If your small business is not currently using Instagram, then you’re missing a tremendous opportunity. If a picture speaks a thousand words, then imagine the possibilities of posting several thousand. For small business owners, Instagram is the ultimate form of social media for 18-34-year olds, too. Here are six simple tips to get the most out of your Instagram presence.

1.  Strike a Balance between Business and Pleasure

At first, you will likely want to fill up your Instagram account with lots of pictures that highlight your company brand. But no one likes to be bombarded with a constant stream of “buy now” advertisements. If you want to build a loyal following, consider posting some fun images from time to time. Even a picture of a cute, adorable puppy standing in front of your business can generate a lot of new followers.

2.  Use Video

Instagram also allows users to post short 15-second videos, much like YouTube or Twitter’s Vine. Use video to present customer testimonials or videos of employees using your products and services. You can then embed these videos elsewhere online, including your website, blog, Facebook, or Twitter.

3.  Be Consistent

Just as with any form of social media, you have to maintain a consistent schedule.  But try not to saturate your followers with endless posts, 10-times per day and 7-days a week. Otherwise, they might unfollow you. Aim for a safe strategy of 2-4 posts per day with several hours in between.

4. Engage

Many small business owners often forget that social media, by definition, is supposed to be “social.” For the best results, don’t be afraid to tag other people’s photos, leave comments, and follow back new followers.

5.  Leverage Photo Contests

Any business can host a photo contest on Instagram.  Consider asking your followers to post a picture of themselves while using one of your products or services. Use hashtags to organize the submissions and an RSS feed to follow along with the conversations that will soon develop. Then use Facebook and Twitter to promote your Instagram photo contest, as well.

6.  Experiment with different photography filters and exposures

To keep your Instagram site from getting too predictable or boring, don’t be afraid to mix things up. Include images shot with a wide angle or fisheye lens. Post nighttime images or photos with graduated colour filters. Get creative, and keep your followers interested.

Instagram is a wonderful form of social media because it requires very little skills in creative writing. Instead of typing long marketing messages, the pictures do the selling for you. Spending only a couple of hours per week on Instagram is a wonderful and cost-effective way to boost online sales in a fairly short amount of time. We’ve included some more details on how to get the best from Instagram in our handy guide.