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They say that a picture is worth a thousand words -- and if that's true, then a picture shared on a platform as powerful and popular as Instagram could be worth it's weight in gold to businesses. If you've only thought of Instagram as a place to post and doctor the occasional photo, then you're missing out on a potential gold mine for your company. Here are four reasons you should be promoting your brand on this surprisingly versatile social media channel.

SEE ALSO: Why Now is the Right Time to Advertise on Instagram

1. Making More Sales

The ultimate goal of any aspect of branding or marketing is to make sales and convert prospects into customers, and Instagram can help you do just that. The simple fact is that people are attracted to pretty, amusing or compelling images. By posting high-quality product "beauty shots" and other pictures to your brand's Instagram account, you can give yourself a quick, painless boost in sales, not only in volume but also in per-order revenues. (Shopify reports an average order value of $65 via Instagram -- which adds up to $10 more than Facebook, nearly $20 more than Twitter, and almost $28 more than video giant YouTube.)

While posting to Instagram is an effective form of free "advertising without advertising," the platform also has a more straightforward option. As of September 30, 2015, Instagram allows businesses in over 30 countries to post sponsored ad content. Trials conducted in the first quarter of 2015 indicated an overall click-through rate of 1.5 percent, which beat Facebook's 0.84 percent for the same period. More click-throughs are a critical step toward more sales.

2. Engaging Your Audience

If you're seeking higher levels of social engagement for your brand, you couldn't do better than Instagram. Nate Elliot of Forrester Research notes that Instagram packs 58 times the per-follower social engagement punch of Facebook, and a whopping 120 times that of Twitter. He points to a Red Bull video that was posted on both Facebook and Instagram as an example. The Facebook post received 2,600 likes; the Instagram post received over 36,000.

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Pictures are not only worth a thousand words, but they can also generate quite a few conversations. The right Instagram images can launch a blizzard of comments, questions and other opportunities for you to interact directly with your customer base, building trust and cultivating a halo of authenticity around your brand.

3. Performing Market Research

Did you know that you can use your Instagram posts to help you get a better idea of your followers' interests and preferences? It's very simple, really: just post different images of specific products, and see which ones get shared the most (and least). The photos your customers post and share amongst themselves can also give you clues as to which items matter the most to them. This can be especially revealing if your business has brick-and-mortar locations in various parts of the city, state, region or country, because the photos can be tagged according to geographic area. Instant market research!

4. Turbocharging Your Social Media

One of the most powerful concepts in brand is congruency -- a consistent message that transcends all your marketing channels for a synergistic, "greater than the sum of its parts" impact. Instagram makes this achievement amazingly easy, thanks to the social sharing option located within the Settings panel. By selecting this option, your Instagram post will immediately be shared to your Twitter, Facebook and other social networks, yielding multiple posts across multiple channels for one chunk of content. That kind of math can be very good for business! You can even integrate your Instagram posts with Constant Contact or other email campaign systems.

It doesn't take 20/20 vision to see that Instagram can make your long-term branding, advertising and sales picture a very rosy one indeed. Take advantage of this social media channel's unique mix of features, and you'll agree that a picture is worth much more than a paltry thousand words!

If your brand were to utilize Instagram, what would be your most sought after goal? If your brand is currently utilizing Instagram, do you feel it has been effective?

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