Instagram. #Putting your business in the picture.

Instagram has come of age as a serious social media tool.

It boasts 400 million users worldwide.

In the UK alone 14 million people use it every month.

Predicted revenue for 2016 is around £2 billion.

And it’s only 5 years old.

Naturally this powerful a network can open up a world of opportunity for any brand, especially those in the travel sector wishing to share memorable holiday experiences.

Why tell when you can show? A picture of a travel destination really is worth a thousand-word blog.

Especially when that picture is combined with a simple mobile user experience that immediately uploads them to a mass-market audience.

So here’s our snapshot guide to using Instagram to help your business.

Firstly do your research. Use Instagram yourself before you use it for your business. And check out what any competitors are doing.

Once you’ve worked out the app, work out your strategy. It should compliment what you’re doing in the rest of your social media-marketing plan, but in the unique way only Instagram can do.

What are your goals? Increased sales? Increased traffic to your website? Increased brand awareness? Increased hashtag uses?

Are these goals achievable and measurable? Ok then turn them into a mission statement that everyone in the organisation understands and can be part of.

Work out how many times you want to post, what time of day you want to post, establish a content calendar and chose your content themes.

Rule of thumb is no more than 3 posts a day, if your company does more people will think you’re not doing any work.

Decide what each picture will show. In the travel sector this could mean destinations or people? Tourists or travel guides? Beaches or iconic sights?

There are certain things each picture shouldn’t show. No pictures that could be misconstrued, insult or offend. Most companies select people who do all their postings and monitor quality and subject.

Use time-lapse videos as well as stills. Instagram has an app called Hyperlapse, no tripod needed, a perfect way to show an amazing holiday experience.

It’s a visual medium, so have a recognisable visual brand, use the same filter and the same profile photo you use on other social media platforms.

Don’t make a hash of your hashtag. Companies like to use their company name as the hashtag. Does this work? Not always. Why not use one that embodies your Instagram brand values? This makes it easier for people to share photos that share those values.

Follow the right people in your sector; influencers, clients and engaged users, always comment on comments from followers.

Make good use of the caption. This is your chance to show your company’s true character; are you friendly, funny or serious? For travel brands, make the words as emotional and awe inspiring as the pictures themselves.

Above all this is a social network, so be sociable.

Have fun with it. Although you are using this as a business tool, Instagram with its simple visual messages has a lightness of touch and friendliness that other social networks lack.

Content may be king, but visuals reign.