From zero to five hundred in a blink of an eye. 7 things to start and grow on Instagram

When I first joined Instagram I literally had no idea how to start anything.  I read nothing, and just started posting pictures.  My original concept was to show our sons the beauty of the world.  This wasn’t really picked up by the Instagram world and my account sat with no-one following it.  I think this is how a lot of us start out so here are our tips.

I want to say before I carry on that I have only just broke 500 followers on Instagram. This is a massive achievement for us, and one that happened without us knowing it. One thing that is going great for us is engagement.

This post hopes to help you set up your account and encourage engagement on your Instagram profile.

Figure out your theme

This might sound simple, but one thing that I have found is that you want to choose how you will be seen on Instagram.  Some options are, black and white, a simple filter or a certain perspective.  If you have no idea like me, I went with a simple filter.  The next question to ask yourself is what will you talk about, and try to be specific.  People will in time come back to you to hear your message so it needs to be consistent.  Our message focuses on our life as Māori and our love for our family and adventure.

90% of our photos are taken on our iPhones with the Clarendon filter from Instagram

Buy a follow / unfollow app

This is important in my opinion and I should say that we are not being paid to say this.  When we first started out we noticed we had a lot of people who would follow our profile (once we figured out our theme).  As a new user this was really exciting.  Comments included, love your Instagram, hearts, and love this.  We happily would follow anyone who would follow us and then suddenly they would disappear.  This left my account looking horrible with 56 followers while I followed in excess of 200 plus.  At this stage I knew nothing about follow bots, or some of the following tactics that people would use on Instagram (like bots and unfollowing really comes off as fake in my opinion).  My advice is to buy an app (mine cost under NZD$2).  There are free versions which you can start with, but miss some of the functions that I love.

I currently use followmeter.


Hashtags on Instagram are a friend.  I don’t have a list of the best hashtags to use for each niche there is.  I have built a few sets of hashtags that I constantly change for my account.  In my opinion using the correct hashtag can increase your potential reach.  To find hashtags specific to your niche just start typing it in and see how many people have tagged to it.  Be specific with your hashtags.  Try and figure out what is working for you and getting eyes onto your posts.  You can use up to 30 so my suggestion is use as many as you can.  You can take a look at my current posts to see what I am using at the moment.

If you are using an iPhone you can also set up text replacement in settings which allows you to save a tonne of hashtags.  I currently have mine stored and change them daily.  This saves you a whole lot of time.

I should mention here that there is a bit of talk about shadow blocking of hashtags on Instagram.  This is the tool I use to see if my post is being seen click here.  I don’t know anything about what it is, but I am checking my posts to make sure they are being seen.


#instafamily #nzblogger #momblog

Don’t be afraid to tag others

I have tagged a number of people into my posts.   It’s another great way to gain eyes onto your photo.  For my latest post I talked about our love for our pets and I tagged in two agencies that work with dogs.  This encourages them to like our photo.  This is a small tool, but it took me a while to use it.  It also pays in my opinion if you are at a particular place/location, tag them in as that will likely  increase your reach.

tagged pawjusticenz / chaineddogawarenessnz

Keep a track of who is engaging with your posts

First thing, if you are not on a business Instagram account, change to one.  It doesn’t cost anything, and it has a lot of extras that can help you out, including analytics.

One of the best things about the follow / unfollow app that I recently purchased (yes I have two) is that it gives me this information.  So here are a few things you want to look for:

  • Ghost followers – These are followers that follow you but haven’t engaged in any of your posts. I recently unfollowed a lot of these followers.  Why?  The biggest issue for me is that they clog up my feed, making it difficult for me to find the people that do engage with my posts.  With this in mind, I am expecting my numbers to lower today.
  • Top likers / commenters – These are followers who engage with your posts

So basically when you are first starting out, I would recommend going like crazy.  If people are following you, engage with them, like their posts, and comment.  But once your numbers start getting into the 100s you need to start taking notice of who is engaging with your posts, and who is not.  Here is what I do.

I spend 80% of my time, looking at what my top likers and commenters have done and engage and comment on their posts.  I spend 20% of my time looking for new followers, through searching hashtags that are specific to my niche and liking and commenting on their stuff.  Twice a week if I have spare time I go like crazy.  And at least once a week I look at my analytics, following apps for engagement.  I will then remove any unfollowers (and I get alot of them), and see who is currently liking my posts.

Engage with others

Once someone is following you and takes the time to comment it’s a great time to engage.  Follow their posts actively.  I have a lot of Instafriends who I engage with every day.  I really believe that I am growing with them.  A rule I follow is for every three comments you make, you may get one comment back.  So I search and comment on all of my top likers, then I look for stuff I like and comment and like that.

Biggest piece of advice is add value.

One of our earlier images. It is a beautiful photo, but it had very little likes. This was before I knew any of the things that are outlined in this post.

In my opinion you need to set a limit for how many people you will engage with to search for new followers or Instagram can take over your life.  What I am trying to share here is something I wish I had have known at the beginning.

Make great content

Whether it’s beautiful photos to an amazing message, look at what you love.  I have  seen terrible photos being followed by so many because of the message.  I have seen beautiful images being loved by thousands, and then others that have no following.  Currently with 500 followers I have around 110 – 150 engaging with me when I post.  This is actually quite good as I see a lot of accounts with thousands of followers with no engagement.  This usually has to do with follow for follows in facebook groups, where people follow each other but are not in the same niche.  I wont lie, I did try this, but I wouldn’t do it on any of the larger groups again.  .

My last point is enjoy it. Instagram is pretty fun and inspiring.  There are so many people promoting many different messages.  I really believe if you follow these steps you will have a better start than I did.

Here are a couple of free points to add or think about

Some final thoughts

Join a great Facebook group

There are some amazing Facebook groups that will add value to your Insta page.  And there are others that will bring you followers but no engagement, so you need to ask what you want.

There are other groups that have very tight deadlines for likes and comments.  I tried this once, but wouldn’t again as it was really time consuming.  I should add we are a family blog so we can’t really sit there liking and commenting like crazy while our boys need attention, so I don’t use these anymore.

All groups will bring eyes onto your account, and I have gained followers who engage from all of these groups.  But I have also gained alot of empty numbers.  My advice look for a group that has good engagement.

Follow for follow threads in Facebook groups

These tactics will gain people to your account so it can be worth following.  I will be honest that i don’t use this method any more.  So many of these followers didn’t follow me back so I stopped using them.  Also not many of these followers will turn into people who will engage with you.  They will sit on your account but will not engage with any of your content.

I have another group of people who I regularly  share with in my Facebook group Blogging Engagement Group.  The aim of our group is to promote genuine engagement, so this is a group where I share my Instagram account and I would happily be part of a follow for follow post there.

Join a pod

Instagram pods are a great way to meet people in your niche.  They are not always easy to find, or join but look for them.  Starting one can be as easy as contacting someone that you think matches your niche and asking them to join you.  Creating a group chat in Instagram is another great way, or using a messenger app.  Other pods start from Facebook groups. We have pods starting on our Facebook group so if you would like to join please go to our group to check them out.

Instagram tactics

There are a tonne of tactics to gain followers.  Some of them I have already mentioned.  For me they are all a way of engaging so most I think are good.

  1. Search for likeminded people in your niche through hashtags, like and comment on posts in profiles that fit with you
  2. Look at profiles of people that have liked your posts and like and comment on their posts
  3. Look for people within your niche, see who follows them, and who they follow.  Like and comment on their posts.

The basic tactic is find people and engage with them.  I tend to engage on a lot of their stuff, mostly because I actually like it. Also because its more likely that they will engage back.  I never notice if someone likes one of my posts, but if they like 5 I tend to look at them.

Share this

I hope that this posts helps you grow your Instagram account.  I will be honest that this method is not an easy way to gain followers. It takes a lot of effort on your part.  But I think it is the best way to gain engagement.

If you enjoyed this article please share it, or pin it.  We would love to hear about what you think so leave any comments below.  This is our first time writing something like this and we were a little hesitant, but we had some of our Facebook friends asking us how we gained so much engagement so we thought we would try to write one, and hopefully add value.

My last point for this whole post is that we genuinely love the community that we have on our Instagram account.  So many of the people we have met on Instagram we call friends and truely believe this, we feel excited for their achievements and hurt if they feel loss.  We want to thank everyone in our community for joining us on our ride, and we hope that you get something out of this post.  We do plan to write some more post like this.  So if you would like to see more please let us know.


All the best for your instafuture.

0 to 500 on Instagram in a blink of an eyeClick To Tweet

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  1. Thanks for sharing this! I’ve never heard of some of these apps. This is very useful information for any beginner or someone that’s been doing it for years!

  2. great article! I agree with everything you have said in growing your followers.

    Post great content, engage with your followers and followings and build a community around your theme. I had no idea how good the instagram community would be when I joined up. You can find like minded people and share the love of your life and look at theirs too.

    Keep going man, you’re doing a great job.

  3. I just can’t wrap my head around follow/unfollow. It’s such a cheap move. I would add posting frequently helps quite a bit too. I see an increase when I post more than once per day then when I skip some days. But life happens right? Keep up the good work.

  4. This has really helped me to grow my followers! I’ve been really going for it with the hash tags, now going to work towards tagging others. The follow/unfollow app is a great tool too. Looking forward to seeing your updated post!

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