In this series, Instagram Icon, Entrepreneur speaks with the individuals behind popular Instagram accounts to find out the secrets of their success.
Ryan Glick's business started with a simple picture he snapped of himself holding a cup of coffee.
One weekend in 2014, while employed at a social media agency doing branding and strategy and running his own ecommerce website on the side, Glick took a photo of his coffee and his clothes. The picture turned out nicely, so he did it again the next weekend, when suddenly a lightbulb went off in Glick’s head: “This is a hashtag.”
Glick’s thinking was right: #coffeenclothes became a hit. Turning his idea into fruition, Glick launched the Instagram account, Coffee ‘N Clothes, which today garners a following of nearly 300,000 people. From a Wonder Woman latte to a cup of iced coffee resting upon the knees of a fashionista, the curated account is chock full of creative content that combines two of people’s favorite things: coffee and clothes. But it’s gone far beyond that -- Coffee ‘N Clothes is not just an Instagram account, but a global community of different fashion styles and coffee cultures around the world.
Today, Coffee ‘N Clothes is a multifaceted media company, covering editorial, social media, influencers, event production and soon, retail. Whether running social media campaigns and contests or hosting in-store pop-up events, the company has worked with a number of major fashion brands including Nike, Vans, Barney’s, Intermix, Coach and more.
“I look at it as bigger than Instagram -- we're creating this unique hybrid of brand meets agency meets event production meets influencer,” Glick told Entrepreneur.
While Coffee ‘N Clothes has picked up traction, Glick has been thinking about the future. He also launched a social media agency, Plus 1, which works with major brands to develop strategies and produce content.
“I want to have it all,” he shares. “In this modern day era with technology and social media and experiential, I want to have it covered on every base. I want to have a media company, I want to have an agency and I want to have brick-and-mortar and retail and I want all three to work together.”
We spoke with Glick to discuss Coffee ‘N Clothes and to learn how he’s used Instagram to launch his businesses.
1. How did you get your start with Instagram?
Even before Instagram, I've always been in social media and fashion.
When I first started [Coffee ‘N Clothes], I was at a social media agency creating content and developing strategies for brands, while also running my [own] ecommerce and fashion site. And while I was working full-time, I started Coffee 'N Clothes on the side.
It was the weekend, and I took a photo of my coffee and my clothes obviously and then the next week I did the same thing and I was like, "Wait a minute, this is a hashtag. This is something." And then from there it just spiraled into something greater.
It was around 2013 to 2014 and it was right at the time when Instagram was untapped.
2. What other platforms do you use and what percentage of the time do you spend on them vs. Instagram?
In the last three years, we started really trying to grow and expand as a brand, but also as a culture.
In January we launched our website, which has editorial and an online shop component. The reason we have the online shop is eventually as Instagram rolls out ecommerce, it will be a very seamless transition.
We also use Pinterest, Snapchat, Twitter and Facebook. I would say Instagram is probably 70 to 75 percent of what we do, and editorial being the second highest.
3. What makes Instagram a better platform than other social media?
Instagram is like the hybrid of everything -- you're able to explore and discover new people on the Explore Page, you can do Live, you can do slideshows. You have the opportunity to be very creative, do different things and mix it all together.
4. How much of your time do you devote to it?
I look at it as a bigger picture. I wouldn't say we're devoting time to Instagram, I would say we're devoting time to the Coffee 'N Clothes brand as a whole and Instagram is one wing of it.
I want it to be that brand that is inspiring other brands, so obviously we work on Instagram a lot -- that's a huge component of it -- but it's a part of the bigger picture.
5. How do you promote your account? What's your number one way to gain followers?
We created this public community over the past three years and in turn, we have hundreds of people every day posting Coffee 'N Clothes content -- using the hashtag, tagging our brand.
The way Coffee 'N Clothes works is people from all over the world are creating content for us, looking to be featured, spreading our messaging. So every day 500 people are posting their own Coffee 'N Clothes photos, we're reaching [those] 500 people and their audiences, so it has a snowball effect.
6. How do you engage with others on the platform?
It's kind of built into our brand and our ecosystem. To give you an example, we teamed up with Vans last summer and [the campaign] was Coffee 'N Vans, and there was a call-to-action to post your best Coffee 'N Clothes shot but with your new Vans. So we can engage just through our mechanism and through our community.
We haven't done any paid media -- it's all been press and word-of-mouth marketing.
If you click on the hashtag #coffeenclothes, you see content from all over the world -- [you] can discover a trend in Indonesia or see the hottest coffee shops in Australia. [You] get exposed to different styles, different people, different coffee shops, different coffee trends.
7. How often do you post?
I would say less is more. We're not trying to post every day just to post. We post anywhere from four to five times a week -- nothing crazy. But we're looking to produce more content and build our team and scale.
8. What's your content strategy?
We have an in-house creative team where we can produce content but we also have this [user generated content] momentum where people are helping us market our brand and producing content to help us grow. Right now, we produce around half of our content and half of it is UGC -- and it depends if we're working with brands or if it's a campaign.
We're really restructuring our company and looking [at] the future -- a mix of experiential, digital, everything. I always want to be on the forefront. When we started Coffee 'N Clothes, there was no fashion and food or fashion and drink, so Coffee 'N Clothes [was] an innovator, bringing these two worlds together. Now you see coffee shops in different clothing stores or a juice bar in a yoga studio. So just how do we continue to innovate and set the trends and the culture through our content.
9. How has your content strategy evolved as Instagram has added features?
As trends evolve on social, you have to adapt. You have Instagram Stories, video content, Instagram Live. And so we're always going to make our own trends, [but] we're also going to stay at the forefront of technology and digital trends.
Right now on our Instagram, we don't show any faces on our Feed, but on Instagram Story we can show people and their personalities. Something that we're going to get into is the personality behind the people drinking the coffee.
10. How do you set yourself apart from others on the platform?
The biggest thing is that we took two different industries -- fashion and food and beverage -- and combined [them] perfectly. Our whole mission is to make coffee this fashionable accessory in an innovative and creative way.
We're niche -- with Coffee N' Clothes you know exactly what you're getting. We're very targeted and it sets us apart from the competition. We can bring different fashion brands or different coffee shops or restaurants together and merge the two. If you have Nike, Adidas or Reebok, then you have competition. But I like to think we can bring Nike, Adidas and Reebok together under our culture [and] in our community.
11. How do you leverage your Instagram and to what extent do you monetize it?
I like to call Coffee 'N Clothes this unique hybrid of brand meets agency meets event production meets influencer, because we have the distribution. So there's many different ways, whether it's influencers, events or content.
With Coffee 'N Clothes, we're not a typical influencer. We're bigger than influencers because we can throw a coffee brunch or brunch at a restaurant and invite 50 influencers. It's all part of our network. We're a hybrid between everything and the way we work with brands is very customizable but it's all through our very narrow lens of Coffee 'N Clothes.
An event example is for the launch of the re-release of the Nike Cortez, we did two pop-up shops in Nike stores where we gave away these Cortez designer lattes. We've worked with Barneys before, where we created this whole storytelling technique of a girl doing Coffee 'N Clothes in every floor of the Barneys Madison.
12. What advice do you have for other Instagram influencers or people who want to build brands on the platform?
Be different and stand out in your own way. We have a super niche aesthetic and a super niche concept. And it's two things -- coffee and clothes -- that everyone wears or drinks or does. Then making it into a social behavior is the biggest thing -- taking something that you do offline and [turning] it into online.
You see all these bloggers or vloggers [and] I can pull up a hundred different people and it's the same thing. So it's how are you different and how do you stand out.
Second, think bigger than Instagram -- Instagram should be one wing of what you're doing in your overall brand. To a lot of people Instagram is life and I think that's the wrong approach.
13. What's a misconception many people have about Instagram?
In my mind, even if you have a hundred billion followers it doesn't necessarily translate to dollars or to real people showing up at your store or your events.
These stars or influencers might have five million followers and think they're the biggest celebrity in the world but in reality, no one knows who they are [in real life]. The biggest thing is how do you get your followers to translate offline, [and] it doesn't necessarily mean you have to have a massive following.