can tag you when they share them – this enables their followers to click on those hashtags to find you, while also helping you keep track of the content they’re responding to.

Birchbox is a company that grew up with Instagram so they know the importance of the hashtag – it enables them to interact with their fans through likes, comments and sharing.

4. Offer Unique Content

Think outside the box – how does your product or service lend itself to an unexpected story?

Is there a holiday you can tie into? A slice of history? A discovery in space?

Check out how GE uses visuals to offer stories that both inform and delight their fans, while also tying everything back to their brand.

And now that you can share posts which include up to 10 photos, you have an opportunity to create longer visual stories that appeal to consumers who don’t always want to see an ad.

5. Create a special deal for Instagram Users 

One popular way to connect with your followers is by offering a coupon code for a product or service to anyone who follows or interacts with your Instagram account.

In December 2015, Starbucks held their #RedCupContest where they asked their customers to post images celebrating their iconic red cups.

5 Ways to Improve Your Instagram Game | Social Media TodayThe top five photos were awarded a Starbucks gift card, preloaded with $500. Today, Starbucks continues to kill it on Instagram with a combination of customer-centered focus and catalog-style imagery that draws the eye and keeps people scrolling through their page.

By combining great stories with appealing visuals on Instagram you can grow your brand’s recognition and customer engagement quickly. As with all social platforms, the key is focusing on the human aspect of the brand by offering unique content, a clear message and consistent interaction.

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