For many companies, Instagram has remained unconquered social-media territory. While its user base is massive,  marketing on the app can be tricky: Even if you're able to post beautiful or entertaining images users like, guiding them to your business's website is tough--and it's perhaps even tougher to compare the effectiveness of some posts versus others.

All that is supposedly changing now, thanks to new tools Instagram is rolling out. As the company announced in a blog post Tuesday, businesses will be able to upgrade their accounts to business profiles that offer features not available to regular users. Posts will look the same as traditional ones, but the brand's profile page will include a contact button that lets potential customers call, email, or text the business, or pull up a map and directions. A new tool called Insights provides the user with analytics on how each post is performing.

The features are free--all you need is a Facebook page for your business. Addresses and contact info can be transferred from Facebook--which owns Instagram--to the photo sharing app.

This is good news for cash-strapped startups looking to capitalize on their social-media followings. Until now, the only way to guide followers away from Instagram was by way of the single link allowed in a user bio. The move will also help brands separate themselves from everyone else on Instagram. The app is infamously home to a number of "Instagram celebrities" with huge followings but no business to speak of. Those profiles won't be able to upgrade to receive the business features--for now, at least.

Instagram, which launched in 2010, says it has 400 million active users each month. The company's head of global business development, James Quarles, told Tech Insider that 50 percent of its users follow at least one business.

Insights, the new analytics tool, offers performance numbers like reach and impressions, as well as audience demographics, including age and location.

Another new option for companies with more of an advertising budget is to turn top-performing posts into paid advertisements directly in the app. Instagram will suggest which posts to use--presumably the ones the Insights tool deems most successful--and let you target the demographics you want to reach and the duration of your campaign, based on how much you're willing to spend.

Even with all of this, the onus is still on businesses to post photos their followers want to see and engage with. Some startups, like men's outdoor company Huckberry, have found the recipe to success: Hook them with beautiful photography taken by professionals, and use playful captions that make users want to share the posts with their friends. Others, like interior design startup Homepolish, gain 2,000 followers per day by setting up a strict posting schedule for showing off their designers' work.

Whatever your business, make sure Instagram is right for you before pouring time into it--some products clearly lend themselves more to photography than others. These tools, though, which will be available to all users by the end of the year, may give you a greater shot at zeroing in on what works on the platform.

Published on: Jun 1, 2016