In today’s podcast episode, we are shining the spotlight on one of our successful Instagram Domination students, Zach Benson. This driven entrepreneur is in the trenches daily doing what it takes to make his startup dreams (and travel dreams) a reality. And he’s done a great job. We couldn’t be prouder!
Benson is a former professional breakdancer who suffered an injury that ended his dance career. Looking for a “plan B,” he turned to Instagram and joined the Instagram Domination course to learn how to build his personal travel pages and drive valuable traffic. He’s done so well, that in the last 18 months, 170 exotic hotels have given him free stays in exchange for exposure to his network, and he is on track to hit $1 million in revenue.
But the real magic happened when Benson partnered with a few Instagram Domination students and started an agency to help others grow and manage their Instagram accounts. The agency has worked with high-profile clients such as Four Seasons and Ritz-Carlton and currently services 50 other companies.
Benson is grateful to the Instagram Domination community for allowing him to connect with like-minded people and create a thriving business fueled by his passions for travel and social media. We are so happy for him and the success he has achieved. Way to go, Zach!
- How to build Instagram fan pages quickly to drive traffic to your company website
- Why Instagram is still powerful even with the recent algorithm changes
- What kind of content to post if you want to build brand awareness and grow your following
Full Transcript of Podcast with Zach Benson
Nathan: Awesome. All right. Well, the first question I ask everyone that comes on is, how did you get your job?
Zach: Well, I mean…for Instagram?
Nathan: Like, how did you find yourself doing the work you’re doing today, man? Like, I know you got a lot of things going on. Can you share with everyone like, what are you up to? How did you get to where you are today?
Zach: Yeah, for sure, man. Well, I mean, I’ve been on Instagram for a while. I mean, since it started. I actually bought an Instagram account or invested in one for like $10,000 back in the day and my friend was growing accounts 8,000 to 12,000 followers a day, each business day.
And that’s kind of how I got into it. So, this was my start with Instagram. This was about four or five years ago and then I kept going with it. I kept on learning and taking courses, paying for consultation, took IG Domination. And yeah, man, met some amazing people and that’s how I created my company and now we’re doing some really big things.
Nathan: Yeah, amazing. So I know that you’re a breakdancer and you travel the world and you use your Instagram like a, I guess, personal brand and your Instagram account as leverage to travel the world. And I know you mentioned to me that you’ve stayed at many different hotels and places all around the world for free.
And before all that, you were doing breakdancing. So let’s just go back, man. Like, where did it all start for you before anything online business, before anything Instagram? Where did you start, man? Tell me about that.
Zach: Oh yeah. So, I was actually born in South Korea and then adopted by my parents in the States. So I grew up in this place called Iowa, which people always get confused with Ohio. And growing up was hard for me, man. I struggled a lot, I got bad grades in school. I couldn’t say the letter R until I was in my 20s.
So, I didn’t really fit in because, one, I looked different, and two, I spoke different. So, kids would always tease me and make fun of me, and I was just this really shy Asian dude with all these other white people growing up. So, times were pretty rough for me until I found dance. And I was 15 years old and my friend just gifted me this great dance DVD, it was like, How to Break Dance by Mike Garcia.
And I watched it, fell in love with it and met some others, created my own crew and just kept on working and working and working, and then eventually, I was traveling and eventually I was on So You Think You Can Dance, this TV show. And now I’m teaching dance clinics everywhere I go, all over the world. But, yeah, it was a hard journey and long journey for sure.
Nathan: Yeah. I’m curious, did you go to university and study, or college? We call it uni out here in Australia, but did you go to college?
Zach: Yeah. So after high school, I went to college in Palo, Iowa. It’s like this small Dutch town, like, there’s only a thousand people in my college so it’s a small private school. And then I met some others who breakdance and we started competing and traveling. But I studied two things. I studied Spanish and my second major was Health Promotion, so like human kinesiology, anatomy, that kind of stuff.
And I wanted to be a personal trainer. So, yeah, I studied that. I finished my degrees and then after that, I did a bunch of things. I performed a year of service, lived on $2 a day for food, created an intentional community of my refugee neighbors.
So I helped them find jobs and homes with a resettlement agency called World Relief. And then after that, I found my birth mom in Korea because I was adopted and then yeah, eventually, I used my college majors and became a personal trainer for a year.
Nathan: So after you became a personal trainer and you had your dance crew, when did you go on So You Think You Can Dance? For some people, that’s kind of crazy, even for me. That would be kind of scary, just to kind of start traveling around and teaching dancing and stuff, man. How did that all happen?
Zach: Yeah. So, I mean, it was always one of my dreams to travel and teach dance. Like, get flown out from a studio to teach dance and do what I love. So, I mean, it wasn’t easy at first. It took me, like I said, I started when I was 15 and then my first So You Think You Can Dance audition was in 2013 and I made it pretty far, and then I just kept on trying out and coming back and auditioning again.
And then finally, the last season, I got on to a couple of episodes. So I made it to the top 100 of the show and made it pretty far, but then the producer was like, “You just don’t have what it takes. Don’t put all of your eggs in one basket. Go out, make a name for yourself, but you can’t make it all the way on the show.”
And so I was really good and his words hurt, but there’s a lot of truth in that. There’s so much more opportunity out there for me to teach dance clinics at all these studios around the world and I was just so focused on just getting to the top 20 of the show or winning this competition that I was missing out on other things.
Nathan: Yeah, wow. So, how many times did you audition for the show? Like, over how many years?
Zach: I auditioned four times.
Nathan: Over four years?
Zach: Yeah. So, I mean, they had a couple of auditions each year and yeah, I auditioned in L.A. all my time, so, thousands of people showed up and only a few made it to the next round. So very competitive.
Nathan: So, What happened next?
Zach: So after he told me that, I was feeling kind of down and stuff, but then I was like, “All right, well, I’m just going to take his advice and run with it,” right? So, basically, he told me to contact Nestle, Nesquik because my B-Boy name is Nesquik.
Like, I drink the chocolate milk before battles and stuff. So, he’s like, “Why don’t you call Nesquik?” So I did. Me and my friend made a video, we sent it in, they loved it, they gave me a bunch of free product and stuff, and promoted me a little bit. And it was with that brand collaboration and my professional dance video and I leveraged to both and I said, “Hey, I was also on ‘So You Think You Can Dance,’ I’ve worked with Nestle and here’s a video of my moves. I’d love to come and teach a dance clinic at your studio. Let me know if these dates works.”
And then slowly, I began getting good positive replies and started booking jobs left and right. But yeah, of course, I had to figure out my pricing and a bunch of different things to get these studios to say yes. So, I heard a lot of nos before I got a yes.
Nathan: And by this stage, did you realize that you were going to work on your personal brand and your audience and your influence on Instagram? When did you start on that?
Zach: So it all started to make sense to me. So after I created a professional video, then I did that for a couple of years, just used my YouTube video and got me a bunch of jobs, but then I was like, “Okay, now it’s time to transition on Instagram.” So I made an Instagram profile and it’s really good.
I had about maybe 15,000 followers just because I taught at so many dance clinics and then just kept building that up. And then from there, took Instagram Domination, improved that page a little bit and then I changed it into a travel page because ultimately, I became more passionate about travel and I injured my back, so I couldn’t do dance anymore.
Nathan: So you don’t dance anymore?
Zach: Yeah. So, I taught in 50 countries and then made it a full-time career. And then in India, about two and a half years ago, three years ago, I hurt my back and basically, that ended my career. And my plan B was with Instagram.
I was like, “Okay, well, what do I do now?” because that was my money generator. That’s how I was making a living, just teaching dance. So I didn’t have a plan B. And so then I had to figure out, “Okay, well, what the heck am I going to do?” And I started learning about Instagram and so that’s what I started to do and then I just went with it and focused just on Instagram.
Nathan: Yeah, got you. And now, you have like an agency or something with some other students and stuff that have done the Instagram course and stuff, right?
Zach: Yeah. It’s amazing, man. So, I just saw…because you guys got a great community, right? So just great interesting people who are entrepreneurs that are doing great things, and I saw a lot of the students were dropping amazing massive value in the community and I was just like, “Well, hey guys, why don’t we just create an agency and grow people’s Instagrams, grow and manage people’s Instagrams?”
So that was about…I can’t remember when I took the course, maybe two and a half years ago, or so. And, yeah, we’ve blown up a lot, to now we have like, I don’t know, over 50 clients.
Nathan: Yeah, wow. And when it comes to, I guess, utilizing your Instagram account because you built it up and follow a stranger and all those kinds of things to get free travel and travel around the world for free, how does that exactly work?
Can you talk us through that?
Zach: Yeah, for sure. Good question. So how do you travel for free is with Instagram, right? So, basically, all these hotels have availability during their off seasons and so they want to stay full. And so now more companies than ever are spending a ton of money on influencer marketing and they have in their budget, influencer space.
So basically, these hotels want these influencers to come to create content to promote their hotel, to give them a feature basically on their Instagram accounts, which is going to drive more traffic and customers and get them more sales. So, I figured it out. And again, it was this girl, in Instagram Domination family and she was telling me, “One of my friends travels the world for free and she gets signed by Air Asia and gets all these cool hotel deals.”
And so I was like, well, I messaged her and I was like, “How do you do it?” And of course, no response. So, I figured out I just had to learn myself and basically, yeah, all I do is I offer them some post on my Instagram accounts, some edited photos, maybe some reviews, and that’s it.
And that’s how I’ve gotten over 170 nights for free for myself and my friends in the last one and a half years.
Nathan: Wow. And are these five-star hotels? Like, four-star, three-star? What are we talking, man?
Zach: Yeah. These are all five-star hotels. I mean, I got my girlfriend two weeks stay in Europe. It was a mixture of five-star hotels and then she stayed at a couple of nice hostels. But these are all five-star luxury hotel experiences. So, I have a trip coming up to the Maldives and that’s a seven night, like, one week stay in the best hotel in Maldives, and it’s over $25,000 in value and I got full board, right?
Breakfast, lunch, dinner, activities, airport, airplane transfers, everything. So it’s like a $5000 a night hotel or something like that.
Nathan: Yeah, wow. That’s crazy, man. So, I’m curious, when it comes to… obviously you started with your own personal brand account, you’ve built that up and then now as a travel page, and then now you’ve got all these other accounts. Are they all fan pages and are we able to share with the audience, what are fan pages, why are they significant, and yeah, what kind of businesses should be using Instagram, do you think?
Zach: Yeah. So, basically, like I said, I got injured and then I changed my personal dance page to a travel page and that’s a big no-no. You shouldn’t be changing niches like that. But I only own these feature pages, like these hub pages that basically it’s like…what that means it’s like, there’s tons of awesome content already on Instagram and it’s reposting that awesome content on your hub page.
So whatever you’re passionate about. So for example, I’m passionate about travel. So I post other people’s pictures about travel on my travel page and give them credit. And yeah, we figured out a way to make those pictures go even more viral and get a ton of followers. But I just wanted to create a system, like for my Travel Academy, I tell people like, “You don’t need your own personal Instagram account. You don’t need a big network. You don’t need to use credit cards or points. Basically, you just need a hub page and you can build it up really fast and then leverage that to get free hotel stays and a lot more.”
But yeah, I feel like every business should be on Instagram because there’s like over 800 million active users. I mean, I think it’s like 48% brands are on Instagram now or something like that. It’s crazy. It’s like the fastest growing and most engaging platform out there right now.
Nathan: Like, obviously for us at Foundr, we’re pretty big fans of Instagram. It’s been a game changer for our business, and we did a course and we got heaps of different courses that we produce at Foundr. But I see Instagram as probably the number one place if you want to build an audience first without spending any money.
It’s like probably the easiest barrier to entry for free acquisition, if you know what you’re doing. And I think that’s what’s really, really key. Like, there’s so many people that get started, they try Instagram and they stop. What are your thoughts or what advice would you give to people that are thinking, maybe I should use Instagram for my business and where to get started.
Like, I know you mentioned hub pages, I call them fan pages, it’s the same thing. But do you think people should have a hub or fan page on top of their brand page? Like, if they’ve got a business or if they have a personal brand or… What are your thoughts?
Zach: Yeah. So, I mean, I didn’t know so much about this stuff before Instagram Domination. I mean, you guys really taught me about lead magnets and lead magnet creation, but just from using my fan travel page, I drive free traffic with my lead magnet, which is like learn how to travel the world for free, they click on this article, it gives them a growth hacking guide to get them started on this free travel stuff.
And then I build my email list and everything and get signups for my course. So, it’s free traffic and making me a lot of sales. So, I feel like businesses… I feel like everyone should start a hub page around your passions because that’s what Instagram is about and you’ll be more, it’s just I think more fun and interesting to you when you’re first starting and playing around with Instagram to build up a page around your passions and then eventually, you could use that page to drive traffic to your business, whether it’s like, okay, maybe you have an e-commerce store and you’re selling maybe facial mask packs that cleanse your pores and your face.
You could build up a fan page just all about make up packs or before and after pics of celebrities or other people, and then you could even convert, do product call-to-actions on that page to your store and then drive more traffic to your business page.
So, I usually think a combo is good.
Nathan: Yeah. And when it comes to Instagram right now, a lot of people, something that people always ask me is, “Well, Instagram’s not like the ROL algorithm and it’s not powerful anymore,” and all these other things. What are your thoughts on that?
Zach: I mean, the algorithms are constantly changing, right? With just like all the crazy stuff that happened with Mark Zuckerberg and Facebook, their Cambridge Analytica and the privacy stuff. I mean, things are changing for sure every single day and that’s a good thing. But, I mean, I feel like the tension shift from Facebook to Instagram is like moving faster than ever before.
So like, if you’re not on Instagram right now, the opportunity is huge and massive. You want to be on it and get on it now so that you don’t get left behind.
Nathan: Yeah. I agree. And another thing that people always ask as well is like, “What kind of content to post? I don’t know what content to post.” I know we go through all of this in the course, but I’m just really curious to hear your thoughts. Obviously with your fan pages, hub pages, you can find other pages that you can just credit them and they inspire you.
But what about for your business, if you have let’s say an e-commerce brand or like, let’s say, a local business or a digital business, what do you recommend to post?
Zach: Yeah. Well, I first recommend for these people to build these fan pages so they can see what is good content, what is epic content that goes viral and why is this content going viral and getting so many likes, and views, and comments. You need to figure that out. And then two, it’s like market research on your competitors to see what they do and what works and what doesn’t.
And you can basically go through every post and see what type of content they’re posting and seeing how you can duplicate that or even make it better or also change up your content strategy so that you’re more unique and different. I think nowadays it’s harder than ever to just be truly original with your content and create really epic content all the time.
That’s why it’s a process because I feel like a lot of brands and businesses, they put so much effort into their content and they think it’s really good, but sometimes it isn’t and then they don’t know how to grow their page with that content. They don’t know how to make it go viral and get millions of impressions and stuff.
So, that’s why I always feel like it’s best to start with just fan pages and see what your competitors do.
Nathan: And when it comes to, I guess, content, photos or videos? What do you think is better? I have my own opinion on this. I’d love to hear your thoughts.
Zach: I mean, we do a mixture, right? So, for example, some of our fan pages, we can repost a picture and then make that picture go even more viral. But, I mean, definitely videos as far as growth, it usually gets more attraction and people love a good video, especially if you can capture their attention and pick their interest in the first seven seconds, and to keep them engaged throughout it all.
Yeah, I think video is the best.
Nathan: Yeah, I agree. I think video’s so extremely key right now.
Well, look, we have to work towards wrapping up, brother, but I’m just curious, how did you find out about Foundr and then…how did you find us? I’ve never asked you this.
How did you find us? And then yeah, I’ve gotten to know you and you’ve gotten to know our team on a more intimate level because you’re a member of Instagram Domination. But yeah, I’m really curious.
Zach: Yeah. I think it was through a friend and they mentioned what you guys were doing with the Instagram Domination course and then I watched the video and then I saw another video through a different funnel that you set up, I think on your Instagram page.
And yeah, I just felt like it’s an awesome course, and it is because like, man, compared to all the other courses, you guys went above and beyond and dropped a crazy amount of value. And just from the little things to the big things, you guys really do a great job on explaining things and breaking things down, everything that you can possibly imagine.
So, I mean, yeah, great job on great content.
Nathan: Thanks, man. We’re working on so many different courses, it’s crazy. I’m really passionate about, at Foundr, for us building a 10X educational course platform where we’re getting all these people that we’ve interviewed to start teaching things now.
And it’s driven by you guys, it’s driven by the community, which is something I’m really, really passionate about. So we’re only creating stuff that people truly want, and yeah, obviously, I taught the Instagram course because that was back in the day when it was just me and I had to try and grow the magazine, the subscription base, and yeah, it was just similar to like what you’re doing, man.
You have to, I think… sometimes we interview so many people for Foundr and a lot of the times, we don’t talk about the early days and it’s cool to talk about your journey and you’re still in the early days, man, and it’s cool to hear, kind of, hear you in the trenches. And sometimes it’s a good mix up because yeah, dude, a couple years ago, that was me in the trenches, just me trying to work out how to grow this magazine and get more subscriptions and grow the brand, and I found Instagram, it was an absolute game changer.
And I didn’t want to do consulting or agency, or create an agency or anything like that just because my biggest passion is one to build a household name entrepreneurial brand, like a Forbes or Inc or Fast Company, and someone said, “Oh, you should create a course,” and then I validated it and then here we are and now, we’re building this whole massive course platform.
But I think sometimes you just have to get down and dirty when you’ve launched something and you’re just getting started, and you’ve just got to hustle, right? Like, all this stuff you are saying, whether it’s buying an account or whatnot, you’ve just got to hustle, man, and just network with people and find really, really smart people that have done the things you want to do before and learn from them, right?
Zach: Yeah, exactly. You got to hustle hard and then leverage what you have, whatever skill you have, whether it’s a big Instagram account or it’s some other talent or skill that’s amazing to just simply give value and do exchanges, and so you build your network and eventually, the network leads to more deals and opportunities. But, dude, I mean, for sure, thank you for you guys for bringing us together, man, because for real, my life has changed.
So many people’s lives are being changed now because the agency that we’ve created and just the community that we’ve created, so it’s just amazing to see and watch and be like, “Wow, we can really create some amazing things from these online friends that we meet in these online communities.”
Nathan: Yeah. It’s amazing, man. Well, look, brother, look, I just want to say thank you so much for your time and I really appreciate you jumping on and speaking to me all the way from South Africa. What are you doing over there right now?
Zach: Oh yeah, I just spoke at an event called Unconventional Life. So that was a couple of days ago and now I’m just exploring, going on safaris, visiting some wineries, hanging out, meeting new friends. So, it’s fun.
Nathan: Wow. Living the dream, all thanks to Instagram, eh? How good is it?
Zach: Yeah. True, man. It’s all because of Instagram, that’s true.
Nathan: Awesome, man. Well, look, I’ll let you go, brother, but thank you so much for your time and we’ll speak soon.
Zach: Awesome. Thanks for having me on. See you, Nathan. Bye.
Key Resources From Our Interview With Zach Benson
- Learn more about Zach’s Instagram page that he used to travel the world for free
- Sign up for Instagram Domination
- Sign up for this Free Instagram Masterclass training