By Fritz Colcol, owner & CEO of Simply Thalia

Instagram is one of the underutilized platforms for generating leads. Many local brick-and-mortar stores are not as savvy with social media marketing and strategy as they could be.

When it comes to growing your brand, whether personal or business, Instagram can help you build exposure and generate sales. And whether you are in the restaurant, fitness, digital marketing, e-commerce or consulting space, if you are not capitalizing on Instagram, you are missing out on a lot of customers. As a serial entrepreneur who owns multiple businesses in various industries, Instagram has helped me scale my businesses to the next level. 

So, why are many business owners worldwide not leveraging Instagram? It boils down to not knowing the basics of Instagram marketing. Many are still solely relying on old-school marketing avenues: newspapers, magazine ads and even cold calls. Don't get me wrong, these tactics still work, but they are not as efficient as social media marketing.

We live in a digital world and opportunities are opening up like never before. Millennials are creating multiple streams of income digitally (via e-commerce, affiliate marketing, social media marketing, etc). So, what are some ways to generate leads while building your brand through Instagram? Here are a few pointers:

1. Engage with your niche/industry.

This is as easy as it sounds. Like, comment and follow similar brands to grow your page. You'll create exposure for your brand while building a loyal community of followers that engages with your posts, which plays into the IG algorithm and helps get your post/page in front of more people.

As my personal brand revolves around an entrepreneurship lifestyle, I engage with people and brands that are interested in entrepreneurship. This helps me grow my brand tremendously. Start engaging with brands that are similar to yours and see your loyal followers increase daily.

2. Be consistent.

Be consistent with your posting. This means creating a theme and posting pattern and posting at least four times a week to stay active. I recommend posting at least once a day, but this can be a lot for business owners who don't have a social media manager.

For my personal brand, I primarily share two types of content: personal lifestyle (like a picture of me with family, friends or on vacation) and motivational (like a motivational quote or video). This creates a cleaner, consistent look across my page. In addition, my followers know what to expect. That means people can follow me for a reason, whether that's to become motivated or simply to learn about and aspire to live a similar lifestyle.

3. Post call-to-action content.

Include calls to action in the captions of your posts to increase your engagement and, ultimately, your follower count. Let's say I post a motivational quote. In the caption, I could write, "LIKE if you agree!" or "Tag a friend to inspire!" The opportunities for engagement here are exponential. Followers can like, comment to share their own opinions and tag their friends. 

4. Host contests and giveaways.

Who doesn't like free stuff? Doing a giveaway contest is a great way to not only increase your brand presence but also to generate quality leads. Let's say you do a giveaway for $100 worth of product. From this giveaway, you collect over 100 quality targeted email addresses. That's worth the investment. Out of the hundred emails you collected, at least one of those leads is likely to purchase a product from you because they took the time to fill out their information and enter the giveaway. 

5. Document your brand through the My Story feature.

Are people tagging you? Are your customers enjoying your products and services? Great! Then start reposting their content and showing some love back. This will help you gain more credibility and social proof. Once you start sharing your journey, more and more people will tune in to see how your business is progressing.

I personally share my lifestyle using the My Story feature, which is similar to Snapchat. You can post content to your story multiple times a day and the posts will be deleted after 24 hours. Showcase your team and the executives behind your brand through behind-the-scenes photos and videos. People will be able to interact, send you direct messages and even purchase your offerings by simply swiping up (there's a feature that allows you to add direct URL links).

There are 400 million Instagram Stories daily users. If you can get the attention of just a small percentage, you will have tons of customers clamoring to engage with your brand. 

Fritz Colcol is owner & CEO of Simply Thalia. Serial entrepreneur in Chicago, building an empire one industry at a time.