Instagram is a force to be reckoned with. In April, it passed 700-million users milestone and judging by its growth pace, it may reach 1-billion by the end of the year.

Instagram’s growth is based on the continuous integration of new features: stories, filters, live video streams and multiple-photo posts. These features keep the platform immersive and entertaining.

Such an innovative approach lures teenagers and Millennials. Also, 68% of Instagram users are female and the platform is known to have a broad international outreach.

Besides, it’s worth noting that more than half of the profiles follow at least one brand, which makes the platform brand-friendly. Numerous businesses already capitalize on this opportunity. eMarketer predicts that this year, more than 70% of U.S. companies will integrate Instagram into their marketing strategy.  

Whether you use Instagram for business or personal purposes, one thing is clear: building organic and engaged audience requires consistent effort. Like everything else, it takes effort and time to do it.

Yet these eight proven growth hacks will help you to achieve tangible results almost immediately.

Make Use of the Right Hashtags

Hashtags are the main pillars of Instagram’s ecosystem. Like in most photo sharing platforms, they are meant to categorize content.

One hashtag in your post already enhances engagement by 12.6%, and Instagram allows up to 30 hashtags per update. Every one of these hashtags has the potential to increase your content impressions.

You have to use the right hashtags. They should be relevant to your business or message. Thus, take time to do your research. To find more relevant hashtags, you can use Hashtagify.

Also, try to use tags that have fewer than 100,000 posts. Otherwise, unless you are a rock star, it will be a waste of a tag. It is easier to get noticed when you don’t have to compete with millions of people.

You can test branded hashtags as well. Making an impressive post may get you featured on brand’s main account which means extra exposure.

Compelling Bio

Like in real life, on Instagram, you only have a few seconds to make the right first impression. Make it count.

The best way to make a first impression is to tailor your profile to your ideal audience in a way which enables people to understand what you are all about quickly. People don’t like what they don’t understand. Make sure to be clear and concise.

A critical part of the bio is your headline—not your username. If you enter the right keywords there, people will find you naturally and you’ll gain extra exposure.

Post Outstanding Content

content

It goes without saying that you should give your audience a valid reason to follow you. Whether it’s breathtaking pictures, lifestyle, inspiration or your product, make sure your content stands out from the crowd.

Research shows that photos with faces lead to 38% more likes and 32% more comments. So capturing people in your pictures may be a good idea.

Use your creativity to establish a theme, and be consistent. Check out the profiles of NG Weijiang, Func Media or Idafrosk for inspiration.

Post Regularly

Consistency is a key for organic growth. Most Instagram bloggers recommend posting five to eight times per week. Others say that the unwritten rule of Instagram is not to post more than once per day.

Every fresh post re-engages followers and leads to potential growth. It comes with its own hashtags and puts you right back in the feed.  

Of course, one size does not fit all. Some major brands post once every few hours, but that doesn’t seem to be a sound strategy for smaller profiles.

The best way to figure out your number is by testing different approaches. Experiment, observe and adjust your posting routine until you are happy with the results.

Tag Other Brands

Tagging brands means sourcing everything in your picture. If the post is excellent, brands may repost it, and it will bring you new followers.

Every brand is happy to receive free media. It indicates that people enjoy their products. Even if your picture is not reposted, they might reach out to you with an offer to collaborate.

Be Proactive

Engagement leads to more engagement. If you are proactive, your followers will respond. Reach out to new people, follow, comment and double tap their pictures.

You should also want to connect with other people in your community. Go after accounts which use same or similar hashtags as yours. These people are most likely to be interested in your content.

If a particular profile or a person interests you, it may be a good idea to offer them a partnership. Usually, influencers work together with other accounts that have a similar number of followers. You can agree to tag each other in the photos and captions, like pictures or even repost each other’s content. Exchange of followers is one of the most efficient ways to facilitate organic growth.

Work with Influencers

influencers

Look for the accounts that have a significantly larger audience than you do. Usually, accounts that have way more followers than you do usually ask for money before collaboration. After all, that is their business. The strategy works very well and it wouldn’t be a business if didn’t.

They will be glad to make a shout-out for some money. Just make sure that their audience is interested in your content. Plus, be ready to negotiate!

Make Use of External Services

If there is one thing that truly works on Instagram, it is audience engagement, and there is no other way around it. Unless you are a celebrity, you have to put work or money into it.

A sound plan to stay active most of the time is employing other people. Hire a social media manager who would gladly take over the account. A less costly alternative is to use services like Instagrowth Ninja that specialize in the organic growth of Instagram profiles.

Very often, starters on Instagram are tempted to buy followers, but that is not a reasonable solution. On the surface, the numbers may look nice, but all of the newly acquired fans are bots. They have no genuine interest in you or your product and are easy to spot. Eventually, it can damage your image and reputation, so the best strategy is to stay away from them.Opinions expressed here by Contributors are their own.

Founder/CEO Just&Tom and JustasMarkus.com. Passionate traveler and blogger at Entrepreneur.com, Business.com, Influencive.com and others. Catch up with Justas on Twitter.