By now you’ve probably realized that Twitter and Facebook are popular choices for social media outreach. However, non-traditional platforms are proving to be just as valuable, which is why marketers should consider adding Instagram to their lists.

Instagram is a photo-sharing app that allows you to snap a picture — or upload one from your phone’s library — apply one of 16 different filters, and share it through the service or through social networks. Currently it’s only available for iPhone, but the company is working on an Android app.

This article focuses on the different ways you can integrate Instagram into your social media or marketing strategies.

Get Creative

Many brands are currently using Instagram to give customers a different and more interesting view of their products. For example, General Electric uses Instagram to invite customers inside research labs, manufacturing plants, and even the archives to view the company’s impact on energy and transportation over the last 130 years.

Red Bull’s focus is not only on its product, but it also makes sure to capture things that are interesting to both the brand and its target audience. For example, it snaps and shares photos from activities that it’s involved with, such as snowboarding events or Red Bull Flugtag – which challenges people to build homemade, human-powered flying machines.

When using Instagram, the key is not to be boring. Don’t just continuously upload the same old product shots. Get creative and give your community some behind-the-scenes shots of your team, your office, or even a sneak-peek of new product you haven’t released yet.

Get Your Community Involved

It’s important to create a healthy balance between selling a product and engaging with your community. Just as you’re snapping pictures of your product, so are your customers. Instead of allowing hundreds of photos to go unnoticed, ask your customers to tag their pictures with a hashtag that you can track.

Similar to Twitter, hashtags make it easy to collect photos around a specific theme on Instagram. Every hashtag has an RSS feed associated with it, which makes it easy to subscribe to photos. Not only can this help with marketing campaigns, but it could also come in handy at events.

For example, Starbucks asked its customers to share product-related photos by using the hashtag #starbucks. The company then used Instagram’s API to add a rotating feed of photos to its website.

Boost Awareness With Traditional Social Media

Although building a community on Instagram is pretty easy, the app can also integrate with your established social networks, like Twitter and Facebook, to create more awareness.

Recently Instagram announced a much deeper integration with Facebook. To share photos with your company’s Facebook Page, tap the Profile tab in the app, edit your sharing settings, select Facebook, and then choose the Page that you’re an admin of. Before you upload your photo to Instagram, you will have the option to share it on Facebook as well — not all photos are automatically uploaded to the social network.

Instagram also allows you to add a location — provided by Foursquare — to the images that you’re sharing. If you choose to share an image with Foursquare, you will automatically check in to that location. By giving your customers the option to include your location on their photos, you’re increasing your awareness on two networks at once.

Although Instagram was designed primarily for personal use it has become a great marketing platform for brands and small businesses. It offers a quick and easy way to share more visual content with existing fans and, if you’re creative, it will help to attract new ones.

[Image credit: GeekyGadgetsGeneral Electric, Elizabeth LloydMarco Raaphorst]