Did you know that your Instagram page could become a business? South African entrepreneur Richard Haubrich sheds light on how he climbed the Instagram grid of success, one post at a time.
It’s pretty clear that today’s marketing and advertising strategies have a very different face to what they used to. We all know the billboards, magazine and TV ads, and those agonisingly annoying pop-up windows when surfing the web. Very recently, though, it’s been Social Media platforms that have become one heck of a good platform for businesses and entrepreneurs to showcase their products or services.
I don’t know about you, but I’ve definitely noticed how many self-employed people, as well as businesses, have turned to Facebook and Instagram to spread the word about what they have to offer. This includes quite a few friends of mine, like Robyn Deedat whose LoMinimo swimwear business kicked off thanks to her Instagram posts, or Fria Hiemstra who started using sponsored Facebook posts to showcase and expand her healthy homemade treats, Fria’s Superfoods.
Now, I don’t know much about marketing, and I never liked Instagram, BUT – when the time came to advertise my pole dance classes in Brazil, guess what I turned to? You bet. Instragram galore. I created an account (@niekpolefit) purely for my pole dance shenanigans, using specific hashtags that will appear on my target market’s feeds (do take note – it’s all for free). Believe it or not, thanks to that, I’ve had various people get in touch about doing a trial class, buying my branded tops, and even coming on board as ongoing students.
To really understand the opportunities and possibilities that Instagram has to offer, I had a chat with Richard Haubrich, the founder of Instagram South Africa (@instagram_sa ). It currently has almost 94 000 followers! This SA entrepreneur genuinely nailed it when it comes to making the most of this social media platform… so much so that he recently quit his job to work on Instagram full-time.
Check out the following interview and find out how he did it.
How did you get into Instagram?
It all started at the Apple iStore in 2012. I was a sales consultant and my boss gave me the task to find apps to recommend to clients who bought the iPhone 4. One of my favourite blogs at the time was Macrumors.com, a site that had all the latest Apple News. One of their articles spoke about Instagram. I downloaded the app and I was hooked from the first post.
My mission back then was to be featured on the Suggested list for the world to see, and it has been my driving force ever since.
How did Instagram SA start?
I first started as @RichardHaubrich, but I soon thought to myself that I was a “nobody,” so I copied @instagram’s strategy of featuring other peoples photos. That’s when @instagramcapetown was born, featuring all the best photos taken in and around Cape Town. This, however, soon grew into @Instagram_SA, featuring all the best photos around South Africa.
How did you start making money with Instagram?
During my internship after my studies I launched a project called #HPSA (Hashtag Project South Africa). HPSA is a series featuring designated weekly themes. This inspires users to be creative. The themes change weekly, it can be anything from landscapes to food, etc. I launch these projects every Monday – without fail.
Since the start of HPSA, brands have contacted me asking if they could host a Hashtag Project on my page and they’ll sponsor the prize. I first started doing these giveaways for free, but now I make money from it.
So far I’ve worked with various known brands, including GoPro, Nikon, iStore, Lindt Chocolate, Orms Photo Warehouse… and the list goes on 🙂
How important are the right hashtags?
Hashtags are very important, as it allows other people with similar interests to find your images more easily. It helps reach a specific target audience and filters information.
What and where did you study, and do you use much of what you learnt?
I studied Brand Building and Management at Vega School of Brand Leadership, from 2012-2014. It has definitely helped a lot for the branding side of things.
The course I did was Brand Building and Management which focuses on the best ways to build a successful brand, how to strategise, and how to maintain a strong brand equity. I also learnt how to think critically about certain aspects of the world, as well as how to appreciate art and other creative projects. It taught me the power of brands and the associations people make with them.
What was your occupation before deciding to do Instagram full-time?
After my internship, I immediately got a job at Auto Atlantic MINI as a MINI Cooper product specialist. My job was to inspire people about the brand and the product.
The perks were good: I drove a different car everyday and petrol was never an issue. The people I worked with were funny and we were one big happy family. Life was good… for a while. At the end of 2016 I felt that I was too comfortable and I wasn’t fulfilled.
Around the same time, more money started to come in through Instagram projects, but this was against company policy. My boss picked up on my lack of focus and mentioned that I needed to put my Instagram projects on hold before the powers above found out (he was on my side).
At the beginning of March 2017, just a few weeks ago, I left my MINI family and company car behind me to focus full-time on Instagram… and it’s been well worth it so far.
Tell us about your famous Mannequin Challenge on Clifton Beach.
During the Mannequin Challenge fad, I knew I wanted to create a video before it became “old.” I made a few videos at work and challenged Redbull HQ to compete with our MINI team, as they sponsor us. They took us up on the challenge, partnered up with GOPRo, and beat us with 18k views.
I congratulated them and then asked them if they would like to partner up with me to do the biggest Mannequin Challenge in SA but they didn’t reply. Not even my own co-workers at MINI seemed interested.
I then spoke to a friend who was excited about the idea, and we made a few posts on Instagram promoting the event. About 30 people showed up… we then spread out and spoke to everyone on the beach and in the restaurant across the street and they (reluctantly) agreed.
Calvin shot and edited the whole video. We posted the next day at 12pm and within 10min we had 1000 views, within an hour we had 20k views (beating Redbull and GoPro) and in just over a week we hit 1 million views. That was on the post on my Facebook page (Instagram South Africa), From there it was shared multiple times so, we calculated that the video must have around 3 million views.
What have been some of the challenges on the endeavour?
I’m about to launch my Instagram agency website …
I currently have a ton of meetings lined up, so the future is looking promising.
I personally find it mindboggling how Richard created a business strategy for himself by re-posting other people’s photos (note, always accrediting them!), strategically gaining an audience of many thousands, and pretty much sees brands and companies knocking on his door. It just goes to show how incredible the power of social media can be for marketing and creating awareness about yourself or your business, even when you start out as a “nobody.”
I guess if I had to summarise what I’ve learnt from these entrepreneurs regarding doors of opportunities that open via Instagram, it’s this: for small and big businesses alike, this app is the shizz.
Oh, and that Redbull might give you wings, but it sure as hell isn’t those wings that get people to the finish line…
Anyone can be successful. The cliché might hurt your ears a little, but you know it’s true. If you are an avid photographer, or have a service or product to sell, or any other funky ideas, why not pursue the power of social media in your favour? With the internet in the palm of your hands, success really is only a few clicks away. And guys, get started on your hashtag research!