Deep Dive: From 0 to 1 Million – Top Creator’s Instagram Blueprint

In this insightful analysis, we dive deep into the growth journey of a content creator who gained over 1 million followers on Instagram. By examining their posting habits, engagement rates, caption sentiments, hashtag usage, and more, we uncover the successful Instagram tactics that propelled their success. Learn from their experience and apply these strategies to enhance your own content and grow your Instagram presence.

Get ready for the fifth article in our Deep Dives series, where we’ll explore the journey of another content creator who’s made it big on Instagram. They’ve got just over 1M followers and gained the majority of their audience since January 2021.

We’ll be covering growth and growth rate, post types and how they pivoted, engagement rates, post caption sentiment, length, and more. Plus, we’ll be checking out their reels and diving into hashtag usage and what insights we can glean about affiliate/sponsorship posts.

By analyzing their data, we hope to provide you with insights and strategies that you can use to grow your own Instagram account. Let’s dive in and discover what makes this content creator’s Instagram account so successful.

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    Instagram Growth

    Growth stories like the one above are some of my favorites. Seeing long, consistent habits paying off after a sustained effort is always very rewarding.

    This creator, starting in January of 2021 saw a dynamic shift in their account growth.

    As you can see in the chart above, I’ve broken this creators growth into 3 different phases:

    • Phase 1: Through 1/01/2021
    • Phase 2: From 1/01/2021 to 1/01/2022
    • Phase 3: From 1/01/2022 to present

    30-Day Growth Rate

    One of the most important metrics to monitor for your own account is your growth rate. We like to look at our growth rate over a 30-day period so that we are able to capture enough data to see if what we are doing is working.

    For this creator, their growth rate spiked considerably at the start of Phase 2 and has remained higher since that point. In this deep dive, we will get into just exactly what changed for this creators account.

    What Changed At Each Phase?

    The phase transitions are very important. If creators analyze their data and look for trends, they might be able to replicate the explosive growth that happened at specific times.

    One interesting thing about this creator is that it is clearly a personal account that was converted to a business account. Interestingly, we have data on their posts clear back to January 2012 which will allow for a lot of great insights.

    Number of Posts Per Day

    PhaseAverage Number of Posts Per DayTotal Number of PostsTotal Number of Days
    Phase 10.733 posts per day8481157
    Phase 20.572 posts per day175306
    Phase 30.508 posts per day242476

    This creator is a bit different than some of the latest deep dive’s we’ve done lately. The last creator was post more than 2 times per day, while this creator is posting on average every other day.

    The creator has been very consistent with this posting schedule since early 2020, where it looks like they found a rhythm that worked best for them.

    Percentage of Posts that are Videos/Reels

    This creator started experimenting with Reels and videos the minute that they were released in August of 2020. The number of videos posted has only been rising ever since.

    Phase 12601 (88.08%)312 (10.57%)40 (1.35%)
    Phase 227 (15.42%)19 (10.86%)129 (73.71%)
    Phase 30 (0%)1 (0.41%)241 (99.59%)

    So What Caused The Growth?

    I think it is safe to say that a large portion of this creator’s growth is due to their shift toward Reels. Also, posting consistently has helped the creator. Let’s dive into how engagement and other factors played into their growth.


    Between Phase 1 and Phase 2, engagement jumped significantly. This is an interesting finding and points to the creators content changing in some way at that point. The average engagement rate in Phase 1 was 1.91%, in Phase 2 it was 5.55%, and in Phase 3 it’s been 4.99%. Usually you see engagement decrease over time, especially as the creator grows but it was the opposite in this case.

    Engagement Rate by Post Type & Phase

    Even in phase 1, video had a much higher engagement. Video has out performed all other post types in terms of engagement.

    Caption Analysis

    Next up are the captions for their Instagram posts. Captions are an essential component of any Instagram post, providing context and personality to the visual content.

    In this section, we’ll be analyzing the sentiment, length, sentence structure, and question usage of the captions of our featured content creator. By understanding the language and tone used in the captions, we can gain insights into how the content creator is connecting with their audience and how they’re driving engagement.


    Sentiment is calculated on a range from -1 to 1, where -1 is negative, 0 is neutral, and 1 is positive. Most Instagram captions I’ve seen have been more on the positive side, and it’s no different here. 87% of posts by this creator have a positive sentiment.

    Phase 3 has been a bit more negative than Phase 2. Overall it looks like, compared to Phase 1, that sentiment became a lot more consistent for the creator (the narrowing curve).

    Word Count

    The large jump in caption word count between Phase 1 and Phase 2 is quite interesting as well.

    However, when you drill further into Phase 1, there is pre-2018 and post-2018. Since the creator has been posting consistently as a creator, their average word count has been going down over time.

    Number of Questions by Phase

    Using questions has been a common tactic among creators to increase engagement for their content. I looked at the number of questions asked in their captions to determine if anything had changed.

    This creator doesn’t ask a lot of questions in their post captions, in fact they haven’t asked a questions since mid-2021.

    The average engagement rate is 4.16% when no question is asked while engagement increases to 8.27% on average when at least 1 question is asked.

    Comment Analysis

    For this deep dive, I took comments from 10 random posts in each phase and decided to look at how the comments have changed over time.

    It’s interesting to see how the sentiment changed from Phase 1 to Phase 2. Comments became much more natural in Phases 2 and 3.

    Phase 1

    Phase 2

    Phase 3

    Word clouds are always interesting to look at as they can give you insight into how comments are changing over time. “Can” showing up in Phase 3 sounds like more questions are being asked of the creator than in previous phases.

    Looking into the number of comments with question marks, that appears to be the case.

    Video Analysis

    Video duration from Phase 1 to Phase 2 ended up getting longer on average. However, Phase 1 also had a number of longer videos that are no longer done by the creator.

    In Phase 1, the average video length was 20.0 seconds, while in Phase 2, it increased to 26.2 seconds, and now in Phase 3 duration is back down to 20.5 seconds on average.


    Next up is hashtags! Hashtags are a powerful tool for increasing reach and engagement on Instagram, allowing content creators to reach new audiences and connect with like-minded individuals.

    In this section, we’ll be analyzing the hashtag usage of our featured content creator, including hashtag counts, top hashtags, and bottom hashtags. We’ll also be examining how hashtags are used in affiliate posts vs non-affiliate posts and ad posts vs non-ad posts.

    By understanding the hashtags that our featured content creator is using and how they’re using them, we can gain valuable insights into how to effectively use hashtags on our own Instagram accounts. We’ll explore how different types of hashtags impact engagement and reach and provide recommendations on how to optimize your hashtag strategy.

    Number of Hashtags

    For this graph, I ended up analyzing all of their posts back to the very beginning. Hashtags are something used mainly by creators and aren’t really used in personal or private posts. What I found interesting was the spike in 2015. It’s almost like the creator experimented with being a creator for 9 months in 2015 and then decided to do it again in 2018.

    Since starting again in 2018, the number of hashtags has been trending down over time.

    Top Hashtags

    RankTagCountEngagementAvg CommentsAvg LikesTotal Video ViewsVideo CountAvg Views

    Bottom Hashtags

    RankTagCountEngagementAvg CommentsAvg LikesTotal Video ViewsVideo CountAvg Views

    Affiliate Based Hashtags

    This creator, I decided to dive into LTK vs. Amazon and it looks like Amazon has been trending up for some time. In Phase 2 and Phase 3, it looks like the content started to focus on Amazon products a lot more than in the past.

    Affiliate or NotCountEngagementAvg CommentsAvg LikesTotal Video ViewsVideo CountAvg Views

    Sponsored Based Hashtags

    Sponsored or NotCountEngagementAvg CommentsAvg LikesTotal Video ViewsVideo CountAvg Views

    Deep Dive Final Findings

    Based on this analysis, there are a couple of things that content creators can take from this deep dive to implement in their own content creation.

    • Focus on Reels: Emphasize creating and posting Instagram Reels as they contributed significantly to the growth of the analyzed creator. Reels tend to have higher engagement rates compared to other post types.
    • Maintain Consistency: Establish a consistent posting schedule that works best for you, as it helped the analyzed creator achieve steady growth. This consistency can help build an engaged audience over time.
    • Positive Sentiment: Craft captions with a positive tone, as the analyzed creator had 87% of their posts with a positive sentiment. This can make the content more relatable and appealing to the audience.
    • Optimize Hashtag Usage: Use relevant and targeted hashtags in your content to increase reach and engagement. Analyze the top-performing hashtags in your niche and incorporate them into your posts strategically.
    • Experiment with Engagement Tactics: While the analyzed creator did not frequently use questions in their captions, when they did, the engagement rate increased. Experiment with different tactics, such as asking questions or using calls-to-action, to improve engagement rates on your content.

    Thanks for reading this Deep Dive! I was able to learn a lot about how to improve our own content creation business, and I hope you have too.

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