How To Gain 1,000,000 Instagram Followers in 4 Days

Yes, this happened — lessons from David Dobrik’s Tesla giveaway

Joshua VanDeBrake
Jan 3 · 7 min read
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Photo by Bram Van Oost on Unsplash

That’s a lot of zeros, but the title isn’t clickbait. It’s based on the actual numbers of a successful campaign that ran from December 21, 2019 to December 24, 2019 (Christmas Eve). It lasted less than five days and drew over 1 million new followers for two accounts (over 1 million each).

It all started with an Instagram post accompanied by this caption:

Hey guys for Christmas Seatgeek and I are giving away this Tesla to one of y’all!! Just follow me and @teamseatgeek, share to your story, and tag a friend in the comments! Choosing the winner on Christmas Eve!!

No purchase necessary. Exclusions apply. Terms and Conditions here: [link redacted].

To kick off the campaign, David Dobrik posted a photo of himself leaning on a white Tesla with a big red bow. Over the next few days, this campaign resulted in over a million new followers for both himself and Team SeatGeek, his partner in the campaign.

You may have even seen the post on your friends’ stories during the days leading up to Christmas:

Credit: David Dobrik Instagram

There were only a few criteria to enter the contest: follow David, follow Team SeatGeek, repost the photo to your story, and tag a friend in the comments.

No purchases, no email sign-ups, no endless liking, following, and tweeting, no “super entries” or spamming. Just follow, follow, share, tag.

But let’s back up.

Who Is David Dobrik?

According to his Instagram bio, David is: “Sexy, Gorgeous, and Humble.”

And if you’re over the age of 25, there’s a good chance you haven’t heard of him before. David is an internet comedian. He started by making short, six-second videos on the now-discontinued video-sharing platform Vine. He later transitioned to YouTube, where he continued growing his audience.

To date, Dobrik has amassed an impressive 15 million subscribers and 6.4 billion video views on his YouTube channel. And his Instagram account currently sits at 11.1 million followers, which is over 1 million more than just a couple weeks ago.

What Were the Results of the Tesla Giveaway?

According to Trackalytics, David Dobrik’s Instagram account had 9.9 million followers prior to the start of the campaign, and the earliest available data shows Team SeatGeek’s account with 564k followers on 12/21/19.

With that data, we can calculate that the campaign has resulted in about 1.25 million new followers for David Dobrik and 1.54 million new followers for Team SeatGeek.

Note: Both accounts have experienced some follower churn after the end of the campaign, down roughly 100k and 200k to 11.1m and 1.9m, respectively.

Still, even several days later, both accounts are up more than 1 million followers each from the campaign!

Those are some incredible results, but you’re probably wondering…

How Much Did It Cost?

Since the numbers haven’t been publicly released, we’ll have to make a few assumptions.

  • Assumption #1: Vehicle cost: $50,000. This is based on numbers from the Tesla website for a Model 3 with 19" Sport Wheels (as pictured in the viral post).
  • Assumption #2: Dobrik and Team SeatGeek split the cost 50/50.
  • Assumption #3: $2,000 initial promotion (I have no clue if they actually did this, it’s just what I would have done if I were running it to boost initial traction).

Total cost of the campaign: $52,000.

Cost for each side of the partnership: $26,000.

And taking those numbers one step further to calculate the audience acquisition cost reveals a truly mind-blowing result.

$26,000 (cost) / 1,250,000 (new followers) = $0.0208. In other words, just over two cents per new follower.

If we assume he loses a total of 250k followers due to post-campaign churn, that still represents a follower gain of 1 million. So based on that, we can figure out the post-churn per follower cost.

$26,000 (cost) / 1,000,000 (new followers, post-churn) = $0.026. So, about two and a half cents per new follower.

$26,000 (cost) / 1,539,000 (new followers) = $0.0169. In other words, about one and a half cents per new follower.

If we assume they lose a total of 500k followers due to post-campaign churn, that still represents a follower gain of 1.04 million. For reference, Team SeatGeek’s followers have churned at about double the rate of Dobrik’s.

$26,000 (cost) / 1,039,000 (new followers, post-churn) = $0.025. So, about two and a half cents per new follower.

How Can You Replicate This Success?

Giveaways, raffles, and other contests have always been exceptional ways to go viral and quickly grow an audience.

If you want to quickly grow your following, host a giveaway. Or, partner with an influencer to break up the cost and give it an extra push and additional layer of credibility. That said, let’s explore a quick strategy of how you could go about this.

Eventually, bigger + shinier + more expensive = better. (Like a Tesla.)

But for your first handful of giveaways, I’d recommend starting much smaller, especially if you aren’t partnering with an influencer to split the cost or jumpstart the campaign.

By hosting multiple $1,000-$5,000 giveaways, you can build credibility and a solid reputation for your brand.

Make sure to post about the winners of your campaigns as well to add social proof to your campaigns.

When you’re ready to take it a step further, move to step two.

There is much debate on the effectiveness of campaigns with micro-influencers (<10k followers) vs more mainstream influencers, like celebrities, comedians, actors, etc.

As a smaller brand (and even for some large brands), I think it’s best to start with micro-influencers. That way, you can test the waters, build your process, and learn from those experiences.

Once you have a solid grasp, you can increase your budget and really invest in influencer marketing.

Now that you’ve built a network of influencers who you can partner with, it’s time to move to step three.

This is what we see happening in the David Dobrik + Team SeatGeek example. They had already built a partnership doing smaller sponsorships together, and then they devised a plan to give away something big— in this case, a Tesla.

The details of each individual partnership and campaign will vary. In most cases, the brand will likely foot the bill for a larger portion of the campaign cost than the influencer, since it’ll be leveraging the influencer’s audience as a springboard. Note: I simply used a 50/50 split up above to make the example calculations easier.

Again, there’s no evidence that either Dobrik or SeatGeek put any money behind promoting the post. But if I were the one running it, I would probably put about 5%-10% of the prize value toward promoting the post (otherwise known as “boosting” the post).

If you’ve baked virality right into the campaign (using the “follow, follow, share, tag” method from above), partnered with an influencer who kicks off the campaign, and put some money behind boosting early traction, you’re well on your way.

Each of those elements adds to and multiplies your chances of going viral.

Once the campaign has run its course, publicly announce the winner to congratulate them on winning, and, of course, post a photo or video of the winner with their prize.

You know the process now. So, do it again and perfect it. Your mileage will vary based on how many followers you gain and how effective the campaigns are (due largely to the law of diminishing returns).

But don’t stop at just hosting giveaways. Use the giveaway as a springboard to grow your audience, but give your followers something worth following — give them content that’s entertaining, educational, or adds value to their life in some way besides just the occasional contest entry.

Final Thoughts

Before you even begin a campaign — not just a giveaway, but anything — you should always have your end goal in mind.

Know your why.

Why am I doing this? Why am I building an audience? Is there an easier — or cheaper — way to reach your goal? These campaigns aren’t cheap!

Then, each campaign should be treated as a vehicle for moving toward your end goal. So make sure you always have that goal in mind because it’ll guide your campaigns and help you attract your ideal audience.

For people like David Dobrik, who provides a wide variety of content to a broad audience, his campaigns can be equally broad. But for niche brands and industries, you may have to get a little creative to figure out a campaign that makes sense for your audience.

What can you offer that’s valuable to your audience, and what purpose do you have for them?

Once you know your goal, chase it. Use everything in your arsenal. Add value. Do it in a way that makes sense for you, your business, and your audience.

If you do it right, you just might be able to see some incredible results — like growing your following by more than 1 million in under five days.

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Joshua VanDeBrake

Written by

Passionate about Marketing, Startups, & VC. Full-Stack Marketer. Ambivert. Millennial.

Better Marketing

Marketing advice and case studies to help you market ethically, authentically, and effectively.

Joshua VanDeBrake

Written by

Passionate about Marketing, Startups, & VC. Full-Stack Marketer. Ambivert. Millennial.

Better Marketing

Marketing advice and case studies to help you market ethically, authentically, and effectively.

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