Photo Credit: Lifehack
Photo Credit: Lifehack

Instagram took a while to catch on in Uganda since the app wasn’t available on most internet enabled phones. Statistics show that over 50% of mobile internet users are on a feature phones, and its only recently that the number of smartphones in use in Uganda is picking up at a faster rate. And with faster internet and smaller internet packages, users can now afford to spend less time on Facebook zero and run the data hungry Instagram more than before.

And just like the competition we saw on Facebook for who had the highest number of friends, the race is now on Instagram. Everyone wants to be the Instagram star!

Here are 8 tips from social media experts on how you can get more likes and followers. It turns out that with a little discipline, creativity and fun, just about anyone can be the star!

Be consistent in your theme and style
When your followers click onto your feed, they’re going to have certain expectations of what they want to see.

“Very successful Instagrammers think in terms of the grid,” the top six photos that show up on your Instagram profile at any given time, Fitzpatrick told HuffPost. “Use similarly styled photos and the same filters to create a cohesive look and feel to your photos.” (More on filters later.)

“Be creative, but have a general theme,” said Matthew Karsten, a travel blogger and photographer. “Mine is adventure, travel and landscapes. For others it’s food or fashion or cats.”

Dasher Courtney Dasher is the proud owner of Tuna – an adorable chiweenie dog – and manager of @tunameltsmyheart. He makes sure to post a new photo of the Tuna every day, alternating between pics of the pup – dressed up, posing in a hot dog costume, even wearing a shirt featuring his face – and fan art.

“Choose a rhythm (how often you post, time of day, the theme and quality of your photographs) and stick with it,” Dasher told HuffPost. “Try and be intentional and authentic with the brand you’ve created and/or are developing.”

Stick to a schedule
It’s important that your followers know when to expect a new picture. “If you’re going to be daily, you have to post daily,” Dasher told HuffPost in a 2014 interview. “Your audience will expect that rhythm.”

Try to post at a particular time each day to ensure extra consistency. “We [Dasher and Tuna] lived in California for the past few years, so I would usually post between 11 a.m. – 2 p.m. PST, which is around the times when most of the world is awake, and the post gets the most optimization,” Dasher told HuffPost in a recent conversation. “I still try to keep to that time frame even if I am not in California.”

Make sure you’re taking the right photos
Be patient and make sure you’re posting great stuff. Nobody wants to see unexciting pics taken simply because the user wanted to plump up her feed.

“Some of the shots [I take] have been taken thousands of times, but being at the right place, the right time, with the right natural light gives you an opportunity to shoot something nobody else may catch,” William Anderson, or @thewilliamanderson, a New York City-based photographer told HuffPost.

But if you happen to have a day where you didn’t take a great photo, don’t sweat it. You could always scroll through your phone’s camera roll and feature a throwback or #latergram photo, if it fits in well with your feed.

Use hashtags efficiently
“Use only hashtags that are relevant to what you’re posting, otherwise it’s spammy,” Fitzpatrick said. “Using fewer but more accurate hashtags is better.”

In a nifty guide on how to come up with smart hashtags, Fitzpatrick recommends four rules of thumb: make sure they’re easy to spell, easy to remember, make people want to join in (something like #TeamLannister) and don’t spell something awkward or potentially embarrassing.

Tagging people, brands and things within a photo could help boost your engagement, too. Zarrella, the creator of PicStats, combed through almost 1.5 million Instagram photos from over 500,000 users in 2014 and found that the more in-photo tags a post has, the more likes and comments the post will garner. instagram-tags

Get featured
Some media outlets might feature your posts on their social media accounts or websites if you join in their hashtag campaigns.

“The best way to grow your following is to be featured on other accounts or in articles online. I’ve found that after a few companies feature you, others find you and want to do the same,” Karsten wrote. “Participate in different hashtag projects like the one Instagram does. Find a unique angle.”

Caption wisely
To make sure your Instagram posts are well packaged, your captions should also be consistent with the theme of your post.

Captions should be written “depending on the photo and the message you are trying to send,” Dasher said. “I typically aim for short and witty captions, but if I am promoting a shelter or an event, they are usually longer and more inspirational.”

In his 2014 study, Zarrella found that featuring calls-t0-action in captions can also help you get more Instagram love: Captions with the words “like” and “comment” tended to get 89 percent more likes-per-follower and 2,194 percent more comments-per-follower, respectively.

Get to know your audience
If you love your followers, they’ll love you back.

“I think it is really important to make a strong effort, no matter how big your following is,” Dasher said of responding to comments and messages. “I just think people appreciate it and like to be seen and known.” Dasher has even taken Tuna on “Tuna tours” around the United States so the pup’s fans can meet him in person.

“If you can commit to 15 minutes in the morning and at night to post yourself and then comment and like other people’s post, I think you’ll see growth and grow your Instagram community,” Fitzpatrick noted.

Trust your instincts, use the filters that make your photos look best
While researchers noted in May that photos with filters are 45 percent more likely to receive comments, Zarrella’s 2014 study found that photos with no filter overwhelmingly got the most likes-per-follower, and that the next most-liked photos had either the Willow, Valencia or Sierra filters.

But don’t let polls and reports dictate which filters to use. You are the best judge of what works with your individual photos. You can consult Zarrella’s PicStats to learn more about the filters that get you the most traction, but you should also trust your own artistic judgement. When a certain filter makes a photo pop, go with it!

“Over time, the type of photography you shoot will generally change, and so does your editing technique,” Anderson said. “If you feel a filter adds to the character of a photo, use it! Change is a good thing.”