With a user base of 700 million and counting, Instagram has become a powerful marketing tool for brands of every size and industry. The problem is, unless you’re famous, gaining a decent following can be challenging. It takes time and consistent effort to build that following.

Thankfully, there are some proven strategies you can employ that should help you get a jump start on growing your Instagram audience. Here are a few things you can start putting into action today.

Optimize your profile.

Before you can begin to amass a following on Instagram, you have to make sure your profile is optimized so it can be easily found. Make sure your account is set to public and your username is recognizable and searchable. Include a branded profile picture and complete your bio with helpful information about your company. Let people know why they should follow you! And don’t forget to include a link back to your website. This is important, since the bio area is the only place a clickable link is allowed on Instagram.

Determine a direction for your content.

What is the purpose of your activity on Instagram? What do you want to accomplish? What impression do you want your followers to get of your brand? For instance, do you want to come across as playful, humorous, inspirational, etc.? Answering these questions can help you determine what direction you want to go in terms of the type of content you share. The key here, as with all social media activities, is consistency. You want your audience to know what to expect when they choose to follow you.

Start posting and get on a schedule.

Begin by establishing your profile with at least 10-15 posts. This way when people come to your page, they’ll see that you’re active and they’ll get a good idea of the kind of quality content you will be sharing. You’ll also want to develop a schedule for when and how frequently you’ll be posting. This will depend on who you are targeting. You may need to do a little analysis to see which days/times get the most engagement. Additionally, if you are targeting people in different time zones, you may need to schedule posts for various times throughout the day in order to maximize results.

Be creative with your captions.

The captions you use along with your images and videos are what will help people find your content and ultimately connect with your brand, so be sure to use targeted hashtags that are relevant and search-worthy. Additionally, be consistent with your brand persona and don’t be afraid to have a little fun. The more engaging you are with your audience, the more likely they’ll be to interact with your brand and share your content with others.

Be active and engaging.

As with all social activities, the more active and engaging you are, the more attention you’ll generate for your brand. Ask questions and invite your audience to interact with you. When people comment on your posts, respond to them. And don’t forget to share the love. Follow other users and interact with their content as well.

Collaborate with others.

Another great way to increase your following is to collaborate with other users who have audiences that are similar to yours. Once you’ve established relationships with a few other users, consider cross-promoting one another’s content. This is mutually beneficial to both parties and can help you gain access to a decent number of users who might also be interested in your brand.

Last, but not least, once you’ve got your profile set up, optimized and consistently filled with quality content, be sure to promote it as much as possible. You can utilize your other social platforms, include links within your email newsletters and embed follow buttons right onto your website to make it as easy as possible for people to connect with you on Instagram. The more effort you put into these activities, the more it will pay off in the way of a growing audience of loyal followers for your brand.