How Starting My Instagram From Scratch Increased Engagement, Opened Doors, and Made Me Forget About Follower Count

This past week I passed the one year mark of shutting down my old Instagram when it was about to hit a new milestone, and starting from absolute scratch. Why did I do this? Was it a good idea? Let's dive in and find out.

The Why

I started my Instagram account years ago, somewhere around 2013. I had no direction and I didn't even start photography for years afterwards. It was random photos of my life, me trying to be an "influencer" and all sorts of random junk. This resulted in a lot of followers that didn't care about my account when it took a shift to photography only, or people that joined instagram and then stopped using it, as well as follow for follow accounts etc.

This gave me a result of dead accounts, uninterested accounts, and just people not giving a darn. I was very close to reaching the milestone of 1200 followers, however it seemed that for every follower I gained, I lost one. It felt like Instagram was keeping me from reaching that peak. I had to think hard about how to grow my Instagram organically, what was happening, and how to fix my account without impacting important things like my business card. I decided it was time to go nuclear. 

I shifted the account to private and changed the account name from DaveOverThere to DHJF1991, and then started a new "DaveOverThere" account so that all of the links for my socials stayed the same. No need to order new business cards, or change my site, or remember a new account name. I made some new posts on my "old" account promoting the new one and decided to make a promise to myself that I would only post work I am truly proud of on this new account. 

A before and after of the old account and new account with the same photo showing increased engagement

The Result

After starting the new DaveOverThere I wanted to be sure I could go back to the old account if the experiment failed, so I've never deleted the older account. Because I wanted to concentrate on engagement, rather than followers, I decided to keep up with who was following me and check if they were legitimate or not, looking for red flags of bot use/purchased followers etc. The way I checked this was threefold:

1: Did they only follow me without ever interacting with a post?

2: Are they following an suspiciously high number of accounts (either way more or eerily equal to the amount of followers they had)?

3: Are they pitching some weird app in their bio? 

If the answer was yes to any of these it was a big red flag, causing me to block them. I post to my Instagram to share my work with people that want to see it, and with the new algorithm it works similar to Facebook's, so accounts that don't interact will hurt my overall engagement. 

As a result, my old account had about 1150 followers at its peak (it has since fallen as people unfollow over the past year), and averaged approximately 49 likes per post, equaling an engagement of about 4.3% which is... okay. My new account, on the other hand, has 880 followers as of the writing of this post and an average of 73 likes per post for an engagement rate of 8.3% which is much much better. 

With the new account and increased engagement I've had a few doors open, I've been having the right people seeing my work and it has directly led to some paid gigs, which ironically enough I rarely post on my Instagram. Choosing hashtags more carefully, posting work I'm proud of, and even deleting posts I don't like anymore has really helped me out in the past year in how I am perceived by clients.


While doing this isn't necessarily the right call for everyone, it is definitely recommended for some people. If your instagram is stagnating, or it is a blend of personal and professional, I definitely advise you to keep it under consideration. I have never deleted my old account, mostly because I think it is kind of funny to see bots try and follow it, but I probably will one day. If you don't want to start your Instagram from scratch, I do recommend going through your followers and deleting/blocking those that seem fishy — go with your gut along with the three tips above, ensuing that you are only followed by real people means that more people, overall, should be seeing your content. 

What do you think of totally deleting a social account to start from scratch? Have you ever done anything similar? Sound off in the comments below.

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David Leøng's picture

Judging from only the example you posted, it looks like the comments you're getting on the new account are actually inauthentic. Bots/services will usually stick with generic comments like "nice shot!" or "love your feed!" whereas on the old account, one of the comments addresses something specific about the photo, which is when you can tell that an actual human wrote it.

I actually did the same thing two years ago with my old account, which had/has over 50k followers because it got on IG's suggested list twice, but stopped growing. I think accounts with bloated follower counts are "cursed" to never see any meaningful growth anymore. Since retiring it and being on my new one, my engagement percentages are generally higher, and I'm seeing growth (albeit very slowly).

Wojciech Sznajder's picture

It's a before/after photo. You are commenting on "before the change" photo, while all new followers and meaningful comments are on "after" page.

daniel fazio's picture

no, you didn't look properly, the "love your feed" is in September on the new account, the after. with other meaningless fake comments.

Maxim Syabro's picture

How did you get 800 real followers in one week?

Tomash Masojc's picture

Lol, new comments are from random instagram pages :))))

David J. Fulde's picture

Bad example (Though of the four shown, two are actual people I know IRL), there aren;t a lot of images on both accounts

Sergei Tokmakov's picture

885 followers after a whole year of regular posting is okay but not newsworthy. Especially when the photos barely receive any comments from real humans.

Even though the new account has a better engagement rate (ER) for now, there is no guarantee that both accounts won’t be in the same low-ER doghouse tomorrow, or with the next algorithm change. IG favors new accounts. Sort of like when a drug dealer gives free or discounted samples to new users until they are hooked. But that can change for the worse any day.

To sum up, there is nothing to write home about here yet.

Paul James's picture

I only have 150 followers on mine but I get 100 to 200 likes on average. I don't follow back anyone other than 5 or 6 people. I clean my ghosts twice a week which slows down your growth a lot but at least the net result is genuine. On another account with 800 followers I had 500 to 2000 likes. Some accounts I had 50 comments on average. Means nothing in the end imo. The real value to me is making friendships that translate into the real world. The rest is meaningless in the grand scheme of things. I prefer photography blogs because I get to know the person behind the camera.

Bryan York's picture

What are some of the photography blogs you follow and enjoy?