Social media marketing is an excellent strategy for building your brand or your following. Whether you’re a business or an influencer (or both), the goal should always be to grow your brand and create brand recognition. While it would be nice for creative content and unique branding to be enough to do this, that’s unfortunately not the case anymore. In an arena where you’re up against just about everyone with a smartphone and a filter, the people won’t just come to you. You have to fight for followers. You have to kick their doors down and force them to love you. The following are 5 (less violent) ways you can grow your following and/or brand on Instagram.

  1. Write the right captions

Besides the Instagram photo itself, there are 3 other key components of a post; a short blurb, the hashtags and the call-to-action. Leaving this out is squandering prime real estate below your post that can be used to show off your personality, brand tone or purpose.

A good rule of thumb is to keep blurbs short and sweet. People didn’t come on Instagram to read your thesis. If you can, direct people to a link in your bio or use this space to cross-promote your other social media accounts.

Adding a call-to-action is also a great way to increase shareability. Asking questions or directing them to an action using verbs like “double-tap”, “comment below” or “repost” increases visibility and engagement.

When it comes to hash tags, less is more. While some people believe that the more hash tags you use the more people are likely to see your post, we believe that too many makes you look like you’re trying too hard. A lengthy string of hash tags looks spammy. It looks lame and people will notice. Maintain your dignity and keep it limited to 4-5 hash tags per post.

  1. Have and maintain a marketing style

Whether you’re big into branding or not, your Instgram page should tell a coherent story. If your brand personality is funky and youthful then this is a tone that should run through every single post you make. Bright colors and fun, light-hearted captions throughout your feed will allow people to understand and grasp your message more clearly. Alternatively, if your brand is centered around something more minimalistic or serious, you may want to focus on muted colors, black and white shots and dryer captions. While we’re not suggesting you stifle your creative inclinations, using the same filters and/or photo layouts will create a more united and cohesive theme.

  1. Create a posting schedule

Sure. This seems boring and maybe even a little unnecessary. Posting content spastically, though, is a great way to look flighty and lose your following.

Choose a posting schedule that is easy for you to maintain and that reflects your brand and audience. Whether it’s a few times a day or a few times a week, keep it consistent. Unless you’re crazy funny or are giving away a car with every post (cue Oprah), we would limit your posts to twice a day. Weekly, we would suggest at least 2-3 times so people don’t have a chance to forget about you.

  1. Actively engage with your following

The best way to grow your following is to engage them. People need love and attention. Give it to ‘em. This can be done most easily through liking and commenting on their photos. Not only will they see the likes/comments, but their followers will see it too.

Responding to comments and DM’s on your own page should be done within 24 hours. This lets people know you’re present and creates brand loyalty among them.

Following and engaging with brands and influencers in your industry is another great way to boost your brand recognition. They’ll often return the favor by liking and commenting back which expands the network that your page can be seen.

  1. Understand your analytics

Long gone are the days of combing through piles of data to understand whether your marketing efforts are effective. Instagram now has an entire section dedicate to telling you just that. Their “Insights” section gives you full analytics on every photo and story you post. It also tells you all about your followers’ demographics and how many impressions you’re getting per post.

Understanding and utilizing this data is key to expanding your social media presence and thus, your brand. Staying on top of it is just as important. As your following grows, their demographics may shift and this should affect the type of content you’re posting. Using social media apps like Iconosquare is great for helping you determine what your followers like, when they like it, and how. We’re going to pretend that doesn’t sound dirty.

While using Instagram is a super fun and easy way to market yourself or your brand, not giving your posts the TLC they deserve will have you falling covfefe.