Instagram’s ever-changing algorithm has left creators believing that the platform is dead and account growth is next to impossible. But we’re here to tell you this theory is wrong.
You’re not alone if you’ve recently suffered a decline in Instagram engagement. This mutual experience may make it feel like all hope is lost when it comes to thriving on the platform. However, a shift in mindset and content strategy could be all you need to overcome your Instagram slump and watch your audience insights skyrocket.
“Many say that Instagram is too difficult to grow on these days but I have to disagree. The app has evolved, therefore we need to adapt. I used to blame the algorithm for no growth but it’s because I was doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.” This is what Vamp creator @sezzy.brown told us when we asked her how she gained 100k new Instagram followers in 6 short weeks.
Her secret? Instagram Reels.
It isn’t news that Instagram is favouring Reels content over static posts. In fact, Instagram has confirmed that they’re no longer a ‘photo sharing app’. So if you want to grow your account and reach the masses just like @sezzy.brown, then it’s time to start prioritising Instagram Reels. We recently caught up with Sarah to uncover her secrets to creating viral-worthy Reels.
First of all, thank you! And yes, I have seen some crazy growth over the last 6 weeks. I would consider my first Reel that went viral to be the first one that reached a million views. It was an instant noodles recipe with shredded tofu that I packed for my work lunch.
People loved the fact that it was a super easy and convenient way to pack a lunch and viewers were also very intrigued by the idea of shredding tofu with a cheese grater. These two things added real value to my content, which is why I believe it went viral.
It was also the first Reel I had shared that was under 15-seconds, as opposed to my usual 40 – 60 seconds. It was filmed on my iPhone instead of my Fuji X-T30 camera and I selected a cover photo straight from the clip in the Instagram app instead of a high-res image with text overlay created in Adobe Illustrator.
Basically, I did way less work than what I usually do and it performed way better!
And to answer your question, it was a slow burner. Like most of my viral videos, it seemed to take a good two weeks or more to hit the 1M mark.
Absolutely. I’ve had accounts with hundreds of thousands of followers reshare my content or give me a shout-out in the past, which has resulted in an extra few hundred followers. But that’s nothing compared to the growth I’ve seen in the last 6 weeks.
Once I changed my style of Reels, as mentioned earlier, every second or third Reel I posted was going viral. In this one month, I had two Reels reach nearly 20M views each, with four or five others hitting a few million views each as well. During this time, I was gaining between 3000 – 6000 followers a day!
On no other occasion have I experienced such an influx of new followers.
My growth has plateaued a little now. I’m typically gaining between 400 – 700 followers a day, because I’m constantly posting between 3 – 5 Reels a week and at least one of them hits 1M views.
I jumped on the Reels train a few months after the feature dropped. At first, I was a little nervous. Creating videos as opposed to still images seemed like a lot more work and I was really unsure of how to make a video flow nicely.
I just wish I realised earlier that when Instagram drops a new feature, you need to jump straight on it! They will always favour and push content that uses their new features.
Two major things have changed in my creative process over time. I now think more about the viewer and how they will gain value from my content.
For example, I don’t post just for the sake of posting anymore. I ensure 95% of my Reels have an easy-to-follow recipe that people are going to want to save and share. I say 95% because I also think it’s important to still share things with your audience that you love creating, and have no intention to track the insights or worry about engagement.
I also now observe current viral videos and adapt my content to reflect what’s trending, as opposed to creating the same type of Reel over and over and seeing no change in results. As an example, I noticed that all the viral videos in my Reels feed were shot on an iPhone, went for no more than 15 – 20 seconds, and all used the same trending songs. The first Reel I posted with these attributes ended up being my first viral video!
#1 Try to add as much value in the least amount of time. Ideally you want your Reel to be under 15-seconds. The shorter the Reel, the more likely the viewer will watch 100% of the video. This tells the Reels algorithm that people are enjoying the content, thus pushing it out to more viewers.
#2 Notice that 99% of all viral videos are using a trending sound. As tempting as it can be to use your favourite song, you are missing one of the easiest ways to boost your Reels views if you don’t use a trending sound.
#3 Use 5 – 10 hashtags related to your niche. People often search for content through Instagram via hashtags, so this makes your content more discoverable. Plus, it helps the algorithm understand what your content is about, allowing it to push your video to those users who are regularly engaging with similar content.
#4 It’s always great to share original ideas, recipes, or information that people will be intrigued by. However, it’s equally as important to jump on the trends. A good percentage of the viral videos I see in my Reels feed are trending dances, recipes, songs or challenges. So I make sure to tap into relevant trends, and I highly recommend you do the same.
#5 You want to make it super easy for viewers to watch, understand and enjoy your video. One of the best ways to do this is to ensure it looks visually appealing. Shoot your Reels in good lighting (natural lighting is best but not essential) and ensure you have a tidy background. Clutter will throw viewers off and make them scroll right by your content.
Instagram is favouring Reels content over static posts, so now is the perfect time to start posting Reels consistently. I would recommend posting at least 3 – 4 Reels per week. Remember, the more Reels you post, the more chances you have of going viral.
I know. It sounds like a lot! I used to think making video content was so much work too. But once you get the hang of it, it becomes much easier. In fact, I’m doing less work now and seeing more results.
I shoot, edit and upload all from my iPhone. Prior to that, I was filming on my camera, exporting those files to my computer, editing in Adobe Premiere Pro, exporting them back to my phone and then uploading them. I would then spend another extra hour editing the cover photo. Posting one Reel used to take 2 – 3 hours of hard work.
So while I think it’s important to have a visually appealing Reel, it definitely does not need to be shot with high-tech gear. If you have a phone and some creativity, you can create viral Reels content!
Learn more about Instagram’s latest algorithm update. Or discover tips, direct from Instagram, about how to create effective branded video content.