On the 27th of July in 2020, when 100% homeoffice was still kind of a new thing, I posted my first picture on my new account galaxyinferno.codes.
Last Tuesday this has been exactly one year ago. In this year I have published 174 posts – of which 13 are reels – and got 3409 followers.
Now I know this might not seem like a HUGE number or a massive success, but when I was starting out I searched the whole web for realistic stories about how to start on Instagram. And I only found things like “How I got 10k followers in 5 months”, which even to a newcomer like me sounded a bit unrealistic for most people.
So in this blog post I want to describe my first year for anyone interested and for myself to look back on.
Table of Contents
- My content
- Follower development and milestones
- My 5 honest tips for new accounts
- Recap – Was it worth it?
I’m currently a masters student in Computer Science and also have had several jobs on the side to help with gaining work experience and some income. I have worked as a teaching assistant for my university and also as a working student for a local IT consulting firm. And I mainly post about these things.
I share content about the computer science concepts I learn – specifically about AI and neural networks because that’s the topic of my master’s thesis – and also about my home office setup and work goals and just share the daily life of someone working and studying in tech. The successes, the struggles and the boring stuff in between.
Follower development and milestones
Here is my own graph I curated on my phone about my followers over time:
First 100 followers
I reached my first 100 followers within one month. If you create a new account and post quite regularly Instagram gives you a nice start-boost. It recommends your account to other people with the caption “New to Instagram”, so the start is not that rough.
The first 1,000 followers
At the end of November after 4 months of posting, I had 736 followers. Some content creators then started a challenge for December, where we would post every day until christmas, so that was 24 days of posting daily. I took part in that and December 2020 ended up being the month where I gained the most followers (280) until very recently. So as you can see, daily posting helps. This took me over the magic first 1,000 a few days before the year ended.
The second 1,000: Reaching 2,000 followers
The second 1,000 took me even longer than the first – probably because there were multiple times where I didn’t post for over a week at all. I just did not have anything to say, life was hectic, the usual. I reached 2,000 followers after 11 months.
The third 1,000: Suddenly I had 3,500 followers?!
Like I said, previously it took me 5-6 months to grow 1,000 followers, but then something happened. I honestly can’t tell you for sure what happened, probably a few things combined.
First of all, it’s easier to grow, when you’re bigger. That’s just an unfair thing on Instagram. After I had over 1,000 followers I saw my first views from the Explore page, not just from hashtags. So that helps.
Another thing I did in June and July was post a lot more. In June I posted 23 posts, which was only surpassed by that December I previously talked about with 24 posts. (My secret goal for this August is to post on all 31 days, just to see what happens, we will see if I reach that).
But what I think did the most is tagging community pages. You know, those pages that only re-post pictures from other content creators and have lines in their bio like “Tag @blabla to get featured”? I thought I had no chance of being featured by them, because they only share content that looks extremely polished and my pictures seem mostly average to me, so I thought tagging them would just be more work. But I saw other accounts tag 8-10 people every post and they were growing fast, so I thought “What’s the harm?” and just tried.
This lead to this one extreme post:
Previously my post with the most reach had around 5,000 reach and normally my posts had anywhere between 800-3,000 reach before I started my tagging experiment. So personally I think the tagging works, but could just be mainly luck and regular posting. You honestly never know with Instagram.
My 5 honest tips for new accounts
Enough about me though, here are some tips if you’re just starting out. I will not tell you how to choose hashtags or anything, you can find these explanations everywhere. I will instead give you the tips that I wish someone told me or the ones that make the biggest difference. They give you a solid base, and then you can do the min-maxing and finding your own style on your own.
Number 1: Post daily. Yes, really. Okay, maybe try for 5/7 days at least.
Post consistently. Ideally daily. The most important tip ever and the one that no one wants to hear. I have never had a month where I posted 30/30 days, but the ones where I got close were easily the ones where I got the biggest reach and the most followers per post. The algorithm loves active accounts and every single post gets promoted more when you post often. That said, obviously don’t spam and try to post quality content: take a well lit picture, edit it a bit and write a personal caption or an informative caption about a topic. Have a caption that is at least several sentences long, mine are often around 200 words. But that’s a topic for another day. Just post at least every second day and put some effort into it. I spend about 30 minutes per Instagram post in total.
Number 2: Prepare content in batches
To make posting consistently possible I would recommend to take pictures in batches. Always have some pictures ready that you could post. When you have the opportunity to take one picture you probably also have the opportunity to take at least 2-3 pictures. Often I even take pictures for a whole hour but then get up to 20 Instagram-worthy pictures out of it. Of course, you maybe don’t want to post all of them in a row (up to you, though), but after you took different pictures a few times you will have a sizable backlog of pictures that you can mix so similar content is not as obvious on your grid.
I didn’t do this until half a year and 100 posts in and it was a life changer. Oftentimes I have something to talk about that happened during my day that would make a great caption but by then I’m already in my pajamas and it’s dark so I can’t take a picture. Pre-recorded content is ideal in that situation.
Number 3: My take on “pick a niche”
“Pick a niche” is one of the tips for new bloggers or Instagramers (kind of the same as bloggers depending on how you use it) that I have encountered. But at the start I did not understand what it meant.
I thought I had to pick a very specific topic and stick to it all the time and it needed to be the most genius, original thing ever. FALSE.
My take on this is simply: “Pick an area out of your life that you could talk about daily without wanting to throw your phone into the trash.” It needs to be a part of your life, because otherwise it’s too much effort to think of content daily. It could be your job or your favorite hobby, but try to pick just one. That should be 80-90% of your content. The reason is simple: There are very few people who share passion for multiple of your interests. For me, it’s very unlikely to find people who are vegan, into math and coding, love houseplants and gardening and might even paint occasionally. So I post mainly about math and coding because many people will share that ONE interest with me. You don’t want to find new best friends on Instagram, you want to be a part of a community and communities are based on common interest. Which brings me to the next point…
Number 4: Find your community and make friends
Maybe you already follow some “big” accounts that seem like cool people and share some of your interests. Lean into that. Find more people who post about similar things to you and interact with them. Read their captions and comment on their posts, try to start a conversation – but be honest. Finding friends on Instagram makes the whole thing worth it. Most of the time these other content creators are the ones who will post the best comments under your posts and since they are also daily active on the platform, you will see a lot of each other.
I had a few Instagram accounts that I really looked up to in the community when I started and most of these people follow me now (yes, I squealed and fan-girled hard) and when I post stories about things that don’t go well, some even offer me help and reach out. These people are what keep me going.
Number 5: If you feel like it and have creative ideas, post reels.
I don’t do reels, they stress me out. I’m not a comedian and I have no idea what to do with the 30 second video clips. That’s too short to explain much and I personally dislike dancing and pointing at text. I prefer to read text in my own tempo. But whatever, that is personal taste and besides the point.
The fact is that Instagram wants to go more into videos and be a competitor to TikTok so they promote reels a lot and a funny reel that goes viral can bring you thousands of followers in one post. So if you have some ideas for reels, go ahead, try them out, they will probably do well and I imagine they can be extremely fun to make if that’s your jam.
Just don’t use the inbuilt editor in Instagram, just use a third party app like Inshot (on Android, not sponsored, that’s just what I use currently to edit my videos). I only add music and captions on Instagram.
Recap – Was it worth it?
I think Instagram did a lot of things for me. It gave me a new hobby during a time where we were all stuck inside. It also gave me a community of other women in Data Science and Machine Learning.
And it gave me confidence. I honestly think it was the perfect gateway content-platform. I always wanted to have a blog or have a Youtube channel, but I was never confident enough to do that or pull through with that long enough to see returns. I actually bought this blog domain in January 2020, but only posted 2 or 3 posts and then gave up because no one was seeing my posts (that’s the game of blogging, it takes consistent posting over many months before people find you on Google). But now I can share my posts on Instagram and have some people actually read them. Maybe next year you can read “My first full year of blogging” on here?
Posting 170 posts all with mostly longer captions also got me into the mindset of creating content even if I don’t feel completely inspired, which I think is a very important mindset to have to succeed as a content creator on any platform – algorithms love consistent posting.
I didn’t earn a single penny from my Instagram account before you ask, so I have no tips for monetizing your content, sorry.
So yes, it was absolutely worth it ❤️ And I don’t plan on stopping now – I still have to reach the 10k so I can finally use the Swipe-Up feature on my stories! I’m a bit nervous about more people finding out about my social media obsession now that we regularly leave the house again, but I’ll get over that too.
Big thank you to everyone over in the Instagram Community for being nice to me 🙈