Did you know there is a whole world out there of Instagram influencers who build up a following online and use it to gain access to travel opportunities they’d have never had otherwise? It’s true! There is so much you can do with influence on Instagram. Today, we talked to one such individual who has been able to travel the world because of his Instagram audience.
Zach Benson is a full-time entrepreneur, world traveler, dancer, and owner of Assistagram. Assistagram handles Instagram marketing for some of the top internet marketers in the world such as @russellbrunson and @robertkiyosaki. Besides his business, Zach has been using his Instagram platform to get sponsorships, travel the world for free, and generate leads for his business.
We sat with Zach and talked to him about how he uses Instagram to grow audiences and build influence online to share some of his secrets with you.
What got you into Instagram?
It started just a few years ago when the same friend who got me into dancing called me and said, “Zach, you need to get on this Instagram game.” Me and my brother were helping people grow their accounts and making a lot of money and helping people build up their brand and help them make money too.
How did Assistagram come to be?
As I was teaching dance around the world, I actually got injured–I hurt my back–in India during a performance. With no plan B, I went all in on Instagram. That’s just what I do. Whenever I start something I go all in and try to learn everything about it. Basically, in the beginning I paid some teenagers and kids for a power hour. I was like, “I’ll give you a thousand bucks, but I want to learn everything you know so I can built up millions of Instagram followers like you guys have.” Pretty much just step-by-step I started learning how to do that. I met others who could do that and we created our own strategies. Pretty much applied what I learned teaching dance around the world, which was just the art of cold outreach and cold calling. That was enough to take me all over the world, to 50 countries.
Can you tell us your process of cold calling?
When I say cold calling, what I actually did was send an email to different hotels that I wanted to visit based off of my trips I had set up. Let’s say for example I was in Bali. A couple months before that I reached out to a couple hotels and pitched them and then followed up with a call. It wasn’t always straight up cold calling, but in my email I said who I was and I was super clear, straight to the point. I was like, “hey, we can help you do this, this, and that. We can help you get more followers and get more exposure to our three-million-follower pages and in exchange can you provide some nights.” So it was a mutually beneficial trade.
What does influence mean to you?
Everybody has some product, service, or story they are trying to get out there, but the hard thing is to get the right eyes on it and to get sales. So for us, it’s just helping build up people’s influence by building up their social meeting following. People who really resonate with your message, people that like what you say. Once you have that following, there’s so many different ways you can leverage that following. That’s something we’ve gotten really good at. You put out content, you’re consistent with it, and finding people that like that content. Suddenly when you have 10,15, 20,000 followers, there’s so many things you can do with it. Huge opportunities come in.
What is one of your wildest stories using Instagram to travel?
Probably the Maldives. It’s so beautiful, but the thing is it’s so expensive to stay there. I actually struck a deal with the number one hotel in the Maldives, like $25,000 a night. Yeah, it was crazy. I had my own slide, my own water park, my own moonroof I could open and see the stars. That’s a really special place.
How do you keep engagement?
Basically, just keeping consistent with it. You can see how people react, you can see which posts have more likes. But it really comes down to human-to-human engagement, taking the time out of your busy day to comment or like. It’s the little things done on a consistent basis that will add up to big results.
What are your favorite Instagram tools or hacks?
What’s special about my company is that we have straight up human power! We have such a human power, we have people manually posting for our clients, manually engaging and replying to comments. We have your own dedicated team member grinding on your account seven days a week. We don’t really use any tools.
Not even anything for design, it’s just the image you take?
We have a team of graphic designers, so we don’t really use any tools. But there are some good ones. If you are trying to post by yourself I suggest Later.Com that’s a good one. If you have an iPhone I recommend Enlight.
Have you ever leveraged your Instagram or social media pages to get access to something like Zach has? Share with us your stories! We’d love to hear them.
*This interview was edited for length and clarity.