“There’s a real value to just declaring a challenge giving yourself a project to do and then telling everyone about it because if we don’t, I’ll probably get lazy and not follow through.”
-Sam, on why he and Emma are doing this challenge now

A new challenge. We are going to take a brand new Instagram and turn it into a business. Follow along as we succeed or crash and burn. 

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Structure

01:47 – How Emma and Sam respond to others telling them they are too late to become IG celebs
03:10 – The benefits of a public challenge
05:03 – The role of intentionality in this process
07:35 – Value proposition and strategies
08:55 – Describing different tiers digital nomads
10:39 – The strategy behind instagram celebrity effort
14:16 – Potential black hat approaches
17:33 – Learning on the go

Transcript

SAM: Hello and welcome back to another episode of the lazy entrepreneur I’m your host Sam Priestley and as normal we’re joined by my lovely co-host Emma Priestly.

EMMA: Hello.

SAM: So I thought this would be an interesting episode because we’re basically declaring the launch of a new challenge, a new experiment that we are running together and basically what we’re doing is we are going to try and become Instagram influences, instagram celebrities which is a bit weird because neither of us are particularly good at photography. Neither of us really have any experience with instagram, we don’t know the ins and outs of it. We’re not particularly photogenic people.

EMMA: Speak for yourself.

SAM: I’m not very photogenic, I just take pictures of you all day, that might do it.

EMMA: Well I’m a bit awkward for that.

SAM: What I do think is that Instagram is a platform that is just going to get bigger, I think Instagram celebrities and influencers are currently undervalued, even though people seem to be getting paid more than they should be, I think actually they are getting paid less than they should be and that for brands they’re actually a really good good medium for getting their brand out there and marketing their business.

EMMA: It’s a marketing tool isn’t it?

SAM: It’s a marketing tool, so I’ve been thinking about this for a while and the account we talk about we’ve actually started it three years ago and just never actually posted anything about it. So we had the idea a few years ago and back then we thought Instagram was gonna get bigger and better and I still think that now. And back then the people who we kind of spoke to about it said we were too late, we missed the boat. And I’m sure some people are thinking that now that were too late and we’ve missed the boat.

EMMA: Yeah.

SAM: I don’t agree but also I thought it’d be interesting because I as a bit of a social experiment, how do we get treated as someone with hardly any followers, how do we get treated someone with a middle amount followers, how do we get treated as someone who’s a bit of a celebrity. It’s gonna be interesting how the brands treat us, how the other accounts that we interact with, is there going to be like a snowball effect as we get more followers. It’s just people follow us because other people are following us, not because necessary our contents good or is it all about the value proposition that we’re putting out there?

EMMA: Or is it just going to be really hard to get more followers? Is it gonna be really like growing very organically, very slow.

SAM: Yeah, yeah. Are we going to completely fail? I think a lot of us have this idea that there’s a lot of luck involved in Instagram and then who makes it? So I’m hoping to try and prove that wrong by being deliberate, having a good thought up plan or strategy that we can declare today that we’re gonna make it as instagrammers and then in a year’s time we’ll be proven correct and if we don’t it’ll be interesting as well.

EMMA: Yeah.

SAM: So why are we declaring this challenge now? Because partly I think there’s a real value to just declaring a challenge giving yourself a project to do and then telling everyone about it because if we don’t know, I’ll probably get lazy and not follow through but if I know you’re all watching and judging me, judging our success I think it will make me work harder.

EMMA: Yeah and you’ve done that, you’ve written a blog post and you released it by email yesterday and now you’ve got loads of people contacting you about it.

SAM: Yeah I thought we got quite a lot of negativity about this challenge, about it being a bit vapid and unimportant. It’s actually the opposite, we’ve got a lot of people who think it’s a really interesting challenge and it’d be nice to actually document the steps and really we are coming from a position of not knowing anything so it’s gonna be you know how the hashtags work and then that’s the first thing, we’re gonna try to just put loads of hashtags on those first few posts and see if we get any followers from that. What response will we get from that, what hashtags are working well? Then we’re going to start trying to interact with other instagramers both just by liking and following and also by messaging people privately and trying to build a community around it and yeah stories, I don’t really know what a story is. I’m sure they might have a place so I’m not sure how that works. And also just how the algorithm on Instagram works, if that’s having a lot of followers within a short space of time, does that help propel you and appear on the explore page, does having a lot likes on your post in a short amount of time make it appear in some places?

EMMA: Or is it about quantity of posts?

SAM: Yeah. Quantity of content. I think there is something about routine, so let’s take a step back and talk about the three things that are quite important for this challenge to work and they’re all something to be quite deliberate about. So we’re not going to start posting random pictures and hoping we’re going to take off and become celebrities. We’re going to come up with a good value proposition, a good reason why people will want to follow the account. What it is about the account that sets it apart? Like a unique selling point like any other business. If I’m treating this Instagram account as a business, it’s got to be different to every other instagram accounts. So we come up with a value proposition for why you should follow it and also for why companies should invest in it. Because at some point in the future we’re going to want to monetize it and so it’s worth thinking for now, is what is it about the account that is worth people giving money to you basically. Second thing we got to be very deliberate about is a strategy to attract followers and get interactions. Just because we’re posting and stuff that are in line with our value proposition doesn’t mean we’re going to get followers.

EMMA: No.

SAM: So we got a think about marketing strategies and as soon as we don’t know what we’re doing, that’s gonna be a lot of experimenting, a lot of trial and error basically.

EMMA: Yes, monitoring what’s working and what’s not.

SAM: Yeah yeah trying one thing. If it doesn’t work trying something else. Just being open to mixing and matching strategies. And I think the one thing we got to be careful of is that if something isn’t working, we stop doing it and move on to the next thing because just from my initial research, I found loads of really awesome Instagram accounts that have amazing pictures and have been posting for years and have hardly any followers.

EMMA: Yeah.

SAM: And you can see they’re trying to become a photography account.

EMMA: The contents there.

SAM: The contents there, it’s absolutely amazing. But they’re just doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.

EMMA: Yeah which is the definition of insanity isn’t that.

SAM: And they might be getting a few followers here and there but there’s no your exponential growth. Doesn’t look like it’s ever gonna transition into a business, into something more than a hobby basically. And then the final one I think is gonna be important for this is routine. And I’m putting this as a whole section itself because it’s something I’m very bad at.

EMMA: Yes.

SAM: And it’s something that is going to be different to pretty much any other business I’ve done where regularity of creating content is gonna be important. That’s the whole social media thing, you can’t have content from a month ago and hope they’re going to find it, it’s all about now.

EMMA: Yeah the here and now.

SAM: So we’ve kind of answered some of these questions, so that’s what we’ll talk about now. I’ll tell you a little bit about the account we’ve come up with what the value proposition of it is, and what our strategy is gonna be to try get followers, and then what the routine is gonna be. And all of these might change, that’s the nice thing about something like instagram. It’s not like you create your little ignores cool description and then it’s set for life. We can always change it if we get a better idea or something changes, but having a good idea of where we’re starting and where we’re going I think it’s quite important here. So what is the account? The account is called the posh nomad, that’s the handle and it is a pseudo anonymous account, we’re not going to be in it but it is going to be following our journey. And we’re targeting it at digital nomads who are remote workers, people who make a living from their laptops and can live anywhere that’s online. What a lot of these digital nomads end up doing is they end up traveling full-time, living in different places and they are constantly looking for the next place to live, the next place where their budget is sufficient for the standard of life they want, where there’s interesting people there, where there’s community, where there’s exciting thinking to do. So that’s people we’re targeting, that’s the nomad part. The posh part is that most digital nomad accounts are aimed at people looking to live on a really low budget.

EMMA: Yes.

SAM: So digital nomads include everyone from people who got hardly any money and moved to a really cheap place in order to grow their business and have really low expenses.

EMMA: Somewhere like Thailand.

SAM: Somewhere like Thailand where you can live on a thousand dollars a month and they’ll go there and then spend six months working on their business and trying to create something great. That also includes people who have kind of made it already and are earning a decent living. Or who were programmers and have remote jobs and are able to travel the world while actually earning a decent wage. And I think there’s actually a gap in the market where of digital nomads who are also living quite a good life, so that’s our target. If you’re earning a similar salary to sort of a city professional in London, what quality of life can you have as a digital nomad? And that is what we’ll hopefully document. It is also something I think we would follow ourselves if it was out there.

EMMA: Yes definitely.

SAM: So that helps as well.

EMMA: So tell us if you have found anything like it.

SAM: Yeah let us know what you think of this value proposition, let us know if you can think of someone else who’s doing it well that we can look at. Yeah so that’s the posh nomad, feel free to have a look, as of yesterday we had about 30 followers and hopefully it will become 31. And we will see how it gets on, and hopefully it will grow. And what I’m gonna do is we’ll probably do a few podcast about this and I’m gonna do a blog post about it, so it’s gonna be written the first blog post already, and then the next one will be after a month or two, talking about what we’ve learned and what’s working and what isn’t working and hopefully it will be a nice series tracking the progression or tracking the failure of this experiment. So that’s the value proposition. The strategy, how are we gonna get followers? Well as we said earlier, we don’t know what we’re doing, it’s gonna be a lot of trial and error so I’ve kind of come up with a few different stages I want to work through. First one is just passive posting, so posting the picture with some hashtags, seeing if anyone’s going to follow it.

EMMA: Yeah, really simple.

SAM: If you create it, will they come? I think the answer is going to be now. I don’t think instagrams got any reason to show our post to anyone, there’s got to be some other external influence on that and there’s pressure on it. So we’ll try that for a bit and see how we go on. On top of that we’re going to layer to stage two, interacting with Instagram users. I think the strategy here will be something on the lines of looking at people in a similar niche to us. Seeing who is following them and who is interacting with their posts, and then either reaching out to them, liking their posts, sending them a message, commenting on their pictures and seeing if that can help us build an actually engaged following.

EMMA: Yes.

SAM: So that’s gonna be quite labor-intensive, and I’m sure that will work. We’ll definitely get followers from that, but are we gonna get enough that it is worthwhile. That might be something to take us from two hundred to a thousand followers, which is quite labor-intensive but I assume that after some point for the time we’re putting into the followers we’re getting it’s not going to be really worth. At which point hopefully we’re gonna layer or interacting with influencers. Hopefully at this point we’ll have value to give to other people, so then we’ll start interacting with the bigger accounts. We’ll have whatever 15,000 followers or more, doing collaborations with them, trying to share audiences with them.

EMMA: So, with those influencers with the bigger following, would they still be digital nomads related to kind of luxury travel or would they be a bit broader?

SAM: I mean there’s something we got to work out as we go along see what works. We might find a niche that has a cross-section of audience, even if it’s not, even if they’re not the same thing.

EMMA: Yeah so like a fashion brand or.

SAM: Yeah we might find a swimwear brand or like a holiday brand who has a similar audience who’s interested, or entrepreneurship maybe. Maybe there will be other people interested in entrepreneurship, don’t really know about the digital nomad community. I don’t we know how collaborations are going to work with that, I’m sure there is some ways to do it, whether that is shout outs or reposting each others stuff or Instagram stories. I don’t really know how we’re gonna work that out and hopefully it will work and I’m sure we gonna try some other things maybe look for stuff that’s not on Instagram, bloggers say who don’t have that much of an instagram following and then try and cross audiences there so we can hopefully translate some of our followers on Instagram to their blog and then they can hopefully transfer some of their blog followers onto Instagram.

EMMA: Particularly in the areas we’ve chosen to live so far, for example, Bali, there’s a huge amount of bloggers online writing content about where to go and things to eat in Bali, so it’s quite an easy one to reach out to.

SAM: Yeah hopefully, hopefully. But we’ll see how we get on. So those are all what I call kind of the white hat, accepted strategy kind of stuff. If we do all of that and we don’t get anywhere, then I’m quite interested in trying and just seeing what happens if we do a bit more of the slightly dodgy stuff, some of the black hat stuff, such as buying likes on posts. Let’s see if we can game the Instagram algorithm to push our pictures up on to say the first page, the discover page. What we’re trying to do is we’re trying to keep the followership authentic, which is where the value is but then just try and fake the algorithm on Instagram to make us appear to more people to hopefully build a legitimate followership through some slightly squirrelly methods of liking and commenting and stuff like that. Don’t really know how that’s going to work out, but hopefully we don’t ever get to that point, it’s just if we aren’t able to, if none of our other tactics work. And don’t worry I’ll tell you all before we start doing that. The reason of doing this is I’m just quite interested in how all this stuff works and I think it would make an interesting blog series. And if none of that works then I think what we’ll just try to do is just buy a load of followers and then see how that changes the way people interact with the accounts because I kind of have this theory that if you fake it until you make it, you will make it and Instagram seems to be a very, it’s a bit like that Black Mirror episode which I’m not sure if you’ve seen where depending on how much you’re liked by people depends on your social status and how people treat you, so it’ll be interesting to see if that’s actually true. If we have a seemingly popular even if it’s fake Instagram accounts, will we suddenly get loads of attention from people? We’ll definitely tell you if we do that and we’ll basically declare the experiment a failure and then we’ll declare the social experiments and see if that stuff works. And I think that’s kind of it for for the plan so far.

EMMA: Sounds good, sounds very exciting.

SAM: I do love a new project, by the way this is so what we’re going to be doing, the instagram account is a digital nomad couple who are spending like an average london city salary. Kind of traveling the world and working, so it’s going to be loads of pictures of food and landscapes and restaurants and hotels in different parts of the world. It’s going to be contributed to by both of us, we’re gonna be the ones commenting and replying to people and yeah, and we’ll see how we get on. And maybe if you’re listening to this in a year’s time, and we have a really successful account, you can see where it started.

EMMA: Yeah that’s quite cool.

SAM: And it’d be interesting to see how, all the stuff I said here, how naive and idiotic it sounds once we actually know how the platform works. Because this is some thing, I think it’s better to just dive straight in and get on with it.

EMMA: And that’s the point we want to learn more about it.

SAM: Yeah and make mistakes day. And we’re gonna make a load of mistakes, a load of stupid things. And the best way to learn that is by making the mistakes, not by this amount of time researching it. Cool, so yeah, please check out the account, give us any feedback. If you got any tips, or if you’ve got a decent Instagram account and you’ve tried things in the past and you can steer us away from some errors then please get in touch. Yeah you can just DM us, is that the right word, DM? On our instagram account, the posh nomad. Or you can message us, email us at a hello at sam priestley dot com. Yeah, anything to add?

EMMA: No, that sounds good. It’s quite a, this is what we’re doing but we’re not sure how it’s gonna work.

SAM: Yeah we got no advice to give. In fact it’s the opposite, we’re asking for advice at this point. And we don’t know what we’re doing. That’s kind of the fun of it. There’s something great about being a beginner I think, so it should be fun. Alright, well that’s the end of this episode, please leave us a good review even if there’s not much to review about for this post, but hopefully once it’s built up it’ll be really good. So please leave us a review 5 starts would be appreciated. Any feedback for the podcast, hello at sam priestley dot com. If you’re somewhere in Southeast Asia traveling around and you fancy meeting up, or you’re onto Instagram and see you were in a similar place, then yeah shoot us a message and we’ll go for coffee or drinks or food or whatever.

EMMA: Sounds good.

SAM: Alright adios.

EMMA: Bye.