Instagram is perfect for DIY marketers. The iPhone app provides various filters that lend a more artistic edge to your snapshots. The edited photos are automatically added to your camera roll and to the Instagram database, which makes sharing a snap.

While huge corporations have professional photographers to make their clothing, food and products look appealing, independent businesses often have more limited resources. Professional photographs work well for special events and major campaigns, but Instagram photos offer unique and personal images that reflect the latest news at your business.

Create Your Message

Photography is a powerful storytelling medium, and before you begin any marketing campaign, you must develop a message. Instagram works very well for small businesses because it can be used in the moment to highlight small details and to express short messages.

Using Instagram as an effective marketing tool is a lot like making a quilt. Your goal shouldn?t be to photograph your entire inventory, but to highlight the most definitive items. Piece-by-piece your photos and messages will naturally come together to represent your brand image.

Elements to consider when creating your message

Products Highlight your favorite details of new inventory.

Audience Showcase special clients who coincide with your brand image.

Personality Capture good times among your employees and clients.

Social Connections Share event coverage from relevant social events.

Local Community Post photos featuring your neighborhood and your favorite local businesses

Choose Your Platform

When you begin using Instagram, you gain access to a sharing platform that organizes content using hashtags (#) similar to Twitter. You also have the option of following Facebook friends and searching for local users. By following as many locals as possible, you can generate leads, monitor trends and tap into the local culture.

You can easily publish your photos using Facebook and Twitter by uploading the images directly from your camera roll. Publishing images on your Facebook is imperative to grabbing the attention of your audience. (Scroll through your own newsfeed and note your response to photo posts vs. written posts.) Instagram is simple and quick to use, which makes it a perfect component of your social media strategy.

You can also integrate Instagram images to your business blog. (I would suggest using professional images for your main Website and e-commerce product images.) You can access your photos on Webstagram if you prefer to save and upload your photos into blog posts. However, there is also the option to use plug-ins that automatically feed your Instagram images onto your site.

Begin Taking Photos

Download the app and begin taking photos. You can start with a personal account if you like, or you can put your settings on private until you get the hang of the filters. When framing your images, keep in mind that each photo will be cropped into a square.

Instagram is an informal and creative outlet; but if you don’t have an eye for visual marketing, you may want to pass along these duties to someone else. (Most college-aged students are adept at using camera phones and can easily upload your images to Facebook if you need help.) However, you will need to set clear guidelines about the message and how it will support the company’s overall brand image.

Angelita Williams is an education blogger who dispenses online learning advice for readers who want practical solutions to their complex problems in the classroom. She can be reached at angelita.williams7@gmail.com.