Yuna’s Instagram Journey - 0 to 1K Followers

I’m unbelievably humbled to have hit this mark. Thank you to all our followers on IG and subscribers to our site! It really means the world and is unreal that some of you find my daily craft worthy of following.

February 13th, 2019

On September 8th, 2018, we started Yuna’s Instagram and this blog.

On February 3rd, 2019, we hit 1,000 followers.

Our post on Feb 3, the day we surpassed 1,000!

I’m unbelievably humbled to have hit this mark. Thank you to all our followers on IG and subscribers to our site! It really means the world and is unreal that some of you find my daily craft worthy of following.

In this post, I’ll show you guys the process we took to grow to 1K from scratch. I’ll show you the numbers, our posting habits, and growth techniques we’ve used.

Social media can be a tough world to navigate through, so we hope this little documentation can point you in the right direction if you’re trying to actively grow an IG account.

The Importance Of Numbers And Analytics

Everyday, I place my highest priority on producing quality content for IG. I place my value behind my content and craft as opposed to the follower count on my page.

Some influencers are so addicted to their follower count and engagement numbers and worry about dips in their numbers like “the Instagram algorithm” always has something against them. I perhaps am just not a large enough account to have to deal with any of that yet, but I am not that number-obsessed… yet.

However, I do care about my numbers, a lot, enough to look at them everyday. Yes, this includes my follower count, my analytics, post engagement, everything.

This is because I firmly believe you need these numbers to figure out what you’re doing right and wrong.

If you’re trying to grow a page, you should always be focused on making the best, most unique, most valuable content you can afford with your time. But to accurately access how your content does so you can adjust for new content going forward requires constant monitoring of the data and analytics.

So the numbers matter. If you want to grow seriously you shouldn’t take your eyes off the numbers. You absolutely can do this without obsessing over them.

The first pic we took with our DSLR on 10/31. At that time we had 369 Followers.

Here Are My Numbers (Follower Growth)

Everyday, I record follower count, profile visits, accounts reached, likes, comments, shares, comments, impressions & all their sources, and other notable statistics that jump out.

I will just share my follower count numbers, to show you how @yunathelab grew over time.

100 Follower Intervals

September 15th, 2018 – 100 Followers

September 29th, 2018 – 200 Followers

October 15th, 2018 – 300 Followers

November 13th, 2018 – 400 Followers

December 8th, 2018 – 500 Followers

January 23rd, 2019 – 600 Followers

January 26th, 2019 – 700 Followers

January 28th, 2019 – 800 Followers

January 31st, 2019 – 900 Followers

February 3rd, 2019 – 1000 Followers

Twice/Month Intervals

September 8th, 2018 – 0 Followers

September 15th, 2018 – 105 Followers

October 1st, 2018 – 208 Followers

October 15th, 2018 – 309 Followers

November 1st, 2018 – 360 Followers

November 15th, 2018 – 408 Followers

December 1st, 2018 – 478 Followers

December 15th, 2018 – 542 Followers

January 1st, 2019 – 527 Followers

January 15th, 2019 – 540 Followers

February 1st, 2019 – 983 Followers

February 3rd, 2019 – 1048 Followers

There are a couple observations and learnings from these numbers.

This is by no means universally true, just true in my case, but growth on IG is by no means linear or predictable.

There are some days you grow more because you landed a shoutout from another page. Other days you end up with a net negative in followers. People unfollow pages that are not relevant to them all the time (or they are using follow-unfollow techniques…).

The first 100 followers came rather quickly. I attribute this to shouting out Yuna’s page on my personal social media (which are not large at all), so the majority of these came from previously established connections.

Growth was pretty linear up until 300, when I hit my first bump. From then on growth went significantly slower than the first 300, and the uphill battle to 500 was really long and tiring.

Growth essentially stopped when I hit 500 and it took some re-focusing and re-thinking of the page to break out of that.

Post on Dec 8, 2018, when we had 502 followers. The first time we surpassed 500!

Then it only took a few weeks to double from around 540 on January 15th to above 1,000 where I was on February 3rd.

The 500 follower growth halt was probably the toughest plateau to escape.

This occurred starting mid December and continued two weeks into January where my follower count essentially hovered at 500.

This was a busy time in life with the holiday season as I took a personal vacation as well during this time. I elected not to take a break from Instagram, still keeping up with daily posts, but something still caused the decline in growth.

I’ll share a little bit about my daily activities on Instagram to shed some light on why this was.

Daily Instagram Routine

I post everyday at approximately 8:00 to 9:00 AM PST over breakfast. I’ve found this to be both the most efficient use of my time in the morning before work, but also that it seems to lead to better engagement overall.

If you’ve ever seen my feed, you’ll immediately notice the content pattern.

Starting in 2019, I alternated my daily posts between one portrait style post coupled with a Lab Report (dog tip), and a post of Yuna’s recent activities (usually outdoor). Prior to 2019 there were no Lab Reports.

I incorporate a new color scheme every month. All portraits in a month have a background pastel color, and the outdoor photos also have a complimenting color scheme.

Our post on Dec 16, 2018, when we had 527 Followers. One of our worst days ever: -15 follower day.

Lab Reports are done as secondary posts behind the portrait so that I have free rein over their designs without ruining the look of the profile.

I will usually have all 7 of next week’s posts shot, edited and ready to go on Sunday night before the week begins so I don’t spend any time during the week on content. This also helps with feed planning and keeping the theme consistent.

Usually, the entire process of posting in the morning (coming up with a quality caption, choosing hashtags, tagging accounts for features, etc.) takes about 15 to 30 minutes.

After posting, I’ll scroll through my own feed and consume content of other dog accounts that I follow. I’ll leave comments on most of the ones I find interesting. This also lasts about 15 to 30 minutes as I finish breakfast and prepare for work.

Throughout the day, if I have time I’ll record a little bit of what Yuna’s doing for my stories. I don’t get them too awfully fancy, just dropping in a geotag or a little caption wherever I think it fits.

Prior to hitting around 600 followers, I was also regularly scrolling the Explore page to find related accounts and engage as much as I could on that content.

At that time, my Instagram activity averaged at about 90 minutes per day.

Why Growth Plateaued Around 500

This was in December 2018 through January 2019—holiday season. When times got busy, it was easy to drop all the “extra” things on Instagram that I was doing.

This primarily meant spending less time on the Explore page or top hashtags in my niche looking for new content to engage on.

I estimate that I spent an average of 45 minutes per day doing this below 500 followers.

Once December hit, and I took my vacation, this time dropped to essentially 0.

Consequently, the number of followers also took a hit. I knew at the time it was dropping because I wasn’t actively engaging, but it felt like such a hamster wheel and I really just wanted to enjoy my vacation.

During the vacation I prepped posts in advance. This was our Christmas Day post, when we dropped to about 505 Followers.

At the end of the day, Instagram is a social platform.

You engage on other people’s posts, and in return they just might return the favor. Dropping a comment on another photo you like is a good gesture. It can also offer you free exposure, as we’ll discuss in growth strategies later.

The more engaging I was, the more profile visits I’d typically get on that day. It was completely an effort thing—the more time I devoted to this, the more I would eventually reap the benefits.

And so the moment I stopped being engaging in mid-December, the moment I stopped growing. Not only did I stop growing, I lost many, many followers.

I suspect many of these followers were bots anyways, or people implementing follow-unfollow techniques. I did also lose quite a bit of real followers simply because my content just wasn’t good enough.

Even at the turn of the year, when I started implementing Lab Reports and thought this was a nice upgrade to my content, followers did not grow as expected.

The very first Lab Report on Jan 1, 2019!

The main reason was still that I spent insufficient time consuming other content and being engaging on the platform.

Engaging on other posts is essentially giving yourself free exposure.

We’ll discuss that more later, but one very important lesson arises from this. Perhaps the most important I’ve learned so far on the road to 1K.

Content And Distribution Go Hand In Hand

If you’ve ever considered growing seriously on Instagram, you’ve heard this a billion times by now. Content is king.

It could not be more true, otherwise people wouldn’t keep repeating it.

Your content needs to be on point to attract new followers. Many other YouTube videos and guides will go much more in depth into this, but in a nutshell your content has to be high-quality, engaging, and valuable.

The moment someone clicks on your profile they skim your bio along with the most recent 9 posts. You have about less than two seconds to capture that attention and if you don’t, you’re probably not going to earn that follow.

So yes, content is paramount!

Easily the best performing post in November—hit over 100 likes while at 433 followers, but it was a -8 day

But there is another piece to the puzzle that I deem equally important. So important that content needs to share the throne.

That is content distribution.

The most unrealistic thing I’ve ever heard about Instagram (or any social media) growth is this: “post good content, and the followers will come.”

This is just ludicrous.

You could spend hours and hours churning out quality content, but if nobody is directed to see that content, how will anyone discover you?

If nobody knows about your profile, nobody sees you on the Explore page, nobody is sharing your content, how will you ever attract new followers?

You need to have a distribution strategy in place. If you do a quick scour of the Internet on how to grow in Instagram, any “techniques” or “hacks” that people claim to have to help you grow fast are essentially ways to distribute your content so that more eyeballs land on your page.

Yes, none of these techniques will work if your content is not up to par. Content is king.

But if that’s so, distribution should be queen. They go hand in hand.

So growth on Instagram happens when you perfect both these things. That involves always producing your best possible content, and coming up with an effective distribution strategy to spread that content far and wide.

Next, I will share two distribution strategies that I’ve used extensively to grow to 1K.

The $1.80 Strategy – 0 to 500

This one is kudos to Gary Vaynerchuk. You can find this strategy explained anywhere on the net, so I’ll just give a quick summary.

The $1.80 strategy by Gary Vee is as follows: search a top relevant hashtag of your niche and check out the top 9 posts. For each post, leave a meaningful comment (your $0.02). Repeat this process for 10 hashtags and you’ll have offered $1.80 by the end of it.

This strategy is simple to implement. It aims to bring people to your profile provided you give valuable comments that prompt them to click on you.

Best of all? It’s free to do. Doesn’t cost a dime.

I used this strategy starting at around 250-300 followers and had I not done this, I don’t think I would’ve ever broken out of there.

On days where I properly implemented this strategy, I was seeing growth of at least about 8-10 followers a day. That may not seem like much to professional social media managers out there, but for me it was fast.

This post is from Feb 6, 2019. The first day we started the $1.80 strat was Oct 10, 2018. That was a +17 follower day.

There are some cons with this strategy though.

First of all, it’s extremely time-consuming. You are dishing out at least 90 comments per day, and I made an effort to make every single one of them valuable. It took about another hour of IG per day.

Secondly, it gets extremely boring after a while. I essentially was looking at 90 pictures of dogs a day, many of them repeat posts because they are from accounts that repost viral dog photos. Honestly, you run out of things to say after a while—every dog is cute and it just gets hard to vary up your comments and stay genuine.

And finally, it just felt like a total hamster wheel. As previously mentioned, the moment I stopped using this strategy, not only did growth stop, but I lost followers. Almost as if I was tied to this strategy forever otherwise I’d never see the light of 1K.

Looking back though, I would have made one key modification to this strategy.

I think that instead of browsing the top hashtags, you should comment on photos that are NOT viral, and that are NOT posted by big, viral accounts. Meaning you should only comment on dog photos from smaller personal accounts.

Why? Your comment will likely get lost in the ocean of comments on viral accounts.

On the other hand, if you put a really meaningful comment on a smaller, personal account (who is not used to receiving comments), they and their audience (however small) are more likely to notice and give you attention.

Then, if your profile is optimized and is to their liking, you can convert real, targeted followers.

Since large accounts usually get a lot of bot attention as well, you’ll be avoiding all of those fake followers.

This $1.80 strategy was the main thing I used to give myself more exposure en route to 500 followers. And grindy as this path was, it got me there.

But it simply wasn’t scalable time-wise. Between my full-time job, actually taking care of Yuna, and continuing to produce blog content, I couldn’t keep this up. I needed a more time-efficient way to get exposure.

Instagram Story Ads

First day of IG story ads was Jan 22nd, when we grew from 544 to 574 followers. Here was that day's post.

This is the big winner.

As someone who has never made an advertisement or even worked in any marketing-related field, Instagram Story Ads were so simple to set up and so effective that I’m sold this is the number one way to get exposure for your IG brand.

Yes, this method will cost you a little bit of money. But compared to the results, it’s such cheap exposure that it’s more than worth it. Trust me, I’ll show you my numbers later.

So what are IG story ads?

While scrolling through your IG stories, you’ll notice that after every second or third story, a sponsored story will pop up.

I’ve found that usually, these are from established brands who may or may not even have an Instagram presence.

This is where an Instagram story ad goes.

Of the various methods Facebook gives you to advertise, Instagram story ads are by far the most effective in getting you traffic and followers.

Personally, I think this is because an Instagram story ad must appear on screen after every second or third story, and takes up the entire screen.

Compared to a sponsored post, which could easily be scrolled right past, a story ad can immediately grab your audience’s attention if you build the ad correctly.

In story ads, you get either a photo, photo wheel, or video. I highly recommend video—they are the most engaging and flexible.

For video, you get 15 seconds of screen time before the ad is over. However, you should aim to capture your audience’s attention in the first two seconds. Most people skip the ad after that.

Bust out your most attractive lead and best visuals at the very beginning of the ad. This will compel your audience to continue watching.

Ad creation is an art form in itself. It’s tough to predict what will convert in advance without doing any testing. And it can take long hours of video editing as well.

But after a few weeks of trial and error, I’ve found a couple ad sets that work.

Jan 29, 2019, one week into IG story ads: We've grown to 859 Followers already.

Regarding ads, I also closely monitor the performance and statistics. I’ll share some with you here.

The first thing to note is budget. I spend between $3-$5 a day to obtain the numbers that follow. Notice that while it’s not free like the $1.80 strategy, it’s not that expensive either.

The price of a cup of coffee is all it takes to run your story ads.

Here are the average statistics for an ad set that I’m currently running in February 2019 over 12 days so far. Every day, I get:

62,157 impressions

51,856 accounts reached

141 link clicks (profile visits)

Averaging around 32 followers per day (23% conversion from link clicks)

This comes down to $0.03 per link click!! When was the last time you could get someone to view your site or business for just $0.03?

That is how cheap IG story ads are at the moment. I am genuinely surprised they are this cheap, and I will definitely continue to utilize them at this price.

Now, does this mean I’ve completely ditched the $1.80 strategy? Well… yes.

I firmly believe in the 80/20 rule as it applies to things like this. That is, 20% of the work you do yields 80% of the results.

With ads, you invest lots of time upfront to creating a quality ad, but then you let it do the work for you. And it has more than proven the 80/20 rule to be true.

But also, ditching the $1.80 strategy doesn’t mean not engaging on content at all.

This just means that I have more time to consume content of people I actually follow. Accounts with content that inspire me and push me to become a better content creator.

I think it is a win-win situation, and has helped me grow to 1K and beyond. By the time this post goes live we might even be hitting 1.5K soon!

Feb 12, 2019. We are currently at 1342 Followers!

Thank You For 1K

Regardless of how you landed on my page, I think it’s insane that 1,000 of you have clicked on that Follow button.

I sincerely hope that following Yuna’s journey and getting free Lab Reports every other day has been worthwhile for you.

Thank you to every single follower and reader of this blog for sticking around and consuming my content. It really warms me to know that people are seeing and enjoying content that I create.

To thank our followers, we actually hosted a giveaway on our Instagram to celebrate the milestone.

We hope you were a part of that! If you missed it, that’s okay! please make sure you follow Yuna’s Instagram for more adventures and dog tips, and we’ll definitely drop another giveaway sometime!

1K down. We are just getting started.