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You’re on Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter and YouTube. But should you be on Instagram, too?

The short answer is … maybe.

According to Social Media Today, there are an estimated 400 million daily, active users on Instagram — and the number is growing. That’s not counting the people who log on just once in a while, which expands the audience to about 600 million users a month. All told, at least 33 percent of all Internet users use Instagram; and about 80 million of those users are in the U.S. That’s a huge audience.

But here’s the catch. Those same stats show that a full 90 percent of those users are under the age of 35 and that people miss 70 percent of their feeds.

So, how do you make a decision? Check out our collection of tips for some advice.

Know thy audience

This a no-brainer any time you’re considering a marketing endeavor. If you don’t know your audience, you’re wasting time and money.

For instance, if your organization’s target market is made up largely of baby boomers or senior citizens, who’s going to see your Instagram posts? Probably not your potential customers.

Likewise, if you’re a B2B and your end products aren’t practically a household name (think Intel), it’s probably not worth the time.

Time is money

Speaking of time, that’s another consideration — a big one.

If you’re already stretched thin and can barely keep up with regular updates to your blog, LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter feeds, forget it. Your ROI isn’t worth it. The time you spend prepping the image, adding a caption and adding hash tags can be better utilized elsewhere — like creating an email campaign to boost sales, donations or even brand awareness.

Image is everything

Something else to think about is image quality. Posting sub-par photos on a visually based platform like Instagram will damage your brand, not elevate it. And while there are some great creative filters available on the platform, and your smartphone doubles as a powerful camera and editing tool, these alone can’t fix a bad picture.

If you’re going to use the platform professionally, your images need to be of professional caliber — or at the very least, close to it. Don’t post pictures that are blurry, over- or underexposed, have poor composition or are of such low resolution that they appear grainy.

If that bar is too high, and you lack the budget to hire a professional photographer, stand down.

What’s your skill set?

Are you — or is someone on your team — savvy about smartphones, using apps and technology in general? While it’s not hard to use Instagram, if you don’t know the basics and cringe whenever someone says “upload” or “post,” this probably isn’t a good fit.

One thing that sets Instagram apart from other social media services is that anything that’s uploaded or posted needs to be done from a mobile device. The theory is that users are posting things happening right now — even though that often isn’t the case, especially for businesses.

In practice, many people send a photo (for instance, a professional shot taken with a DSLR) to their device, then upload/post from there. That means you’ll need to be comfortable enough with technology to transfer a photo to a phone or tablet, then use the Instagram app to size it, possibly apply a filter to give it a desired look, and post it.

So who’s a good fit?

As we mentioned earlier, if you know your audience it won’t be difficult to figure this one out. In general, though, there are a few businesses and organizations that are an especially good fit.

Service-based groups can get a lot of mileage out of Instagram. Events are a perfect time to take pictures, and posting them is a fantastic way to provide potential donors and volunteers with a palpable look at the good you do. For instance, March of Dimes, Boy Scouts of America and the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia all actively use the platform and engage with a sizable number of followers.

Likewise if you create products or services that are used by a wide range of companies or people — the law of averages ensures that a good number of them will meet the under-35 criteria. MailChimp has a healthy Instagram following of more than 60,000. FedEx boasts over 73,000. And container shipping company Maersk Line has more than 69,000.

Quick tips

Like any platform that involves public interaction with your brand, there are some social media best practices to follow.

  • Your username on Instagram should match the username of your other branded social media profiles.
  • The bio section should tell people what your business or organization is about. You’ll want to include your value statement; any hashtags that apply to your brand (for instance, the clean-water based nonprofit Neverthirst uses #lifeflows); and, because it’s also the only place you can have a clickable link on the platform, your website.
  • You can always change the clickable link in your bio to reflect new campaigns or content, giving viewers easy access to it. Although you can include a web address in a post, it won’t be clickable.
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