21 July 2022 |

The secret to organic Instagram growth…



<aside> 💡 relevant platform updates and/or social media news, with your take on how it will affect the day-to-day of the typical social media manager.


1) How The Washington Post Topped 6 Million Instagram Followers


TLDR: In a time when Instagram growth feels like a monumental task (because it is), Washington Post has added 1.2 million followers in 12 months.

What’s the secret? 🤔

According to Ryan Detert, chief executive of Influential, a social media marketing agency:

“The Post has essentially borrowed the model of the meme account… They have found ways to visualize their content so that it’s easy to digest––it’s viral storytelling.”

And besides being a brand with lots of recognition (let’s call it what it is), this article cites 3 pillars of the WaPo’s IG playbook that drove most of its recent growth:

1) Fixating on SHARES as the North Star metric

According to the article…

“To encourage sharing, the publisher actively considers how to make each post as shareable as possible, a strategy that leans into the ease of discoverability that the platform is known for.”

2) Heavy use of Reels and vertical video

This isn’t a surprise. Instagram has been heavily incentivizing Reels with increased view count.

The WaPo Instagram has pulled over 250 MILLION views through Reels.

The craziest part?

The average view count per video is just about 1 million views. Insane.

Most brands that are taking Instagram seriously in 2022 have incorporated Reels into their playbook (if you haven’t… start).

3) Adding text to photos and videos to increase watch time + engagement

According to Detert, “Text makes images more arresting and encourages scrollers to pause, especially when the text is overlaid on a video.”

So… it stops the scroll.


These 3 pillars are supposedly the drivers of the Post’s significant Instagram growth in the past year. I have some thoughts.

Tommy’s Take: The 2022 Instagram playbook?

Memes and Reels.

It makes sense… both types of content are inherently shareable. Think about what content you send your own friends.

Banger memes and unhinged TikToks. Sure, let’s we can all pretend and say we send Reels for the sake of this article (but I know you’re actually sending TikToks LOL).

To further support the case for vertical video in 2022, let’s look at this data collected by Later — it’s based on 81 million IG feed posts.

Average engagement rate for feed posts in 2019 was 5.16%, and average engagement rate for feed posts in 2021 was just 2.88%. Significant drop off.

Why? IG is pushing Reels on users more and more — no matter how much we protest against it.

Instagram just shifted over to a 9×16, TikTok-esque feed, Reels seem to be getting a disproportionate amount of engagement… so, all in on Reels, right?

Wait one second.

Let’s not rush in with blind confidence in Instagram. We should all know better by now.

There’s some valid pushback to the Reels hype. Some social media profess speculate Reels views might be inflated. TikTok faces some similar speculation.

And you know what? I’m one of those social pros… hear me out. We see smaller accounts have videos ‘pop off’ — but when they say ‘pop off,’ they refer to view count. What about comments? What about new follows?

Views matter… but they’re not the only metric. And view inflation is a real possibility.

The takeaway: Okay, so where do I stand?

I generally agree with the Reels hype in 2022.

If you:

  • Already have an existing following on IG and want to keep growing (like the WaPo)
  • Are being subjected to the mental torture that is growing an IG following from scratch

Reels should be in your content strategy.

BUT… don’t through out other content formats. I would 100% still use static memes (super shareable if you have a sense of humor). And still test all sorts of other content types.

Your content should pass the “group chat test.” I first heard this term from Nik Sharma, and I love it. It means that your content should be the type of stuff your audience will send to their friends in a group chat.

And look… even if you do all of this, Instagram organic is going to be hard in 2022. I would urge you to look to platforms with better organic reach (especially if you’re starting from scratch).

But, if Instagram makes sense for your brand, the above tips are a good place to start when building your strategy.

PS – I’m thinking about asking 15+ top SMMs what’s working for them on Instagram right now… would that be helpful?

2) Social media platforms add more features that none of us asked for!! 😀

Screen Shot 2022-07-20 at 11.40.16 PM.png

TLDR: Rather than summarize one article here, I thought I’d run through the barrage of new platform updates we got it with this week:

Tommy’s Take: Idek anymore. I have none. Just ignore all of this. Can you tell I’m writing this newsletter at 12:47AM? LOL 🤣

Ok but for real. The majority of these updates aren’t worth wasting any mental energy on.

The new ‘payment via DMs’ feature from IG is intriguing (and could be useful) if your brand sells a physical product. BUT, it won’t overhaul your day-to-day.

I have the same opinion about the IG Reels ‘boost’ option. It’s something to keep your eye on, but there’s no need to jump into action right away. I sure as hell won’t.

So, my advice?

Stay the course. Keep doing what’s working. Stay focused.

Remember Monday’s newsletter about dealing with new platform features?

Don’t spend too much time worrying about ‘em unless you see multiple examples of success from other brands using said feature.

Stay focused on what’s working for you right now.

Ok, now for something more positive… 🤣⤵️


<aside> 💡 Breaking down a viral meme or post and why you think it did well. Could be a good conversation starter as well, generating replies to the email



This is the power of memes ⚡️

By the numbers, this tweet from Launch House pulled:

  • 629 retweets + quote tweets
  • 99 replies

On top of that… the account that posted this (@launchhouse) doesn’t have a massive following.

24.3K is nothing to scoff at — but we’re not looking at a Fortune 500 brand account with millions of followers here.

My point? Numbers like these are achievable.

And there are 3 key strategies most brands on Twitter can pull from this tweet to get more engagement this week….

Here they are:

1) Hasbulla memes always do well.

No, I’m not joking.

I’ve posted 4 Hasbulla memes from the Triple Whale account… and every damn time, they outperform average engagement.

The phenomenon seems silly. But there’s a larger theme I want you to see here. This is a great

Using an ultra-common (and beloved) meme format and adapting it for your industry is one of the easiest, lowest-lift ways to generate engagement.

Tapping into cultural trends (like a little guy from the mountains of Eastern Europe who’s taken over the internet) allows your brand to reach your audience in a way that’s native to the platform.

2) The meme digs at a pain point that’s relevant to their target audience.

The best memes speak to a specific pain point.

One simple question to ask yourself when brainstorming your meme captions is:

“What’s one thing my target customer wishes they can rant about on Twitter, but can’t?”

They won’t tweet it on their own account. But they will retweet it from yours under the guise of comedy.

The content is relatable, and gives them a socially acceptable way to vent about their frustrations.

(Bonus points if you’re able to tie it back to hour your product or service solves this pain point.)

See how that works?

3) The meme uses ultra-specific language.

The more specific you can get with your language, the better.

Instead of:

“investors looking over your shoulder”

The caption was:

“the angel investor who wrote a $1k check monitoring every move you make as a founder”

Option A might have done okay. Option B (clearly) took off. Specific language makes it feel like you can read your follower’s mind.

And let me be clear: specific doesn’t mean wordy.

Don’t write like you’re trying to hit a word count on your high school English essay.

Concise copy tends to do better for image based memes. But make that language powerful (by making it specific).

Oh, and be funny. That’s important, too.

BONUS tip: Capitalize on the attention.

Memes create attention. But attention is only one part of the marketing equation.

From there, you need to funnel that attention to the next logical step in the customer journey.

For Launch House, that’s their newsletter, Home Screen.

(Great read btw, you can sign up here — tell Toby I sent you)

My favorite part about this CTA is that it leans even more into meme language. This is why understanding platform history is so important.

The copy makes the CTA feel even more organic.

And finally, look at the timing of the CTA — one day after the OG post. Sneaky, but smart.

Adding the reply to the thread at a later time pushes the tweet back up onto the timeline. At this point, the tweet likely had great numbers, so the social proof encourages more people to like + retweet.

Make sense?

Cool, now let’s get into this week’s can’t-miss social media resources 👇