115M Reels Plays: How posting daily reels helped Jackson Olson grow 6x on Instagram

May 17, 2023

Baseball player Jackson Olson knew from a young age that he wanted to turn his love of baseball into his full-time job. What he did not know at the time is how many fans he’ll be able to connect with and inspire using social media. That is, until 2022, when Jackson doubled down on reels creation. Reels have launched him out of the park, growing his audience sixfold while staying true to his brand and his passions–and he’s only getting started.


  • 6x Instagram follower grown over 12 months [3/31/22 - 3/31/23] on @j_olson2 account
  • 260 Instagram reels, or 5 reels posted per week, posted in last 12 months [3/31/22 - 3/31/23] on @j_olson2 account
  • 110M+ Reels Plays in last 12m months for @j_olson2 IG account
  • 60% of audience are 18-34 on @j_olson2 account

*According to data from CrowdTangle and Meta. Results are not identically repeatable and generally expected individual results will differ.


Since the launch of Reels in August 2020, sports have remained a prevalent topic for publishers, public figures and creators alike. Popular reels range from in-game highlights to post-game interviews, and even ballpark food reviews. Jackson Olson, who has played baseball since he was in elementary school, first got his start on Instagram posting photos to feed from the field.

But, as is sometimes the case, at one point Jackson felt like his social media following was getting stagnant. Then, he started experimenting with Reels. Immediately, he noticed that his reels were getting substantial views. So he started posting more–up to four or five a week. He kept growing. “I remember touring a stadium and when I left it, I had 3,000 more followers than when I arrived,” he shared. That’s when he realized the value of Reels in reaching far and connecting widely.

In an interview, Jackson shared with Instagram what goes into his social media strategy and how important Instagram is to reaching his real-life fans.

Finding a niche

From the start, Jackson prioritized finding his niche without being restrictive. Yes, he’s a baseball player and is known worldwide for it (more on that, later). But he knew that sharing his other passions–food, musical theater–in a way that felt true to himself would resonate.

“My audience is baseball lovers but they’re also food lovers, they love musicals. So sharing my favorite song from my favorite musical and putting it on a reel helps people get to know me better, know who I am,” he said.

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Peeling back the curtain

While Reels helped propel tremendous growth for him, Jackson utilizes all surfaces on Instagram to connect with his audience. Stories are among his favorites.

“In three years, I don’t think I’ve gone a day without posting [to Stories],” he said. His reels are often humorous, there’s entertainment value to them and he feels almost like he’s playing a character version of himself, he said. Stories is where he goes a level deeper and shows the tidbits of his day-to-day. This helps further connect with his fans as they’re getting to know him.

Honoring fan connection

An easy tactic to keep those Stories fresh is reposting fan Stories from games, Jackson said. And, he said, it is thrilling to uncover the crossover between his fans on social media and his fans in real life. Because he pays special attention to his DMs and the comments fans leave on his posts, he noticed that some of the comments and messages that he reads on Instagram are repeated to him verbatim on the field.

“My followers are real people and when they tell me I’m the reason they play baseball, or their kid is playing baseball, I feel like I’m making an impact.”

Following the energy

Jackson’s production and programming strategy is less scripted and more in the moment. “I have no drafts on social media,” he says. His philosophy is, “If you’re not striking while that thought is hot, you’ll lose it. Follow your energy. For example this morning I heard a sound and I knew that if I didn’t utilize that trending sound [from the music library] with my coach today, I won’t do it. It’s got to happen quickly.”

“Setting goals and time frames to achieve them wears me down. When I follow my energy, I don’t burn out,” he shared.

“If you’re not striking while that thought is hot, you’ll lose it. Follow your energy. It’s got to happen quickly. Setting goals and time frames to achieve them wears me down. When I follow my energy, I don’t burn out.”

– Jackson Olson

Crafting moments of excitement

Beyond Reels and Stories, Jackson goes Live on Instagram, typically before games when he is already in uniform and the vibe is electric.

“I used to go live to show my personality but then I realized I want to make it special,” he said. He put himself in his followers’ shoes and thought, If they see my Live every day, it will become repetitive. “I want to be at peak excitement and peak energy when I’m Live.”

Analyzing insights

Alongside real life interactions that fuel his understanding of his fans, Jackson uses his Instagram in-app insights to get a better understanding of who his followers are, what interests them and what they may want to see more of.

“I know, looking at demo data, that I have as many female followers as I do male followers. I also know that while the majority is US based, I have followers elsewhere in the world. And I see that when I go Live as well, when I ask ‘Tell me where you’re from’ and the answers are so varied. Wherever baseball is a beloved sport, I’ll have someone chime in from there,” he said.

From passion to business

Jackson’s hyper growth has allowed him to turn his love of baseball and social media into a full fledged business, in large part thanks to brand deals. He said brands have been reaching out over DMs and through his manager to interest him in collaborations. One of the first things he does is align with his manager and the interested brand to make sure everyone is in the same headspace, that everyone knows what is authentic to him and his brand on Instagram.

“When I stay true to myself, when I’m funny and lighthearted, my videos do well. Even without boosting,” he said. One branded video recently got 100K views, he shared, simply because he merged the brand with content he would otherwise post.

Collaboration is key

The baseball team Jackson plays on prioritizes social media and knows how important it is for its players to reach fans and authentically engage with them. Bringing his unabashed self–“Don’t be afraid to be you” is his motto–has inspired his teammates to do the same. Now he has teammates with which to collaborate on Instagram, people who allow him to be more creative, who are on the same path as him.

“When you have other people in your sphere posting content, it is so much better than doing it alone,” he said.

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“When you have other people in your sphere posting content, it is so much better than doing it alone.”

Jackson Olson

Jackson Olson’s Reels Cheat-Sheet: A How-To Guide

  • Relatability: I always think, Would people watching relate to what I’m saying? Have they been through something similar?
  • Humor: I often post skits. I use self-deprecating humor to connect and remind people that I don’t take myself too seriously.
  • Be quick: I always set up the premise in the first couple seconds. I want people to know what they’re about to watch, what they’re getting into.
  • Captions: I use text on screen often, both to get the point across and for accessibility.
  • Stay true: I often share my own story and my family’s story.
  • Surprise ending: I always think about the ending. A surprise twist can make someone watch a video more than once. You want there to be a pay-off.