Jay: ‘Hey guys, if you didn’t join in the challenge already, you can get started by following this link and signing up at the bottom of the page, hope you see you in the Facebook group soon!’

If you're interested in joining in my free 30-Day Blogging Bootcamp click the image above
If you’re interested in joining in my free 30-Day Blogging Bootcamp click the image above

If you want to follow along with my Instagram, check out my instagram page.

A Quick Intro About Why I Started the 30-Day Instagram Challenge…

What’s up guys! Welcome to this week 1 recap of the 30-Day Instagram Challenge. We’ve been hustling hard on the ‘Gram for just over a week now and some of the results we are achieving has been incredible.

Growing my Instagram following has been something I’ve been wanting to do for the longest time, and I’ve never really known where to get started. So just over 3 weeks ago I decided, enough was enough and I was going to get stuck in, do the research, spend the time and figure it all out.

At the time I’d also been listening to a lot of podcasts by Gary Vee, and the big message he talks about for growing your brand is to GIVE AMAZING VALUE. That’s where the challenge idea came from. I decided that while I was figuring out how to grow my following, why not just put all the content available online to help other people do the same thing as me.

Jump forward and we know have had some awesome results including:

  • A highly engaged Facebook community of over 100 members
  • Amazing results from a ton of members growing their following, some achieving their 30-day goals in just 7 days
  • Personally, I’ve grown my following from 578 followers to over 2000 in my first week alone
  • Amazing content produced including full guides, video interviews with influencers and tips and tricks being shared by everyone
I'm really happy with the engagement we've had in our first week!
I’m really happy with the engagement we’ve had in our first week!

With all this amazing content being thrown together in our private Facebook group, I thought I’d be awesome to put each week’s worth of content together in one blog post.

Word of warning here – This post is going to be a LONG one!

If you want to save yourself some time you can download this easy to use checklist which will cover each of the tasks to complete for each day to maximise your success.

Ok, let’s get started!


Jump to the Right Section

Because this post is so big I thought I’d make it a little easier for you guys to navigate. To jump ahead to any particular days content, just click the link below.

Day1 – Setting up Your Profile, the Right Way
Day2 – Mastering Instagram Stories & Being More Confident on Camera
Day3 – Understanding Instagram Limits and Improve Engagement
Day4 – Interview With Carli & Oli from Exciting Adventure
Day5 – The Nomad Summit in Chiang Mai, Thailand
Day6 – Understanding Hashtags and How to Structure Your Posts
Day 7 – Instagram Followers | Techniques for Growing Your Following

#Day1 – Setting up Your Profile, the Right Way

Day1 Setting up your Instagram Profile Effectively | 30-Day Instagram Challenge

For the #Day1 setup I did a Facebook Live video to walk people through the steps you take to optimize your profile, you can view the video by searching #day1 in the Facebook Group if you’ve signed up for the challenge.

For #Day 1 we will be covering:

  • How Instagram works
  • How to identify your niche
  • Understand what a good profile looks like
  • How to write the perfect bio
  • How to optimise your profile for your niche

How Instagram Works

What you are trying to do when setting up your profile is to optimise your account so that it’s appealing to your target audience. When you are promoting your account on Instagram the main goal is you want people to follow you.

There are over 800 million users across Instagram, but only the top 2% of users have over 10k followers. What this means is that brands and people who look to invest in ‘Instagram Influencers’ will usually start to take your account seriously once you hit the 10k mark.

However, there are a lot of users who have less of a following but have very high engagement. If you have an interest in becoming an Instagram Influencer where a company pays you or offers you products for free in exchange for you promoting them, then your goal should be to have a big following but with an engaged audience.

Before You Start – Not Sure How to Setup Instagram?

Some people reading this won’t even know where to start with Instagram, in terms of just setting up a profile! I made this video guide just for you.

Step 1 – Identify Your Niche

When you begin your account, or even if your account has been active for a while, it’s important to understand what niche you want to target. It’s really important to have a focus and a niche, it’s the same for websites as it is your Instagram profile.
Example of a plant-based food niche
Deliciously Ella’s account is a great example of a profile optimised for the ‘plant-based food’ niche
Why is Having a Niche Important?
Having a niche is important because when people are deciding to follow you, or if they have followed you already, they are usually influenced by one picture. If it then turns out your feed (the pictures in your account) doesn’t tie in with that picture that they liked, they can be turned off, could unfollow, or could not follow in the first place.
As with everything, consistency is key.
When starting out, pick a niche and stick to it.
A niche can be anything from Travel, Cooking, Design, Art, Hairdressing, Weddings, Archery, Writing, Money, Cat Cafes. You name it, there’s a niche for it.
So that’s Step 1, and your homework assignment. Pick a niche, and If you’re in the Facebook group, update the Google Doc on the Facebook group (the link is in the pinned post) with what your selected niche is going to be.

Step 2 – Understanding What Good Looks Like

When you are beginning out, it can be hard to understand what works and what doesn’t. When I was in sales, one thing that made me successful early on was I looked at the best salesman in the shop, copied what they did, and then improved from there.

Instagram is no different, I’d suggest selecting from your niche 5-10 accounts for you to follow and really study to understand what a great Instagram account looks like.

An example of what good looks like
This page from @Travel_inhershoes is a great example of a feed that is consistent in style.
There are a couple of key points that you want to look out for here:
  • Look at there profile picture – Does it tell you their niche, and is it clear
  • Look at their handle (@username)- Does their handle tell you straight away something about their brand or business
  • Look at their bio – Is it informative, to the point, simple, tells a story, illustrates a point, has a call-to-action asking you to do something.
  • Look at their saved stories – Are they using 4 or more? What do those stories tell you when you watch them, what points are they trying to highlight about their brand or business in those saved stories.
  • Look at the theme of their feed – Do they have faces, pictures, landscapes, macro photos, is it consistent?
  • Look at the posts – Select the middle scroll option on there feed so you can continuously scroll through their posts and get a feel for what pictures they post.
  • Pay attention to how many likes each image gets – Find out which posts are more popular and which ones are being engaged with more.
  • Look at the posts with the most comments – Read the caption for that image, did the caption include thought-provoking quote or a call-to-action to ask the viewers to engage with the picture.
  • Finally look at how frequently they are posting – This will give you an idea of consistency, how often you may want to post, and what works for that audience.
This incredible page by @the_sunkissed_kitchen demonstrates a good setup perfectly.
This incredible page by @the_sunkissed_kitchen demonstrates a good setup perfectly. 
So for Step 2 you should do your homework, follow these accounts that are doing well in your niche, even set notifications so you can see when they post and learn there habits, and really start to understand what good looks like.

Step 3 – Setting up Your Profile

Now, the exciting part! Actually setting up your profile. There are a few different key elements to setting up your profile:
  • Your Profile Picture
  • Your Handle
  • Your Name
  • Your Bio
  • Your Saved Instagram Stories
  • Your URL Link
I’ll go through how to optimise each aspect of your profile, so that you can start the 30-Day Instagram Challenge on the right foot!

Profile Picture

This profile by @jasnscott, one of our own is a great example of a profile picture which tells your story in your picture.
This profile by @jasnscott, one of our own is a great example of a profile picture which tells your story in your picture.
Your profile picture is a crucial aspect to your profile. When people are scrolling through feeds, images are the first thing that pops out to them, it’s a perfect chance for you to grab somebody’s attention.
There are some important things to remember with our profile picture.

Profile Pictures are 500×500 pixels

Want to try and edit your picture and optimise it for your page, make sure to edit the picture down to 500×500. Always try and use a square picture, so it fits the border better, but also because Instagram will crop a small circle around your square image.
Sometimes this means you might lose an ear, or the top of your head so be mindful of this.

Visual Representation of Your Account

Your profile picture is the face of your account. For businesses, they sometimes use a logo, but honestly, I think for many of us it’ll work out better to include your actual face.
You may be a business, but if you are a 1 person outfit, then own that shit. You’re the boss, the workforce, the chief tea maker and the dog’s body. Show the face behind your business and make it a lot more personal.

Clicking on Your Profile Picture Takes You to Your Instagram Story

One aspect to remember is if you have a profile picture that somebody likes they may try to click on it to get a closer look. When people click on your profile picture in your feed it takes them to your Instagram story.
I’m reluctant to say but there have been a few accounts I’ve clicked on because the picture looks cool (usually a girl in a bikini) and then when you click on it, it goes to their story. Now that’s clever marketing.

Personal Branding Is Key

Gary Vaynerchuk - @Garyvee, is a master of personal branding.
Gary Vaynerchuk – @Garyvee, is a master of personal branding.
Making yourself the face of your organisation helps people to associate with you better. Most people would rather get to know a person instead of a business.
When you then couple your face in your profile picture with the stories you share on Instagram every day, people don’t just begin to connect with your account, they connect with you. This can become such a strong bond that if you post consistently and suddenly one day don’t post, people will DM you to ask if you are ok and make sure you aren’t ill or in trouble.

Make your Photo’s Interesting

Again look at accounts which are very popular in your niche and see what sort of pictures they are putting up, and see if you can make your profile photo incorporate a part of your niche. The example I gave on the Facebook live was for Gina’s account which her niche is food, to have a picture of her eating a big slice of pizza!

Get Up Close and Personal

Make sure when you select your profile picture that you are close to the camera, a headshot is one of the best types of pictures or even a torso and upwards picture but try and fill the picture with as much of your face as possible.

Choosing the Right Handle

When it comes to selecting your handle, it can be tricky because at this stage a lot of the great accounts have already gone. Try and get your business name if you can, or try and incorporate your business name or your actual name with something as part of your niche.
You can experiment with this to try and find a handle that’s easy to remember. Remember, the general rule of thumb is the simpler it is, the better it is.
You can try and add ‘.’ or ‘-‘ or ‘_’ to your handle to make it unique. Also, try adding a prefix like ‘Iam’ before your name or add your niche like ‘JayLifestyleBusiness’.

Picking Your Name

Example of good name Instagram
This name is a great example of how you can use your name to bring up searchable terms.
No, I’m not talking about getting baptised or changing your name officially, I’m talking about picking your Instagram name. This is the part that sits right at the top of your Bio and is bolded.
You are limited to 30 characters so you can’t go too overboard. Try and include your first name, maybe an emoji and a small tagline that explains a little about your business.
Remember that the name you select is searchable, so including something like travel if that’s your niche is a great way to be included in searches including travel. Think about what sort of keywords you want people to associate with your account and add that in.
Remember that both your handle and your name you can change at any time so don’t sweat it if you can’t think of something perfect right now. 

Write the perfect Bio

When it comes to your bio, this is your chance to really tell the story of your business. Sometimes people don’t utilise their bio to tell a story. For me, a bio is a great opportunity to give small snippets of information.
Just remember, that your bio should be trying to sell your Instagram account, not your product or website. With this in mind I see a lot of bios where it talks about a product or service, but at that stage when people are reading your bio they often will be discovering you for the first time and they don’t trust you.
Would you ask a person who just landed on your website to immediately buy your product, or would you try and demonstrate value first, offer them something for free, and ask them to engage with you?
This Bio is a great example. It tells you a bit about the history, how to feature them and what they do.
This Bio is a great example. It tells you a bit about the history, how to feature them and what they do.
In 1 Sentence Tell Your Audience What You Are All About
In the first part of your bio, you really want to tell the person who’s visited your page what you are all about.
‘Sharing fun pictures and stroking cats in Asia’ This tells a message straight away, try to think what the most important message that you want to get across to your reader is.
Share Something Personal About You or Where You Are
For travel accounts especially, I see a lot of profiles that include their location in their bio. I currently am doing this on my profile to let people know where in the world I am. You can try and share something personal and start to develop a relationship with your followers.
Include a Call to Action
A call to action is you asking the person reading your bio to do something. It could be, add my snapchat, follow my account, click the link below for a free e-book on how to travel cheaply, click below to join in my free 30-day-Instagram-challenge… you name it you can put a call to action in place.
Some popular call to actions can be:
  • Join Newsletter/email
  • Buy product/service
  • Lead magnet/email address
  • Like pictures
  • Follow account
  • Other social media
Some people have some amazing success with Instagram competitions too, consider using a competition to get people to like your page, subscribe to your notifications and comment on your pictures.
One of the best competitions I heard about to drive engagement was someone offered a prize for the 20 people who commented on his pictures first, he asked them to setup follow notifications and immediately drove engagement to his photos quickly.

Time for You Guys to Take Action!

Ok, so that is an in-depth look at the 3 step process to set up your account so that you are optimised for Instagram.
Here are the three homework tasks I have for you:
  • Step 1 – Figure out your niche
  • Step 2 – Follow 10 profiles that are successful in your niche 50k-350k followers and analyse what they are doing well and set up notifications so you can see what they post regularly
  • Step 3 – Optimise your profile following the guidelines outlined above

#Day 2 – Mastering Instagram Stories & Being More Confident on Camera

Day2 Instagram Stories, How they work and how to be more confident on camera | 30-Day Instagram Challenge

For #Day2 of the 30-Day Instagram Challenge, we set out to help people grow their Instagram stories and figure out how to get behind the camera.

In this roundup video I discuss:

  • Why you’d want to share stories
  • What sort of content to discuss in your stories
  • How to be more confident behind camera

#Day3 – Understanding Instagram Limits and Improve Engagement

Day3 Instagram Limits and Understanding how engagement works | 30-Day Instagram Challenge

In #Day3 of the 30-Day Instagram Challenge, I went into more detail about Instagram limits and how to improve your engagement with your audience. We also talked about why improving your engagement was important and why engagement as soon as you post is so important.

In this content we share:

  • What a shadowban is
  • What limitations are set by Instagram
  • How many hashtags you can use and where
  • How many people you can tag in a photo
  • How many people you can follow per hour and per day
  • How many people can you unfollow in an hour
  • Why engagement is important
  • What factors affect how many of your posts Instagram shows
When it comes to growing your Instagram, a few people can end up getting shadowbanned. As they start to grow their following and actively start to follow people, unfollow people and generally engage more with Instagram can sometimes find this happening to them.

What is a Shadowban?

A shadowban was first created a few years back for websites like Reddit. The reason shadowbanning was created was due to trolls. When trolls would spam a Redditt forum, if you just ban their account, they would go and create a new account and continue spamming.
A shadowban is different because you still retain most of your functionality of your account, you can see profiles, like and comment and interact but you are limited to other functions. Your posts, for example, will still post, but they won’t feature in hashtags, explorer or searches, you’ll often be limited from following more accounts too.
Shadowbans are difficult because it can be hard to know if you have been shadowbanned. To find out if you’ve been shadowbanned or not – follow this link and check.

What Limitations Does Instagram Set?

Instagram sets limits to avoid people abusing the system and to prevent spam, understanding these limits goes a long way to making sure you don’t get caught out, and shadowbanned.
Understanding these limits can also help you to maximise your exposure to other accounts, and ultimately grow your following a lot quicker.
I’m going to run through some of the main questions people ask.
If you have more questions about Instagram’s limits, Algorithyms or anything else just hit me up in the comments and I’ll update this article with your question.

How Often Can You Post on Instagram?

When you are constantly producing content, you might wonder if there any limits to how often you can post. The great news is you can post to Instagram as often as you like.
In terms of maximum exposure to your audience, this is a topic of much debate. When you analyse most top brands, they post on average 1.5x a day. However, it’s widely regarded amongst Instagram users that posting once a day can be very beneficial to growing your audience.
Many users feel actually though that sometimes posting content every day isn’t as effective as it used to be a few years ago. It’s therefore up to you how often your post, all I would offer as advice is to be consistent.
Consistency is key with any content platform as people come to expect you to post content on certain days.

Hashtags, How Many at Once, and Where Do You Put Them?

The #Hashtag is the currency of Instagram, it’s your connection to topics, content and to your audience. The way hashtags works have changed a lot in recent algorithm changes which sucks in some ways.
Top posts used to be made up of the most popular and engaging posts for each hashtag, now it’s selected by Instagram based on your interests, what you like yourself and other metrics.
When you post hashtags you can select a maximum of 30 Hashtags in any one post, there is much debate about whether you should use all 30 hashtags or sometimes it’s better to use 5-10 unique hashtags instead. I’d say to experiment and see what works best for you, try to do A-B testing. I.e. Post content that is similar in style, at the same time and date but with different hashtags and see what the difference in engagement is like.
Don’t Post Hashtags in Comments Anymore Rumour?
One popular technique that many people used on Instagram were to post their 30 hashtags in the first comment after posting their caption and photo. Instagrams new updated algorithm now searches out for posts like this and can mark them as spam, leading to shadowbans.
Many popular Instagram users have now dispelled this rumour, My advice would be to make sure to either post your hashtags throughout your caption or at the very bottom or continue to post them in your first comment as before.
Sara Tasker is the host of 'Hashtag Authentic' a podcast for Instagram bloggers
Sara Tasker is the host of ‘Hashtag Authentic’ a podcast for Instagram bloggers

Tagging People in Your Photo

Sometimes a nice technique to get exposure on your photos is to tag larger accounts into your photo. Instagram limits you to tagging a maximum of 20 people in a photo at once.
When tagging you can use accounts that re-share pictures they get tagged in, some examples I’ve used recently have been @travelthailand and @visitphucket. These accounts ask in their bio for you to tag great photos of Thai locations and they sometimes will share these pictures in their story and on their page.
This boosts your picture, promotes you and can lead to increased engagement and follows.

How Many People Can You Follow in an Hour/Per Day?

When you begin to grow your account, one of the things that starts to happen is you engage with more followers, sometimes you can get carried away, follow too many people and this can lead to shadow banning.
If you are going to start adding people in your niche, i.e. searching for people with ‘travel’ ‘food’ ‘lifestyle’ ‘fitness’ in their names make sure to stick to the limits.
The maximum amount of people you can follow in an hour is 160, the maximum per day is 1600. Sometimes Instagram will notice an increased level of activity on your account and send you a warning, saying ‘action blocked’.
If you get this warning it’s a good sign that Instagram has its eyes on you. Refrain from following or unfollowing for at least 2-4 hours and reduce the levels of people you add to about 100 per few hours for a while to get back under the radar.
UPDATE: Recently there have been some changes in the Instagram algorithm that may be affecting a few accounts. This update limits you to following 20 people at a time. 
If this update is affecting you, instead of following 100 people per hour, add 20 people every 10-15 minutes instead.

How Many People Can You Unfollow in an Hour?

When you begin to add a lot of accounts, many will follow you back if your page is optimised like we planned to set it up in Day1.
You may also find though that many accounts don’t follow you back, to make sure your account stays balanced you can download an unfollower app, to un-follow people you follow, that don’t follow you back.
When unfollowing accounts, make sure to stay within the limit, only remove a maximum of 200 an hour, 1000 a day.
This can be a great technique to grow your following with engaged relevant accounts, without overwhelming your account.

Algorithm Changes

Instagram and Facebook are famous for changing the way they operate regularly. Algorithms are the systems Instagram puts in place to control how everything works.

Understanding Algorithms can go a long way in helping you increase engagement and understanding how to grow your account.

Engagement Is Judged in the First Hour and Maximum 3 Hours

You may be aware of this by now, but engagement on your profile is crucial for a number of reasons.
Firstly, engagement is important for maximizing exposure within the Instagram Algorithm. I compared two posts that I put live recently, one was a video of me walking along a tree. It was highly engaged with quickly within the first few hours.
It’s currently my most engaging piece of content on Instagram with 85 comments and 379 likes.

Instagram Business Profile

When you have an Instagram business account, you can use insights, which will tell you some great information about your Instagram posts. What it tells me for this post was:
  • 3 saves
  • 14 profile visits
  • 1,193 reach
  • Discovery: 40% of accounts that saw this post weren’t following you
  • Impressions: 1,617 From Home: 1,004 From Profile:318 From Explore:189 From Other:106
This is how the insights show on screen
This is how the insights show on screen
What this tells me is because my page was highly engaged with within the first few hours, it got featured more on people’s home screens and also got featured on the explore tab. Compare your high performing photos with the insight feature to see which posts are higher engaged.
What Made That Post Highly Engaged?
Firstly, it was a video. Videos typically get much higher engagement, a study even found videos posted at 9pm got 34% higher engagement on Instagram.
Secondly, in the caption, I asked a thought-provoking call-to-action with a benefit for the viewer for participating in the commenting.
‘The first comment to guess correctly how long it took me to walk across and back again, i’ll feature your latest in my Instagram story’ This lead to a lot of people joining in, not only was this fun but it boosted engagement with the post, making it my most popular post to date.

Instagram May Restrict Your Exposure Based on YOUR Engagement

It was often thought it was just engagement with your posts that Instagram measures, but it seems Instagram also analyses how much you engage now.
By responding to comments and engaging within the community frequently, Instagrams new algorithm changes seem to expose you to a wider audience, or rather they restrict your audience if you aren’t engaging.

Comments with Under 4 Words, Don’t Count Towards Engagement!

In my eyes, this is a change that is both positive, and negative. For one, accounts that get lots of engagement from bot accounts saying things like ‘good job’ ‘yolo’ ‘GJ babe’ will no longer count towards engagement (great!).
The downside is if people aren’t aware of this change and are going around engaging with posts with under 4 words, it’s doing nothing for promoting the post. Ok if you want to just leave your thoughts, but if you are doing this to try and grow engagement, you’ll be doing nobody any favours.
#JoblessNation Note: To try and drive engagement to all our posts, I will be soon setting up an Instagram Pod for the group, this will be on the Facebook group, which we can all post in saying something like ‘new post’ and we can then all go to that post and comment on it, save it and like it to grow engagement.
This will mean we can all drive massive engagement to our posts quickly, boosting engagement and generally helping everybody perform. Leave a quick comment if you’re interested in being involved in a pod and just leave a quick #pod so I can find who wants to join easily.

The Accounts You Engage with the Most Pop up First on Your Instagram Stories

More good news for engagement, an account which engages with you regularly not only is boosting your profile within Instagram but when they go to their home screen, the accounts they watch the most come up first for their stories.
This means if accounts engage with your regularly, they see your stories first, and it’s an amazing way to build regular engagement with your audience.

Make Sure to Not Edit Your Caption Within 24 Hours of Posting or Delete Your Posts

When you edit your caption within 24 hours or delete a post, Instagram reduces your visibility of that post, leading to lower engagement. Deleting posts, in general, is something I’d advise against as it can lower overall engagement with your account.

How to Drive Engagement to Your Posts?

Knowing what we now know, that engagement is key early doors to driving traffic to your posts, how do we get more engagement within our posts? First, there are a number of factors to consider to improve engagement.
Setting up Your Profile to Attract the Right Audience
As we talked about in Day1, the right audience is crucial to engagement. You want people who are interested in your niche to be following you so that when you post content related to your niche, they want to engage with it.
Interacting With Instagram in Your Niche
Don’t just hope for people to engage with your content, follow hashtags related to your niche, engage with these users, comment with meaningful comments that add value, follow accounts tied to your niche.
Location Plays a Big Part in Engagement
Posts with a geo-tagged location get 79% more engagement, this helps users to find your content and to engage with it. Adding in locations is a great way for users to interact with your content.
Use Instagram Stories to Drive Interaction
Instagram stories are a platform for you to share your content, but it can also be used to drive engagement to your new posts. I’d suggest to not do this all the time, because people come to expect you doing this, and it means they can want to watch your stories less. Try to be creative with your stories and introduce your new posts in a way that is different.

#Day4 – Interview With Carli & Oli from Exciting Adventure

Day4 - Instagram Influencer Interviews with Carli and Oli from Exciting Adventure | 30-Day Instagram Challenge

On day 4 I took to Skype to interview two successful Instagram Influencers. Oli had previously run an Instagram account with around 16k followers and him and his partner Carli were now growing a couples travel account.

#Day5 – The Nomad Summit in Chiang Mai, Thailand

Day 5 The Nomad Summit, The largest digital nomad summit in Chiang Mai, Thailand | 30-Day Instagram Challenge

I was originally going to just do a small blog post sharing what I loved about the summit but I decided instead to do a full post for you guys.

You can check out the post about the Nomad Summit here

#Day6 – Understanding Hashtags and How to Structure Your Posts

Day 6 Instagram Hashtags How to structure your posts | 30-Day Instagram Challenge

When it comes to hashtags, what I quickly realised was they were the currency of Instagram. Hashtags are a way for you to connect with your audience and reach out to more people for your account.
The more people we reach, the more we can grow.
With you guys having followed the steps for #Day1 for optimising your profile, I hope you’re now seeing that more people who engage with you are beginning to follow you.
What we now want to do is amplify that process.
But there are some important questions to answer:
  • What hashtags do I use?
  • How big of an audience does that hashtag serve?
  • How quickly is my content going to be seen?
  • Will my content get lost in the hashtag search?
  • How do I get the best hashtags?
I’ll try to go into some detail about what kind of hashtags to use, and answer all of the above for you.
Jobless note: Please just leave a comment on this post if you guys have any more hashtag questions you’d like answering. Just mention it below and I’ll be sure to answer it and update the guide.

Understanding How a Hashtag Works

The first thing to understand with Hashtags is how they work. When you search Instagram’s explore feature, if you type in # and then followed by a search term, Instagram will show you pictures that people have related to that topic.
Example of how to search for a hashtag
Instagram will show you tags related to what you search for, pay careful attention to the numbers.
Anybody can tag any picture with whatever hashtag they like, so Instagram’s algorithm will show you content at the top of the page that is related to your search history and preferences based on what you like and other factors like this.
[clickToTweet tweet=”It used to be that the top 9 images for any hashtag were the same for everybody. That’s no longer the case.” quote=”It used to be that the top 9 images for any hashtag were the same for everybody. That’s no longer the case.” theme=”style3″]

Limits of Hashtags

I covered this in an earlier post, but It’s worth remembering you can only have a maximum of 30 hashtags on a single post, or caption, or comment you post. Any more and Instagram will not let you post the image.

How Many Images Are There for Each Hashtag?

When you search for any hashtag, for example, #Instagram, the Instagram app will tell you how many images there are linked to that hashtag. For #Instagram at the time of writing, there are 203 Million posts.

Why Is That Important?

Knowing which images have high search volume is important for a few reasons. For an experiment go to that hashtag now, and hit search, scroll down and view the top 9 posts. This gives you the latest feed of images.
Example of top posts
The image that appears under the Top 9, the most recent: refreshes constantly on hashtags with a large number of pictures.
Once you’ve seen which picture is top, immediately search for the same hashtag again and scroll down and try and find that post.
Because there are so many new images getting uploaded every second, your image almost immediately gets lost in the feed; this isn’t good for a new account that’s trying to grow.

What Kind of Hashtags Should I Try and Select?

When you are picking your hashtags conduct a little research first, and try and pick hashtags that have at the most 500,000 images. You can occasionally do a higher level hashtag to experiment, but I would suggest using hashtags that are lower than this.
When you are picking your hashtags, you want to try and find hashtags that are relevant to your niche and your picture. You want people who are searching for these hashtags to think your image is relevant so that they engage with it, i.e. like it, comment it, save it.
[clickToTweet tweet=”The more engagement you get, the more Instagram will show your post to other people, this works best in the 1st hour.” quote=”The more engagement you get, the more Instagram will show your post to other people, this works best in the 1st hour.” theme=”style3″]
That’s why choosing hashtags which don’t have massive reach are good for engagement; it means your post is more likely to get featured in the top post for your hashtag, which can lead to more engagement.
It also means your post won’t disappear down the listing as quickly, meaning you are more likely to get people engaging with your posts.

Best Ways to Research Hashtags

Many people want to know the quick and easy way to know what hashtags to use; the honest answer is it can be hard to figure out which hashtags to use, and the only way is to try them out and see what happens.
When selecting your niche, it’s good to think about what type of posts you will put up. Doing this will allow you to have sets of hashtags for each image type as a template.
What I would do for each hashtag is to type into the explore field what hashtags you think relate to your niche and checking out the posts, you want to look for a few things:
  • Are the posts highly searched, under 1mil or over
  • Are the posts similar to content you’d post in the top 9
  • Do the content of the posts match what you want your brand to be saying


example of a great hashtag that fits my niche and is under 1 million images
example of a great hashtag that fits my niche and is under 1 million images
Once you hit these criteria, you can make a note of your hashtags and how many images they have linked to it for reference later. I have a notes page in my phone that I keep a list of all the hashtags I might use and the number of posts they have, this is a resource I’ve built over time which is so handy for referencing back to each time I need a new hashtag.

What Ways Can You Creatively Use Hashtags

Hashtags can be used in a number of ways. You can use a hashtag to get other people to use it to link back to your brand, such as the way we are all including #JoblessNation on all of our Instagram posts linking to the 30-day-challenge.
Don't forget to use #JoblessNation for each of your 30-day Challenge Posts!
Don’t forget to use #JoblessNation for each of your 30-day Challenge Posts!
You can also use hashtags to exposure yourself to other communities which may be parallel to what your niche offers. For example, if you are a healthy food Instagram blog, you might want to use fitness hashtags to expose yourself to that audience.

Should I Experiment?

Absolutely! Using the same hashtags all the time not only makes you look spammy and Instagram can shadowban you for this reason, but it also doesn’t expose you to new audiences. Try and experiment with hashtags, use different ones and don’t be scared if engagement drops.
You want to be experimenting so you can find what hashtags are working the best for you, remember always to be trying new things to grow your following. Stagnation is real guys!

Drive Engagement to Your Posts by Engaging Yourself

Many of us want the easy route; I’m guilty of this myself. I’m so busy writing posts, and what I’m doing on Instagram, using Instagram, researching ways to grow my following, writing full time and then fitting in a nomad conference in the middle, I’m to busy to even engage with my audience!
Guess what…my following suffers because of that, and so does my reach.
Instagram measures your engagement with other accounts, and it can be a metric to how many of your followers Instagram shows your content too. Remember to be involved within your main hashtags and comment on the top 9 posts, not with something boring but try and ADD VALUE to the conversation.

What Kind of Posts Will I Be Placing and What Hashtags to Use

When you think about setting up the niche for your account, you may want to think about 2-3 categories which your posts will fit into. For example, My posts revolve around travel, lifestyle and marketing.
Having a certain type of picture you’ll post will help you to prepare in advance a set of hashtags for each picture, which you can use as a default template, and from there you can then interchange and swap out certain hashtags, this process can save you a lot of time.

How to Save Your Hashtags for Quick Use in Groups/Keyboard Replacement Hack

When you’ve got your hashtags setup for each type of picture you can use as a default, you can save them in notes on your iPhone. But one neat little trick I learned recently is to create a keyboard shortcut to easily post these hashtags into your caption.
So first I research and list 10 hashtags to a specific niche, so let’s say travel. So I make 10 Travel hashtags like #traveladdicted#travelnow#timefreedom.
Here are some of the hashtag groups I put together
Here are some of the hashtag groups I put together
I go to Iphone > Settings > General > Keyboard > Text Replacement.
You can then create a new text replacement, by clicking the + in the top right corner.
Place your hashtags into the Phrase section. Then make a shortcut, for mine, I use #Travel1.
text replacement examples
Here’s what your screen will look like
When you then type #travel1 into your iPhone keyboard, it will automatically populate those 10 hashtags, neat!
I’ve now got about 3 or 4 of these setup, but as I get new hashtags I’ll experiment and add more.

Structuring Your Posts

When it comes to posting structure you have a few points to consider:
  • Your image placement on your feed
  • Your picture itself
  • Your caption

Image Placement on Feed

Making your feed look pretty and inviting is a clever design element that not many people use…me included!
But there are some great accounts who use their feed to tell a story, see accounts like www.instagram.com/gignomads
Gignomads feed is a great example of how you can really make your pictures stand out
Gignomads feed is a great example of how you can really make your pictures stand out
The amazing Virginia Campo is the proud owner of gignomads, which is launching very soon! She has actually agreed to do an interview to share her vision and some tips with all of us which is super exciting, she’s one impressive lady! Stay tuned for that!
Check her personal account at www.instagram.com/virgiampo12.
You can use apps like UNUM to plan out the layout of your feed before it goes live, this helps to create the perfect look you want and to experiment with what order you want to place your images in next.

The Picture You Post

This may sound obvious, but the pictures you want to post should be your best work! We all have days where we think to just ‘make-do’ and post something up that we had, but always try to post your best work.
It’s also important to try and have a theme in your photos and keep them consistency; these themes can change but try to have 3-6 photos or ideally the last 9 photos you’ve posted to fit the same feed. This gives your feed a great flow that’s visually appealing.
For example, one photographer I know edited all of his photos to have a slightly blue tint, this looked incredible on his feed, as the next 9 photos had a warmer orange tone. Brilliant!
It wasn't the example I mentioned above, but is a good example of consistent image styles.
It wasn’t the example I mentioned above, but is a good example of consistent image styles.

The Perfect Caption

Think of your caption as a mini-blog. This is where you tell your story to your readers.
Some people post epic captions that are 500 words long, other people post emojis alone and others create 60-120 word pieces that tell a story quickly and emotively to the reader.
I’d recommend sticking to the 150-word count if you can and tell your story in an easy to tell way, try and be honest, tell people whats happening and generally try to engage with your audience.

Use Call to Actions in Your Caption

When you are putting out a piece of content, remember to use a call to action to ask your audience to engage. Tell them to leave a comment, tag a friend, ask them their opinion, see if they’ll save the post.
Ask them to engage with you, and you may find they do this for you.


Ok guys, remember how we talked about a call to action? This is my call to action, for YOU.

Remember when you picked your niche for your account? I now want you to research 10 hashtags for that niche, write them down in your notes or on a notepad.

Over the next few days experiment with your posts to see what hashtags are getting the most engagement.

#Day7 – Instagram Followers | Techniques for Growing Your Following

Most of us have come to do this 30-day challenge because we are interested in growing our following. Whether you want to get Insta famous, promote your blog or other products, become an Instagram Influencer or just reach a larger audience, growing your following is a large aspect to that.
A week into this challenge, we’ve already seen some impressive growth and while we have been going through this first week there have also been a number of changes to the Instagram platform that we should all be aware of.
As with all social media, things change all the time in their algorithms so things that work today may not work tomorrow. Today’s part of the challenge will be all about how you can leverage everything at your disposal to grow your following as quickly and as effectively as possible.

What Kind of Following Would You Rather Have?

In the early days of Instagram, all that mattered was the follower count. If you had 20k followers, you had a large amount of negotiating power and a large audience, and many people were getting rewarded for this in the forms of sponsorship, payments and free exposure.
Jump to 2018 and it’s a very different story. The biggest metric that any company will now look at is engagement.

What Is Engagement?

I’m not talking about you posting your recent proposals or wedding pictures, we’re talking about how many people are interacting with you as a brand. Are they liking your posts, are they commenting, are they saving your pictures.
Engagement is the measure of how many of your fans are interacting with you.

Why Is High Engagement Important?

If you were a company or brand and wanted to advertise and you were considering who to choose for your product what would you choose to look at?
[clickToTweet tweet=”Having a high following can look good but in reality, it counts for nothing if your audience isn’t engaged.” quote=”Having a high following can look good but in reality, it counts for nothing if your audience isn’t engaged.” theme=”style3″]
An engaged audience means they’re interacting with your content, liking what you’re posting and if you were to post something for a brand or company, there is a much higher chance of them purchasing.

What Other Benefits Do You Have with High Engagement?

The higher your engagement the wider a reach you can have on Instagram. However, the metrics work in a very particular way.
When you post any new content, the amount of engagement you get in the first hour is tracked by Instagram. The number of comments, likes and saves you get in that first hour is what will determine whether your content gets featured in the ‘Explore’ page of Instagram and also how often you’ll appear in hashtags.
This is why things like Engagement Pod’s are a great way to grow your accounts exposure because in a very short space of time you get a lot of comments and likes, and this level of engagement pushes your posts reach a lot further.

Comments Under 4 Words Don’t Count Towards Engagement

I'm sure Dudkabar had the best intentions, but these kinds of comments don't count towards engagement.
I’m sure Dudkabar had the best intentions, but these kinds of comments don’t count towards engagement.
To tackle the problem of spam bots, Instagram disregards comments that are under 4 words long. So all of those high profile accounts with 70k followers that comment a love heart emoji on your page aren’t doing you any favours.
Within pods and whenever you are commenting on anyone’s posts you should always try to add value to the conversation and use at least 4 words in your comments. Ideally more!

What About After the First Hour?

The first hour of when you post is crucially important, but after that should we not care? Generally, it’s believed that the engagement you get in the first 3 hours will tell you how well a post is going to perform.
The more momentum your post has the more that carries, and I’ve seen this happen with posts that I’ve put on my page.
Here are my most popular posts, the one that got the most comments was the video and that was highly engaged quickly.
Here are my most popular posts, the one that got the most comments was the video and that was highly engaged quickly.

Can I Boost the Engagement in Any Way?

When somebody comments on your post, make sure to always reply and follow the rule above of making sure it’s over 4 words in length. Your own engagement with your posts counts towards boosting how well you perform in the first hour.
Instagram will also show more of your posts to more people if your personal engagement is higher.

What Techniques Can You Use to Grow Your Following

The key question on everyone’s lips is how do you grow your following authentically, organically and without getting accounts following you that are of low quality, i.e. they don’t engage with you.
There are tons of different pieces of advice out there but what I’m going to share is the technique I’ve been using over the last week which has taken me from 578 followers to over 2,000 in a very short space of time.
This technique works for me for a number of different reasons and I’ll try to share in this post all of the reasons why that’s the case.

Setting the Stage

If you’ve been following along from #Day1 you’ll remember that one of the very first steps we need to take is to optimise our profile.
Optimizing is understanding what niche you’re targeting, setting up your profile to be appealing to those types of users and then posting content which would be desirable to that niche…
Make sense? Great!

Posting Scheduling

The other thing that’s crucial to high performing posts, growing your following and generally being a badass is to know when to post on Instagram. Now if your target audience is primarily based in the US and so are you, you might expect a Monday evening around 7 pm to be a great time to post.
Everyone’s just finished having dinner and settling down on the sofa, nothing exciting usually happens on a Monday so chances are a lot of people will be using Instagram.
But what happens when your followers are from all over the globe, you’re in a different time-zone and you have no idea when the best time to post is?

That’s when we call for backup!

The free WhenToPost app gives you some good insight of when's best to post
The free WhenToPost app gives you some good insight of when’s best to post

If you’re not sure the best time to post to Instagram, I’d suggest using an App to analyse your followers and see when they are most likely to be active and online. This works well for me when I’m in Thailand.

It gives me a countdown style timer showing how much time I’ve got until the next ideal time to post, and it also gives me some insight into other times which may be busier but perhaps not quite as busy as the best time.
The app I use for this task is – WhenToPost – I know… the name says it all right?
Here's an example of how the WhenToPost app looks
Here’s an example of how the WhenToPost app looks
By posting when your followers are more active, you’ll get more engagement, this leads Instagram to showing your pictures to more people and this will mean more followers for you.

Daytime Routine > Morning > Afternoon > Night

When it comes to how I actively seek out new followers, I like to follow a routine throughout the day, this allows me to stay on top of what I’m doing in Instagram and pace myself out through the day.

Be warned, this technique doesn’t take hours and hours everyday but it does take consistency, patience and discipline.

Morning Routine

When I wake up the first thing I do is brush my teeth. Now I haven’t run the data, but I’m 60% confident this makes no difference on the effectiveness of my Instagram growth, but I can’t confirm without extra analysis.

Once I’ve brushed my teeth I jump onto Instagram. The first thing I do every day is take a screenshot of where my page is at, followers count and the following count. This helps me to keep track of my progress throughout the day.
This was my screenshot from the start of Day 7
This was my screenshot from the start of Day 7
Keeping track of how many people you’re following/unfollowing is really important!


If you exceed the Instagram limits you’ll typically find Instagram will either slow your progress or shadowban you, something nobody wants. Once I know where I’m at I’ll first go onto an app I use to look at who I’ve followed and isn’t following me back, depending on how many people I’ve followed the day before I’ll usually see between 500-1000 people potentially.
Remembering the limits Instagram sets of removing a maximum of 200 people per hour, and 1000 per day, I’ll first unfollow the accounts which don’t follow me back, 200 at a time. This will take me through to typically about midday.
The time required is usually about 5 minutes every hour, and I’ll also include 5-10 minutes of engaging on profiles in my feed and in my favourite hashtags that I use.

Midday/Afternoon Routine

Lunchtime is a good time for me to plan out my post structure for today / the next day. I usually like to be a day ahead when it comes to what content I want to post.

I’ll prepare everything, the hashtags, the caption, the people I’ll tag, editing the image and have it all ready a day in advance, to make sure I can get the perfect posting time.

Once I’ve prepared the post and got everything ready I’ll try to predict when most of my followers will be becoming active, for me in Thailand, right now, it’s around 2 pm. At that time, most people in England are just getting up. I’d try to start following people around 7:30 am-9: 00 am of your biggest demographic within your followers.

What Do You Mean Start Following People?

When it comes to reaching new followers, think how they would see you. When you go through Instagram the majority of people are using their home feed, and this will only show people they are already following.
That makes getting new followers tough, Instagram has changed its algorithm so that some posts will be shown to you in your feed that you aren’t following but the best way to get people to see you is to go out and follow accounts that would be interested in your niche.

This Is Why It’s Crucial to Have a Niche!

Having a niche that you understand, are optimised for and can provide real value for people that are interested is crucial to this technique, otherwise, you’d just look like a spammy account going around adding everybody to your group.
The old ‘follow for a follow’ game that people used to use and many people still use will do you no favours in the modern world of Instagram. The difference with this technique is you are targeting accounts specifically that would be interested in your content, or at-least have a high chance of that being the case.

So How Do You Go About It?

Let’s say your niche is vegan food, a new topic I’m getting interested in at the minute. You would first build your account based on veganism, like outlined above, post content around vegan food and then go out and find accounts interested in vegan food.
How do you find these accounts? You can go out and search for #veganfood and look and see what accounts are posting within that hashtag.
Out of the top posts this image has about the right amount of likes for an account under 40k followers
Out of the top posts, this image has about the right amount of likes for an account under 40k followers
If you find one that is focused on vegan food, their account is very focused and they have say 10,000 followers or even 500 followers, if the account is very specific, chances are the people following that person would be interested in vegan food.
Bingo! This is a perfect account to go into, it's pictures are vegan specific and she fits our demographic.
Bingo! This is a perfect account to go into, it’s pictures are vegan-specific and she fits our demographic.
So click on that person’s followers and see who’s following them. Now you can either look through these people, check out their profiles and add the people you think are relevant but this can be a time-consuming process.

What I usually do is search the followers by clicking the search box at the top and typing in a keyword related to my niche.

For vegan food that keyword could be – Vegan, Vegan food, food, health, plant, plant-based etc.
This will search their names and handles for that search term, chances are if they have ‘vegan’ in their handle or name, they’re probably interested in vegan food!
When I searched, she had a list of around 250 accounts tied to 'Vegan' as a search term. They're probably interested in a vegan account like the one I want to make!
When I searched, she had a list of around 250 accounts tied to ‘Vegan’ as a search term. They’re probably interested in a vegan account like the one I want to make!

Don’t Go Overboard with Following

Now the important thing to remember here is to not go overboard, Instagram can see when your account starts to rapidly grow, and it can see when you’re following and unfollowing a shit ton of people, they’re not stupid.
With the new algorithm changes, my technique is to follow around 20 targeting people every 10 minutes, and also to mix in engagement in-between this. Initially, when you get started you can follow as much as 160 people per hour but once your follower count begins to grow, you’ll be limited when following new people.
When you are following accounts that are interested in your niche when they see your name and handle following them if it’s been optimised for your niche they’re likely to follow back. If they are curious and don’t follow straight away but go to your profile, if they see that your bio, profile picture and images tie into their niche and interest, they’ll probably follow back.

With this then, it becomes a numbers game.

The more accounts you can follow within your targeting niche and provide great value content for, the more will follow you back. Once you finish your day rinse and repeat, and make sure to unfollow any accounts which didn’t follow back.
It’s not unusual to see rapid growth using this technique very quickly! So make sure to watch out for any warnings coming from Instagram, if you get any actions blocked stop following and unfollowing for at least 3-4 hours to avoid any shadowbans.
In this video I talk about some of the recent changes and how you can adjust your following techniques.

How to Keep Quality Engagement When Following Accounts

If you were following random accounts, and they followed you back and you posted content about your everyday life, chances are most people wouldn’t really be interested in your content. So they won’t engage, like or comment because why would they… they’re not interested!
By following a particular niche of people and posting content geared towards what they like, this will lead too a much better chance of engagement and you’ll find a greater level of engagement across the board.
Not to mention providing amazing value to the people who are finding you, that’s the aim of the game after all!

Why It’s Important to Follow and Have Accounts Follow You from Your Niche

When you look at your followers and the people you follow and your account, if they all marry up to the same niche you’re all part of one big community.
Instagram looks at you in the same way. By following people specific to your niche, they’ll start sharing and suggesting you to people who are using hashtags, who are searching for that type of content regularly and also start featuring you in other peoples home feed.
By becoming synonymous with that community, you’ll be linked into it deeper and deeper with every new connection.

Here’s a 1 Minute Video Recap of the Techniques You Can Use to Grow a Fast Following


That’s Week 1 Complete!

Phew, so that was a crazy amount of content packed into seven days and presented to you guys in one long-ass post!

Please feel free to use this guide, share it with your friends, link to it on your blogs, whatever you need to share these tips with anybody. If you’ve got more tips you’d like to share then mention them down in the comments and I can add them to this guide or put them in the week 2 recap.

These articles will be a huge resource when complete to share exactly what we have gone through and achieved and I hope that you have enjoyed reading and found it useful.

Stay classy,


This is a huge collection of all the tips for growing your Instagram following that we figured out in the first week of the 30-Day Instagram Challenge |




Jamie is a freelance writer and sales coach who has over 10 years of experience in retail and sales. He is now taking his experience on the road and is on a mission to help other entrepreneurs achieve their potential.


  1. Andrés Piñeiro Coen Reply

    Suppa cool bro 😀 thanks for the Gognomads mention! I also liked the shadow-ban info. Really good!

  2. Rajsheda Richeson Reply

    This was amazing information. I shy away from following random accounts to often but i guess it’s necessary when building accounts.

  3. Nick Shucet Reply

    Great article. We will be following your strategy for our launch. Can I get in on the #pod?

  4. This is so useful. Thank you so much for all this time and effort you’ve put in. It’s making a huge difference!

  5. Hey Jamie:

    Great post and a great summary of what you did to set up a routine! Believe it or not, this post actually helped me figure out some inconsistencies in my routine as why I recently had a tremendous slowdown in my growth. Now time to fix them! 🙂

    Keep up the good work!

    – Ron 🙂

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