Instagram — the mobile photo-sharing application on which users post photos and short videos — has quickly become the go-to platform for many social-media users.

For financial advisors, an Instagram account can be an effective tool for developing a personal connection with clients while also providing educational content, says Richard Heft, president of Ext. Marketing Inc. in Toronto.

Mixing the personal with the professional is also a good way to temper the "sales" or "marketing" aspect of your account, Heft adds.

Your values and interests — such as volunteering, sports activities and favourite vacation spots — can be used as a launching point for discussion.

Just don't get too comfortable sharing personal information, Heft says. "If you're on a beach, you don't need to share photos of yourself in a bathing suit."

Here are three tips for getting started on Instagram:

1. Set up a business account
Alison Walke, regulatory coordinator at Ext. Marketing, recommends that advisors take advantage of Instagram's free business profile feature.

Creating a business account allows you to add contact information, industry information and a business address to your Instagram profile. This feature makes it much easier for prospects and clients to get in touch with you directly from the app, Walke says.

According to an Instagram user survey in 2015, 75% of "Instagrammers" take action after being inspired by a post. That statistic makes a compelling argument for businesses such as financial advisory practices to join the platform.

"Instagram," Walke says, "is the social platform to be on."

2. Provide educational content
For a quick and easy way to provide educational updates, Heft says, create Instagram posts that display industry statistics that reflect your clients' concerns.

If you want to appeal to young families, for example, find some statistics on education saving, and drop the text over an image. Stock photos can be a good place to start, Heft says. Just remember to cite your sources.

3. Attract followers

As with Twitter, Instagrammers can use hashtags — the number sign (#) preceding a word or short phrase — to draw users to their posts. Hashtags are basically category keywords that collect posts related to the same theme.

But unlike Twitter, Instagram allows you to list as many hashtags as you wish — as long as they're in the "comments" section. Avoid using multiple hashtags in the caption, Walke says, because it is visually unappealing and is considered poor online etiquette.

Hashtag usage shouldn't be complicated. Walke suggests you start with hashtags such as #finance, #financialservices or #invest.

This is the first part in a two-part series on Instagram. Next: Getting the most from your Instagram account.

Photo copyright: bizoon/123RF