There seems to be a lot of blog posts around giving “surefire” tips to grow your Instagram account. These range from using the right filters and geo tagging every image, to running contests and asking popular Instagrammers if you can take over their account.

There’s some good advice out there for sure, but I’ve kept my approach simple. I’ve organically grown my Instagram community to 25,000 followers who engage with my content using five simple ideas. And notice that I said “community” and “engaged”. See, I believe numbers only matter because people count – so my focus has always been on developing community, not building a huge number of followers.

So here are the five things that have grown my Instagram account. All of these are free. You can do all of them today. They require no special equipment, new apps, access social media influencers or for require you to run a contest.

1. Post consistently 
I post at about 6:15am every day. It’s statistically the worst time to post on Instagram. But my community knows that when they wake up, I’ll have a post ready for them. This consistency impacts the Instagram algorithm too – especially for people who regularly interact with my content. So be consistent in posting at about the same time (or times) every day.

2. Use good photos
I choose my images carefully. I want to make sure they are clear, compelling and bright. Clear means they are sharp and cropped so that the image is easy to recognize. When I use text, I design it so it works well with the image. Instagram is a photo sharing platform – not a graphic sharing platform. Compelling means photos that are interesting. Bright means … bright. Images that are bright are more likely to make people stop scrolling. Your photo should enhance the story of the caption.

3. Write great captions 
I focus on my captions as much – if not more – than I focus on my photos. See, I use my captions to give a short bible devotion designed to help people take a step forward in their spiritual journey. Basically, I use my photos as a delivery tool for a caption that gives people insight into the Bible. I want my captions to be short, authentic and practical.

4. Use multiple hashtags strategically
Statistics show that hashtags increase interaction on Instagram, so why wouldn’t you use them? So, I studied, tested and refined a list of multiple hashtags that I now use on every post (I’ll provide all of these in a later post). But here’s the trick … I don’t post them in the caption. I have my hashtags in Evernote ready to cut and paste as the first comment on each post. This way, I get the benefit of the hashtag, but after a few other people comment, the hashtags no longer appear in my feed.

5. Have conversations
As I said before, I focus on developing community, not building a following, so I often end posts with a question or practical step that encourages people to interact. When they do, I make it a priority to talk with them and respond to their comments. I answer questions, thank people, pray for them, encourage them, and generally get to know them. This costs me nothing but time. But it’s called social media because it’s supposed to be social.

That’s it!

Got some tips of your own or questions? Leave a COMMENT below so we can all follow along.