Deep Dive: From Zero to 1.7M – Instagram Creator Success Factors

Explore the journey of a successful Instagram content creator with 1.7M followers, as we dive deep into their growth, engagement, and content strategies. Learn about the key factors that contributed to their success, including posting frequency, content type, caption analysis, and hashtag usage. Gain valuable insights and tips that you can apply to your own Instagram account, and unlock the secrets behind becoming a thriving content creator on the platform.

Get ready for the next article in our Deep Dives series, where we’ll explore the journey of another content creator who’s made it big on Instagram. They’ve got just under 1.7M followers and have been working on their business further back than I can see (December 2017).

We’ll be covering growth and growth rate, post types and how they pivoted, engagement rates, post caption sentiment, length, and more. 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 content creator’s Instagram account so successful.

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    Instagram Growth

    For this creator, I wanted to focus on 2 Phases, in particular, the high-growth phase and the losing audience phase. In our Deep Dives so far we’ve focused on what creators are doing to grow their account, but I also think it’s important to highlight what’s happening when creators start shrinking.

    As you can see in the chart above, I’ve broken this creators growth into 3 different phases:

    • Phase 1: Through 11/25/2021
    • Phase 2: From 11/25/2021 to 2/01/2022
    • Phase 3: From 2/01/2022 to present

    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.

    For this creator, their growth rate has slowly been going down since 2017. Phase 3 has seen a growth rate under 0, which is different from any other creator we’ve looked at so far. In this deep dive, we will get into just exactly what changed for this creator’s account.

    What Changed At Each Phase?

    The phase transitions are very important. If creators analyze their data and look for trends, they might be able to replicate the explosive growth that happened at specific times.

    Let’s dive into the data to see what we can find!

    Number of Posts Per Day

    PhaseAverage Number of Posts Per DayTotal Number of PostsTotal Number of Days
    Phase 12.11 posts per day30111426
    Phase 21.01 posts per day6968
    Phase 31.00 posts per day460459

    It’s interesting to see how the posting frequency has changed over time for this account. In early Phase 1 it went from over 3 posts a day, down to 2 posts per day. Then in Phase 2 and 3, it’s dropped to essentially 1 post per day.

    Percentage of Posts that are Videos/Reels

    The shift in content type in Phase 3 to 100% Reels could be behind some of the contraction in the size of the creator’s audience. The majority of the creator’s audience was gained prior to the release of Reels and they could be expecting a certain type of content from the creator.

    Phase 13574 (69.38%)1341 (26.03%)236 (4.58%)
    Phase 213 (18.84%)31 (44.92%)25 (36.23%)
    Phase 317 (3.69%)63 (13.69%)380 (82.60%)

    So What Caused The Growth/Stagnation?

    The growth was caused by the following things:

    • Posting consistently and even up to 3 times per day
    • Focusing more on carousels during Phase 2, which were more important at that time.
    • The first big Reel (1.3M views) for the account occurred on 9/25/2021, just before Phase 2. In Phase 2 a second Reel (3.5M views) could have been responsible for the spike in audience size.

    The stagnation was caused by:

    • Changing their posting frequency
    • Shifting to Reels?

    I’ve noticed an interesting trend with larger creators that gained the majority of their audience prior to Reels being released. It appears that many of them struggle to pivot their businesses and recognize when to shift strategy.

    This shows the importance of always analyzing your data and testing new things. As a content creator, you should always be testing.


    Engagement has been steadily decreasing over time. This is normal as an account grows. There isn’t really anything that sticks out as a drastic change (the drop in Phase 2 is likely due to rapid growth).

    Engagement Rate by Post Type & Phase

    Interestingly, video has been performing better for the creator in Phase 2 and Phase 3, which is consistent with almost every other Deep Dive.

    Caption Analysis

    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. 97% of posts by this creator have a positive sentiment, which is a lot higher than other creators we’ve seen.

    Word Count

    Captions were also a bit shorter in the short growth Phase 2.

    It looks like the change in word count started in the middle of Phase 2 however, and trended down to it’s current state of about 50 words per caption today.

    Number of Questions by Phase

    Using questions has been a common tactic among creators to increase engagement for their content. I looked at the number of questions asked in their captions to determine if anything had changed.

    Phase 2 had a lot more questions in their captions compared to Phase 1 and 3.

    The average engagement rate is 1.48% when no question is asked. Interestingly, overall, this creator’s engagement decreases to 1.25% when at least 1 question is asked. However, when you look at just Phase 3, the average engagement rate is 0.471% when no question is asked and 0.569% when at least one question is asked.

    Comment Analysis

    For this deep dive, I took comments from 15 random posts in each phase and decided to look at how the comments have changed over time.

    Average sentiment in Phase 1 (0.264) was significantly higher than in Phase 2 (0.141) or Phase 3 (0.163)

    Phase 1

    Phase 2

    Phase 3

    Word clouds are always interesting to look at as they can give you insight into how comments are changing over time. The number of emojis used definitely increased in the 3rd Phase (despite what’s shown in the word cloud), which is kind of interesting. In Phase 1 there were 0.137 emojis per comment, in Phase 2 there were 0.474 emojis per comment, and in Phase 3 there were 0.816 emojis per comment.

    Looking into the number of comments with question marks, it appears that the creator is getting more questions today about their content.

    Video Analysis

    This creator, like many, is seeing a decrease in their average video duration.

    In Phase 1, video duration was 22.6 seconds, while in Phase 2, video duration was 27.0 seconds, and now in Phase 3 duration is down to 20.4 seconds on average.


    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

    It’s interesting to see hashtag use drop in Phase 2, when their growth was the highest, while in Phase 3 it has been climbing higher to the previous levels seen in Phase 1.

    This graph is interesting, in that it shows that the creator tends to grow their audience faster when they are using more hashtags.

    Top Hashtags

    RankTagCountEngagementAvg CommentsAvg LikesTotal Video ViewsVideo CountAvg Views

    Bottom Hashtags

    RankTagCountEngagementAvg CommentsAvg LikesTotal Video ViewsVideo CountAvg Views

    Affiliate Based Hashtags

    This account doesn’t really post affiliate links. There are some occasional posts from Amazon but other than that, not a lot.

    Sponsored Based Hashtags

    Interestingly, this account used to do a lot of Sponsored posts, and then stopped early in 2020 and they have never returned to the same level.

    Sponsored or NotCountEngagementAvg CommentsAvg LikesTotal Video ViewsVideo CountAvg Views

    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.

    • Posting Frequency: Post consistently and consider experimenting with multiple posts per day, especially during the initial growth phase. Keep track of your posting frequency and observe how it impacts your account’s growth.
    • Diversify Content: Utilize various content types such as images, carousels, and videos/reels to cater to different audience preferences. Keep up with platform updates and changes, and be ready to adapt your content strategy accordingly.
    • Engagement: Aim for positive sentiment in your captions to encourage engagement. Experiment with asking questions in your captions and analyze how it impacts your engagement rate. Consider using emojis in your comments to make your content more relatable and fun.
    • Analyze Metrics: Regularly analyze your account metrics, such as engagement rate, sentiment, word count, and caption analysis, to understand your audience’s preferences and optimize your content strategy.
    • Hashtag Strategy: Use hashtags strategically to increase reach and engagement. Monitor the performance of top and bottom hashtags and adjust your strategy accordingly. Keep track of how hashtag usage impacts your account’s growth and engagement.

    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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