If you’re an iPhone owner, chances are you’re using Instagram. According to HubSpot, Instagram has gained almost 15 million users in 2011, which I believe is a very good reason for marketers to realize that there’s an incredible potential here. SocialFresh even stated that it has become larger than FourSquare, another mobile social network that was launched a year before Instagram.

For those who aren’t familiar with Instagram, here’s a brief description: Instagram is a mobile photo sharing app. It allows you to not only take pictures, but also to apply 16 filters. It has a photo stream and the option to ‘like’ photos. Much like consumers can do with Facebook and Twitter, they can follow a brand. Furthermore, you can share your photos on other social networks, like Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. On top of this, you can even organize a so-called Instameet!

Mobile photo sharing has become a huge trend in technology and can be used as a marketing tool. It will probably develop more and more in the near future, thus enhancing its power. Visual imagery generally has more impact on people than any type of texts could, which is another good reason to start using Instagram.

Think about it, if your company’s products can get more visual promotion, why not use Instagram? Aside from its growing number of users, you also have to consider that the majority of the people carry their smartphones wherever they go. This means they can access the Instagram network from anywhere in the world and they are therefore able to view your brand’s Instagram account 24/7.

You can create your image by using visuals that relate to your products and your brand: You don’t necessarily have to post photos solely of your new products, but also photos that express the style of your brand, or the theme of your brand. Post photos that allow consumers to identify with your brand in such a way that they feel a strong enough connection to build a relationship with. The trust you gain by doing this is a huge advantage to have (as a brand) when turning people to actual product buyers.

Some large names have already established a solid Instagram account; take Red Bull for instance. Red Bull doesn’t solely post photos of their cans, because most people know what a Red Bull drink looks like and moreover, it’s hardly interesting. What they do post are photos of sports and events the brand sponsors or Red Bull billboard quotes. These photos are in sync with Red Bull’s image and are very appealing to their target audience. Red Bull is successfully using Instagram to enhance their brand visually. They also ran a contest that allowed followers on Instagram to have a ‘first-listen’ to a Coldplay show; a very smart move, because it gained them followers.

Not sure how to start an Instagram account? These are a few tips to help you in the right direction:

–          Consistency: All social networks require brands to post frequently as well as post photo “types.” By types I mean that the photos have to relate and add value to your brand’s image at all times.

–          Create a location page: This allows your posts to show up whenever users search for photos of a specific location.

–          Preparation for photo taking: Make sure you’re well prepared before you take a picture. Think of the best angles, lighting and such in order to make the best photos. Amateur-looking photos can harm your brand’s credibility.

–          #Hashtags: The Instagram hashtags are quite the same as Twitter’s. Adding hashtags to the photos can make it easier for people to find certain photos you’ve posted. Don’t put a hashtag for every word though, just the words that best describe the photo.

–          Run a contest: People like to win prizes. Use this as an incentive for users to follow your Instagram account. It worked for Red Bull!

Hopefully these tips have been useful. If you have any remarks, feel free to leave a comment!