I Posted a Reel on Instagram Every Day for One Year: Here Are the Results

One of the most recommended strategies for social media growth is posting often, and I set out to test that theory for 2024. I posted a reel every day for a year so you don't have to. The results are not what you'd expect.

I’m a landscape photographer who’s been on the road full-time for nearly three years, living and breathing content creation. Finding ways to grow an audience is important to my livelihood, and the transition from photos to videos across all the social platforms made posting consistently very challenging as a photographer. I found a middle ground that worked really well to be able to stick to the challenge without consuming too much of my time, but did posting every day grow my followers?

How I Did It

Turning a photo into a Reel

I started this with inspiration from a friend of mine, Jonny, who posted a photo reel every day for the month of October back in 2022. He had decent success, and it was the perfect blend of photography that still fed Instagram's incessant algorithm requirement for posting reels over photos. The format was simple: select a photo from my catalog that fits a 9x16 aspect ratio, put a typewriter-style text on it, animate it with the project name, location, and number in the series, and boom - I’ve turned a photo into a reel for Instagram. You can see exactly how these were created and animated in the article's video. This simple formula was crucial because the truth is, I personally and vehemently hate worrying about social media. It doesn’t necessarily bring me satisfaction or joy, but I also recognize if I want to afford food, neglecting it just hurts my business.

Batch processing Reels

Thus, posting every day for a year was going to be a big challenge for me, and the only way I was going to stick with it was knowing I could save time by batch processing many of the Instagram reels. At first, this was selecting random images from my catalog, but eventually, I found the trick to make it easier on myself was to create themes. Things like mountains, trees, oceans, or places like Alaska, Europe, California, etc.

This also allowed me to reuse images multiple times, as long as there was enough time between posting them. I’d come up with a theme, go through my photo catalogs over the past couple of years, pick out the ones that fit that theme, put them all into Premiere, and insert them into the formula, export, and airdrop to my phone. I’d make 30-60 Instagram reels in a day. Once I batch processed the next month or two of reels, every day I’d go to post, select what I’d consider peaceful audio, and hit post. Rinse and repeat for 364 more days.

The process was tedious but doable. Were the results worth it, though?

The Results

This Net Gain of Roughly 775 Followers was only for May to October 2023

It appears over the year I gained roughly 1,800 followers. I say roughly because the stats on Instagram only go back 90 days, while on Meta’s business site we have more data, as in I can see the reach, saves, and shares of every post since the start of the project but I cannot see my follower stats before May of 2023. Thus, from May 28th to October 20th, I gained roughly 775 followers. My growth was pretty consistent, so if I’m generous, I can extrapolate that I gained roughly 1,800 followers by posting an Instagram reel every day for a year.

Maybe for you, that number seems decent. That’s a few followers a day. But for me, that return from a business perspective is quite bad. This isn’t even factoring in the follows I might get organically from YouTube, Fstoppers articles, or a myriad of other outside factors during that period.

Notice average view counts

I never expected these photo reels to blow up. Most of them average 1,000 views, with some being above average in the 2-3,000 view range. One thing I loved about them was they were just photos from a photographer. I had to wrap them in a slightly animated package, but at the core of it - they were just my photography. I also never spent a bunch of time on the music or went searching for something trending. I just found soft or mellow music that was suggested by Instagram, and that not only saved me a lot of time, but it also meant I got to focus on more important things in my daily life. Maybe not picking trending audio ruined my results? I doubt it… But knowing all of this, was this just a waste of time and effort? The answer is no, but not because of what you might think.

The Lesson

Posting an Instagram reel every day for a year was not a waste of time, like I said in the beginning, this was more of a challenge to myself than it was hoping for huge results. I’ve personally always struggled with social media. I redefined “success” for this project to be posting every day without missing a day, regardless of how many people chose to follow me. With this in mind, all I had to do to be successful was to post every single day. It has taken me years to disconnect my self-worth from the "like count" associated with a post. If you take anything away from this insight, it should be knowing that your photography, art, creations - whatever it may be, have no correlation to how much reach you have on a social media platform.

A few weeks ago, I made an eight-second reel on Instagram from a video clip that was visually engaging, added some trending audio to it, and within a few days, I got roughly 180,000 views netting me over 500 followers. Compare those numbers to the results I told you earlier in this article. Maybe your first thought is that post frequency isn’t as important as everyone says, or maybe you're like me and slip into the thought that your work isn’t good enough.

I spent a year posting hundreds of what I would deem decent photography that took me thousands of hours to find, capture, and edit. So, based on my results, does that mean my photography is garbage or unlikeable? No - absolutely not. It probably just means photos in reels aren’t what people want to see. This is a reminder to all creators out there that no matter how early you wake up for sunrise, or how much money you spent on a camera, how long you’ve been making art, or struggled in the pursuit of something you love - none of that matters to an algorithm. All that matters is playing the game optimally with what you’ve created.

Think about it like this. Pretend you’re playing a game of chess. You know the rules of the game. You’re actually really good at the game, but you decide you want to do something different by trying to win only moving your pieces forward and never backwards. It’s not an optimal strategy, but it’s a strategy that means you don’t have to spend all your time thinking about your moves! While this is totally allowed in the rules of the game, you cannot do it expecting to win and then blame the game when you lose.

The algorithm is the game. I knew the rules, and I decided to play the game suboptimally because it was the only way I knew I’d stick with posting a reel every day to Instagram for a year without burning out. Sure, sometimes this game’s rules change, and that can be incredibly frustrating. For the most part, though, you know how to play. This is why you have to disconnect your self-worth as an artist from the game. It’s just business, and if you’re like me, you might even choose not to play most of the time. That balance is completely up to you.

I hope you found this insightful and take away that the best thing we can do as creators is try our best to disconnect numbers from our self-worth.

Alex Armitage's picture

Alex Armitage has traveled the world to photograph and film some of the most beautiful places it has to offer. No matter the location, perfecting it's presentation to those absent in the moment is always the goal; hopefully to transmute the feeling of being there into a visual medium.

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Should have posted a puppy reel a day, I really enjoy those 😅 joking aside, thanks for doing the experiment and sharing the results.

I love puppy reels!

What an interesting experiment. I'm terrible at posting. I get one like or follower for every 50 my peers get... but I also out bill them probably 5:1 so I don't worry about it too much.

Great data-driven article. While it's easy for me to be the grumpy, "get off my lawn social media," guy, social is a marketing tool that benefits those who leverage it. If you're a full-time photog getting by without social, then respect and more power to you.

I no longer see any value in Instagram.

I think reels algorithm just feeds narcissism so people feel warm and fuzzy and continue to waste their time on IG, and consequently exposed to more ads and high activity rate for the platform. From what I understand, and it makes sense from what I see, even if you scroll past a reel and it starts playing just by scrolling past, it counts as a view. The reason why I say it makes sense is because of the actual interaction: likes and comments, their total is much much lower than the view count. If image posts got a view count whenever someone scrolled past, I guarantee the numbers will be just like the reels.

For instance, if you take this current reel with over 3K views, only 365 bothered to engage to like and 6 commented. The engagement numbers are more or less roughly the same as the image posts. Even going back to 2018.

But do views translate into sales?