It might not come as a surprise to you, but Instagram is my #1 favorite social media platform. In my opinion, it provides a clean way to access and create amazing content. Unlike Facebook, you don’t automatically see all the gossip or comments on a photo that scrolls past your screen. It is content -forward and that means that people are generally putting their best photographic foot forward – I mean, that’s the point! I am a little obsessed with Instagram, and with that, my research and curiosity is based on how it works, how it’s used by others, and how to cultivate an audience on it.

So, when I came across Gary Vaynerchuk’s $1.80 Instagram growth strategy I was initially suspicious. Anything that hints of ‘quick success’ I am wary of. However, I read through Gary’s initial blog post (you can find it here and I was intrigued by the road map he laid out. So – what is this experiment anyway and what did I learn?

The Experiment

Basically, the $1.80 Instagram experiment is this. Inspired by the idiom “leave your two cents”, you pick the top 10 hashtags you want to be associated with, and you make a comment on the top 9 posts for each hashtag every day. Let’s do the math: 10 hashtags times 9 posts each is 90 bits of $0.02 cents, which equals $1.80. Bingo!

Many people do this every day, but I wanted to try it consistently for 7 days to see what the results were. They were incredible! We gained 150 followers in one week (from 300 followers), which is insane. Not only did we gain followers, but we also upped our engagement rate – once people started seeing us interacting, they went over to our page to check us out!

It is hard to maintain the $1.80 strategy every single day because guess what? Making 90 comments takes WORK. Gary writes somewhere that you shouldn’t spend more than 2 minutes on a post, but let’s do some more math – 2 minutes times 90 comments is 180 minutes which also equals 3 hours. Ouch. Let me clarify – I did not take 3 hours a day commenting on Instagram posts, but it did take a LONG time. This is not a get followers quick strategy. However:

  • I did not just leave emojis or copy+paste ‘nice post!’ 90 times. That is not meaningful connection – and if you are going to spend the time on this experiment, you might as well do it right! Look at the post, read the caption, go to the account’s bio and take it in. Is it a real human posting? Is it scammy? Focus on real, heartfelt, and authentic comments that make sense for the post, and you will be rewarded.


Residual traffic: This experiment is NOT a bust. 3 hours a day may not be the best ROI right now – but you never know who/where/when someone will see your great comment and cruise over to your page. Even now, weeks after I finished the experiment, our traffic to our page has increased, because I left little seeds of positivity and relevant, smart comments that others might be intrigued by.

Research: This experiment also is AMAZING for research. After diving deep on 10 hashtags, I now know that there are a few hashtags out there that might not be the ‘best’ for us – but I would not have known that if I didn’t conduct this experiment! I learned about some amazing, inspiring accounts, and gave me a fresh perspective on our own brand. This is like forced research – you learn SO MUCH.

Gaming the system: There is the bot and follow/unfollow game. And even though we gained 150 followers, we are now down 40 followers because of those weird games. However, the benefits of this strategy, and 100 real awesome followers that we gained were so worth it.

What else? Oh, I am now in the habit of commenting, liking, and following as a matter of course every day. I don’t hold myself to the 90 comments, but getting in the habit of getting into the community and PARTICIPATING will bring traffic and eyeballs to you.

I use fitness as a metaphor a lot for social media with our clients. There is no substitute for hard work in social media and in fitness, and you can’t phone it in for lasting results. You can’t hire bots, play games, or cheat the system into rising to the top. You have to put in the work of creating awesome content, being part of the community, and adding insights. Comments are like water during a workout!

Would I do the $1.80 strategy again? Heck yeah! I’d probably do it monthly or quarterly, just to get in the habit, and to force myself to discover new accounts. It is a great method of research, and I can’t talk about it enough!