Instagram: My first post to get over 1000 likes in less than 12 hours

Instagram: My first post to get over 1000 likes in less than 12 hours
14,852 Followers

It was a Friday night and when I opened the door to my apartment there was Matt watching a documentary about Jim Carrey on his laptop (we don’t live together, but we live ~1 minute away from each other). After we finished eating dinner and as I was getting restless thinking about my next post I looked at Matt and had a bright idea: I could talk about working with him on his website.

The Story behind the photo

Early on in our relationship I told Matt I wouldn’t be his webmaster (a conversation which he is still upset about and I still stand by because as a rule I don’t develop for friends) but around the year mark I figured we were in it for the long haul and got him set up with a domain name and told him to play around with WordPress – that’s how I was first introduced to website development and blogging in high school.

Almost a year later he hadn’t gotten far in the process (read: hadn’t logged in in months) and I suggested we take a look: I’d take over the design reigns and he would just help me fill in the content. We had a great night of looking through templates, designing sidebars, and figuring out where his acting resumes should go. In a couple of hours we’d built a content-light framework that would be complete with some blanks and photos filled in.

Throughout the process I was doing, well, what I do for work 40 hours a week: editing the HTML, CSS, and php so that the website would look how I wanted. Matt was in relative awe of the process and asked questions when he didn’t understand what I was doing (“Where do you click?”, “What does that mean?”, “How do I do this?”). It made me giggle because those are questions that I haven’t asked myself in 4+ years and I forgot that this is something I’m only good at because I’ve spent so much time doing it, not necessarily because it’s intuitive.

So the next day when I had my model-boyfriend captive watching a movie on the couch I took that reminder and ran with it

(Side note: He’s legitimately a professional model so when he agrees to do photos with me on my social media I like to tease him about lending an air of authenticity to the photo)

I pulled out the lights and the tripod, grabbed my computer, took a couple of photos, and had him re-affirm which one he preferred (the entire time engrossed in his movie). I posted it at 8pm on a Friday night after a streak of “eh” photos that hadn’t been doing mind-blowingly well.

I Guess People Liked It

Within 12 hours the photo had over 1,000 likes and the post had been saved over 100 times. By the time 24 hours rolled around it beat every other photo in every statistic except comments with well over 30k users viewing it. Part of it may have had to do with the fact that apparently Matt looks like the blonde alter ego of Martin Garrix (a famous Dutch musician/DJ) and people kept doing double takes because they thought the DJ was the one in the photo.


I think there’s a better explanation for why this photo was such a hit.

In posting this photo, I upped my relatability factor

Most of my posts are “Hello, I am a developer and I am doing this” – I learned HTML 8 years ago and the first time I was truly “new” to programming was half a decade ago, so the whole “I’m new to development” theme doesn’t really work for me because I’m not and I don’t want to fake it. I don’t really care about textbook algorithms or talking in-depth about prepping for coding interviews because I’m past that point in my life and I tend to keep work at work (so I don’t post how-to videos or blog posts about the tech-lifestyle much). My demographic is pretty much: people who are already familiar with the language of software development and like pretty pictures.

In contrast, Matt is a total newbie and that experience resonates with a much broader audience. In any field the number of amateurs will far exceed the number of professionals, so it makes sense that a post about someone asking questions about basic development elements would reach way more people than a post that’s only understood by people who have had some type of professional development experience. This is one of those, “Duh,” concepts that I’ve briefly thought about before but never followed up on because I didn’t think it would make that much of a difference.

How this will affect my posting in the future

I’m going to be answering more questions, that’s for sure. After thinking about some of my favorite content (podcasts, websites, etc.) I realized that most of my favorites have some level of audience question/answer participation which is both entertaining and keeps people engaged. Stuff like Dear Hank and John, Quora, Radiolab, whatever, all involve audience members asking questions and everyone seeing the response. That format would also mean that I don’t have to expend as much energy coming up with clever and relevant captions (captions get really hard after a while, guys).

TL;DR

I managed to take a photo that resonated with a large audience, probably because it involved someone new to programming and in any industry the number of newbies far exceeds the number of people-who-get-paid-to-do-things. I’m going to try to integrate both more question-asking and question-answering into my posts to see if that increases my engagement rate.

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