From 0-22K followers in under 12 months

The Grid

Hey y’all,

I’m currently in LA and have been getting settled in here. It’s been a great few weeks and excited to continue to explore this city.

Today I want to discuss how I grew my Instagram account from 0 to over 22k in 11 months. The lessons apply to any content creator, builder, or really anybody interested in reaching more people with your message.

Welcome to all 668 people (up 10 this week).


Let’s dive into this weeks edition.

It’s never been easier and harder to build an audience. You don’t need major media corporations or publications to launch your personal brand or thoughts. The gatekeepers have been removed and opened access to everyone. That’s what also makes it harder than ever. Information and noise are everywhere. So how can you stand out?

I’ve talked before about how I built my Twitter audience. As it stands right now that audience is over 14k. In June of 2020 it was at 300. The strategy for growing Twitter continues to be fairly simple.

Pick a few topics. Tweet on them relentlessly. Engage with everyone.

Honestly, my Twitter growth has slowed as I tweet less and have less time to engage on that platform. There’s no secret other than consistency and value.

But part of the reason for that slowed growth comes down to switching my focus from only Twitter to other platforms. One of which is Instagram. Instagram makes sense for me because I’m a speaker and coach. Creating videos on IG works well for me and allows me to demonstrate my expertise instead of just saying I have expertise.

One of the things that entrepreneurs, builders, and creators need to understand is where their skillset shines the most. I’ve talked about this before because it’s important to sometimes go against the crowd. People on Twitter hate on IG. It’s vain, shallow, and fake. That’s what they say.

Sure there is some of that but there’s also a great deal of valuable information.

So back on August 29 I posted my first IG photo on my account @therobbiecrab. Then I started re-using old videos. I posted a 2nd time on September 14. I posted the next two days and then stopped posting until November 22.

That’s when I really started taking IG seriously. I had around 50 followers on November 22.

I didn’t have a clue what I was doing.

What I did know is that I needed to follow a similar strategy as on Twitter. Speaking, creator economy, and storytelling. Those are my topics and so I focused on them.

As I posted consistently but saw no growth I realized I missed a key focus for anything on social media. Engage with others.

I was posting and then ghosting.

So what did I decide to do to help me grow my account?

I asked for help.

There are two basic levers. Money or time. I could spend all my time and zero money or I could spent money and save my time.

It’s true for anything. It’s true for IG, it’s true for public speaking, and it’s true for storytelling too. Time or money. Save one and spend the other.

When I asked for help that meant paying an expert on IG growth and content creation.

On December 7th you can see a change on my account. On December 17th one of my videos received 794 views. Nothing earth shattering but a huge improvement over the 50 followers just 1 month before.

So I kept creating and listening to the advice of someone who knew this space. I would create videos and send articles, threads, and tweets to be turned into visually appealing IG posts.

I didn’t have the time to spend optimizing it for IG. I was building a business.

Consistency mattered and this freed up my time to respond to comments and begin engaging with others. Growth started happening slowly.

A carousel posted on December 30 did 575 likes on IG. HUGE growth.

I was very happy with the person I was working with because the account was growing, engagement was up, and it finally felt like forward momentum was picking up.

Then I made a change. I brought on a full team who analyze other pages, provide me with breakdowns on my content, workshop ideas together, and most importantly can create an aesthetic that fits with my long term personal brand building approach.

The videos looks professional and appealing to watch. They pushed me to become more casual and conversational. It was a different vibe that IG wanted than the super polished YouTube style videos I was used to creating.

In January I started seeing videos get 2k views. Then 3k. I started experimenting with stories and how to best use them. I wanted to build connections with people. My DMs quickly filled up. I talked to my audience. Learned about them. Helped them.

Guess what?

My account grew. Fast.

Things were good. Then I posted a video on February 22nd and all hell broke loose.

My account got attacked. I was reported for impersonating…myself.

Instagram shut my account down. I couldn’t access it. I couldn’t get any help from IG. I was lost. At this point I had around 8k followers.

I didn’t get my account back until March 16.

Luckily for me I found a person that I had a connection to inside of IG and they were able to fix it internally.

But that meant 3 weeks of silence.

My account was dead and while it came back to life, that loss of consistency hurt. Views went down. Likes went down.

I was frustrated.

But I just had to go back into consistent content creation. Engage. Engage. Engage.

Over the next few months that’s the approach I took. By mid April I started seeing 3k plus views again on videos. I also started experimenting with topics to see if I could find something that connected more with my audience.


My team wanted to test it out.

The test didn’t really drive anything because the funny thing is that people are actually very interested in public speaking. They want help with this subject. They want to learn how to tell a story. They want to learn how to hook an audience and create a memorable theme.

So I went harder on the things I knew resonated with my audience.

Part of this was just taking what had worked on Twitter and re-creating and re-purposing. If a tweet popped off on Twitter, I made a video about it for IG. If I made a thread on Twitter, we turned it into a carousel on IG.

July is when things finally picked back up consistently. After 3 months of consistent work, I started seeing my posts pull in people from the explore page. I started getting a steady stream of new DMs. New followers flooded in during July.

Three videos popped off and hit at least 4500 views. One video nearly hit 6k views. One video did break 6k views.

All of a sudden I looked up and comments were popping off on my videos. People were learning. I had my first 1000 like post.

Social proof validated my page and so more and more people came to check it out. In July I ended up adding around 6k followers. I went from 16k to over 22k. Even more fun is seeing people I’ve looked up to or followed over the years start to follow me because then I get to have interesting and fun conversations with them.

The doors that open up through this growth continue to amaze me. So as I move forward I continue to follow a simple strategy.

I ask my audience what they want to hear more about. I use polls. I answer DMs.

Just like in my Twitter growth days, I engage and stay consistent. I post between 4-5 times a week. I deliver value in my stories as well as social proof. I sneak a few lifestyle things in the stories just to show I’m a real person. But mostly, I over deliver on value.

It’s just my style. And it’s they style I’ll continue to use because it works.

So what are the 3 takeaways for you?

  1. Pick your topics and focus

  2. Stay consistent and engage with your audience

  3. It takes time to get the traction and momentum that you want.

If I can do it, you can too.

Spent some time with friends at the LA Art show this weekend and also had Korean BBQ for the first time.

Performative Speaking Cohort: Late Fall

If you’re interested in applying just reply back to this email.

Performative Speaking Group Coaching Program: Full Details Here

I’ll be speaking at the ASU GSV conference in San Diego next week. The panel is on the Rise of Community and Cohort Based Learning. I’m really excited to talk about my experience and thoughts with other leaders in the space like Wes Kao and Andrew Barry being moderated by John Danner.

If you’re down that way let me know. Also if you’re in LA, let me know!

Here’s an interesting talk about how the best Ted Talks have the most hand gestures.

See you for the next issue.

As always send any questions or thoughts you have my way!