Deep Dive: From Zero to 1M – Adapting Content for Success

In our latest deep dive, we examine the journey of an Instagram content creator who skyrocketed from zero to over a million followers. We unveil the strategies they used, focusing on the concept of 'Adapting Content for Success.' By exploring the evolution of their content formats, engagement tactics, caption strategy, and hashtag usage, we distill key lessons that can help you navigate your own Instagram growth. This compelling case study offers invaluable insights for any aspiring content creator seeking to increase their reach and impact on Instagram. Join us as we unpack the secrets to their success.

Prepare yourselves as we embark on another exploration in our Deep Dives series, this time focusing on a successful Instagram content creator. They’ve amassed over 1.M followers, a stark contrast to their humble beginnings in December 2017, when they were just starting out. This creator puts on a masterclass on adapting content for success.

In this deep dive, we’ll shed light on the creator’s growth trajectory and rate, their preferred post types, and the strategic pivots they’ve made along the way. We’ll also dig into their engagement metrics, the tone and length of their post captions, and much more. Additionally, we’ll be scrutinizing their innovative use of reels, their tactical approach to hashtags, and the patterns we can identify in their affiliate and sponsorship posts.

Our goal is to unearth the strategies and insights behind their success, providing you with actionable knowledge to boost your own Instagram presence. So, brace yourselves as we dive deep into the world of this Instagram influencer and unveil the secrets behind their success.

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    Instagram Growth

    For this creator, I wanted to focus on 4 Phases, the slow beginning, the acceleration, the exponential leap, and then the million milestones. Each phase of this creator’s journey offers valuable insights into different strategies and challenges faced at various stages of building a substantial social media following.

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

    • Phase 1: Through 9/15/2021
    • Phase 2: From 9/15/2021 to 7/15/2022
    • Phase 3: From 7/15/2022 to 10/20/2022
    • Phase 4: From 10/20/2022 to present

    Phase 1 – The Slow Beginning: During this stage, the content creator was most likely experimenting with various styles of content, identifying what resonated with their audience, and determining the best ways to engage their followers. Despite the relatively slow growth, this phase is crucial for laying the groundwork for future success. It’s a period of learning and adaptation, and the patience and persistence displayed here is a testament to their commitment to their craft.

    Phase 2 – The Acceleration: This phase signifies a period of refinement and growth. The creator had probably found their voice and style, and their content began to resonate more deeply with their audience. It’s likely that they leveraged insights from their analytics to optimize post times, engage more effectively, and maximize their reach. Their follower count more than quadrupled, reflecting the success of their strategies.

    Phase 3 – The Exponential Leap: The rapid increase in followers during this phase suggests that the creator’s content might have struck a chord on a larger scale, possibly going viral or being shared widely outside their initial follower base. They may have also collaborated with other influencers or benefited from external publicity. This period is a testament to the power of viral content and the potential for exponential growth on social media platforms.

    Phase 4 – The Million Milestone: After hitting the million follower mark, it’s crucial to sustain momentum while keeping the audience engaged. This phase is about consolidating gains, maintaining consistency, and constantly innovating to keep the content fresh and engaging. During this phase, the creator likely started leveraging their large follower base for monetization opportunities, including sponsored content and brand partnerships.

    Let’s dive into the data and see exactly what in each phase!

    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, they have had explosive growth twice at the start of Phase 2 and during Phase 3. Outside of those two time periods their growth has been fairly consistent, bouncing around the 10% range.

    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.

    Let’s dive into the data to see what we can find!

    Number of Posts Per Day

    PhaseAverage Number of Posts Per DayTotal Number of PostsTotal Number of Days
    Phase 10.414 posts per day402972
    Phase 21.01 posts per day307303
    Phase 31.06 posts per day10397
    Phase 41.01 posts per day207205

    The posting frequency of the creator played a pivotal role in their growth journey.

    During Phase 1, a moderate posting frequency helped establish a consistent presence and steadily build an initial audience. As the creator found their voice and content style, they increased their posting frequency, which coincided with a substantial uptick in follower count. This suggests that more frequent, consistent engagement with the audience was instrumental in accelerating growth.

    When the creator’s growth hit an exponential curve, they maintained a high posting frequency. This likely contributed to the rapid increase in followers, as regular content can encourage sharing and wider visibility.

    In the latest phase, despite crossing the million follower mark, the creator has maintained their posting frequency, showing that consistent engagement remains crucial in retaining followers and sustaining interest.

    Percentage of Posts that are Videos/Reels

    The type of posts the creator shared significantly influenced their growth trajectory, reflecting the importance of aligning content format with audience preferences and evolving social media trends.

    In the initial phase, the creator’s focus was primarily on image posts, which helped establish their brand and aesthetic while steadily building an initial following. This approach was suitable for the early stage where static visual content was essential in creating an identity and engaging the audience.

    However, as the creator’s journey progressed, there was a marked shift towards video content. This transition aligned with the increasing popularity of videos on Instagram, and it coincided with a substantial acceleration in follower growth. The shift to video content allowed the creator to provide more dynamic and engaging content, which could have attracted a wider audience and driven higher engagement.

    During the period of rapid follower growth, the creator posted exclusively videos, underlining the effectiveness of this content format in driving visibility and engagement.

    In the latest phase, even after surpassing the million follower mark, the creator continued to heavily favor videos, indicating that this format remains a key driver of engagement and follower retention.

    Phase 1605 (84.73%)85 (11.90%)24 (3.36%)
    Phase 256 (18.24%)9 (2.93%)242 (78.82%)
    Phase 30 (0%)0 (0%)103 (100%)
    Phase 41 (0.48%)8 (3.86%)198 (95.65%)

    So What Caused The Growth?

    Several factors appear to have contributed to this creator’s impressive growth on Instagram:

    1. Consistent Posting: Throughout all phases, the creator maintained a regular posting schedule, gradually increasing their posting frequency as they grew. Consistent posting can help maintain audience engagement, increase the visibility of content, and promote steady growth.
    2. Adaptation to Content Preferences: The creator was not afraid to adapt their content strategy according to their audience’s preferences and broader social media trends. They initially focused on image posts but made a significant shift to video content as their follower base grew. This shift likely led to higher engagement and visibility, accelerating their growth.
    3. Use of Diverse Content Formats: Although the creator eventually leaned heavily into video content, they didn’t abandon other formats entirely. The use of carousels and images, especially in the early stages, allowed for varied engagement and catered to different audience preferences.
    4. Potentially Viral Content: The significant jump in followers during the third phase suggests that some of the creator’s content may have gone viral, propelling their visibility and follower count.
    5. Strategic Use of Instagram Features: The creator’s heavy use of videos in the later stages aligns with the popularity of features like Instagram Reels. Leveraging these platform features can help creators reach a wider audience and drive rapid growth.

    This shows the importance of always analyzing your data and testing new things. As a content creator, you should always be testing.


    Engagement has been steadily decreasing over time. This is normal as an account grows. The jump in engagement beginning with Phase 2 is interesting in that it could imply that some of the creator’s content went viral, which makes sense given our previous insights.

    Engagement Rate by Post Type & Phase

    Interestingly, video has been performing better for the creator in Phase 2 and Phase 3, which is consistent with almost every other Deep Dive. This shows the impact that Reels have had on the Instagram platform and why so many creator’s have pivoted completely to that medium.

    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. 79% of posts by this creator have a positive sentiment, which is a lot lower than other creators we’ve seen.

    Word Count

    Captions were a lot shorter in Phase 1, and increased substantially in the other 3 phases.

    It looks like the change in word count started in the middle of Phase 1. It’s possible that this creator took a personal account and converted it to a creator account.

    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.

    Phase 1 had a lot more questions in their captions compared to Phase 2, 3, and 4.

    The average engagement rate is 4.04% when no question is asked. When 1 or more questions is asked in the caption, the engagement rate jumps to 5.05%.

    Comment Analysis

    For this deep dive, I took comments from 15 random posts in each phase and decided to look at how the comments have changed over time.

    Average sentiment in Phase 1 (0.224) was significantly higher than in Phase 3 (0.126) or Phase 4 (0.168)

    Phase 1

    Phase 2

    Phase 3

    Phase 4

    Word clouds are always interesting to look at as they can give you insight into how comments are changing over time. The number of emojis has been going down since the beginning phases, which is kind of interesting. Phase 1 and 2 had 1.38 and 1.17 emojis per comment, while Phase 3 and 4 have 0.82 and 0.93 emojis per comment.

    Looking into the number of comments with question marks, it appears that the creator is getting more questions today about their content.

    Video Analysis

    This creator, like many, is seeing a decrease in their average video duration.

    In Phase 1, video duration was 24.6 seconds, while in Phase 2, video duration was 16.2 seconds, in Phase 3 video duration was 15.2 seconds, and now in Phase 4 duration is down to 17.5 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

    It’s interesting to see hashtag use rise significantly in Phase 2, when their growth started to take off.

    Top Hashtags

    RankTagCountEngagementAvg CommentsAvg LikesTotal Video ViewsVideo CountAvg Views

    Bottom Hashtags

    RankTagCountEngagementAvg CommentsAvg LikesTotal Video ViewsVideo CountAvg Views

    Affiliate Based Hashtags

    This account doesn’t really post affiliate links. There are some occasional posts from Amazon and LTK but other than that, not a lot.

    Interestingly, this account doesn’t do a ton of sponsored posts, at most 20% of their post in any given month have been sponsored.

    Affiliate or NotCountEngagementAvg CommentsAvg LikesTotal Video ViewsVideo CountAvg Views

    Sponsored Based Hashtags

    Interestingly, this account doesn’t do a ton of sponsored posts, at most 20% of their post in any given month have been sponsored.

    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.

    • Consistent Posting and Content Variety: This creator managed to increase their followers significantly by maintaining a consistent posting schedule and varying their content formats, transitioning from images to videos. This not only kept the audience engaged but also aligned with evolving social media trends.
    • Engagement and Virality: Despite decreasing engagement over time (a common trend as accounts grow), there were spikes in engagement that could indicate instances of content going viral. This shows that creating shareable and engaging content is crucial for growth.
    • Emphasis on Videos: The success of video content in phases 2 and 3 showcases the power of video formats like Reels on Instagram. The transition to video content led to increased engagement and follower growth.
    • Engagement Tactics: Asking questions in captions, as this creator did more frequently in Phase 1, can increase engagement rates. However, the overall decrease in question usage in the captions over time might be linked to the shift in content format from images to videos, which could inherently drive higher engagement.
    • Caption Strategy: The sentiment, length, and structure of post captions can significantly influence engagement. This creator’s captions were generally positive, which aligns with most successful Instagram content. The noticeable increase in caption length after Phase 1 might suggest a strategic decision to provide more context or storytelling in their posts.

    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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