3 Things I Learned About Instagram Growth

On a Phone Call with a Meta Representative in December of 2023

It’s been a while since I’ve written about Instagram growth, primarily because my account kind of died for about two years. But, hello, I’m back. For those of you who have never come across my blog, my name is Kelly and I am a full-time artist. Instagram growth has been a priority of mine since 2017 when it helped me gain traction in my art business and since then I’ve been trying to post all the helpful things I learn here.

Instagram is always changing. The algorithm has shifted too many times to count and with those changes comes prioritization of different features. If we are not in a place to adapt to these changes, we stagnate and eventually decline–which is what happened to me.

In late 2021 and early 2022, I stepped back from posting on social media like I used to (for reasons). During that time, I dropped by approximately 14,000 followers and no matter how much I tried to get back into my old posting routine through 2023, the decline continued. I know I am not unique and I know how easy it is to lose momentum. If you’re here, I feel your pain and it’s okay.

The Turning Point: Finally, Growth!

In the last few months, I have had more energy to shift my content style. What worked for Instagram as an artist in the past (still photos, clean aesthetics, process videos, longer time lapses, minimal text) no longer worked for me and I was determined to figure out how to pull my audience back in. (Because not only was I not seeing growth, but I was only being seen by about 1-5% of my existing followers.)

I am going to write a separate post about what I have learned about Instagram’s priorities and what the algorithm seems to favor, but I will keep it simple here. I needed to create content that focused less on my art and more on relatable art content. Less time-lapse videos of my process and more artist lifestyle clips and stories.

This led to me making this video that finally broke my average of 8k-12k views. This video goes against the aesthetics I knew to work in the past and it’s not the content I enjoy consuming myself. I posted it weeks ago and it is still getting attention.

Now, to the call with Meta. When that video hit 50k views, a prompt appeared on my account to sign up for a call with Meta to potentially speak to a representative about Instagram growth. I figured, why not? I feel like learning. A couple of weeks later, I got a call. (Because so many people asked, no, you cannot just call them. I do not have a way to contact them again.)

What Meta Said About Instagram Growth:

This was the explicit information I got from a representative over the phone about what the Instagram algorithm is looking for right now.

  1. Posting Consistently: Post 3 to 5 times a week with 2 to 3 of those posts being Reels and 1 to 2 being static posts. Reels are still being favored more than photos and that does not appear to be changing anytime soon.
    • The rep suggested not posting more than once per day as the algorithm takes some time to process content and roll it out. Your second post may just get buried.
  2. Use 3 to 8 Strategic Hashtags: Yes, hashtags still work and I have updated my How to Research Hashtags post just for you. Use relevant and niche tags on your Reels and photo posts to make your posts more searchable and accessible to people hungry for your content.
  3. Use Trending Audio: I know, I hate it too. Nothing makes me close the IG app faster than hearing the same clip for the 5th time in 60 seconds of scrolling Reels. But, this is the way.
    • I am new to using trending audio so I don’t know exactly how to guide you when choosing the best audio tracks, but I would assume it’s similar to hashtags. (Focus on relevant audio that fits your vibe. Don’t use giant trends as you’ll likely get swallowed up.

Trending Audio Continued:

You may be wondering how to tell if audio is trending and sadly I’ve heard from multiple users that they don’t see the trending arrow on their account like I do in the images below. This is what I see on the bottom of a Reel:

The left “Vulfpeck” clip is the audio and that little arrow signals it’s trending.

When you tap on the audio it brings you to the audio page here:

From here, you can see how many Reels use this audio and that this track is #23 on the trending audio list. Also, I just discovered this as I’m writing this post but when I tap on the “23 in Trending” it takes me to a list of ranked trending tracks:

Learning is fun. Okay, so if you can see this on your account, then just bookmark the trending audio you like and they will show up in your Reels saved audio clips when you go to make one. Easy peasy. If you can’t see the trending clips, maybe it’s your account type? I don’t know and I don’t feel like looking into it right now.

My Take on These Instagram Growth Tips:

Do what serves your art. If you don’t care about aggressive Instagram growth, then don’t let these tips dictate what you do while creating content. Especially using trending audio. I received a lot of comments from creators not wanting to follow a trend and I hear you. To that, I also say, someone has to be the trendsetter. If you are a musician, use your audio. Original audio clips of users posting their thoughts can become trending clips. You can’t predict these things, and just do what feels authentic to you and your art.

Also, checking all three of those boxes above will NOT guarantee your account finally grows. There is a lot that goes into building an audience and it’s not easy. I have a bunch of other posts that you may want to look at on this page: Instagram for Artists

The Secret Mission of the Meta Call: Threads

One of the other things the representative focused heavily on this call was Threads. In the end, this call essentially felt like a sales pitch to get me to give this Twitter/X replacement app a shot. I can’t blame them for it and to their credit, it worked. I mentioned before that Instagram continues to change and if we aren’t, as users, ready to adapt and change with it, then we are more likely to be left in the dust. Unlike last year, I now have the energy to try new things and have fun, thus, I am now on Threads.

There has been a trend with Instagram that with each new feature that gets rolled out, accounts that use these features gain more momentum. If Threads fits into that, then I may as well give it a go.

Alright, this post is long enough.


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Where to find me:

@kellyhelsinger (my art account)

@messyeverafter (my everything account)

@messyeverafter (Threads)

Further Reading:

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