Social media has evolved into a treasure trove for marketers who know how to harvest fans and customers on Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest and the like. But actually translating your social media campaigns into increased sales takes finesse and know-how. Apu Gupta, CEO of Curalate, a visual marketing platform that helps 650 brands transform images into sales, has some ideas on how to market to different segments of consumers on Instagram. Here's his advice.

Push experiences, not products.

Brands already own a wealth of product shots and it can be tempting to reuse what was created for an ad or catalog on Instagram. But that doesn't work on social media. Experiences -- not pictures of things -- inspire and engage people. Ideally, the images you post will help consumers to feel something about what the product can do for them and the sort of lifestyle that comes with it. Gupta holds up Michael Kors as a brand that does an exceptional job of posting contextualized images of beautiful jet-setters in fashion hotspots or on the beach. "When you see photos of Paris or Tokyo, or you see this Michael Kors woman very elegantly but somewhat casually strolling along a beach, it draws a connection and certain experiences," he says. "And at some level it's somewhat aspirational for consumers."

Tap into Instagram's huge commerce potential.

Many brands think of Instagram as merely a place to post photos. And while everyone understands it's a way to build brand awareness and identity, historically it was hard to quantify whether the platform had much commerce potential. That's no longer the case, and it's now one of the top referral traffic sources for many brands. "That traffic then converts into purchases," he says.

Share your fans' content.

Most brands are capable of producing beautiful visual content, but so are their fans. In fact, when someone loves and buys your product then snaps selfies using it, this is an experience brands should celebrate. "A lot of brands ignore that customer voice and forget that social is about community," he says. "When brands incorporate community into their Instagram -- actually feature fans' photos, as well -- it brings a level of connection to their consumers that would otherwise be lost."

Reply to comments, even innocuous ones.

While most companies understand the importance of replying to comments on Twitter -- a much more snarky or negative arena than Instagram -- they often blow off friendly comments on the photo sharing app, such as "Where can I get this?" or "Hey, @Kayla, this would look great on you." Why not respond and help the fans connect with stores, sales, or promotional events?

Reuse your assets.

Unfortunately for brands that have invested a lot of time and money in creating high-quality Instagram images, engagement with them dies off between 24 and 48 hours. Often brands don't think about ways they can repurpose those assets. "When brands start to take that image and use it other places -- maybe on their site or maybe on a billboard, then you take this beautiful asset and you do so many more things with it," he says. "It essentially makes that asset so much more valuable for you."

Published on: Jul 20, 2015