How One Instagram Influencer Went From 0 to 45K Followers and Six Figures With Reels

Instagram Reels are taking over the platform – and smart influencers are cashing in on the trend. Consider these eye-popping stats:

  • Reels are growing 220% faster in terms of engagement compared to regular Instagram videos
  • Accounts that post Reels regularly grow their follower count 113% faster than accounts that don‘t
  • The average engagement rate for Reels is 1.95%, compared to 1.74% for regular posts and 0.70% for Stories
  • 87% of Gen Z TikTok users want to see similar short-form video content from influencers on other platforms

With over 1.2 billion monthly active users now on Instagram and 20%+ of all posts being Reels, the potential reach is massive for influencers who can capture attention in that crucial first 1-3 seconds and convince viewers to stop scrolling.

But how exactly do you create Reels that cut through the noise and build a loyal audience? I spoke with Instagram growth strategist Kar Brulhart, who used Reels to skyrocket from 0 to 45,000 followers and over six figures in brand deals in just 10 months.

Here‘s how she did it – and how you can follow in her footsteps:

Kar‘s Viral Reels Strategy

When Instagram first launched Reels in August 2020 as their answer to TikTok, Kar immediately saw the opportunity. She started posting 5-7 Reels per week focused on her niche of Instagram tips for female entrepreneurs.

"I kept my Reels super simple at first – just me talking to the camera sharing a quick actionable tip," Kar explains. "But I made sure every Reel delivered value and had a strong hook. I‘d share a surprising stat or ask a question in the first few seconds to grab attention."

Some of her most popular Reels were where she stitched together multiple clips demonstrating different Instagram growth hacks or debunking common myths. Her conversational style and focus on serving her ideal audience helped her quickly gain traction.

"In my first month of posting Reels, I went from less than 1,000 followers to over 10,000, and it just kept growing exponentially from there," Kar says. "Every time I posted a Reel, I‘d gain 500-1,000 new followers. It was wild."

To keep her new audience engaged, Kar made sure to post Reels consistently 5 days a week at the same time each day. She also added value in her captions, sharing more in-depth tips and inviting viewers to save and share if they found her Reels useful.

By the 6-month mark, Kar had shot past 30,000 followers and landed her first five-figure brand deal to create a sponsored Reel. More deals followed with major brands like Canva, Planoly, and Later after she reached 45,000 followers around the 10-month mark.

Today, Kar coaches other influencers and entrepreneurs on organic Reels strategies and also still posts her own Reels daily to her audience of over 200,000.

"Reels are the number one way to grow on Instagram right now, hands down," Kar says. "The organic reach is insane. If you can get good at creating fun, snackable video content and post consistently, you can absolutely blow up your account in a matter of months."

So what are Kar‘s top tips for influencers and brands looking to replicate her Reels success? Here are her five recommendations:

1. Find Your Niche

The riches are in the niches on Instagram. Rather than trying to be everything to everyone, Kar recommends focusing your Reels content on 1-3 specific themes or content pillars that provide a clear value proposition to your target audience.

"You can still have plenty of variety in your individual Reels topics and formats, but everything should tie back to your core content pillars," Kar explains. "Repetition is actually a good thing – you need to constantly remind people what solutions and inspiration you provide. I repeat my best tips often."

For instance, Kar‘s content pillars have always centered around Instagram growth tips, mindset advice for entrepreneurs, and behind-the-scenes of her business. Every Reel she creates has a clear tie-in to one of those themes.

Not sure what your niche is? Kar recommends asking yourself:

  • What problems can I solve or questions can I answer for my ideal audience?
  • What unique skills, experiences or perspective do I bring to the table?
  • What topics light me up and I could talk about all day?

"It takes time to perfect your niche, but pick 1-3 topic buckets as a starting point and then pay attention to what resonates most with your audience," Kar advises.

Once you‘ve found your niche, consistency is key. Kar suggests committing to a posting schedule of at least 3-5 Reels per week to begin seeing significant growth and engagement.

2. Hook Viewers in the First 1-3 Seconds

With Reels, you have mere seconds to convince someone to keep watching before they scroll past. Every Reel needs a thumb-stopping hook right at the beginning.

"Your hook is the most important part of your Reel," Kar says. "How can you immediately grab attention and make people curious to watch more?"

Some of Kar‘s go-to hooks include:

  • Asking an intriguing question
  • Sharing a surprising fact or stat
  • Hinting at a problem you‘re going to solve
  • Using text overlay to tease your tip or topic
  • Jumping right into a story or anecdote
  • Set up a "vs" situation or debunk a myth

For example, one of Kar‘s most viral Reels to date started with the text overlay "The Instagram feature you‘re NOT using that can get you 88% higher engagement!" She gave a quick wave and smile to the camera, then launched right into her tip about using the quiz sticker in Stories.

Another hit Reel began with Kar saying "Here‘s why the 10k followers myth is a total lie…" and proceeded to break down why you don‘t need a huge following to make money on Instagram.

The key is sparking immediate curiosity so viewers have to keep watching to get the payoff. Kar also recommends keeping your Reels short and snappy – 15-20 seconds is the ideal length. You can always dive deeper into the context in your caption.

3. Create Value-Packed, Share-Worthy Content

Yes, Reels can be lighthearted and fun, but the best ones also deliver clear value to the viewer so they walk away feeling like they learned something useful.

"Your Reels don‘t need to be these complex, highly-produced videos with crazy edits and effects," Kar says. "The most important thing is that you‘re sharing tips or inspiration that your audience can actually apply and benefit from."

Kar‘s Reels formula is simple but effective:

  1. State the problem you‘re solving or question you‘re answering
  2. Give 1-3 clear, actionable tips or steps
  3. Recap the key takeaways in the caption
  4. End with a call-to-action to implement what they just learned

She also makes a point to keep her tips fresh and not just regurgitate generic advice. "I‘m always looking for those little-known hacks or insider secrets I can share that most people don‘t know about," Kar says. "I want my followers to feel like they‘re getting VIP access."

Additionally, Kar encourages using Reels to start conversations and crowdsource ideas from your audience. "I love ending my Reels with a question prompt like ‘Do you agree? What‘s your best tip?‘ It helps boost engagement and also gives me ideas for future content."

The more actionable and share-worthy your Reels are, the more likely they are to get saves, shares, and sends – all signals to the Instagram algorithm that your content is valuable.

4. Prioritize Consistency Over Perfection

One of the biggest mistakes Kar sees influencers and brands make with Reels is being too much of a perfectionist. They get hung up on making every Reel flawless and end up not posting at all.

"Done is better than perfect when it comes to Reels," Kar says. "It‘s okay if your lighting isn‘t professional or you stumble over your words. Authenticity and consistency are way more important."

In fact, Kar believes that a little bit of rawness and realness can actually help you better connect with your audience. "My most popular Reels are often the ones I filmed quickly on my iPhone with minimal editing. People crave that relatability over a polished facade."

Of course, that doesn‘t mean you should just throw up any old sloppy content. Kar still recommends having a basic content plan for each week with clear topics and hooks mapped out so you‘re not scrambling for ideas everyday. Batch filming a few Reels at a time can also help you stay consistent.

"Commit to your Reels schedule as if it‘s a non-negotiable, just like brushing your teeth," Kar says. "Your audience needs to know they can count on you showing up regularly. Consistency builds trust."

She adds that recycling and repurposing your Reels across platforms can also help maximize your efforts. "There‘s no shame in reposting a high-performing Reel to TikTok, Pinterest, or YouTube Shorts. Don‘t assume everyone saw it the first time around."

5. Track Your Analytics & Tweak Your Strategy

Finally, Kar credits much of her rapid Reels growth to diligently monitoring her analytics insights and using that data to optimize her strategy over time.

"I‘m obsessed with my Instagram Insights tab," Kar laughs. "I check it every single day to see which Reels are performing best and look for patterns so I can replicate that success."

Some key metrics Kar recommends tracking for each Reel include:

  • Reach: How many unique accounts saw your Reel? This indicates how well it‘s being pushed out by the algorithm to new people.
  • Saves: How many people saved your Reel to their Instagram collections? This is a strong indicator of value and interest in your topic.
  • Shares: How many viewers sent your Reel to someone else via DM? Another signal of high-value, engaging content.
  • Comments: How much conversation and engagement did your Reel generate? What questions or ideas did it spark?

"I aim for at least a 15-30% reach rate and 8%+ share rate on my Reels," Kar says. "If I notice certain topics or formats are over-performing, I double down on those in the next few weeks."

She also keeps a close eye on her overall account growth rate and follower demographics to ensure her Reels are attracting the right audience for her brand. "There‘s no point in going viral if you‘re not gaining followers who will actually resonate with your niche and eventually convert into customers."

Based on her analytics and audience feedback, Kar is continuously brainstorming new Reels topics, experimenting with different trends and features, and tweaking her content to be as valuable as possible.

"Your Reels strategy should always be evolving as you learn what works," Kar advises. "Don‘t be afraid to pivot and try new things. The algorithm rewards accounts that consistently put out fresh, high-performing content."

Bonus Tip: Hire a Reels Pro

While the tips above can help any influencer or brand start seeing Reels success, Kar acknowledges that keeping up with content creation can be a challenge, especially if you‘re a solopreneur wearing multiple hats.

"If you have the budget, I highly recommend hiring a short-form video specialist to help you strategize and produce your Reels," Kar says. "It will free up so much of your time and mental energy to focus on other aspects of your business while ensuring you still show up consistently."

Look for a Reels creator who understands your niche and target audience, has a proven track record of driving engagement and growth for their clients, and can provide a portfolio of Reels that align with your brand aesthetic.

"Having a dedicated Reels person on my team has been a game-changer," Kar raves. "Not only do they help me generate a constant stream of content ideas, but they also handle all the filming, editing, and posting so all I have to do is show up and hit record."

Follow the Formula

While there‘s no one-size-fits-all approach to Instagram Reels, Kar‘s tips provide a solid roadmap for any influencer or brand looking to capitalize on the format. To recap her advice:

  1. Find your niche and focus on 1-3 core topics
  2. Hook viewers in the first 1-3 seconds of each Reel
  3. Pack your Reels with valuable, share-worthy advice
  4. Prioritize consistency over perfection
  5. Track your analytics and tweak your strategy regularly
  6. Consider hiring a Reels specialist to uplevel your content

"Remember, Reels aren‘t going anywhere," Kar says. "This is the future of social media and where all the organic growth opportunity is right now. You can absolutely use Reels to skyrocket your brand and income like I did – it just takes commitment, creativity, and a willingness to take action."

She adds, "Your dream followers and customers are out there scrolling Reels every single day, just waiting to discover you. Go give them the valuable content they‘re craving and invite them into your world. You‘ve got this."

Want to learn more about Kar‘s Instagram growth strategies? Follow her at @karbrulhart for daily Reels tips and behind-the-scenes of her business journey.