Everyone knows that attractive and successful people can be found on Instagram. Nowadays brands have to cooperate with them. They are trendsetters. Influencers.
However, not everyone knows how much you need to invest to become an internet star. Some sources give numbers like hundreds of thousands or even millions. Marketer from Russian digital agency Nectarin Roman Zaripov and his friend Misha decided to check it out.
In July 2016 some videos of Italian millionaire Gianluca Vacchi become viral on the Russian internet. Russians liked him so much, that he got invited to participate in popular TV show in Moscow. One of his videos:
Four months before that, Roman and Misha were just wondering if these sums of money, that they’ve read about, are real. Is it really so difficult and so expensive to create a star on Instagram, which then can get invited on a TV show in Moscow? With author’s permission, I publish the translation of Roman’s Facebook post:
March of the same year. 4 months before. Almost every evening after work, I go to the city center to have dinner with Misha, share news and chat about the important things (actually about women and all kinds of nonsense).
One evening, being on a wave of spring creative inspiration, we are discussing a dozen of crazy ideas and projects and come across an article about how in 2016 to create a star and how much money you need for it. In the text appears 6 or 7 zeros, what confuses us, but simultaneously throwing down a challenge to us.
We take a laptop, quickly write down 10 characters that we could create ourselves, to prove that no millions are needed to make noise on the internet. We take the best features from each character and on the output we get a 60-year-old successful man who has a sharp tongue, is sporty and admires young girls.
15 minute search on Vkontakte and we find the perfect grandpa, that rents an apartment in Khimki (small town near Moscow — KK) and lives on a pension payment. Though far from the image of a rich man, he looks great. The next evening we are sitting on Patriarch Ponds, telling grandpa about our crazy idea and offering a small fee, as a supplement to his pension, to spend every Saturday with us doing photos for a few hours.
Saturday. We buy clothes, go to the center and make first shots in expensive car, in cool store and a restaurant. It takes us half a day, and another hour to create and set an account on Instagram – https://www.instagram.com/borisbork/. We start posting.
In 2 weeks we have 10 photos published, we use “Suggest news” function on Vkontakte communities to post fake news about a crazy grandfather, that we found on the internet. We buy a few posts and “light a candle”. For a couple of hours our profile gets about 2000 followers, users are starting to like and comment posts, and we just enjoy watching and continue to make posts.
At the level of 8,000 followers during one week “we” are invited to the First Channel (Russian TV channel with the highest reach — KK) as an expert, to “Russia” Channel (the second most popular TV channel — KK) to make a report about happy old age, 5 radio shows and one public performance. Clothing brands contact Boris with offers to act in advertising, and to accept free products.
Every day on Instagram Direct we receive about 30 messages from young people who offer their business ideas. And girls who responded to a post about a free trip to Europe and decided not to waste the opportunity.
At this moment I’ve started to go crazy a little bit. I’m shocked how easy it is to cheat people, and that those who must carefully check the information, don’t do it at all.
For a couple of weeks we take pictures of Boris, exposing his as an athlete, or a crazy man, who came to the restaurant “Pushkin” with a package from McDonald’s. And we continue to wonder how absolutely with no investments (excluding meals in restaurants and paying for gasoline) the popularity of non-existent person grows.
In some summer day Misha and I drink at the Motel bar, and see a group of young kids discussing Boris and asking each other did they met him in Moscow.
In the morning Misha goes to his dacha, and I’m going home to sleep and we decide to end the experiment.
After a few days, I come to work, open Facebook and I see an insane amount of shares of video with dancing Italian millionaire. He could easily be a younger brother of our Boris, despite the fact that Gianluca Vacca is a real millionaire, and Boris is just a retired man living in Khimki.
There is nothing complicated in composing a legend and putting a character in real life. The whole entourage and locations can be easily found within the Garden Ring, and expensive cars and private jets are rented for a couple of thousand [of rubles] per hour. The same as girls of model appearance. Fortunately, in Russia nowadays no one is surprised of “rich people out of nowhere.”
Why am I writing this? While having a breakfast I saw new video by Therr Maitz (https://youtu.be/c-MI4q50bD0) and in one scene, who can we see? Right. Our Boris. Who, apparently, liked to be at the center of attention, and decided to continue career, now acting in commercials and music videos.
So what is the conclusion? None. But six months later, I continue to wonder that spending 50 000 rubles ($800) for 2 months, you can make tens of thousands of adults to believe in a non-existent person, and they never get confused.
Add another ‘zero’ to our costs and it is possible to create Philip Kirkorov’s competitor :)