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How to Use Instagram for Lead Generation Here are five tips to help you find potential customers on Instagram and the tactics you can apply to reel them in.

By Carlos Gil

entrepreneur daily

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With over 1 billion active monthly accounts, there's more to Instagram than funny memes, motivational quotes and people living their best life.

According to Instagram, over 2 million businesses currently advertise on the social network monthly including global brands like Beats By Dre, who reportedly saw a 29 percent increase in purchase activity after running an Instagram Stories ad campaign.

Related: How 39 Major Businesses Use Instagram Stories (Infographic)

Also, small businesses such as apparel brand Young and Reckless are seeing revenue grow two to three times year-over-year since they began advertising on Instagram, according to case studies published on Instagram's website.

While the case can be made for Instagram being a credible social network for businesses which is used by 71 percent of all 18- to 24-year-olds in the U.S. and is fueling a billion-dollar industry through influencer marketing, the secret to unlocking Instagram's full potential for B2B sales professionals is in plain sight within every photo and video.

Metadata.

To the average Instagram user, a hashtag is a merely a #word or #phrase used to get cheap likes, but it's a way to become discovered within the social network. For a sales professional, it's the first step to finding your next client.

Next is locations.

If you have a brick-and-mortar business of any kind, it's likely to be listed on Instagram under "Places" in the search bar. Not only are businesses listed in "Places" but so are company headquarter locations, convention centers and airports -- all public places where daily Instagram users are checking in, sharing their moments and often tagging their colleagues.

Related: How to Grow Your Business Using Instagram

If you never use Instagram to post a single photo or video, there are still plenty of opportunities to explore, as I describe in the video above.

Below are five tips to help you find potential customers on Instagram and the tactics you can apply to reel them in.

1. Use Instagram as a search engine.

With "Tags" and "Places," Instagram gives you access to find and engage users that you might not follow using the search functionality. For example, if you want to connect with an executive at a company that you're trying to sell to, you might run a search on LinkedIn for "VP, Marketing" and then hope that a cold InMail will get you a meeting with him or her. On Instagram, you can reverse the search process by looking up relevant hashtags to your potential client such as #BrandMarketing and then engaging in discussions on posts which contain this tag. The other approach would be to run a "Places" search and see what's being posted at a company's HQ or post content and tag that company's HQ location.

2. Tag your content with your customers in mind.

It's no secret that Instagram is known as the Hallmark card of social media where millions of daily users are going to share photo and video content. If you're self-employed or work in sales and are trying to get in front of your target customers, think about the hashtags they are likely to follow and start incorporating those hashtags into your content. The more often that you post -- using set hashtags -- the higher the likelihood you have of being seen repeatedly by this audience.

Related: 3 Ways to Immediately Get More ROI From Your Instagram Marketing

3. Go to "Places."

As a test, I recently went through the exercise of looking at recently posted photos on Instagram at the HQ locations for Facebook, Nike, IBM and Cisco. Within less than 10 minutes, I was able to identify and later connect on LinkedIn with key executives at these companies. I then did the same for two industry conferences and ran a search under "Tags" using the conference hashtag to identify prominent executives who were attending and speaking at these events. Depending on how much time you're willing to invest, you can take the approach of using LinkedIn to scout what your prospects look like and then see if you can spot them in photos posted at their work location (i.e. "social stalking").

4. Engage in the #hashtag feed for industry conferences.

Curate a list of every major conference in your industry that you'd like to attend but can't physically participate. Then, on Instagram follow the hashtag for the events. Although you aren't physically visiting, you can still join virtually through Instagram. In fact, by engaging and commenting on content posted by those in attendance you can form new relationships without ever leaving your office. It's not uncommon at industry conferences for people to take selfies and tag others in the photo including photos of speakers on stage; use this to your advantage by tapping on the picture to see who's tagged and then follow the next step.

5. Follow up on LinkedIn.

Although you will spend a significant amount of time using Instagram in the steps listed above, LinkedIn is still the go-to social network for business networking. That is why you should aim to send a LinkedIn connection request to the prospective clients that you identify over on "the 'gram" in order to show that you're doing your homework. If you'd like to win over a potential client right off the bat, mention in your introduction something that you learned about him as you were looking at his Instagram profile or cross-reference the industry conference he recently attended.

What are your challenges on Instagram? Let's connect on social media and discuss.

Watch more videos from Carlos Gil on his YouTube channel here. Follow Carlos Gil on Instagram @CarlosGil83.

Related: 5 Steps to Grow Your YouTube Channel in 2019

Carlos Gil

Author of The End of Marketing

Carlos Gil is the author of The End of Marketing: Humanizing Your Brand in the Age of Social Media and AI, an international keynote speaker, and award-winning digital storyteller with over a decade of experience leading social media strategy for global brands including LinkedIn.

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