My Instagram account blew up in 2023, here's what happened.
I started my Instagram account in September 2016 and things were different back then :)
I'm not going to walk you through every single step from 2016 because otherwise we’ll sit here for 3 days, but I have highlighted what I’ve done over the last few years and how, all of it, lead me to gain 128k followers in the space of a month.
From 0 to 3k
It all started because a friend told said “you should put your art on Instagram”.
After a bit of auto-convincing, I set up my account and proceeded to upload pictures of the artworks. I made sure of 2 things:
1. my art was the focus, I had no plans to share my personal life online
and 2. pictures of my artworks had to be bright and good quality.
I wanted to make sure that as soon as you landed on my page you’d recognise that my account was all about art.
Back then I didn’t have a proper content strategy in place, so I made sure to post a mix of things, including behind the scenes shots of my work and process, as well as finished products.
Very quickly I realised people were very much intrigued by videos, so I started to share videos of my paintings. If you want to read more about how I create videos of my process, you can read all about it here.
Posting time-lapse videos of my process was a huge hit, and it helped me to gain even more followers.
In just a few months, I went from 0 to 3k followers. It was an incredible feeling, and I knew that I was on the right track. I was thrilled to see the results of my hard work and dedication, and I knew that I had to keep pushing forward not only to grow my account but also to keep creating more artworks I loved.
I also made sure to engage with my followers by responding to comments and messages, and asking for feedback on my work. This helped me to build a relationship with (some of) my followers, which was and still is crucial to growing a following on social media.
From 3 to 6k
Once I hit the 3k followers mark I noticed a drop. I was still posting daily but I noticed a drop in growth, while the account was still growing, reaching 6k was definitively slower than the first 3k.
Why? Because I started experimenting a bit more, with my style and my posting habits. Apparently instagram didn’t like that.
I was doing a bit of acrylic pouring, as well as my sponge work and sometimes I was posting my Lines (now Virtute) to my page. Instagram chaos. Definitively too much variety. People were following me for an artwork style and then the next day I was posting a different one.
This didn’t serve me well, but I didn’t know any better back then 🤷♀️
Hitting 8k, baby
This first one went viral because it was tapping into a very common frustration for artists on Instagram: spending a lot of time on your work to then post and blah… people unfollow you. The reel got 657k views and but most importantly sparked a conversation with almost 400 comments.
This, the second one, went viral because it was short (2 seconds) and people were intrigued by the fineliner. I also used a viral audio from Shitt’s Creek and showed my mistakes. I guess people like that!
The 2 reels combined allowed me to gain 2k, and finally move to an exciting 8k mark. It took me 4 years to go from 6k to 8k followers. Felt like forever but I also enjoyed the process, it really allowed me to experiment with a lot of different ideas, while trying new things.
But… Nothing could have ever warned me for the emotional rollercoaster of 2023…
133k … whaaaaat?
At the end of 2022 I posted this reel.
Got a bit of attention at the end of the year but then at the beginning of January 2023…
Look, I had an plan for 2023: double up my insta following. So the idea was going from 8k to 16k. Manageable. Normal. Doable.
Nothing, nothing, and I repeat NOTHING, could have ever prepared me for gaining 125k followers in the space of a month.
About that reel:
- it was a bit longer than usual (19 seconds)
- very fast paced (insta likes that and people too!),
- made you wonder what that tool was,
- answered a very specific questions: how do I create lines (details) with actual paint rather than markers?,
- it showed you how to answer that question
- I had a shot that had people laughing at/wondering if the tool was a syringe. that generated conversation and comments.
On January 1st I started noticing more attention to my account.
And on Jan 15th I hit 10k. It felt like I made it.
Here the screenshots and texts I was sending to my husband of what happened afterwards.
Once the reel went viral, a few other reels gained more visibility.
And by the end of February I had gone from 8k to 133k followers.
It was amazing and stressful and beautiful and panicky and I loved every minute of it.
But it was too much all of a sudden.
About 6 months after the original reel went viral, I posted it again to see if it had just been luck or the reel was a winning one.
The reposted reel got the 3.5M visualisations but (luckily) not as much following. It generated a lot of conversation and that was really good too.
So yes, the reel was good but I got also lucky.
To push my luck I posted it again and... oh boy... this reel doesn't disappoint.
So... what did I learn from this experience?
A mix of vague consistency in your posting habits, a strong consistency in what you post, and helping others will go a long way.
It didn’t take me 1 month to get to 141k followers, it took me since September 2016, when I started my account.
This was not an overnight success. This was work even when I was loosing followers, even when I didn’t feel like posting, even when I had to stop because I had baby A.
I did put a lot of work in creating my Instagram account. And with algorithms always changing and life up and downs, one thing that never went away is my desire to share my journey with you, my process, my failures and my achievements.
A chat with Meta
A few days ago I got a phone call from Meta and this is what they said.
They confirmed that Consistency is key:
- Post between 3 and 5 times a week. No need to post more than once a day, but be consistent. Focus on the quality of your posts and captions over quantity. Reels are good, but a good mix with posts and carousel is what the algorithm craves.
- Post at pick time. I had kind of forgot about this and so I have set up a content calendar and that makes it easier
- Use hashtags - 3 to 8 -as specific as you can and keep them in caption not in comments. I had been wondering about hashtags for a long time, and kept using them in my comments, but I was probably over using them without being too specific.
What’s next for me now you ask ?
Just a couple of days before Christmas 2023, I posted the reel again. And while I type, my account is a 141k followers. So that means about 9k followers more.
Now the goal is to work more on engagement, because, while I've been consistent with my posting habit, my frequency hasn't been optimal.
So I have set up an actual calendar with what to post and when, based on my offers.
At this moment, January 2nd, I have 2 months of content prepared. And while I hate the idea of batch content creation, if I want to grow, this is the only way to go.
Because, realistically, with a baby and a full time job, if I wait every day to be creative at posting time... I know it's not going to happen.
What's my end goal you ask?
When I show up, the response from people is phenomenal and I want to build a community of art lovers, creative minds and dreamers.
I have painted all my life and I want to share my knowledge with others.
I have been lucky enough to pick a full time job that helped me set up my website and the tech side of things quite easily. And I want to share my knowledge with other artists.
I'm learning the business side of things and if my mistakes could save you time, I want to share them with you!
But above all, I want to show artists that you can have a busy life, you can be working full time, you can have a family AND you can also run your art business.
And I think Instagram - despite my love/hate relationship with the app - is just the right place to make it happen.
I hope I’ll see you there!
PS: I offer 30mins Insta Consultations, where I’ll show you how I have been creating videos (even before reels were cool!), if you’re struggling with your posting habits or your account’s growth, let’s chat!