5 Startup Lessons I Learned From Being an Instagram Influencer
Jude Fulton

It’s been an incredible journey building my company, Mosss, a self-service tool for interior design. We combine machine learning technology with world-class designer insight to deliver the ultimate design intelligence platform. However, my story didn’t start in tech. I started my career as an architect and would never have guessed that I would become an Instagram influencer. My Instagram account has become a source of inspiration for all things design, architecture and lifestyle with a community of over 40,000 followers. In founding Mosss, I have found new applications for many of my past learnings as an influencer. Here are some of the lessons that being an Instagram influencer has taught me in building a startup.

1. Understanding Engagement

Successful engagement with one’s audience is critical. Being an Instagram influencer has helped me understand what’s engaging, and what helps draw in an audience. Engagement is a powerful metric for understanding if you are resonating with your followers or users. Ultimately, you want to best serve your audience, and their engagement is the best way to tell if it’s working. Engagement on Instagram comes in the form of likes, comments, tagging and messaging. Engagement for startups can be measured by time on site, click-through rate, comments, emails, feedback, and by analyzing how users interact with the product. Prioritizing this engagement has helped in the overall planning of Mosss’ success. As an influencer, I learned that productive engagement is a strong indicator of health and progress.

2. Building Community

My experience as an influencer helped me learn the true value of building a community of people with shared interests. I curate content that people care about and keep my focus on resonating with my followers. I also use Instagram as a way to connect with, and support other influencers and designers. For Mosss, we cared deeply about building a community around people who believed in making design intelligence accessible. We wanted our platform to be interactive, to provide great tools for design use, and to give complete access to insightful design resources. We found that when we led with this shared vision, many incredible designers, architects and makers came out to support us. We’ve had unbelievable support from people we would have never even imagined meeting. This kind of community development and support is invaluable.

3. A Lot of Patience

Communities build (and scale) one day at a time. I would have never seen the fruits of my labor-of-love, had I quit when I only had a few hundred Instagram followers. It helped confirm that nothing worthwhile comes without work and patience, even in the world of social media. It took ongoing commitment and work to create content and engage with followers. I had to put myself out there in little ways to get the ball rolling. This included getting offline, attending photo walks, and supporting others in the community. All of this was a continuous process of putting one foot in front of the other, until one day my little snowball started to grow bigger, and then bigger.

This commitment has helped me focus on the big picture, and provide value to my followers and now, to the users of Mosss. There are many ups and downs to entrepreneurship -- not everyday went as planned, but with patience and perseverance things started to stick.

4. Ship Quickly and Frequently

Pressing the metaphorical ‘launch’ button and getting your work out there can be the most daunting part. In my case, becoming a content creator and getting into a regular content production schedule helped lessen the intimidation. I’ve survived bad posts, lackluster photography and typos before. I learned that it’s more about iteratively getting better, not doing it all in one shot. Putting out this kind of content is about momentum and taking action with a clear goal in mind. I realized my success correlated more with frequency and consistency in posting than it did with posting something perfectly crafted here and there.

That said, whether for Instagram or Mosss, I tend to get content out and iterate quickly. I’ve come to learn that being an influencer and founder of a startup demands the consistency and kinetics required to take advantage of unique opportunities as they arise. My design school experience paired with my Instagram experience has enabled within me a process of rapid prototyping, observing and testing. It is the constant iterating that gets us the feedback we’ve needed to provide a product of major quality and value.

5. Your Content is a Reflection of You

As a designer, I gravitate toward things that are personally meaningful and likewise, my startup is a natural outgrowth of my interests and background. Chances are, your startup will reflect who you are too. When you create something that is an extension of yourself and your interests, it is evident to all. My friends, followers, and users know when I put out something that is special to me. It’s really educational to develop content from that personal space, and understand how it works with the audience around you.