Here is my 30 day project, with my account @tiagoleal.lab, which I started from scratch as tool to my new business as an Architectural Photographer. I have used the 3 hour split strategy, even though some of the insights and tips from the other 2 methods were applied.
In 30 days I was able to reach 430+ followers, there were a couple days that I wasn't able to work on the at least 3h on it, so I reckon I could have easily reached 500+ if I did. But in the end I am quite happy with the result, professional architectural photography businesses are a niche that don't attract millions of followers, and am confident that continuing to use the same strategy the followers number will continue to grow. During this time I was already contacted by a magazine and an architecture office to possible works so even with a small followers base the engagement is working.
Regarding the strategy, did some tests where in a day I would just do likes and other just comments and messages, and I have to say that the engagement with likes turned out to bring more followers than the comments, and also was less time consuming. Though I still feel that a personal engagement with comments is a more valuable as interaction.
Week 1 growing was actually faster from what I was expecting, beginning of week 2 was quite exponential, but then for the rest of it and week 3 things were pretty flat (was expecting week 3 to have the same jump from 1 to 2), and only at week 4 it picked up again to an higher rate of followers.
Unfortunately now that my followers counting was growing exponential, got blocked for a week by instagram for using an "external service" which was not the case. Did report the problem but no response was giving by instagram, which is pretty frustrating as a starting account/business.
Even though I didn't reach the 1000 goal, your class was really insightful and helpful on how to approach instagram from a strategic point of view. Looking forward to the 1000 followers, Tiago