This Instagrammer With More Than 1.5 Million Followers Is Now Traveling the World in a 4-Seater Plane
In this series, Instagram Icon, Entrepreneur speaks with the individuals behind popular Instagram accounts to find out the secrets of their success.
Unlike other travel accounts, which tend to highlight tropical vacations and luxury ski chalets, Louis Cole’s account seeks to inspire others with portraits of locals and photos of off-the-beaten path locales -- even though his posts do spark a little bit of envy.
Cole is the owner of adventure and travel Instagram account, @funforlouis, where he documents his life, his travels and his adventures. Currently, Cole’s nomadic lifestyle has sparked his current adventure, Beyond Borders. That project sees him travel around the world in 90 days in a four-seater plane piloted by his close friend, stopping in 22 countries along the way and making a documentary on global diversity.
Cole’s passion for adventure and addiction to travel started at a young age. Growing up in the U.K., he was raised by adventurous parents who took him on road trips. Cultivating this passion, Cole in 2011 launched YouTube channel Fun For Louis, documenting his journeys and inviting others to follow. Months later, during a trip to Brazil, Cole launched his Instagram account so he could share some of his epic photos of that trip.
Six years and 1.5 million followers later, Cole’s Instagram is a sight to see -- and a major source for inspiration. And his followers prove that. In fact, on a recent stopover in Nagpur, India, one of Cole’s fans, a local to the city, managed to track him down simply by watching his Instagram Story. “We ended up having dinner together and [I gave] him advice on his travels. It was really cool because it goes from being this online community of followers to actually getting to connect with people,” Cole shares with Entrepreneur.
We spoke with Cole to learn how he’s used social media to help fuel his passions.
1. How did you get your start with Instagram?
I think I started both [my YouTube and Instagram accounts] in 2011. I started my YouTube channel earlier in the year. I'd had a few of my friends who were also creating online content say it was important to put stuff out on different platforms.
And then I was actually in Brazil when I started my Instagram account. I remember thinking I really wanted to share photos, and people [had] been telling me [to] start an Instagram account so I set it up in Brazil and post[ed] my first photos from there.
A post shared by Louis Cole (@funforlouis) on May 12, 2016 at 1:42pm PDT
2. What other platforms do you use and what percentage of the time do you spend on them vs. Instagram?
The main platforms I use are Instagram and YouTube, and then I will share my Instagram posts and YouTube videos on Twitter and Facebook, but it's a rare that I'll post unique content on Twitter and Facebook. I usually just repost what I've been posting on Instagram because I mainly like visual communication. I'm not really into clever words and stuff; I enjoy expressing myself through imagery.
3. How much of your time do you devote to it?
On an average day, I like editing photos I've taken that day, and then sometimes it takes a while thinking of an interesting caption. I always send the captions to my girlfriend to check for grammar and spelling. By the time I've picked [a photo] out, edited it [and] thought of a caption -- probably an hour. It's normally just trying to find the right photo because there might be multiple photos from a day or a location, and then you’re thinking back and forth which one looks better. There’s so much thought that goes into it.
4. How do you promote your account? What's your number one way to gain followers?
Hanging out with other influencers and collaborating with people is usually the best way to reach a new audience. Instagram changes its algorithm so much nowadays, it's become a lot more complex than when I first started. When I was growing my Instagram following, most of it came from being featured on the Popular Page, which was the same Popular Page no matter where you were in the world.
5. How do you engage with others on the platform?
The best way to engage is posting Instagram Stories, so posting video clips [of] fun little snippets of your day. And actually today, it was great timing because earlier I was posting a Story of what I'm up to in Nagpur, India. I didn't say where I was but I was posting shots of me in a market and then I was stroking a cow. To me, there was no indication of where I was in the city but one of my viewers was really excited to find me and he managed to track me down from watching my Instagram Story.
As we walked out of this road, he ran up to me and he's like, "I found you! I've been trying to find you." We ended up having dinner together and [I gave] him advice on his travels. It was really cool because it goes from being this online community of followers to actually getting to connect with people.
A post shared by Louis Cole (@funforlouis) on Apr 25, 2017 at 2:01pm PDT
6. What's your content strategy?
In terms of the order that I post stuff, I try to mix it up. I try not to post tons of photos of one thing in a row. So if I just posted a closeup shot of me doing something, I'd probably then post a wider landscape shot. You have to keep it really mixed rather than post similar shots together. And then also, trying to mix up the colors -- like I wouldn't have three very blue posts together. It's all a personal choice, but I like looking through my feed and it just being aesthetically pleasing [to] the eye.
7. What's your best storytelling trick?
For me, it's all about the journey, not necessarily the destination. [For] this adventure we're doing, over a three-month period, we are visiting multiple destinations. The plan is about seeing the beauty, culture and diversity from each of these locations. But it's definitely this bigger story: we're on this constant journey, traveling and circumnavigating the whole world. There's this big sense of achievement as [I] complete this journey with my friend JP, who's piloting the entire trip.
I think it's really cool to be able to include my audience, especially for this trip because it's not just this constant stream of my entire life -- there is [a] very clear start when we took off and a very clear end where we land back in the same location in California.
We are officially half way through our flight around the world! In 6 weeks we will be arriving back to this same beautiful spot we departed from 6 weeks ago. This has already been the most incredible adventure of my life! @SonyAlpha #SonyAlpha | A7SII | 12mm | F4 | ISO 16000 | 15 sec
A post shared by Louis Cole (@funforlouis) on Sep 29, 2017 at 4:14pm PDT
8. How do you set yourself apart from others on the platform?
In terms of standing out from the other content on Instagram, it's the kind of adventures I choose to partake in. It's not just your typical tourist destinations. For me, it's adventure-related. This adventure is not just the adventure of flying and completing this flight but it's showing off these beautiful places -- whether it's the natural beauty or the beauty of the people. I like that I can inspire this large audience of people around the world to go and explore the world themselves and live their own adventure in their own way.
9. How do you leverage your Instagram and to what extent do you monetize it?
It's with brand partnerships and finding brands that I want to promote. Recently, it's been two tech brands that have supported this current trip we're doing. We're using DJI products, the Mavic drone, for some of the shots and then most of the camera equipment is from Sony. So I've just been tagging them in my posts and showing off the capabilities of the cameras. I prefer those brand partnerships because everyone wins -- the brand is getting exposure [and] my audience is finding out about cool cameras and cool shots.
And then Instagram doesn't have a way of monetizing on their platform -- like taking a revenue from adverts, like from YouTube for instance. Another way would be to promote content that I'm making on YouTube through Instagram, and then that would generate a small amount of ad revenue to my video.
10. What advice do you have for other Instagram influencers or people who want to build brands on the platform
Come from a place of being passionate about capturing and sharing moments -- not straight from this mentality that [you] want to make money or jump straight into having Instagram as a revenue generator or a business. That's an added bonus if you can get to that stage, but if that's your initial goal, it could be quite tricky especially if you're not enjoying what you're doing. I think the audience can really notice that as well. These are real people that you're taking on a journey so if they feel at any point you're just trying to use them to generate income, you can lose an audience quite quickly.
A post shared by Louis Cole (@funforlouis) on Jan 4, 2017 at 9:45am PST
11. What's a misconception many people have about Instagram?
It can be a destructive or an inspiring platform depending on how you use it. You can definitely paint any picture you want when you're just posting one image of your life every day. Like I said, I could spend an hour editing a photo to look even nicer, more vibrant and more exciting than it was. So, just being aware that [Instagram] is not a perfect reflection of reality. But that can come down to the Instagram accounts you follow -- there can be more inspiring accounts that show a slightly more realistic side to life. I guess that's the beauty of it as a platform -- it can be whatever you want. But I definitely want to promote stuff that inspires people rather than just brag [and] make people feel jealous of what I'm doing.