Last September, Instagram announced it had over 400 million active users, many of which are businesses. In fact, eMarketer predicts that in 2016, nearly half of U.S. companies will be using Instagram as part of their marketing strategy (about a third did in 2015), with the number climbing to 70 percent in 2017.\nWhile Instagram isn\u2019t necessarily right for every business, for brands marketing products or services (e.g., food, fashion and photography) that could benefit from being seen, it can be a powerful marketing tool. However, with an average of 80 million photos being uploaded to the site each day, if you want to attract followers and keep them coming back to your Instagram page \u2013 and then going to your website \u2013 you can\u2019t just post the occasional photo and hope Instagram users will find it.\n[ Related: 7 ways social media can improve customer satisfaction ]\nSo to help your business get found, and get followers, on Instagram, check out these 16 simple Instagram marketing tips.\n1. Use quality images. \u201cThe quality of your images can determine the success of your account,\u201d says Ariana Gomez, marketing & PR manager, LA Fashion District Business Improvement District. So \u201cavoid out-of-focus or poorly constructed photos and overly corporate images, i.e., stock photography.\u201d\nAlso, take a moment to edit photos on Instagram before you post them.\n\u201cEditing your photos really makes them pop,\u201d says Anne-Marie Faiola, CEO, Bramble Berry Soap Making Supplies. \u201cIf you are photographing products, edit carefully so you do not misrepresent the product. Personally, I like to brighten my photos, increase the contrast slightly, sharpen [them] and increase the saturation a small amount,\u201d she says. \u201cYour style of editing might be very different, so play around with [Instagram\u2019s editing tools and filters] and find a style that suits your products and business.\u201d\n2. Brand your content. \u201cWhether that means watermarking your content with your logo, using a specific font or [creating an] overall style, it's important for people to be able to recognize that you're the original source of the content,\u201d says Chris Gatbonton, founder, Creation Crate, which provides tech education in a box. \u201cThis especially helps when your content is reposted by other people.\u201d\n[ Related: 7 simple, low-cost ways to acquire new customers ]\n3. Make the link in your profile trackable. \u201cTracking clicks to your website from Instagram is tricky, because you're only offered one clickable URL (the link in your profile) and all clicks to that link open in a new window on your mobile device,\u201d says Mallory Whitfield, an entrepreneur and small business consultant and the owner of MissMalaprop. \u201cUse URLs with UTM codes and\/or set up a trackable link with a shortening tool like Bit.ly. Better yet, create a custom landing page just for Instagram users and link to this page from your profile. The landing page should be set to \u2018noindex\u2019 so that it doesn't get picked up by search engines,\u201d she explains. Finally, \u201coptimize the landing page for a great mobile experience and use it to convert your Instagram visitors into customers.\u201d\u00a0\n4. Time your posts. \u201cMake sure your posts go live at a time when your audience is likely to be online,\u201d says Gil Eyal, founder, HYPR, a provider of real-time social analytics. \u201cA younger audience may not be available during school hours. An older audience might go to sleep early.\u201d\nAlso keep time zones in mind.\nNot sure when the best time (or times) to post is? \u201cExperiment at posting different times of the day,\u201d suggests Patrick Wong, marketing & community manager, Nomiku, a sous vide immersion circulator. \u201cFor instance, you may find that posting at 5 a.m. Pacific Time gives you better engagement (more likes, comments, etc.) because East Coasters are already awake, checking their phones, when they wake up or go to work. Posting when people are leaving work or taking a lunch break can also provide extra engagement [as] people are more glued to their phones [then].\u201d\u00a0\n5. Select the right hashtags.\u201cMake sure you are using hashtags that appeal to your target audience,\u201d says Heather Heuman, founder, Sweet Tea Social Marketing. \u201cYes, the hashtags #Starbucks and #McDonalds are popular, but they won't convert to the right type of followers. [Instead,] use quality hashtags. A source like\u00a0hashtagify.me is great for finding those specific hashtags you want.\u201d\n\u201cUsing hashtags pertaining to your industry or brand category, such as #foodie for restaurant businesses, is a great way for people to discover your content,\u201d says Eric Dahan, cofounder & CEO, InstaBrand.\nWhat is the optimal number of hashtags? There is no magic number, but posts with around a dozen relevant\/popular hashtags (such as #fashion, #instafood, #cool, #foodporn) tend to do much better than images with just a few hashtags.\n[ Related: 15 marketing experts to follow on social media ]\n6. Create a hashtag specific to your brand. \u201cA good practice is to come up with one or two hashtags unique to your brand,\u201d says Dahan. \u201cFor instance, accessory brand Fossil uses #FossilStyle. Branded hashtags are also helpful if you want to drive social conversations about your brand by encouraging fans to post images about you using your unique hashtags.\u201d\n\u201cIf you post a call to action to use your hashtag, your hashtag will start to grow exponentially as you gain more followers,\u201d adds Finn Cardiff, owner & CEO, Unreal Drones. Just \u201cbe sure to comment and like [posts] that feature your hashtag. [And] don\u2019t [leave] the same comments over and over. [Rather,] make them personal and descriptive.\u201d\n7. Utilize geotagging. \u201cSome users view photos by location, so adding a location to your images can increase exposure and engagement,\u201d says Andrew Meyer, senior account manager, Seer Interactive. \u201cYou can view a certain location and see all the images posted there, which can be helpful if you have products or services that can be found in different locations.\u201d\n8. Show people using or interacting with your product(s). \u201cWe've repeatedly seen higher engagement in pictures that include people in them,\u201d says Kindra Svendsen, digital marketing specialist, Speak Creative, a full-service digital agency. So \u201cinclude a person using your product or enjoying your service. Even a glimpse of a hand in the picture boosts engagement. [Just] pay attention to what's in the background, removing it if necessary.\u201d\u00a0\n9. Feature customer photos and videos. \u201cIf your company says that they care about their customers, show this by promoting customers who post about their product\/service on Instagram,\u201d says Alice Williams, communications specialist, Frontier Business Edge,\u00a0a provider of data, voice, video and equipment solutions.\n\n\t\n\n\u201cHighlight photos of real customers incorporating your products and services into their everyday lives,\u201d suggests Lux Narayan, CEO, Unmetric, a social media intelligence platform. \u201cInstagram users can become evangelists for brands when they tell their own visual stories that engage other users.\u201d You can even \u201cdesign campaigns around user-generated photos. Encouraging and engaging consumers who submit photos results in genuine brand stories that spread to other users and boost sales.\u201d\n\u201cMajor fashion and beauty brands have reaped many benefits from user-generated content,\u201d notes Dahan.\u00a0\u201cREVOLVE Clothing, for example, gained more than 35,000 followers with its #REVOLVEme campaign, in which fans [were] incentivized to post pictures of themselves wearing REVOLVE clothes for a chance to win $1,000. Another common incentive is to feature fan-created content on brand's Instagram pages. Other sweepstakes gimmicks like \u2018follow us and leave a comment to win XX\u2019 are also highly effective for brands to gain followers and drive engagement in a short amount of time.\u201d\n10. Turn customer testimonials into images. \u201cUse a free online tool such as PicMonkey to transform some of your clients' testimonials into attractive images to share on Instagram,\u201d says Cristina Castro Moral, owner\/designer, Sombras Blancas Art and Design. And \u201cdon't forget to include your [company\u2019s] URL.\u201d\n11. Don\u2019t be afraid of video. \u201cInstagram understands how much their audience loves video, as evidenced by the recent focus on video in the Instagram Ads platform,\u201d says Sarah Matista, marketing communications manager at Vistaprint Digital. \u201cYou don\u2019t have to be George Lucas to succeed here. [You can] use Instagram\u2019s integrated Boomerang and Hyperlapse video apps to make easy, creative videos your audience will love.\u201d\n[ Related: How to get and leverage user-generated content ]\n12. Engage with your followers. \u201cSocial media is built on relationships, so [my] top advice for Instagram is to engage,\u201d says Nikki Fica, founder & CEO, Social Media Facelift. \u201cDo not just do a \u2018post and run.\u2019 Interact with others by liking and commenting on posts and by searching relevant hashtags, as well as responding to every single comment on your photos. This will help you grow a following, find your audience and create relationships.\u201d\n13. Cross-promote. \u201cCross-promote with other brands that serve your target audience,\u201d suggests Josh Winzelberg, founder & president, Vodka Mariette. \u201cFor example, we may take a picture of a Vodka Mariette cocktail in an establishment [i.e., a bar or restaurant] that serves our consumer base and then have that image posted on our [Instagram account] and [that] of the bar. That way we gain exposure to each other's audience of similar buyers, show that we are part of the 'cocktail community,\u2019 explain how to use the product and subtly communicate where product is sold.\u201d\n14. Work with influencers. \u201cIdentify key influencers [who] align with your brand and have a large and active following,\u201d says Jonathan Long, founder & CEO, Market Domination Media. \u201cNegotiate a price (or a product\/service exchange) for them to introduce your Instagram account to their audience and you can exponentially grow your account.\u201d\n\u201cWorking with Instagram influencers is a highly effective way to promote your brand and build your Instagram community,\u201d says Dahan. \u201cEspecially for businesses that are just starting out on Instagram, product endorsements from Instagrammers who have huge social followings can help you raise brand awareness and bring substantial traffic to your own Instagram account.\u201d\n15. Use Instagram as a recruiting tool. \u201cInstagram is a great way to help recruit top talent,\u201d says Leeyen Rogers, vice president of Marketing, JotForm, an online form builder. \u201cShowcase your company's culture and employees in a way that accurately reflects what it's like to work there. Images of employees having fun while at work [or playing on the company\u2019s softball team or at a company outing or happy hour] is much more appealing than a constant flow of self-promotional Instagram posts.\u201d\n16. Measure interaction. \u201cIt doesn't matter how many followers you have if no one is interacting with your content,\u201d says Gatbonton. \u201cGauge what types of posts are getting the most likes and comments. Use that to refine your content strategy. Also use the feedback from the interactions to give your followers what they want.\u201d\n\u201cIconosquare and Simply Measured are both free for limited usage and can help you determine the following for your business, analyzing distribution and density, calculating popular filters and most engaged hashtags and evaluating the best time to post based on your audience and community,\u201d says Meyer.