Just over a month ago I started an experiment on a new side hustle: Instagram marketing.
I started my account on 10/22/2017 with 0 followers. As of 11/25/17 I’m just under 1,300 followers. It took almost exactly 30 days for me to go from 0 followers to 1,000. I’ve been tracking the number of followers I have every day and the growth looks like this:
How to Grow a New Instagram Account from Nothing to 1k Followers
My strategy so far has been to post consistently, 3-5 posts per day depending on how much content I come across that seems funny enough to post.
The way I gain followers is by finding other popular posts that have a ton of likes and following people who liked those posts. The idea being if there’s an account in a similar niche as my account, then people who like that accounts posts and follow them will probably like my posts as well.
This is pretty tedious work and involves a lot of clicking. Luckily (I guess?), Instagram limits how many people you can follow.
The best estimates I could find online are that Instagram will limit you to 7,500 accounts you can follow at one time and you can only follow about 500 people in an hour.
If you go over the 500 following per hour limit, Instagram will completely block your account from following anyone. This happened to me twice and when it did, I was unable to follow anyone for about 6-12 hours.
To gain followers I try to do 3 or 4 sessions per day where I follow 100-200 people. Since this would quickly put you at the 7,500 following limit, I use an app to help automatically unfollow people as well. This costs $.99 per month but it’s well worth it. Unfollowing is even more tedious than following people and would easily eat up an hour per day of time if I didn’t automate it.
There are some websites you can use that will automatically like/follow/comment on posts but I’ve used them in the past and have gotten my accounts blocked/banned by Instagram. For now I’m going to do all of the following and liking by hand so I don’t risk getting my account banned and deleted.
Paid Shoutouts are a Waste of Money
If you’ve ever seen a post on Instagram and below the picture there’s a caption like “Go check out @namehere for cool stuff”, that’s a paid shout out.
The way these work is brands/smaller accounts pay money to larger accounts with a ton of followers in order to get featured in the caption of their post.
The rates you pay for these vary based on the number of followers and engagement levels.
I tried two paid shout outs to see if they could jump start my follower growth but came away mostly just wasting my money.
The two shout outs I bought were from two different accounts.
The first account has 300k followers and their posts average 8k-10k likes which is a pretty low engagement rate, about 3%.
This account charged me $25 for a shout out that would last for 24 hours. The post where they gave me a shout out wasn’t very good (not a funny image) and I only gained about 10-15 followers (it can be hard to tell exact numbers because they come in over time).
The second account I bought a shout out from has 430k followers and gets about 50k likes per post, so over a 10% engagement rate.
They charged $50 for a post that would stay up for 24 hours and $70 for a post that stays up forever which is the option I chose.
The post they made with the shout out got just under 70k likes and I got about 75 followers out of it.
In both of these shout outs I basically paid $1 per follower. Even if I was selling super popular items at 50% discounts, there’s no way an Instagram follower is worth $1. Since my account is small and I don’t make any money right now, these followers aren’t even worth 1 penny right now.
To put this into context of my follow/unfollow method, I usually get about 5-10% of people to follow me back. So to get 70 followers I need to follow 700-1,400 people which is about what I do in 24-48 hours. So paying $70 jumped my account ahead by 2 days of growth. Not worth it.
Future Growth Plans
After the paid shout out flops, I’m going to stick with what’s been working: following and unfollowing. It’s tedious, slow, and a little bit spammy but it works. Until my account gets larger and I can get other accounts to like/comment on my posts to help boost them up, this is the only way I have to let people know my account exists.
So far I’ve been able to gain about 30 followers per day or 1,000 per month. I think I need at least 50k followers to monetize my account but I’m not going to wait 50 months for this to happen. Growth on Instagram snowballs so as I gain more followers, my posts are more likely to get shown to other people who don’t follow me and if they like my post, they will start following.
Eventually I’ll be monetizing my account either by linking to products I sell like my Merch by Amazon t shirts or through paid shoutouts.
There’s a nice guide over at Breaking the One Percent on making money on Instagram that has some cool details from a case study on follower count, monetization methods, etc.
There’s no easy way to shortcut this growth unless you pay for fake followers but that can screw your account up by making Instagram think you’re in some 3rd world country or associated with a bunch of bots.
I’ll keep this updated on a monthly or bi-monthly basis depending on what kind of things I learn. The first 1,000 followers was a huge learning experience with a lot of unique things to learn about Instagram but I think the next 1,000 followers will be quite a bit easier.