Connecting with audiences today has become something of a nightmare for content marketers. Between Snapchat, Twitter, What’s App, Tinder and all manner of other highly distracting apps and networks, there’s an increasingly tiny window of space and time in which to make an impact.

So where does that leave your brand? Sure you’ve got Facebook – old faithful – which will deliver results and reach provided you feed it regularly with funds. Twitter? Meh. Unless you want to give yourself carpel tunnel syndrome by firing out 14,000 tweets each and every day (and who has the time?), you’re unlikely to get your brand seen in between Brexit updates and the latest inanities from Kim Kardashian and her ilk.

Luckily, there’s a secret weapon content marketers have at their disposal, and the best part is, it doesn’t cost a cent (yet). Instagram is fast becoming the go-to platform for every aspirant brand storyteller, thanks to its epic engagement rates and undeniable ‘cool factor’, not to mention its cost-effectiveness.

Cue plentiful high-fiving in the social media department – the holy grail has been discovered. But not so fast. Like any social media network, Instagram boasts its own distinctive nuances and quirks, which must be appropriately honoured if any visual communication strategy is to be effective. Disrespect the ‘gram, and it will punish you.

Many marketers make the mistake of simply replicating their brand-heavy Facebook content on Instagram, recycling their wares, slapping a few built-in filters and hashtags onto the end and declaring the results passable. The outcomes of these uninspiring efforts – usually somewhere in the middling to average range – speak for themselves, and leave plenty of social gurus scratching their heads, wondering where these elusive 100+% engagement rates are hiding.

So how do you customise your efforts to the platform and ensure you secure those elusive client accolades?

Here are a few tips to get you started:

1. Use hashtags correctly

Just because you’re free to use as many hashtags as you like, doesn’t mean that you should. Before spewing random words beneath your caption, think about which hashtags are relevant to your brand and post. If you’re seeking a clean look but still want to be discoverable, consider tucking your tsunami of hashtags away in the comments section, using only your core brand hashtags in the actual caption of your image. That way, people can find you but also read what you’re saying without hurting their eyes.

2. Keep it tidy

It may seem counter-intuitive to marketers, but on Instagram, plastering your logo across every image is a big no-no. Excessive branding tends to draw low engagement rates from users, who still tend to regard Instagram as an untainted bastion of social media purity. By all means ensure your logo is featured on your product – after all you WANT people to know what it is they’re looking at – but steer clear of logos and texts if you want to elicit double-taps aplenty.

3. Hire professional photographers

Yes filters are cool, but deeper insights have shown that the types of images that get the most traction need a bit more love than the likes of Valencia can provide. Whilst it’s important that your images appear to have been casually snapped at the dinner table/gym/summit of Table Mountain, it’s worth investing in professional photographers if you want to deliver results that stand out from the crowd.

4. Function over form

Sure, Instagram is a place where beauty is the end game, but to focus too much on your art in favour of actual functionality is to ring the Instagram death knell. Pretty mosaics will draw a few ‘oohs’ and ‘aahs’ here and there, but sadly require you to pummel your users’ feeds with a barrage of images, many of which fail to make sense in context. Equally, lengthy captions, no matter how well written, will likely go unseen and end up on the wrong side of ‘Read more’, leaving your post to fall flat. So keep it functional, keep it punchy and put your fans first if you want to achieve optimal results.