Get ready for the first article in our Deep Dives series, where we’ll explore the journey of a DIY content creator who’s made it big on Instagram. They’ve got over 1M followers and gained 750,000 in the past year alone. Their growth happened in three phases, all with a spike in growth rate at the beginning.
We’ll be covering growth and growth rate, post types and how they pivoted, engagement rates, post caption sentiment, length, and polarity. Plus, we’ll be checking out their reels and diving into hashtag usage and what insights we can glean about affiliate/sponsorship posts.
By analyzing their data, we hope to provide you with insights and strategies that you can use to grow your own Instagram account. Let’s dive in and discover what makes this DIY content creator’s Instagram account so successful.
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As you can see in the chart above, their growth occurred in three different phases. I’ve labeled them Phase 1, Phase 2, and Phase 3. Each phase corresponds to the following time period:
- Phase 1: Before August 25, 2020
- Phase 2: Between August 25, 2020 and December 29, 2021
- Phase 3: After December 29, 2021
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.
As you can see for the content creator above, each phase of their growth kicks off with a large surge in growth rate. The key to figuring out whether what they did can impact your account is looking at what changed at each phase.
What Changed At Each Phase?
The phase transitions are very important. This content creator has been smart enough to analyze their data and figure out when something is no longer working. Each phase transition actually represents a pivot in their content strategy.
Growth: From 0 to 15,000 followers
Phase 1 represents the beginning of this content creator’s career. This part of a content creator’s growth trajectory is usually a grind. All of us larger content creators all experience this period of tough, slow, growth. If you don’t experience it in the beginning because you went viral, eventually you pay the price. What separates a large content creator from a small content creator is their ability to change direction. The ability to latch onto something new that is working better is a key to experience growth.
Phase 1 to Phase 2
Spark: Introduction of Reels
The pivot that occurred from phase 1 to phase 2 occurs precisely at the time that Instagram released Reels. This isn’t surprising to many content creators that have been around for a while. The release of Reels, or really any new Instagram product, is characterized by increased growth for creators that use the new product.
Growth: From 15,000 to 289.5k followers
This phase represents the adoption of Reels. More and more Reels were created by the content creator throughout this phase. The last month in the phase had 90% of created content being Reels.
Phase 2 to Phase 3
Spark: All Reels all the Time
There isn’t really a spark between Phase 2 and Phase 3, at least that can be seen in the publically available data. I’m guessing there is something in the non-public data. There is, however, a shift in content type from Phase 2 to Phase 3, only 4 of the previous 14 months had a content type besides Reels.
Growth: From 289.5k followers to 1M+
Phase 3 is all about Reels. Of the 141 posts that occurred during this phase, 134 of them were Reels and 7 of them were carousels. There were no image posts whatsoever. The last image post for the content creator was in December 2021.
Next up is a quick deep dive on engagement for the content creator. In this section, we’ll be analyzing engagement by post type and over time to identify any trends that may be driving higher levels of growth.
Engagement is a critical metric for any Instagram account, as it reflects the level of interaction between the content creator and their followers. By analyzing engagement trends, we can gain insights into the types of content that resonate with the audience and adjust our strategies accordingly.
The engagement rate for the content creator has been going down over time. This is normal as an account gets bigger. The average engagement on Instagram for home and living is 0.49%, which they are currently well above.
Engagement Rate by Post Type & Phase
The interesting thing is that something clearly changed between Phase 1 and Phase 2 for engagement on Image posts. The content creator definitely picked up on this changed and moved quickly away from images and more towards video and carousels (or sidecars as Instagram calls them).
Between Phase 2 and Phase 3 engagement is down across the board but this is in line with the growth obtained during that change as well as the broader trend across the Instagram platform.
Next up in our analysis is our deep dive into the content creator’s videos/Reels. This shift really became evident between Phase 1 and Phase 2 of the content creator’s growth.
The shift in video duration from Phase 1 to Phase 2/3 indicates the shift in strategy from long form video to short-form video.
There is no relationship between video duration and engagement rate in Phase 2 and Phase 3. In Phase 1 there is a slight downward relationship between duration and engagement rate but this relates to long-form video, not Reels.
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. There have been slight changes from phase to phase, with each phase trending slightly more negative than the previous.
With some content creators, you will see trends between caption sentiment and reach (the more negative the higher the reach, or vice versa). This doesn’t seem to be the case with this content creator.
Word count has been trending down for captions across each phase. This trend starting with the transition with Phase 2 to Phase 3, which could be related to some of the growth. Although, this small change seems unlikely to have such a big impact, especially since the trend began three months prior to Phase 3.
There has been a noticeable shift in the number of sentences used in the caption from Phase 2 to Phase 3 as well but I also suspect that this is related to the drop in word count that began towards the end of Phase 2.
In fact, it looks like the trend in number of sentences began much sooner, at the start of Phase 2.
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
This is a very interesting chart that looks at the average number of hashtags used by month for the content creator. There is a strong trend down starting in Phase 2 and moving to the present day that corresponds with the decreased word count and sentence use found in the section above.
The beginning of Phase 1 is also very interesting. One possible explanation is that perhaps a personal account was converted to a business account since personal accounts tend to use much fewer hashtags.
Another interesting finding from the data on video views was that the more hashtags used by this content creator, the lower the views. The correlation between this relationship was low (0=no relationship, 1=perfect relationship), but it is still discernable to your eye.
|Total Video Views
|Total Video Views
Top and bottom hashtags are always interesting to me. It always surprises me how much of a difference you can see between different kinds of hashtags. A couple of things that stick out to me about the hashtags are that hashtags tend to be project-based tags, whereas bottom hashtags tend to be more brand-focused tags.
Affiliate Based Hashtags
|Affiliate or Not
|Total Video Views
Sponsored Based Hashtags
|Sponsored or Not
|Total Video Views
There are some interesting points in the affiliate and sponsored-based hashtags. Affiliates began from very early on in the creator’s journey and trended down over time. Sponsored posts started about the same time but were on a much smaller percentage basis.
Something that sticks out about sponsored posts at the beginning of Phase 3 is the very high percentage of sponsored posts. Perhaps one of the reasons why the content creator was able to grow so quickly at the start of Phase 3 is due to advertising, sponsored content, and whitelisting for paid media.
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.
- Learn to pivot: content creators that learn to analyze their data and adapt to changes in the Instagram environment are going to grow the fastest.
- Embrace short-form video: short-form video clearly isn’t going away and is the predominant form of social media at the moment.
- Be looking for sponsorships: sponsorships themselves can spur growth. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that this content creator had a high number of sponsorships at the start of Phase 3, which had high growth. Brands are willing to whitelist and spend money on your account to boost their posts which can lead to higher growth.
- Hashtags: hashtag use can vary greatly from creator to creator. It’s important to analyze your own data and see what is working for your own audience
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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