Select Page
Comm 315:06 W3 Social Media Reverse Engineering

I’ve chosen to reverse engineer a post from Brian Kesinger, one of the very few people I follow on Instagram. He is an animator by trade (at Pixar, I think) who puts his side projects on Instagram, sometimes for fun, sometimes for sale/auction, and sometimes to showcase commissions. One of his popular series is his digital drawings depicting Star Wars scenes in the style of Calvin and Hobbes comics. We’ll reverse engineer this post through the lens of the IPPE Process:

Credit: Content credit: Brian Kesinger @briankesinger.


Audience and Message: This and other “mashups” have carved out a strong niche for Brian, his audience enjoys contemporary one-panel, high-concept art in the cartoon/comic/anime and steampunk style. This post depicts two characters from “Spirited Away,” an anime movie by director Hayao Miyazaki, but the costuming and prop are from Star Wars. This post is ostensibly just for fun, as it is outside Brian’s main revenue streams. 


Still, Brian’s post must have had a plan. He knows that his 232,000 followers like mashups, love the Star Wars universe as well as anime, and that they expect to be surprised by new things along these lines. He knows they expect regular Instagram posts, as he is very prolific there, and so I think he has made a habit of ideating from everything he’s done. He says in this post’s caption that the concept for this art came while he was watching Spirited Away. As for metrics of success, I think since this art is not particularly for sale, the success measure would be just in likes and comments that keep him in the audiences thoughts and keep his reputation strong.


This post has only one asset, the piece of art itself. Brian does all his work digitally, so he has sketched the outlines until satisfied with the composition, and then digitally painted the panel. Finally, he’s chosen a caption and relevant hash tags. I have watched Brian time lapse his production of other art before, and he takes great care in the composition of each piece to see that it visually depicts the concept he wants to get across, and that it does it with the greatest clarity and impact.


The thing about Social Media is that it must be fresh. Brian must produce regular posts to keep his audience, and so I think that he is always implementing some part of his campaign, whether conceptualizing, producing, strategizing, posting, or just enjoying interaction with his commenters. He often responds to comments, both ones that are direct purchase-oriented (“Where can I buy this?”) or indirect.


Brian has successfully built up a following that includes not just the intersections of the different “universes” he depicts, but includes even the outer parts of the Venn Diagram — anyone who likes any of these fictional worlds:

People are waiting to see what he will mashup next!

And if he covers two (or more) of people’s favorites, they really go nuts.

This leads naturally to these types of responses, where people want to buy his wares:

Note that two hours after posting, Brian’s post has 6,680 likes and 89 comments (all positive). Those metrics tell us that this post is a success.

In fact, after two days, there are nearly 17,000 likes, which is on par with his mainstream mashups which average 15-20,000 likes, so maybe he’ll see an opportunity for more mashups that include anime films like Spirited Away.


Amber Mitchell
Web Dev Extraordinaire