Instagram has become an extremely important platform for marketing and business growth. The social media giant has about 1 billion users, so the shear number of people using it makes it an attractive platform. It's a great way to target younger audiences, who are more interested in Instagram than the older Facebook. Also, Instagram is more visual, which goes along with that modern trend.

Obviously, an Instagram account for your business is useless unless you have the followers. Building a large following doesn't just happen; it takes work, and you have to be intentional about it. It can be an enjoyable process though, and very rewarding. Let's look at some helpful tips on how to grow your Instagram following:

Build a strong profile

It all starts with creating your profile, so this is the first step. If people are going to follow you, they'll check out your profile first. If they like what they see, they'll hit that follow button. If your profile doesn't look appealing, they probably won't want your content showing up on their feed. Make sure your profile looks professional and neat. Have an eye-catching profile photo, and include a short, but descriptive bio. Remember, people will decide in seconds whether to follow you, so make your profile count.

Post consistently

It's important to post consistently to get your brand and image out there. Not only will this make effective use of your following, it will also give visitors of you profile interesting content to look at. The goal is for them to want to see what you're posting on their feed. Posting at least once a day is a good practice.

Post high quality/interesting photos and videos

Remember, Instagram is visual. Make sure that the photos and videos you post are high quality and eye-catching. If you're not a photographer, you may want to enlist the services of one.

Use stories

Instagram introduced stories to compete with Snapchat, and for good reason. Stories are very popular, especially among young people. Make your stories smart and interesting, and be sure to use videos whenever you can. Videos are more engaging and give you more opportunity to promote and inform about your brand.

Use strong hashtags

Hashtags are more important on Instagram than anywhere else. Hashtags serve multiple purposes. For one, they can be used as a catchy way of promoting your brand and communicating your message. You want your hashtags to be identifiable with you. Perhaps more importantly, hashtags can be followed to see all the content that uses a particular one. You want your hashtags to be the kind people will click on. To develop strong hashtags, you need to do your research and see what kind of hashtags others are using. Be sure to use plenty of them, but not so many that your post looks messy or crowded. Nine or ten is a good number.

Engage with your followers and keep them happy

If you want to attract more followers, you have to keep your existing ones happy. Engagement with your Instagram following is an important part of that. There are a lot of ways to do this. When you receive comments on your posts, like them and reply as much as possible. Remember, the more activity on your post, the more people it will reach. It's also important to make your posts engaging. One way to do this is to host contests. People will be more likely to interact if they can win something by participating. If the prize has something to do with your brand, that's even better.

Figure out what your followers like

Keep a close eye on your posts to see what your users like and what they don't. This will help attract more users based on the tastes of your existing following.

Now that you know the essentials, go out there and building your following! And remember, enjoy the process and the rewards!