If you’ve been on Instagram lately, then you may have already spotted a couple changes.

The Instagram site now has much larger pictures and closely mirrors the layout of its app.

Speaking of which, the "Explore" section of the app has a different format. Now, trending places and hashtags are prominently displayed and updated in real-time. Here, you can search for top trends, places, tags and users all at once.

Granted, these changes seem small, but their end goal is not. Instagram wants to become the next social media destination for news.

Presently, they have the audience. As of December 2014, Instagram had over 300 million active users, a 50 percent increase from just 9 months earlier. This makes Instagram the fastest growing social network.

With its massive user base, Instagram has its eyes on advertising as well.

All the targeting data available on Facebook — everything from income to interests — is coming to Instagram over the next few months. Right now, Instagram ads only target age and gender. These changes will massively increase the amount and ability of ads. Some early projections report that Instagram could bring in $1.2 billion in ad revenue next year alone.

Before ads cloud the network, your business needs to seize the moment and establish yourself as a must-follow brand. It’ll be worth the time since investing in Instagram generates sales. Plus, these users spend more per order than almost any other social user.

1. How to find followers on Instagram

For Instagram to generate revenue for your business, you first have to grow your user base. With the new Explore tab, finding users is easier than ever.

If you're a local business, focus primarily on hashtags and places. Search your town's hashtag on Instagram as well as your local hot places.

If you're a national business, search primarily through hashtags related to your business. For instance, if you sell shoes, #newshoes, #newkicks, #shoelover would be a good place to start. Use this site to find the most popular hashtags in your industry.

Once you've found someone who looks promising, click on the profile and see if they're your target customer. If so, comment on two images that align with your brand. Be authentic and make it clear the comment is tailored for this picture and this user. Finally, like a photo and follow them.

Remember, social media is about the long sell. It's like taking someone out for coffee. You want to get to know them, show you care and subtly convince them why they should trust and support you.

2. Share the right kinds of photos

As you’re growing your user base, you want to seal the deal by sharing photos that will perform. If you’re sharing a specific product, put the direct product link in your profile, and caption the picture #linkinprofile. Swap this link often to mirror your current Instagram photo.

Below are the best types of images to share on Instagram:

  • Behind the scenes
  • User generated
  • Location-based
  • Live events
  • Product in use
  • Close up shots
  • Day of the week (Motivational Monday, Transformation Tuesday, Hump Day Throwback Thursday, Follow Friday)

3. Integrate Instagram photos to your site

Finally, seal the deal by highlighting users’Instagram on your product pages.

Doing so affirms that the product will be liked by others and makes users more inclined to buy. Plus, it gives users an incentive to share as their photo could be highlighted on your homepage