Going viral with AI on Instagram
Recently my business partner Topher Welsh and I were able to take his Instagram account from 1k to 125k in only 8 weeks flat. When I tell my friends who are in the influencers what we did they almost can’t believe it. Some of them have almost 100k in followers after 4 years of continued growth. What we did was part luck and part skill with 20 years of experience each behind it. We knew there were some simple methods that could be used to get our content to take off. Marvel babies were born…. Expanding into other pop culture icons.
AI is a bad word for artists these days but with it, we were able to post 1–2 times a day. Each post had between 4–8 images all related together. We knew that if we used AI, we would be able to make base images and then Photoshop them to look like the images we wanted. (We are both professional designers.) This method is just like how other artists might use stock images and then edit them into a new piece. There is a misconception that it’s a collage tool that cuts out pieces of other art to make new ones which is incorrect. AI analyzes images and then creates new images based on machine learning algorithms.
[While we use Midjouorney, we do believe that artists should be able to opt out of their trained data set and these generative AIs should be retrained with ethical means. We also believe that retraining should also include non-bias models for a better representation in their outputs. We hope to see this change in the future.]
This is how we did it…
Knowing the Basics:
It’s going to be hard to grow on IG without knowing the basics. There are things you will have to research like which hashtags to use for your content, how to make reels, and what the best starter image for a carousel. These are conditional on your content. Some people may have a great engagement with normal photos and some might find more success with just reels or stories. You will need to research what works for others so you can copy their formula. Our niche was “baby versions of famous pop culture icons”.
4 Quadrant - Method:
I like to use a system called the “4 Quadrant Method” invented by the studio Cineasaurus. It basically pulls from 4 specific areas that allow for content to find maximum reach.
- Fandom: You can create content around subject matter that people are already interested like Starwars, Marvel, Ghostbusters, Nascar, cakes, etc. By utilizing these fandoms you can tap preexisting audiences rather than building your own. Just remember to keep your feed of content related to each other in some way. If you build a following around cartoons but then start making content around hiking you have essentially “bait & switched” your followers. They will leave in droves.
- Flagpole content: Content released around an event, release, or holiday can give you a boost because people are talking about the subject matter. Our best release over the 6 weeks was that of the Addams Family because the show Wednesday had just been released. It got 3 times more views than the next post. People went as far as getting the pieces tattooed on their bodies!
- Quality: You need to be able to judge your content independently. Too many people fall in love with their own work expecting other people to feel the same way about it. That just doesn’t work, coming from a place of a professional we can judge a set of works pick out the best ones then improve upon them. This improves the quality of the page overall.
- Marketing: You have to have a distribution system to put your work in other places to guide people back to your page.
It’s not a problem if its a feature - Method:
One of the downsides of using Midjourney as a base is that it has a hard time doing hands and feet. We used this to our advantage. Instead of fixing the issues in photoshop, we made sure to leave them in resulting in people feeling the need to call out the imperfections. This led to more engagement, with the posts spreading their reach. I’ve seen people purposely leave mistakes in their reels as a way of enticing people to leave comments correcting them.
Credit and community!
There was an influx of accounts making things out of our content. They were seen in everything from printed on walls, used in marketing content, reuploaded to wallpaper websites, and even was seen tattooed on people. We asked people to tag and credit the account if they were going to re-upload the content. We had to contact Instagram several times over stolen work and accounts passing them off as their own.
The Metrics… How did we do?
8-week growth Growth: Around 12,400% increase
Accounts reached: 16.9 Million
Accounts engaged: 980k
Engagement: 4.1% Rate
Note: Engagement for Instagram is typically very low across all metrics.
Less than 1% is low engagement
Between 1% and 3.5% is average/good
Between 3.5% and 6% is high (This is where our account ranks)
More than 6% is incredibly high
See the account for yourself on Instagram