With the plethora of social media sites, it can be very difficult to keep track of which sites to advertise your business on. First there was Facebook, then came Twitter and Foursquare. Today, we’re talking about Instagram, because it is a fun, engaging way to market your business. And as it boasts more than 300 million users worldwide, you’ll likely be ahead of your competition if you join.

What is Instagram, Anyway?

Instagram is an app that allows you to take photos and share them with your friends and followers. Accounts are free and Instagram is working on advertising packages, but those are being rolled out slowly. So for now your advertising is your Instagram account. The main demographic is urban women aged 18–29, according to this Pew study.

With an Instagram account, you take a picture and typically apply a filter. If your account is private, only people who follow you on Instagram will see it. Otherwise, anyone who uses Instagram or logs onto instagram.com will see it. You can also add hashtags (such as #usefulinstagramadvice) so that people who search those hashtags will see your photos.

Who Should Use It?

Well, any business that has the same target market as Instagram’s demographic for a start. If you want to reach urban women aged 18-34, Instagram is the place to be. But even if you have a different target market—say women aged 40-50, or men aged 18-34—you should still consider it.

Why? Remember Facebook? It started out as a site for university students. As it grew in popularity, everyone joined. As Instagram grows, different demographics will join and because you’ll already have your account, you’ll have a head start.

So, It’s Just Photos?

Yes and no. You’re posting photos, but you can move beyond photos of your products. Instagram gives you the opportunity to get creative and show the personality behind your business. Sure, you could post photos of the pants you sell. Or you could post a photo of the time two of your staff wore the same pants to work. (Bonus: you show the jeans on two different body types, further enhancing their appeal!) You could show a picture of your store’s resident cat, helping you ring through a customer’s purchase. Or you could show a customer who brought a special gift into the store.

You’re still showing your product—and your business—but you’re giving your followers a behind-the-scenes look at what goes on, and that gives them the opportunity to connect with your business. It’s essentially marketing that doesn’t look like marketing.

Successful business owners focus on developing relationships with their clients. Having an Instagram account, where your customers can get a taste of the environment at your company engages your customers and develops those relationships.

Get Ahead of the Game

If you have a business, you don’t mind taking photos, and have a few moments a day to snap some pictures, Instagram is a great idea. Not only will you engage your customers and show off your products and services, you will have an edge over your competition.

Top photo credit: Joshua Resnick/Shutterstock

Ready to learn more? Get our Guide to Social Media for Local Business

Anne Preble is a contributor to the Connectivity blog. Anne is also a Social Media Specialist for Connectivity partner, Volume Nine