I grew my Instagram from 300 to 1300 followers in 2 months. This is how you can do the same.

Sam Blakelock
Oct 2, 2015 · 6 min read

*edit: I now have 10,000 followers on Instagram

I’m Sam, a New Zealand Jazz guitarist living in NYC and a recent Instagram fanatic. This is the story of how I grew my instagram from nothing to something. I hope to outline a few straight-forward strategies so you can do the same.

The Beginning: My Photo Album

For a long time Instagram served as a photobook of my daily life. In between in 2012 when I scored a fun gig playing guitar on cruise ship and I wanted to document my travels around the world.

I was traveling the world and having a blast.

I used Instagram like most people do: pictures of my food, sunsets, touristic shots, selfies — a whole mix of my daily activities. Does this look like your instagram?

My account was private, all my followers were people I knew. I’d get anywhere from 0 to 30 likes on a post (usually 2). I had under 300 followers most of whom were my friends and family. I followed roughly the same amount of people who followed me. I loved looking back at pictures and viewing the map to see all the exciting places I visited around the world.


But then two things happened.

  1. I stopped used Facebook, and found myself getting addicted to Instagram. Facebook has become too bulky, too cluttered. Your mum and grandmother are on it, its full if adverts, event requests, scientifically devised “viral” posts and status updates from people I’m friends with but I’m not really interested in. Sounds harsh right? Compare this to Instagram — simple, clean, visual, no links, no clutter. Just beautiful images with a small caption. I was hooked.
  2. I realised I was an Instagram user and I wanted to become a Instagram creator. Why? I loved Instagram. I noticed many people I knew loved it. I read articles saying instagram had a rapidly growing user base. It was big but was getting even bigger. As a musician and an entrepreneur I needed to jump on the band wagon as a CREATOR, not just as a consumer. I had missed the twitter & snap chat trains (I’m still trying) but when Instagram allowed video, I was going to be there. If I wanted to share my craft, I needed to be where people’s attention was directed. Our attention is increasingly on mobile devices, and on our mobile devices we largely use social media apps. That’s where the attention of the world is, that’s where I needed to be.

Big changes

The First thing I did was delete any personal photos I didn’t want to be publicly displayed on my account. Then I made my account public. Next, I unfollowed anyone who wasn’t regularly posting or whose posts I didn’t dig. I was getting serious. Btw I am very very selective with who I follow on Instagram, and I know most people are — compared to twitter where we seem to subscribe to whoever and receive a torrent of statuses.

What followed next was 2 months of trial and error, market research, data analysis, hard work, and plenty of mistakes. To help you out I decided to boil my journey into 4 “secret tips”… that aren’t so secret now.

Secret 1. Post about one specific topic.

What are you passionate about?

Could you spend 18 hour days doing and improving at your passion?

You need to know this first. The rest is easy.

For me, my passion is guitar so I immediately only began posting about guitar. You also have to be highly knowledgeable or skilled at your passion. Why only one thing? You need to have thematic and conceptual consistency in your posts. Unless you are a celebrity, the general public could care less about that Instagram picture of you eating that burger at shake shack.

Stop pretending you are a Kardashian. First get famous THEN post pictures of your food, it doesn’t not work the other way around. To build followers you need to choose one thing and stick at it.

I post only guitar related videos and pictures to my instagram.

Secret 2. share pictures with value or beauty (or both.)

Your content needs to provide value to the your followers or just look really cool and be of high production value. If you can do both, great! You need to deliver higher quality content than your competitors. You need to beat them on image quality, content, and frequency of your posts.

I currently have 1,378 followers an average 100 likes per post. These aren’t mind blowing statistics but I hope that if you are sitting at below 400 followers you can take away these concepts I share and quickly reach 1000 followers within a month or two.

Secret 3. Use a good camera

I’m sorry your old phone with it’s low resolution camera isn’t going to work. No matter what filter you put on you picture it still isn’t going to look good.

Don’t worry, you don’t need to buy the latest iPhone. Any digital camera is going to be significantly better than your phone. start taking photos with a camera, make sure you have good light. If its a dark room or at night you will need a better camera.

Don’t use the focus effect on Instagram, don’t use any borders and go easy on the filters — go for something natural that enhances the reality. Play around with landscape and portrait sized pictures — you don’t have to always have squares. Yes! You don’t need too use a third party app to make your pictures long and skinny, Instagram does that.

I use a 5D Mark 11 with a 40m 1.4 lens. It’s kind of overkill but check out how crisp it looks.

Secret 4. Please please please — don’t post Facebook posts on instagram.

Memes, clunky text and obviously photoshopped images don’t fit the Instagram vibe. What’s the instagram vibe? I’m talking about that clean, uncluttered vibe. I’m talking about rolling through my feed and loving every single post. Loving them! I want to feel that the picture you just posted is a snapshot of where you are at right now.

Secret 5. Your Gallery: Tell a story

Paint a picture with your posts. Your gallery is how people quickly get a feel of your life. There should be visual and thematic flow throughout you posts. Think about it this way: you individual posts have to look pretty. And you posts make up a collage of your life( your gallery) which equally has to look good.

Secret 5. Engage

Don’t be cold. Reply to people, comment on others posts. Be cool and likeable. Be yourself.

I reply to every comment. EVERY COMMENT.

Secret 7. Post Daily

Post every day. Build expectation and deliver the goods! Play around with when you post, I usually post around 5pm eastern time.

Secret 7. HASHTAGS are everything

So you have your passion. You have your topic. You are taking high quality pictures and videos with engaging text (keep the text short). How do you get your wok noticed? HASHTAGS. This is a whole topic in itself I decided to write up a whole story on How To Use Instagram Hashtags (coming soon).

Oh yeah, and you should most definitely follow my instagram.

The NYC Jazz Guitar Blog

Stories of a young New Zealand jazz guitarist living in…

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