Instagram is a visual wonderland, especially for brands. It’s an opportunity to attract more customers — particularly those belonging to the millennial and Gen Z demographics — and showcase the best of what you have to offer. Just take a look at some of the most followed Instagram accounts and you will see why and how the top brands in the world are taking advantage of what this social platform has to offer.

However, something we all know too well about social media, is that Instagram can also be a time suck if it isn’t leveraged correctly. You want the best of both worlds: being able to reap the benefits of Instagram without spending all of your time on it.

We asked members of Young Entrepreneur Council how to best leverage what Instagram has to offer while still staying true to your business.

1. Showcase Beautiful Photos

This seems simple, but it is easily forgotten. Instagram is for photos. Share great ones that are relevant to your brand and ones that your audience will appreciate and want to see. If your industry just isn’t something that can involve relevant photography, focus on another social platform that’s more fitting.

Jeff Cayley, Worldwide Cyclery

2. Use a Tool to Plan Photos in Advance

Use a tool such as Planoly, Plann or Later to batch plan your posts in advance so you can see how they look together visually on the grid. I also use Instagram Stories to show potential clients a peek behind the scenes on real projects so they feel more connected to our team before they start working with us.

Allie Siarto, Allie Siarto & Co. Photography

3. Find a Theme

Make sure your page has a consistent theme. When people land on a brand’s page, they should see content that looks uniform and planned. A person will make an instant decision on whether or not to follow your page based on if the aesthetics are worthwhile to show up in their feed. Use tools like preset Lightroom filters to give each photo a similar feel.

Bobby Palmieri, Lilo Social

4. Embrace Storytelling

Instagram Stories has become a powerful tool for storytelling, and even more so for activating your audience and driving sales. Get a business IG profile and organically earn 10k followers so that you can utilize links in your stories. If you’re creative, thoughtful and provide entertainment and value, you’ll reap the rewards. Don’t forget to make the posts visually stunning and interesting.

Scott Levy, Fuel Online

5. Create Photo-Friendly Spaces

Creating a few standard spaces you can reuse regularly will speed up your Instagram workflow, as well as help establish a brand feeling. You don’t need a professional studio, but a well-lit neutral wall or a corner table set up for product photography will make staging Instagram photos routine.

Thursday Bram, The Responsible Communication Style Guide

6. Be Original

Don’t copy the style and type of content used by other advertisers and influencers. Millennials and Gen Zers can sense when a brand is trying to appear hip and young and they will interpret it as trying too hard. Instead of following current trends, find your brand’s identity and stick to it.

Duran Inci, Optimum7

7. Find Your Target Audience

When building a professional Instagram page, it is paramount that you know who you are targeting, how to find them and what they want to see. Instagram can connect you with clients, potential employees and like-minded people who just want to enjoy your content. Make the decision of what Instagram will do for you and work toward that specific goal with every post.

Stanley Meytin, True Film Production

8. Include Up to 30 Hashtags

Instagram users love using hashtags to discover new content. Get additional visibility for each Instagram post by including up to 30 relevant hashtags on each post. Research these hashtags on a tool like WEBSTAGRAM or Keyhole. Then, once you identify hashtags with high volume and high relevancy, include them on posts to reach your target audience and attract new followers.

Brett Farmiloe, Markitors

9. Post Frequently

In order to stay relevant on social media, especially on Instagram, brands need to post frequently. One guru in the space who I follow, Gary Vaynerchuk, posts seven to eight times per day. I post at least once per day, but typically more. Also, be consistent with your imagery when posting on Instagram. Make sure to have a consistent look across the board.

Jean Ginzburg, Ginball Digital Marketing

10. Make It a Contest

Photo contests are a great way to engage with users on Instagram. Ask customers to post images, preferably ones using a new or promoted product, and have them tag it with a specific hashtag for the contest. Ask users to vote on their favorites and then pick a winner. A well-planned contest will build brand awareness and help you engage with new customers.

Blair Thomas, eMerchantBroker

11. Write Great Captions

Sure, Instagram is a visual platform, but the caption of your post says a lot, too. Also, be consistent when posting — especially because the new algorithm is not chronological anymore. Post more!

Andrew Namminga, Andesign

12. Be Human

Instagram photos that perform best showcase lifestyle stories, not static images. For example, when posting a product, have a smiling woman on a beautiful beach with her friends. Fans are more likely to relate or aspire to that image. That’s because Instagram was originally created to capture people’s lifestyles. It is an artistic platform on which people tend to interact with those who post happy, beautiful images of their daily lives.

Michael Hsu, DeepSky

13. Focus on the Customer Journey

The creative you use has to be based on the stages of the funnel. Is the ad focusing on awareness, consideration or decision? What will resonate most with your audience based on their buying stage? Use creative that resonates most with your audience’s buying stage and psychographics.

Marcela De Vivo, Brilliance

14. Boost Your Content With Ads

While Instagram is one of the best platforms for user engagement, your content may still get lost and not reach its full potential. It doesn’t matter how beautiful the photo or witty the caption if no one sees it. It’s worth investing some money into boosting a post via Instagram Ads to reach a larger audience and ensure relevant users are seeing it.

Leila Lewis, Be Inspired PR

15. Reach Out to Influencers

It can be a long, time-consuming process building up an engaged audience on Instagram. A quick and easy shortcut is to reach out to social media influencers who did the hard work for you by building up their own following. Finding a natural way to connect your service or product with their brand can be extremely effective and tremendously time saving.

Bryce Welker, Crush The LSAT

16. Showcase Authentic Moments

A reposted inspirational quote, a stock photo that’s been heavily edited and other images that are clearly not from where you live and work should be avoided. We see right through that stuff. Content that does best in terms of engagement is usually produced by you, imperfections and all.

Beck Bamberger, BAM Communications

The Future of Social Media and Your Brand

The writing is on the wall. SEO and desktop usage are making their way out the door. Social media and visual content is now king! Take the time to examine each of the expert tips and best practices, while also implementing them into your existing content creation and marketing efforts.

Also be sure to consider your options with automated social media marketing tools and how to start taking advantage of influencer marketing within your niche market. The better you tackle these