In this series, Instagram Icon, Entrepreneur speaks with the individuals behind popular Instagram accounts to find out the secrets of their success.
For most people, brunch is a chance to unwind, eat some eggs, drink some mimosas, and depending on how popular your choice of venue, stand in line on a Sunday morning. For Jeremy Jacobowitz, it was an untapped business opportunity.
Jacobowitz is the founder of food and lifestyle brand Brunch Boys. Prior to launching the business, he spent nearly a decade working as television producer, logging time on the staffs of shows on the Food Network and Cooking Channel, and working with chef Bobby Flay as his production assistant before working his way up the food chain.
In 2014, wanting to fill some down time between jobs, he set out on his own to build a project that would encompass his love of travel and food. Today, his decision to stretch himself as a photographer and producer has paid off. The New York native’s Instagram account documenting his culinary adventures has garnered 442,000 followers and counting.
Jacobowitz shared what he’s learned about what it takes to set yourself apart from the crowd and develop your voice.
How did you get your start with Instagram?
This was almost four years ago. I was a food TV producer. So I was always freelancing going from gig to gig. And you have time off between shows. I'm someone that can't deal with time off, I get bored too quickly. So I thought I'll make some brunch videos. I picked the name Brunch Boys and I literally started the Instagram because when you pick a brand, you should own the name across all platforms. And that was it.
Food Instagrams really didn't exist [in the same way they do now] four years ago. I wish I was smart enough to have the foresight that this could be a thing. But I started it to make these videos and have something to do between gigs.
What other platforms do you use and what percentage of the time do you spend on them vs. Instagram?
There's Facebook, YouTube, Snapchat and there's a website. But it's pretty much all Instagram. I'm actually right now just in the past couple of months putting a concentrated effort into YouTube. I just think there's a good growth opportunity there, more so than Snapchat. I think Facebook there is always growth opportunity. But Facebook's strategy is just what money you spend and how you spend it. I feel like on Instagram the growth has always been about the content. By far everything is Instagram first, that's where the audience is.
How much of your time do you devote to it?
Every second. It is a 24/7 job. Instagram is set up that way anyway because it's set up to make you want to scroll, like and comment every second. But if you see me on my phone odds are I'm on Instagram.
How do you promote your account? What's your number one way to get the word out and attract new followers?
It's putting myself out there more than anything. I think that's what makes you different. Brunch Boys is a brand and it is this thing, but it's also very much me. The more I put myself out there, either during interviews or hosting stuff for shows [the better]. For example, I was on Beat Bobby Flay as a judge. All those type of things just sort of grow you beyond Instagram's algorithm.
What's your content strategy?
It's definitely all about timing, what you post, when you post and how you post it. Those things are always going on in my head. I don't have anything written down. I don't have a calendar of what I'm going to post, but I have a calendar in my head of this video will do well this night or this photo will do well this day. I do photos in the morning and videos at night. That's part of my strategy too. I prefer doing videos. They're much more work but I'm producing about five or six new ones a week.
In terms of the content it really is feeling out how I am that day. In terms of how I shoot it and the style of it, it tends to go in waves depending on what I want to do with it. And I think specifically with videos I try and think of what people are doing at that time. All the videos are one minute long. As a producer, one minute feels like the shortest amount of time ever. But as a consumer watching that video, one minute is a long time. So I find that if someone's at work and scrolling quickly on their feed, they're not going to stop watch one minute long video. But if they're at home at 8 or 9 p.m., they'll take the time to watch it.
What's your best storytelling trick?
Get their attention right away and then hope they stick around for the rest of it. I think that's the strategy more specifically with the videos. What is going to grab them? What's going to get them to ideally watch one minute, but more ideally really is watch four seconds, because four seconds counts as a view. Our process is always, what's the cover photo going to be? And what the first four seconds is. Like TV, I sort of tease at the top [of the video] what it is about. So whatever that best shot of video is, that's the first four seconds.
How do you set yourself apart from others on the platform?
I don't think a lot of people produce the videos the way I do. Most just don't have a TV background if they're in the same space as I am. Photos too. I came up with my own edit to try and make photos stand out even more than just being good photos. I try to make them really distinctive. And then me. Someone else can copy that photo edit, but no one else can copy me being me. So I put myself in there more and more. That's no way for anyone to copy that.
How do you leverage your Instagram and to what extent do you monetize it?
I haven't had another job in over two years now. It's been full-time and all the money off of that. I mean maybe a little thing here and there that aren't Instagram photo shoots but it's 95 percent making money off of Instagram and sponsored content. I think when it's truly sponsored content and not just an ad, it works. That's what I fight about every single day with all these brands. The reason why Instagram is so great for everyone is that you're not just buying an audience. You're not buying the fact that I have 442,000 followers.
I mean, that helps, but it's all going to be put in my message and my way that can really connect to people on another level that people have a connection to when they're watching TV. They follow me and then I have that voice to pitch it. In the most ideal world they tell me what message they want to get across and what the key points are and then let me put it in my voice. I never want to hide it's an ad. But I find that if my voice is taken out of it no one's going to be receptive to it. So it's that struggle of it of always looking for that balance.
What advice do you have for other people who want to build brands on the platform?
[When people ask me for advice] I ask them what do you want out of this? If you just want to share photos of food, don't worry about those things. But if they say I want to build my brand and make money, you just have to find some way to stand out. Growth isn't going to happen that quickly and growth isn't going to happen the way it did a couple of years ago.
I think you can have an account of 20,000 followers and your content rocks it and you have a message and you have a voice. For brands that is so much more valuable than an account that has 100,000 followers but has no voice. And it's visual first. I worked really hard at improving on photos and videos. I taught myself how to do everything. Because Instagram is visual first, so if you don't stand out that way, you're never going to.
What's a misconception many people have about Instagram?
I think people don't understand how much work it takes. I don't put on Instagram what I do all day. I put the best part, which is me going into a restaurant and eating food. And I think the assumption is then, that's your life -- you get to go to a restaurant and eat food. That's obviously part of it. I go do these shoots but that's probably the smallest part of my day, and then the rest is what else it takes to run this business. It's fun and I'm going to go for it as long as I can.
People sometimes ask me, what's your backup plan? To me I love the fact that I'm still producing. My job now, there's a lot more to it because I'm running a business, but at the end of the day I'm a producer and that's what I always did. I think as long as I keep doing that, if Instagram dies but I was able to build this brand I could bring somewhere else, that's really the goal.