How Two Millennials Spun Celebrities' Instagram Comments Into a Full-Time Job and 800,000 Followers
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In this series, Instagram Icon, Entrepreneur speaks with the individuals behind popular Instagram accounts to find out the secrets of their success.
Back in 7th grade, Emma Diamond sat spellbound in front of the TV during the Oscars, notebook in hand, writing down her votes for best dressed. This year, she spent the evening combing social media comments for the best celebrity witticisms -- and popularizing them via her fast-growing Instagram account.
Diamond is the creator of @CommentsByCelebs, which highlights the funny, sweet and sometimes eyebrow-raising back-and-forth between high-profile actors, musicians, internet personalities and more. Since April 2017, Diamond has run the account with her co-founder (and fellow Syracuse University alumna) Julie Kramer. The two women, who grew up fans of celebrities such as Britney Spears, Justin Timberlake and Jennifer Lopez, decided to put off grad school to focus on their brand full time -- and they also run category-specific sister accounts @CBCAthletes, @CBCBravo and @CBCYouTube.
With upwards of 800,000 followers, the account is a phenomenon in and of itself, featuring one-off remarks by the likes of Gwen Stefani, Sarah Jessica Parker and John Mayer -- and that’s just within the past two days. Diamond and Kramer personally count talk show host Kelly Ripa and model and author Chrissy Teigen among the account’s fans.
As for why we find celebrity comments so thrilling?
It’s “humanizing celebrities and making them relatable in a way they’ve never been before,” Diamond said, adding that 10 years ago, celebrities seemed like “someone from another world.” Now, through social media, fans have unprecedented, behind-the-scenes access to the lives of their favorite household names. Something about reading a celebrity’s words in a comment feels intimate. “It’s not a staged paparazzi shot,” Diamond said.
Entrepreneur spoke with Diamond and Kramer about their inspiration, favorite celebrity comments and advice for others who aspire to build a brand on Instagram.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
Tell us what sparked the idea for @CommentsByCelebs.
Diamond: It started as a simple idea and hobby. I saw the Instagram algorithm change to highlight celebrity comments, and I capitalized on that change. In April 2017, I started screenshotting celebrity comments, created the account and brought Julie on board to run it with me. I had met her at Syracuse University in our sorority when I was a senior and she was a sophomore, and that April, I was getting ready to go to grad school. I texted her from my couch about the idea -- my first text was, “You’re not telling a soul.” We didn’t tell anyone we ran the account until we reached 80,000 followers -- we kept it a secret from all of our friends for almost a year. At the time, I couldn’t believe no one else was doing it, and we got such a great response. I didn’t anticipate this type of growth, but when I started it, I did say my goal was to reach a million followers by January 2018, and Julie and my family members can attest to that.
Kramer: That was always our big joke -- when Em started the account and texted me saying, “Do you want to run this with me?” she said it was going to be big. Neither of us had anticipated this, but she always knew it would be big. When I read her message, I was abroad and it was late at night for me. We worked together to figure out the name, adjusting it from Comments by Celebrities to Comments by Celebs. A few months after we started it I was living in my sorority house and people would say, “Does anyone know who runs this account?” I would say, “I have no idea!”
What does a typical day look like?
Diamond: It’s so funny when people ask us this because I wish there was a better way for us to outline our time. Every day is so different. Julie and I are only together about one or two days a week right now -- the rest of the time we work remotely, and all day we’re texting and talking on the phone. In terms of the content, it’s all both of us -- we’re constantly bouncing ideas off each other. The first thing we do when we wake up in the morning is check the account inboxes -- and often, there will be 100 messages with comments that we never even saw. We’re lucky we have followers sending us things so frequently. Most days we have meetings and calls, but in between, we’re formatting content, deciding how much we want to post that day or strategizing about ways to get specific celebrity followers or target engagement from certain celebrities. Once a week, we record our podcast in Manhattan’s Flatiron District.
Kramer: I agree that every day is different. There’s a lot of back-and-forth on deciding what to post. I wake up after Emma, but other than that my day is pretty much the same. I’ll send something to her that she hasn’t seen yet or vice versa. When it comes to day-to-day posting, we discuss everything together.
Diamond: We post between two and seven times a day. In an ideal world the posts would be more spaced out, but because we’ve become a news source we’re kind of at the mercy of when celebrities are commenting. I would say 90 percent of our content isn’t pre-planned -- we just wake up every day and see what’s going to happen. It’s almost happening live, and nothing we post is more than four days old.
How do you leverage the account, and to what extent do you monetize it?
Diamond: That’s been very new for us. We were hesitant at first because we wanted to make sure we were doing it in a very strategic way to stay true to our content. I don’t have a number for you yet because it’s all too new, but it’s about working with brands that can understand our vision and our content. I don’t know how much I can say right now, but I think a lot of the monetization will come through bringing the brand to life through different mediums.
What advice do you have for others who want to build a brand on the platform?
Diamond: Consistency and patience are really important. If you have a vision, trust in that vision regardless of what the engagement is. For example, we started in April, but by February, we were only at 80,000 followers. We continued to post every single day, and now we’re at 800,000. It’s also important to stay true to your brand voice and not sacrifice your integrity just because you think something’s going to go viral. There are so many things we don’t post even though they would go viral -- for example, very negative comments or drama-filled exchanges. And if a celebrity writes a comment, then regrets and deletes it, we’ll usually check with them before posting it. When we see that, we don’t think, We struck gold. Instead, we think, There’s probably a reason they deleted it. Let’s check with them to make sure.
Kramer: One of the most important things we did was build connections with people regardless of whether or not we knew who they were. We’ve treated everyone the same. People sent messages to our inbox, and we always went the extra mile to interact with them. Then, sometimes they had an connection that they'd set us up with, since we were kind in the beginning.
What’s the best part about working together?
Diamond: When I first texted Julie about the idea, we weren’t as close as we are now, but it was a no-brainer for me to reach out to her. I wanted someone who I thought had the same level of pop culture knowledge and interest, intelligence and wit. Julie is very smart and funny, and she can keep up. The way our relationship has blossomed has been amazing. People say not to do business with friends, but in my experience, it's been a blessing. We know we have a certain level of trust with each other, and that’s one of the reasons we’ve been so hesitant to hire externally. Not having to second-guess for even one second if the other person is one the same page is really comforting.
Kramer: Who let us start a company together? It’s so true -- we’re both incredibly lucky to be able to wake up every day and work together.
Diamond: We have so much fun. We're laughing all day, right?
Kramer: All day.
See below for five of Diamond and Kramer's favorite posts.
“John Mayer inquiring as to the photography dynamic of Hailey Baldwin & Justin Bieber’s kissing photo.”
“Chrissy Teigen clapping back in the most Chrissy Teigen way.”
“Bella Hadid weighing in.”
“Kelly Ripa being the legend she is.”
“The #tbt to end all #tbts.”