Keys for Instagram success: the story behind 100k followers!

I’ve finally reached one of the most important milestones on Instagram: I’ve reached 100k followers on @dianamillos!

I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve got asked how to get more followers on instagram and I have the impression I could share tons of info about it.

Today I’m sharing with you how everything happened.

Instagram 100k Organic Followers
Keep reading to know how I made it!

How I gained to 100k organic followers on Instagram

A bit of history to give you a sense of background

Since Instagram was created many things have changed.

I remember in the early years the trend was on symmetry, #tinypeopleinbigplaces, and playful, creative and colorful photos.

Then, fashion bloggers arrived to the platform. And apart from outfits, they started sharing their trips around the world.

Ever since, more and more travel accounts are appearing every day, following this trend and replicating these shots, trying to hop the influencer bandwagon.

My instagram story

I’ve been using instagram since 2013, sharing my travels as a hobby first and as part of my work during the last couple of years. Since then I’ve experienced lots of changes – some due to the algorithm, others due to new trends.

Ups and downs in engagement and steady growth have always been part of my instagram account. But more recently my growth has peaked, gaining between 10k and 20k new followers a month.

Do you want to know how this happened? Let’s break it down!

How I gained 100k followers on Instagram

What I did

I used Instagram with joy

Do I sound like Marie Kondo? Maybe, but I think it’s the best way to simply put it.

I’ve always liked instagram. It’s quick, inspirational and yes, sometimes it can be fake – but that’s easy to notice! I really enjoy the platform and I’m using it organically.

What I try to say is that I still use instagram for fun! Without the fun I would not enjoy it anymore.

I’ve always focused on the content, never in the numbers

I’m writing this blog post for you, because many of you asked for it and I’m sure it will be interesting to many.

For me, reaching 100k on instagram is cool, but it doesn’t change anything. I’ll keep doing what I do!

Remember that followers are real people, not numbers. We are followers too! We need to stop being obsessed with this.

I started posting daily

At the beginning of the year I made a promise: to upload a new picture on instagram every day!

So far I’m making it with almost no exceptions (like that day in Dubai when I fell asleep with the phone in my hands while trying to post) and I’m enjoying the process – it makes me more productive and it’s a great way to keep the conversation going with you guys!

I shared not so famous insta-spots

Nowadays is not difficult to take good travel photos: you’ll go safe if you just replicate what others have done in the past!

But don’t do that. What really makes the difference is sharing new destinations or new beautiful spots in touristy places.

That’s why my Tbilisi and Porto pictures went viral when I shared them on instagram.

I started doing more storytelling

Because instagram is not just about the pretty pictures. As every social network, it’s about people.

Sharing more about yourself and your travels in a more personal way will let your followers get to know you. Let’s connect!

Instagram features still work, you just need to get featured in the right ones.

You will reach a wider audience if you get reposted by big accounts, not exclusively on the travel niche.

Some examples of this that happened to me are Accidentally Wes Anderson, Anthropologie, Time magazine and CNN Travel.

Guess what? There’s life beyond instagram.

I gained more followers on Instagram when I started working hard on the blog. I’ve doubled the visits to this blog ever since, and many readers end up following me on instagram too.

During this period I’ve been featured on important magazines and newspapers too, like Time Magazine, Travel and Leisure and Revista Viajar, leading to more exposure and potential new followers.

And I’ve filmed my very first online film too!

What I didn’t do

I never stopped

It’s easy to think that some of the content creators are where they are because they were lucky. But that’s just not right.

In the last 2 years I’ve met so many bloggers, instagrammers and youtubers. And guess what, the ones that are where they are is because they worked hard to get there.

Since last summer I’ve never stopped traveling, I’ve never stopped creating and I’ve never abandoned this blog.

Was it easy? No. Was it worth it? Hell, yeah.

Hard work pays off!

I never blamed the algorithm

So many times I see some so-called creators complaining about the algorithm.

“I cannot grow because of the algorithm”

“I have just few likes because Instagram is not showing my pictures”

“Instagram just hates me” (this one is so funny!)

Instead of blaming the algorithm, I always tried to learn from each post.

If a post performed well, I tried to study why it happened. It could be the colors, location, story behind… and I did the same when a picture had a lower engagement. Instead of blaming the algorithm, there might be a reason why the picture hasn’t been shown, and it’s usually that it was just not as good.

By trial and error, I learned my way on Instagram.

I’ve never bought followers, likes or comments

“We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them” – Albert Einstein.

Do you want organic likes, comments and followers? Then you have to behave organically.

I engage with the photos I love and the people I love. If I have something to say, I leave a comment. If not, I just don’t.

Forget the theories about leaving meaningful comments of 5+ words – what about generating real conversation? Bring something to the table that matters to your audience and the meaningful long comments will come naturally.

The “fake it ’til you make it” doesn’t work here.

I’ve never participated in loop giveaways

Many “insta-gurus” keep saying loop giveaways are the only way to grow organically – that’s just not true.

The best example of organic growth without giveaways? Have a look to @mariefeandjakesnow. They are a great example of amazing content and storytelling, investing on equipment and content creation resulting in growth.

Disclaimer: I did one loop giveaway once (here), organized by a friend’s brand. It only included 3 other influencer accounts that I followed already and I love the brand and the product – I didn’t do it for the sake of gaining followers and actually didn’t get much out of it.

I didn’t fill my posts with ads

I get many instagram sponsored posts requests. Like every day.

How many ads did you notice on my feed? I’m sure not too many. I just don’t want to be a billboard, I want to share with you guys valuable content!

Of course it doesn’t mean I never do ads. Sometimes I do, but they have to be aligned with my style.

You can expect me to collaborate with tourism boards, hotels, photo gear and occasionally fashion brands, but not tea or shampoo brands. Because I want to keep my content always travel related.

Disclaimer: I have done watches ads in the past though, before I realized I shouldn’t.

I don’t participate in engagement groups (so-called pods)

I’m not going to lie to you, at this point you know I’m honest and transparent.

Back in the day I did participate on instagram pods. I had a few groups with other travel instagrammers where we would engage with each others posts and not only that, we would share valuable info and became insta-friends.

But pods are really time consuming. I recommend you working on your photos, style and stories rather than spending your time commenting and liking others’ work.

I quitted all the pods around 2 years ago and I still engage with my insta friends in an organic way.

If you want organic engagement, engage organically.

Keys for Instagram success

Don’t expect overnight success

As I told you at the beginning of this post, I’ve been using this platform since 2012, using instagram professionally for almost 2 years now.

If you want to get to 100k in one year well, good luck. Maybe if you go to a reality show or you really go viral you could make it. But from what I’ve seen these past few years, it takes time. And it’s good, because that means your account is evolving!

Stop comparing with others

A couple of years ago I was very discouraged by others’ behavior: the ones growing fast with dodgy loop giveaways, buying likes, following / unfollowing and the ones being copycats.

Now, I don’t care about others anymore: complaining is something that doesn’t align with my style! Instead, I focus on giving the best out of my content.

Content is king

Post high quality content and make it engaging by using storytelling.

Travel quotes are so 2016!

Consistency is queen

Be true to yourself. If your account is about travel, post travel posts, not tea or watches ads!

Also try to post and engage daily. Never forget instagram is a social network, it’s meant to be social 🙂

And cohesiveness is the princess

Creating your own instagram theme is key. Develop your personal style in editing, posing and traveling! Be unique and don’t be a copycat.

This way you will differentiate yourself from others and people will recognize your photos as yours at a glance.

Lightroom presets will help so much with this!

Still lost? Shoot me an email and maybe we can work in a one-to-one session.

If you’ve liked this post, pin it for later! 


  1. Hi! I started my instagram a little less than a year ago and really got into it this past summer. I have been pretty active and have been following the advice in this article as well as the advice presented in most articles (consistency, post times, content, hashtags) and have made very little growth. Is there any advice you would give looking at my instagram as to what I can do to increase engagement and growth?

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