Some people use Instagram simply for fun: they like to keep up with what their friends and relatives are doing, explore exciting content, and maybe post a picture or two about what they are doing. There are others, though, who want thousands of followers or businesses who use it for marketing. If you are someone in this latter group, then you are probably aware that achieving your goals on Instagram is more complicated than one would expect. It takes work to grow your Instagram presence, so here are a few strategies to improve your account:


1) Appeal to a relevant audience

Your business or personal brand will not appeal to everyone. There are people out there who will be uninterested in what you are posting—and that’s okay. Not everyone wants to follow fashion, baking, education, or travel accounts. So, instead of wasting your time attempting to appeal to as broad of an audience as possible, focus your energy on a niche audience you are more likely to connect with. You won’t have millions of followers, but you have a higher likelihood of attracting hundreds or even thousands of followers who care about what you are doing.


2) Write compelling captions

You already know that content is critical on Instagram, and that you should be publishing fresh and compelling material that provokes engagement. While you may be spending enough energy on photos, videos, infographics, and more, you might not realize how valuable a good caption is. Instagram may be an image-heavy platform, so images are what catch people’s attention, but they do read the text beneath. Write captions that support your pictures, tell a story, and get to the point. Fluff—or not enough—can drive people away.


3) Use the right hashtags

Hashtags are imperative for making your content visible. Different keywords categorize content so that interested parties can find it quickly, but how are people who love pets supposed to find your funny dog Instagram if you do not tag your posts with tags like #dogs or #doggram?

However, not all hashtags are advantageous for you: the #dogsofinstagram tag has over 100 million posts, so it’s unlikely that your material will be near the top. Use hashtags that are popular but not too popular. Identifying these can be a bit of a challenge, but there are social media analytics and insight tools that can help you pick the best ones.


4) Optimize your profile

This one may seem obvious, but it’s worth addressing: make your profile look like it belongs to a legitimate and active person or business. There are countless spam accounts out there, and you do not want people mistaking you for one because you forgot to write a bio, include a link, or your profile picture is lacking. Your profile is one of the most important impressions you can make, so polish it and make it informative and aesthetically appealing.


5) Use Instagram stories

Don’t just stick to posting photos and videos on your feed. Instagram Stories are an excellent tool for sharing content that does not need to be on your feed forever—though you can highlight particular stories so that they are if you so choose. Stories let other users know that you are active on the platform and share a variety of interesting content that will not take up much of their time. Plus, stories appear at the top of people’s accounts, so it’s possible they will spare you the minute it takes to watch something easily accessible instead of scrolling down until they find a post.


6) Post at ideal times

When you post makes a difference. Publishing a photo and clever caption at 3 pm may seem like a good idea, but depending on your audience, everybody might still be at work or school. Instead, publishing right before they get home and check Instagram increases their chances of seeing your post. Consider your audiences demographics and geographical locations to determine when the most practical times of day to post are (there are social media analytics and insights tools available to help).


7) Pay attention to your competitors

It helps to pay attention to what your competitors are doing. Even if you are not using Instagram for business, looking at what works for other people can give you some ideas to emulate. You should never copy someone else’s content, of course, but it’s pragmatic to assess their strategies to see what is propelling them forward or holding them back. What are they doing that your common audience is connecting with? What are they doing that is hurting them? Learn from other users without having to make the same mistakes.

Success on Instagram takes work, but there are steps you can take to establish your online presence. What strategies will you employ for improving your Instagram account?