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Instagram Is Too Large for Your Business to Ignore As Instagram surpasses Twitter in size and engagement, smart businesses are turning to the social network for marketing.

By James Parsons Edited by Dan Bova

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Harpoon Brewery | Facebook

Remember when Instagram was just a little startup app that you used to show off your DSLR camera skills? Five years ago, it wasn't much more than that.

Related: How We Doubled Our Instagram Followers in Less Than 8 Hours

Observers even questioned why Facebook acquired Instagram, for $1 billion. But after seeing the immense growth the app experienced in its user base, everyone now understands the very real threat that Instagram could have posed to Facebook.

Om Malik, of GigaOm, has said that Instagram's character and immense amount of data are what make it so valuable. "They were scared," he says. "[Facebook] knew that for the first time in its life, it arguably had a competitor that could not only eat its lunch, but also destroy its future prospects."

Userbase Growth

Flash forward to 2015: Instagram has now surpassed the 300 million users mark, which means it has grown more than 600 percent since its acquisition by Facebook.

For most marketers, Instagram was never a viable marketing platform compared to giant social media websites like Facebook and Twitter. But then those same marketers began to take notice: Instagram reached the 150 million user mark in half the time it took Twitter.

And to most marketers' surprise, Instagram actually surpassed Twitter's active-user count in the fourth quarter of 2014. Have these numbers sparked your interest yet?

It may be time for you to turn your marketing sights to Instagram, too. Since marketing on that medium is quite a bit different than on Facebook and Twitter, here are some inspirational companies that have it all figured out.

Marketing strategies

Developing a marketing strategy on Instagram takes creativity, effort and, most of all, personality.

Chase Zimmerman and Sean Perelstein, partners at StingHD, manage @SPJeweler, a thriving Instagram page displaying luxury bracelets, watches and sports cars. Associating their jewelry with a luxury lifestyle has been an extremely effective marketing technique, and doing so through Instagram has helped these entrepreneurs acquire nearly a quarter million followers.

"I would feel comfortable in saying that over 90 percent of our online sales have stemmed from Instagram," Zimmerman explains. "It's only gotten more effective over the years, and has helped us reach the high-end consumer by directing our hashtags."

Related: The Science of Brands on Instagram (Infographic)

Olek, an artist on Instagram, manages @oleknyc, an Instagram account filled with bizarre and impressive artwork made from yarn. She has amassed nearly 50,000 Instagram followers over the past few years. "We wanted [our work] to be tongue-in-cheek; something people are really going to enjoy," Olek says.

She may be on to something: Strange and controversial content gets liked and shared much more quickly than ordinary photo updates, and these aspects of her art have helped her page explode in popularity.

Harpoon Brewery, a small brewery, meanwhile, has grown @HarpoonBrewery with humor, emotion and subtle and unobtrusive marketing. The business has even received recognition from Wordstream for its creativity and effort; most of its posts feature cute or emotionally appealing content -- content that does well on community-powered websites like Reddit.com.

Final thoughts

Instagram certainly isn't what it was a few years ago; and with its growth, in the wake of Facebook's acquisition, it has evolved into a solid marketing platform for business owners. The engagement that the app offers, by displaying only a single image at a time, seems to be unbeatable. And Instagram's use of hashtags has been perfect for targeting niche audiences.

So, have you yet utilized Instagram in your marketing strategy? If so, describe your efforts in the comments below!

Related: The Most Frustrating Problems With Instagramming for Business -- And How to Fix Them

James Parsons

Content Marketer and Author

James Parsons is an entrepreneur, marketer, web designer, growth hacker and Apple fanboy. When he's not writing at his blog, he's working on his next big project.

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