In the near decade that Instagram has been around, it continues to adjust its algorithm and introduce new features, meaning businesses need to keep up to maintain a steady account growth.

So how do you adapt? By trying out and incorporating new growth strategies. Services that tout growth through purchased likes and followers are against Instagram’s service policies. These fake engagements and growth rates will only harm your account in the long run and might even get your account banned.

That’s why brands need a strategy for authentic, organic Instagram growth.

What defines Instagram growth?  It starts with the number of followers you have and gain. But to get these new followers, you’ll also need to improve engagement with your account, brand exposure and create compelling content. Otherwise, why else would anyone follow you?

If your growth is stagnant or you want to put a little more oomph into your strategies, we recommend testing out these tips.

Discover who your followers are with Sprout analytics

As you work to boost your follower count, Sprout Social’s reports can give you insights about your existing audience on Instagram.

Learn more about your fan breakdown by age, gender and location to ensure your content is resonating as intended.

Uncover your own IG demographics today with a free trial from Sprout.

1. Consistency is key

Let’s make sure you have the basics down first. To grow an Instagram account, you can’t put all your eggs in the proverbial basket and rely on one post to go viral. Most posts won’t go viral, which you means you need to find a better way to get your posts in front of your intended audience.

Take a look at your posting schedule, posting frequency and content quality. What are you doing well and what are your areas of improvement?

In our yearly research about the best times to post on Instagram, we found that around mid-morning (central time) was a peak time across all industries. If you’ve never researched your most successful times to post, these time ranges would be a good place to start.

To get more detailed, check out our best times to post article for a breakdown by multiple industries, or hone in even further on your niche with a data-driven approach. Sprout Social’s ViralPost publishing feature takes the legwork out of your research and suggests algorithmically selected peak times when you’ll have the highest engagement based on previous analytics. This can be a huge time saver when looking to post frequently and consistently to organically grow your Instagram.

Posting on a consistent basis sets up an expectation for your followers to look forward to the next post. Larger brands will post multiple times a day while small businesses may only post a few times a week. Whichever you commit to, just make sure it’s a consistent schedule to set expectations with your audience.

And finally, consistency in content quality is very important. There’s a lot more noise on Instagram feeds these days and you need to stand out. Subpar or stock photos won’t help grow Instagram followers as much as those who are creating their own interesting content.

2. Invest in content production & content diversity

Engagement is no longer limited to in-feed posts. Instagram now includes metrics for new content types such as Story replies, views of IGTV episodes and Story mentions. With an ever-increasing variety of content types like Instagram Reels, there are more opportunities to increase your engagement rates and, consequently, your organic Instagram growth.

If you’ve only done in-feed posts or tried out Stories sporadically, we recommend committing to a few Stories a week to establish consistency and plan content for it. With a variety of ways to use Stories as a method to grow Instagram followers, it’s an opportunity to see what resonates with your audience.

A good example of content diversity is Magnolia Bakery’s new AR filter that will add cupcakes to the camera or replaces eyes with cupcakes for a selfie. The cupcakes are a classic representation of the brand and people tag Magnolia Bakery when they use it. In return, Magnolia can repost these user-tagged Stories into their own Stories.

It can’t be stressed enough that content quality and posting consistently it is important for account growth. Spend time learning how to take better photos and videos or hire a content agency or freelance photographers/videographers to help with this huge but important task.

3. Run promotions & contests

Audiences love giveaways, discounts and freebies, and that’s not likely to change no matter what new developments arise on social media. But what marketers post is not always what consumers want. This mismatch means that there are missed opportunities for marketers in creating social content.

In the Sprout Social Index, Edition XIV: Realign & Redefine, it was discovered that 72% of consumers want discounts or sales to be posted on brands’ social media. Conversely, only 18% of marketers think that discounts are what are needed on social media. This disconnect in expectations means that there’s room to grow for giving customers what they want.

To grow your following and increase your brand presence on Instagram, run contests and promotions. Make one of the requirements for the giveaway a follow for your band and any other brands you’re partnering with, as well as tagging friends for more exposure. If you’re consistent in your giveaways, such as monthly or quarterly, your followers will be more likely to stick around and look forward to the next one.

4. Promote cross-platform

Don’t silo yourself on Instagram alone.

How often do you talk about your Instagram account on your other social media platforms?

Many people have multiple social accounts, and different platforms all have unique strengths, so you can reach different audiences by highlighting your Instagram presence in different places.

Direct followers on other social channels to your Instagram profile for exclusive offers or content. You can also use another visual-heavy platform like Pinterest to extend the reach of Instagram content that might otherwise have a short lifespan on the platform’s highly active feed.

Beyond social media, there are other spaces for your brand to grow Instagram followers organically. Adding prominent social media buttons in your email newsletter, website’s footer and large digital ads are all good examples of cross-platform promotion.

Offline, you can add your Instagram account to in-store signage and promotions. Short promotions like “Instagram followers receive 5% off!” and a custom QR code could also prompt current customers to follow you on the spot.

5. Share the wealth with influencers

While the influencer market has certainly grown over the last few years, there are still ways for social budgets of all sizes to incorporate an influencer strategy.

Micro-influencers are those that have smaller followers but often a more engaged audience. These influencers have highly specialized niches and are often willing to work with brands who line up with their values.

Working with influencers, especially micro- and nano-influencers, establishes trust in your company. As they talk and post about your brand to their followers, your Instagram account will organically grow with them.

6. Increase engagement time

One of the most proven method of growing your Instagram organically is to actively engage on your account.

That means taking the time to leave comments on followers’ posts, answering questions and reposting user-generated content.

Creating conversations and small chat groups to connect followers with each other is a part of building up your Instagram community. If you’re able to provide your followers with a deeper connection beyond contests and company announcements, then you’re more likely to gain a loyal following that extends beyond social media.

Why should you prioritize engagement and good content? A recent Sprout study found that when customers feel connected to the brand, they’re 68% more likely to recommend it to a friend and 76% more likely to buy it over a competitor.

To put this into action, there are several approaches you can test out, including liking or responding to all types of customer comments and showcasing your brand’s personality and voice through your content strategy.

Increasing your engagements and repeatedly interacting with customers is a long-term strategy that will help grow your account over time. But the relationships built from this are more memorable and stronger than one-off interactions.

Wrap it all up with Instagram growth analytics

There are many methods of growing your Instagram following organically and steadily.

Using these Instagram growth strategies–like creating a wide array of content, and building customer relationships–can produce reliable results that can help you withstand algorithm changes much better than accounts relying on spammy tactics.

As you utilize these strategies, check in on your Instagram analytics to see how your account is growing. If there are large peaks on certain days, see what type of content was posted and how people are engaging with it. This will let you reflect on what tactics worked the best and refine your strategy even further for the future.

If you’re ready to dig deeper into your analytics and figure out what Instagram growth strategies work for you, sign up for a free trial of Sprout Social.