Deep Dive: From Zero to Viral – Dissecting a DIY Content Creator’s Meteoric Rise on Instagram

In this week's Deep Dive, we're unraveling the secrets behind a DIY content creator's phenomenal success on Instagram. From gaining a staggering 840,000 followers in just 30 days to consistently engaging their audience, this creator has defied the odds and mastered the art of growth on the platform.

Get ready for the third article in our Deep Dives series, where we’ll explore the journey of another DIY content creator who’s made it big on Instagram. They’ve got just over 900,00 followers and gained the majority of their audience during a 30 day time period in July of 2022.

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 DIY content creator’s Instagram account so successful.

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    Instagram Growth

    This creator is unlike any other creators we’ve seen so far. Last week we saw stair-stepped growth, and the week before we saw linear growth. This week we see explosive growth.

    As you can see in the chart above, I’ve broken this creators growth into 4 different phases:

    • Phase 1: Through 11/15/2021
    • Phase 2: From 11/15/2021 to 6/26/2022
    • Phase 3: From 6/26/2022 to 8/3/2022
    • Phase 4: 8/3/2022 to present day

    Growth in this manner is usually due to virality, which usually has very interesting data to study.

    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 is close to 0 except for a couple of surges in growth at the beginning of Phase 2, and all during Phase 3.

    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.

    Number of Posts Per Day

    PhaseAverage Number of Posts Per DayTotal Number of PostsTotal Number of Days
    Phase 19.1% of days had a post32352
    Phase 213.9% of days had a post31223
    Phase 315.8% of days had a post638
    Phase 49.8% of days had a post23234

    Phase 1 had long periods of inactivity, and Phase 4 is following the same pattern. This makes sense since both Phase 1 and Phase 4 have little growth. If you aren’t always posting content as a creator, you won’t grow. The end of phase 2 also had multiple weeks where there were not any posts.

    Percentage of Posts that are Videos/Reels

    Like most creators on Instagram, this creator shifted more towards Reels as they became more popular. Since the middle of Phase 2, this creator has posted 100% Reels until just this past month. Not surprisingly, the content that went viral in Phase 3 was a Reel.

    Phase 132 (45.1%)30 (42.3%)9 (12.7%)
    Phase 21 (3.2%)5 (16.1%)25 (80.6%)
    Phase 30 (0%)0 (0%)6 (100%)
    Phase 401 (4.3%)22 (95.7%)

    So What Caused The Growth?

    One Reel caused all of the growth for this creator. This real today has 13.6M views, 534k likes, and 3,795 comments. In one week, they gained 450,000 followers.

    The interesting thing about this is Reels, is it’s basically an advertisement for the content creator. It introduces you to the creator, tells you who they are, and what they are doing, it talks about what kind of projects you will see and why you should stick around.

    It would not surprise me at all if this Reel was used as an advertisement or was boosted to help spur the content creator’s growth. This is a known audience growth tactic and can pay off well if you think about it in terms of an investment. The key is to know your customer’s lifetime value so that you can calculate ROI.


    The engagement rate for this creator was incredibly high until their content went viral. When their content went viral, they gained a ton of followers and their engagement rate dropped. Their average engagement rate in Phase 1 and 2 was >10%, in Phase 4 it is down to 1.41%. 1.41% engagement for a creator of this size, in this niche, is 2x the average engagement rate.

    Engagement Rate by Post Type & Phase

    As most creators recognized, Reels when released had a much higher than average engagement rate. This creator was able to recognize that and pivot to doing more Reels. Without recognizing this change in Phase 2, this creator likely wouldn’t have gone viral in Phase 3. Reels take a lot of practice to get good at.

    Last week, Reels were not the top form of engaging content. What works for one creator won’t always work for another. Double down on what works for you, not just what the masses are telling you.

    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. 85% of posts by this creator have a positive sentiment.

    I decided to split out Phase 3 from the other phases. I think if Phase 3 was longer it would look a lot like Phase 2. There just isn’t a lot of data (6 posts) during this Phase because of how short it was.

    Phase 2 was more negative than the other phases, and their audience seemed to like that.

    There is a slight negative relationship between caption sentiment and video view count. The more negative, the higher the view count.

    Word Count

    Phase 3 had much shorter captions, which is an interesting finding.

    As with our last two creators, caption word count has been trending down over time.

    Despite the finding above of Phase 3 having a lower caption length, there was no relationship between caption word count and video views:

    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

    This creator usually asks a question about once every 4 posts. The interesting thing though is that engagement actually goes down for this creator whenever there is a question mark in their caption:

    The average engagement rate in Phase 4 is 2.21% when no question is asked but it is 1.15% when a question is asked. This is a pretty interesting finding.

    Video/Reels Analysis

    Next, I wanted to look into how their videos have changed over time. Videos, being the number one content type for most creators on most platforms are important to understand for creators. Lets take a look at what this creator is doing in each of their different phases of growth.

    Video Duration

    Video duration has gotten shorter in Phase 4. In Phase 2 and 3 it was pretty similar with an average duration of about 20 seconds. Phase 1 had a more diverse range of video durations.

    Video duration did have a slight negative impact on the number of views that a video received.

    There was no relationship at all between video duration and engagement rate.


    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

    The number of hashtags used has been trending down since about May 2021. This is consistent with the finding that the number of words in their captions has also been trending down.

    For this creator, there was also no relationship between the number of video views and the number of hashtags used.

    Top Hashtags

    RankTagCountEngagementAvg CommentsAvg LikesTotal Video ViewsVideo CountAvg Views

    Bottom Hashtags

    RankTagCountEngagementAvg CommentsAvg LikesTotal Video ViewsVideo CountAvg 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. The last two creators had top hashtags that this creator had on the bottom. I can’t say I’ve seen many creators use the reelsofinstagram and the reels hashtags before so that sticks out as interesting.

    Affiliate Based Hashtags

    This creator, as far as I can tell, does not use an affiliate-based hashtags such as #amazon, #ltk, etc.

    Sponsored Based Hashtags

    Sponsored or NotCountEngagementAvg CommentsAvg LikesTotal Video ViewsVideo CountAvg Views

    This is that rare creator where engagement is actually higher on sponsored posts. A creator like this is incredibly valuable to brands because of the increase in engagement on advertisement posts.

    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 how to calculate customer lifetime value to determine if advertising is right for you.
    • Explosive growth can’t always be replicated, sometimes it’s luck. Being in the right place, at the right time, so that luck can happen requires consistency. Keep posting and moving forward.

    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.

    When You Are Ready, There Are 3 Ways I Can Help:

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