​Instagram is a popular network, but not strong enough for stand-alone marketing, so brands must use it to complement their Facebook strategies.

​Because the social media world changes so drastically with each new feature or site, brands must constantly think about where to focus their marketing dollars, and develop unique strategies for each network. Brafton recently reported that, while Facebook’s active user base declined in North America over the past year, it jumped 23 percent quarter-over-quarter worldwide. A lot of companies recognize the value of Facebook marketing, but if they aren’t using Instagram as part of the overarching social campaigns, they’re leaving money on the table.

Simply Measured recently evaluated Instagram’s growth since being purchased by Facebook last year. As of the first quarter of 2013, Instagram increased its member base to 100 million monthly active users, comprised of 67 of the world’s top brands​,​ and 500 percent more users than this time last year. Instagram is also the fastest-growing network of 2013 – increasing monthly active users by 14 percent in Q1 2013, compared to Pinterest’s and Google+’s 10 percent growth rates.

When brands use Instagram to connect with followers on other major networks, they create a cross-channel experience that resonates with prospective and current customers.

To deny Instagram of its potential for lead generation, customer engagement and socially assisted conversions, is to overlook the network’s photo-sharing features, and forget its association with Facebook. According to Simply Measured, 3,569 images were uploaded to Instagram by major brands in the first quarter of 2013. Fifty-nine percent of those images were then uploaded to Twitter and 98 percent were shared on Facebook. When brands use Instagram to connect with followers on other major networks, they create a cross-channel experience that resonates with prospective and current customers.

Marketers should consider using Instagram as a way to add photo diversity to their Facebook accounts. However, simply publishing real-time images of company culture won’t sell products or services – brands must find ways to unveil exclusive media to their Instagram followers that compel connections to navigate to corporate websites for more information or buy directly from an ecommerce hub. Using Instagram to introduce new products or showcase infographic snippets from a new white paper can help B2Cs and B2Bs generate leads from Instagram.

Instagram may not be a powerful social media marketing tool by itself, but it certainly can strengthen any Facebook marketing strategy. Brands that want to remain active social pioneers should embrace the photo-sharing site, but keep expectations realistic to make the most of the platform.

Ted Karczewski is an Executive Communications Associate at Brafton. He works to develop his own voice and apply his passions to the evolving world of SEO and content marketing, but he doesn't shy away from writing for fun. After graduating from Suffolk University, Ted used his Communications degree to test out Sports Journalism before Marketing at Brafton.