4 Takeaways from @heycnyn’s Instagram Growth

October 10, 2017

4 Takeaways from @heycnyn’s Instagram Growth

Share this post

Olivia Noli

Olivia Noli is the marketing intern at Nuvi.

Latest posts by Olivia Noli (see all)

Canyon (@heycnyn) is a Utah photographer who has recently relocated to California for school at University of California San Diego. Originally from Bountiful Utah, he has been doing videography all his life, but he got into photography within the last year. When starting his photography account, he originally planned “to just be genuine and create work to inspire everyone.” He enjoys working with and meeting new people. He first worked with a model in November 2016 and has since grown his Instagram in the following year. Following his example, you can learn how to grow your following and generate new leads.


Following Canyon’s feed, it is obvious how his unique content currently attracts 25K followers. Canyon says that his ideas come from things he sees on Pinterest, which he then uses to create new concepts for his photo shoots.  His last ten posts had an average of 2,761 likes per post, with the highest having 5,137 likes. The first @heycnyn post was on November 22, 2012, and it had a mere 32 likes as of September 18, 2017. He did not begin to post portraits regularly until November of 2016.

All photos in this article are the work of @heycnyn

His style, however, really started to emerge on January 4 of this year with a portrait of Klea Olson (@kleaolson). This post only has 392 likes, however by March 15, he reached a thousand likes on a single post.  Only a few days later, he posted a shot of @gretchenmns with a corndog which really illustrated his editing style that has become common in all of his work.

Since then, Canyon has grown his style to include more imaginative shots. From smoke bombs to bathing with goldfish, Canyon’s photos are part of a new genre of photography that explores the limits of imagination.

Takeaway 1:

A key to Canyon’s growth has been his high-quality photos. Followers only want the best content, and it is essential to provide this content if you want any growth. By providing this content, you can see exponential growth in followers for your business.

Social Media Strategy

A huge reason that Canyon’s following has grown so much in a short period of time is his social media strategy. By following these three techniques, brands can grow their following just as fast as Canyon.

Questions and Answers

In the caption, Canyon usually asks a question for people to answer in the comments. In his caption from September 9, he writes “tell me about one random fact about yourself and let’s become friends.”

There were 214 comments on the above photo, most of them with a random personal fact, although a few were just compliments on Canyon’s photo. Because he gets so much engagement from his followers, his posts become more visible on the Instagram algorithm.

Sidenote: The Instagram algorithm is the software that regulates what content users see. While the exact workings of the algorithm are unknown, speculation and observation have shown that higher engagement is required to reach new followers. By actively encouraging engagement, such as comments, accounts like Canyon’s are able to spread their content to new individuals.

Question: What scared you when you were a kid?

Takeaway 2:

Engagement of followers is an important strategy for both individuals like Canyon and for businesses. By engaging your audience, you can also promote your content on the algorithm, as well as provide great customer service. Rather than ask about your followers’ favorite food, you can ask about their favorite product or services. By doing so, you not only increase your visibility on the algorithm, but you also utilize a new stream of product research.

Instagram Stories

Another way in which Canyon grows his engagement is by effectively using Instagram stories. Stories can be tricky to use effectively. The most common way to use stories is to link them back to your most recent posts. Canyon will usually tell people to go back to his post to answer the original question he posed in the caption, but he also will occasionally tell people to comment a specific emoji if they saved the post. He then offers to check out a few of the profiles of users who comment the emoji. Not only does this incentivize people to save and comment on his posts, it also solves the problem of users who have not seen the post due to the Instagram algorithm. Stories pop up as soon as they are posted, and people will often see a story before they see a post, since the algorithm can make posts pop up hours after they were originally posted. On his story on September 18, he promoted his giveaway in his latest post.

Takeaway 3:

Instagram stories are a relatively new marketing technique. By using stories to link back to your latest posts, you can increase your engagement with your followers. This is an organic way to promote your business, as well as catch the people who may not have seen your post on their feed.

Instagram Meetups

Canyon also increases his followers’ engagement by organizing Instagram meetups in his captions. In his post on September 17, he wrote:

Canyon can create engagement by meeting his followers personally and developing individual relationships with his followers. Not only do people comment that they can come, but many people also comment that they wish they could make the meetup. This not only adds comments to this post to increase visibility in the algorithm, but it also shows Canyon as a likable person who people want to support.

I met with Canyon at his last Utah meetup to talk with him. While I spent some time getting to know Canyon, I also got to know and work with several other models and photographers that showed up. Many of us posted about our new friends on our accounts, spreading the word about our new friends. This illustrates how “instameets” can grow a portfolio and connections in the industry. From a business standpoint, “instameets” can be useful to demonstrate your product to Instagram influencers in the industry. By reaching out to existing followers, businesses can spread their brand through instameets to new audiences.

Takeaway 4:

Instagram meetups are a great way to get in touch with your followers. While Canyon organized a photography meetup, your business can create any kind of event relevant to your industry. Popup shops for retailers is a popular option. Secret sales or treasure hunts for products are also popular. These opportunities make your business stand out because it engages your customer base outside of your store. It also provides a great PR opportunity to make your business look better than your competitors.


By analyzing case studies about influencers like Canyon, businesses can learn the best ways to grow their own brand. Canyon personally shows how utilizing captions and comments together, as well as Instagram Stories, can grow engagement with your content and grow your following. Canyon’s rapid growth in the space of a year is atypical of the industry, but by following his Instagram strategy, it is possible to mimic his growth.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email
Using Social Listening to Generate Leads
Use Social Listening to Cultivate Positive Brand Reputation
Share this post