Too good to be true

Case Study: How adding motion boosts social engagement on Instagram

What happens when you're so successful Meta thinks you're cheating

By Shea Lord |
March 18th, 2023
Too good to be true

Case Study: How adding motion boosts social engagement on Instagram

What happens when you're so successful Meta thinks you're cheating

By Shea Lord |
March 18th, 2023

Read time: 3 minutes


My client’s Instagram blew up so fast that it triggered Meta’s anti-bot protocols—or whatever—and they took down the page without warning. (Don’t worry, they got it back.)

Adding motion to the posts was only one part of the equation, but the numbers were pretty exciting after that.


USA Muaythai, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, was putting on the first World Games Qualifiers tournament in Spring of 2022. My Muay Thai coach was already involved with their team and, as a newbie to the sport myself, I volunteered to help.

Our 2-person motion + video team had 3 missions:

  • Create social content to promote the event and organization
  • Elevate sponsorship packages to help pay for the event
  • Live-streaming the event + GFX package

Good Notes:

  • Muay Thai is a relatively tiny sport in the US, so it’s a super-focused audience of fans
  • USA Muaythai was still a new organization with little name recognition, even among fans, and it was their first time hosting a tournament of this scale
  • All organic growth. No paid ads were used. No budget. Every team member was a volunteer.

Engagement and Reach shot up

The team already had a graphic designer creating content for Instagram and Facebook. To start, I just began adding motion.

  • “Sponsor Thank You” posts, a common post type for them, began performing 80% better immediately compared to the still graphics they used previously
  • After months of steady 20% growth, engagement jumped exponentially each week: 33% → 78% → 229% → 414%
    (that’s a higher percentage of a higher number each time)
  • Reach shot up 233% as interactions increased
  • 8,000 → 12,000 follower count in the 4 weeks leading up to the event

Influencers (sponsors + athletes) took notice

Instead of just posting a photo of the gold medal, for example, I modeled it in C4D and made a video to share as a story.

  • Stories are more likely to be re-shared by people tagged in them
  • The athletes got more excited about the event and enjoyed sharing the more elevated content at a higher rate

Custom video content was created for companies who signed on as sponsors

  • A shoutout on USA Muaythai social with an animated logo
  • The same graphic shoutout would play between matches on the livestream
  • Top-tier sponsors would receive recap videos highlighting their presence at the event

Elevating the content with motion and video made it easier for industry influencers to get excited about the event and spread the word.

  • Ticket sales shot up.
  • While previously worried about selling enough to cover the costs, suddenly space was becoming a concern.

Instagram thought we were cheating

We pulled it off. The first day of the tourney had a great crowd of people from around the country gathered to watch.

We made announcements around the ring to get people sharing, and advertised the instagram on signage around the event center

That’s when Insta shut it down.

We had boosted our engagement a little too close to the sun. Probably everyone converging in one place didn’t help. The bots thought they smelled one of their own and took USA Muaythai’s Instagram offline. Perhaps it looked like “pod” behavior.

That was a huge hit. It took a few days to get the page back up, and by then the tournament was over. Our reach had been cut off right at the peak.

At the same time, it feels kinda cool to achieve something too good to be true.

Other notable examples of motion on Instagram

My volunteering ended after the tournament, so I’m not up on the current account’s stats. But before signing off here, a couple of large influencer accounts have caught my attention recently.

The Instagram algorithm is prioritizing reels over everything. That means video content is a must have.

Zach Pogrob of @behaviorhack was the first I saw to hire an animator to create these minimalist style reels

Scroll through some of the comments, especially on the earlier ones— his audience is loving the animation.
Dan Koe of @thedankoe has picked up the same style and it’s performing well there too.

I’d love to know if anyone has seen this trend elsewhere. You can reply directly to this email. I’ll share the list on LinkedIn later if there are others.