This Instagram marketer failed in 15 different businesses but now runs a successful agency that teaches people how to market on Instagram

Have you heard the story of Robert the Bruce, the famous King of Scots?

No? Let me narrate it for you.

In 1305, King Robert was hiding in a cave after losing to the advancing English army in the battle of Methven. He was sad and felt helpless against the might of the English.

Just then, he noticed a spider spinning a web trying to connect one end of the cave's roof to the other. It failed multiple times, but ultimately, succeeded in it.

Inspired by the spider's determination, King Robert quickly regrouped and gathered his men, and inflicted a series of defeats on the English army in the following years. It won him many supporters and eventual victory.

Why are we narrating this?

Because our guest is a 'Robert Bruce' of modern times.

Meet Haris Aboobacker, an entrepreneur who has failed in 15 businesses, but today runs a successful social media agency. We caught up with Haris to know his journey, and to understand how to use Instagram to build one's brand.

Here are excerpts from our conversation.

Q. Hi Haris, tell us about yourself

Haris: I build strategies that help your brand to grow in social media. I run a company called Harris & co where we help business owners grow their business with online marketer. I believe if you want to be a successful internet marketer, you need these 3 C's, which is  Coaching, Community, and Consulting.

So, if you look at it, we build ‘Communities’ for ourselves on  LinkedIn, Instagram, YouTube. And, then, you need a product to push through using the power of the internet. That’s what I refer to as ‘Consulting’ or 'Conversion.'

Finally, when you consult, you will have a lot of information and knowledge. Now, it is time to pass on that information, so that's where ‘Coaching’ comes in. I believe, if you have these 3 C's, you can become a seven-figure or eight-figure internet marketer. 

Q. Tell us about your Entrepreneurship journey

Haris: I started my entrepreneurial journey in 11th standard by printing a magazine. Since then, I have started close to 16 different types of businesses and 15 of them just failed. My last failure was in February 2019, and it got me into a lot of trouble.

All those failures pushed me into depression. But, my life changed when I decided to quit my last job and just focus on building something for myself. I rented a flat and stayed there for 2 months, and I jotted down a ton of ideas to start on my own.

So I just went with the flow and started my agency as a one-man team.

Q. Tell us more about your new company

Haris: My agency is still very young, but we are able to consistently produce good results for our clients.

For example, one of our clients garnered more than 15,000 followers on Instagram, in just a matter of six to seven months. One other client has already crossed more than 5,000 in a really short period of time.

We  don’t just believe in putting in the work, but also in getting results. We believe in the end result for our clients. Our core objective is to get measurable results for each client that comes to us.

We are ready to spend any amount of money and time to get that result for our clients. At the end of the day, people hire us for the results. 

“ You can either have results or excuses - Not Both “

- Arnold Schwarzenegger

Q. Tell us more about your community program to help small businesses.

Haris: Yes, that’s true. I have an active community called Stories Revolutionary where we motivate people to tell stories about their life.  We want a lot of people to start telling their stories because that is something which we forgot in this modern world. In olden days, our forefathers were master storytellers, but somehow, that is a forgotten art now.

We do a lot of programs in that community through the art of storytelling. 

Apart from that, I focus on helping small businesses in Kerala, India.  That's why I give away my Sundays as “Small Business Sunday”.  Every Sunday from 7-9 pm, I sit down with small business owners and give them a free consultation. I am also planning for a small business tour to all the 14 districts in Kerala and guide them with online marketing.

I have started and failed at 16 different types of business.

Collectively I have wasted around eight years of my life, just because I had no clue on how to scale my business. I did not have a mentor because I was brought up in a rural place in Kerala.  

I do not want the same thing to happen with the small business around me. I want to help small business owners effectively scale up their business. I want these business owners to have the help and guidance I never had.

That’s why I do this every Sunday, for free

My mission statement is to help 10,000 small business owners in Kerala.

Q. What are your favourite strategies for building an audience on Instagram?

1. Community and conversations (focus on the people you already have)

There are a lot of like strategies focused on building your IG numbers, but the most important is about building conversation with people on Instagram. You need to connect with each person and strike a conversation with them. Instagram is not just about watching pictures, getting replies and likes. All of these things are just vanity metrics in the grand scheme of things. 

Let’s say that you have 200 people following you on Instagram. Now that’s 200 people waiting to hear and see your posts, every time you open your Instagram. If you put that 200 people in a room, you wouldn’t even be able to fit them all in. You would need to rent a hall to actually fit 200 followers! 

Here is where most people go wrong. They don’t focus on the 200 people they already have. Instead, they go outside the room and wait for the next 100 people to show up. They don’t understand the value of the 200 followers they already have. Instead, they choose to focus on the new followers for their Instagram.

Here’s what you can do 

You need to think about ways to add value to the lives of  200 people who already follow you. You need to impact these 200 people with high quality content. Once you truly impact these 200 people, they will start talking about you in public and bring you the next set of 100 people. Each follower will become your advocate and bring in a new set of followers to your IG account. 

That's exactly how you create a community when you begin on Instagram. You have to put in the effort to talk with the people and identify their problems. Then you have to create content that helps to solve their problem.


2. Niche down your audience

Don’t confuse your audience by being everything to everyone. 

Five years back, if someone came to you and told you that “I'm a motivational speaker“,  you'd have huge respect for them. But, today, if someone told you, "I'm a motivational speaker," you wouldn’t give a damn about it. This is because the motivational speaking space has become so crowded. So people are not surprised when you say that you’re a motivational speaker anymore.

That’s the same way it works with Instagram right now. Nowadays, general keywords or general things do not work as they used to. To be exceptional you need to go deep and pick a solid niche for yourself. 

Be specific with who you are and stop confusing your audience.

Starting a business? How far should you niche down? • XO Sarah
Image Source:

For example, let’s consider two people - an Instagram marketer and a digital marketer. If you have doubts related to Instagram, would you go to a digital marketer, or would you choose the Instagram marketer?

If you are someone like me, you would definitely go to Instagram marketers. 

Even if the digital marketer has 100,000 followers and the Instagram marketer has only 10,000 followers, I would still choose the Instagram marketer.

Because the Instagram marketer can help me solve my problems on Instagram. He is the perfect person to help you because he is not being everything to everyone. So he does not confuse your audience.

As a content creator, you need to build your personal brand in one specific niche and build up from there. You should never confuse your audience.

Sure, your growth as an Instagram marketer will be slow when compared to the digital marketer. But when you niche down, you will be known to your audience for one specific thing.

That’s your competitive advantage to the digital marketer who is not known for one specific thing.


3. Experiment with your own profile

When I started my career as a digital marketer, my first client was my own brand. I started experimenting with a lot of things on my own profile and built my portfolio. This is something I showed to my clients and that’s how I got my initial projects. I used my profile as a lab and ran a ton of social media experiments on it. Right now, I'm not focused on building my numbers, but just put out good content and experiment with it. 

So if you’re new to Instagram, the first thing you should do is create content and run experiments on your own profile. This way you build your brand while also understanding what truly works in your industry.


4. Have a good profile picture and well-written BIO

Apart from good content and community interaction, you need a well-written bio and a profile picture. That should be the bare minimum when you are starting out with Instagram. As you post more content, you can start worrying about color combinations and other specifics on your profile. 


5. Be consistent with what you do on Instagram

When you are starting out, it's all about great content and consistency. Instagram is a crowded place and you need lots of consistency to build a solid audience. You need to be aggressive with your marketing and content creation on Instagram. Five posts in a month were something that used to work five years back, but not today. Most of the strategies that worked a year back, do not exist anymore.

The only thing that still works is consistency

Always be consistent with your content and community on Instagram. 


Q. Quality or quantity: What would you prefer on Instagram?

I'd rather help people by giving them fresh content regularly.

Most people are obsessed with quality when they are just starting out. On the other hand, I believe in consistency. When you start, you have to take massive action and that’s not gonna happen if you’re obsessed with quality.  Quality will prevent you from doing consistent action and you stop posting altogether.

When you are just starting out, quantity is more important than quality. With a high quantity, your quality also starts to improve.

With more quantity, you will have a new barrier every day and you automatically cross that barrier each day. After one to three months, you can compare yourself and see that improvement over time.

Without consistency and quantity, you will not realize the barriers you have to overcome. Without realizing them, you won’t overcome them. Without overcoming them, your quality will never improve. It will always be the same.


Q. What’s the best content format to post on Instagram?

According to my experience, Instagram Reels give you a lot of reaches, and then comes IGTV. After IGTV, Instagram pushed out one-minute videos a lot. If you're thinking about getting a ton of sales, then the biggest thing you need to work on is Instagram Carousel.

The Instagram Carousel allows you to sell in a subtle way with the power of content.  For example, we use the AIDA technique to grab attention on the first page and take their interest throughout the Instagram Carousel. We increase their desire, and in the end, we create a Call to Action for an ebook or a digital product. The Call to Action at the end of the slide will get a ton of traction and from there you get people to your marketing funnel.

With Instagram Reels, you need to be a little entertaining and creative with your message.  

With Photos, it can be tough for you to break out of the crowd because it is crowded. You need to have a solid color combination and people need to be charmed by your aesthetics.

Here’s what I truly believe: If you want to make it to Instagram right now, focus on Reels.  Put out as many reels as you can to improve the reach of your IG profile at this moment.


Do you have any examples where IG reels have worked?

Yes, I have tons of examples of that.

One of my clients started using reels just five months back, and we have already crossed a million views. One of these last videos garnered close to 300,000 views and that’s giving us 100-200 followers every single day.

Initially, the views-to-follower conversion was less, but we started using a very specific call to action and the conversion rates just blew through the roof. Right now, we have hit close to 16,500 followers in a span of five months.

Now that’s real growth for a niche account.

Q: What’s your success theory for IG carousel posts?

Haris: There are a ton of creators who are just using the carousel to reach milestones of 300k, 500k, and one million followers.  When creating your carousel, here’s a simple principle you can follow.

1. Your first slide should be able to grab attention:

If you're not grabbing the attention of the scroller, nobody will see it.

2. Your content should move them from one slide to the next

 You shouldn’t put all your good points on the second slide. Build a story and move people from one slide to the next.

3. Have a strong and focused CTA at the end

Your final slide should ask the viewer to do only one thing. For example, you can ask them to do one of the following things in the CTA

  • Bookmark this post
  • Leave a comment
  • Like this post
  • Follow me


Q: What are the most common mistakes people make on Instagram?

Haris: I see people make a ton of mistakes on Instagram. But I’ll keep it short and tell you about the most common mistakes.

Trying to be everything to everyone

People are not ready to lose stuff and so they want to post about everything they love. Unless you're in the entertainment sector, posting about anything and everything is not a good strategy. If you really want to build your brand and start generating leads, you need to be specific about what you are talking about.

People can get confused when you are posting about everything on  the internet. They don’t connect with you on a deep level. They will never remember you for the things that you’re really good at.

The Instagram of 2021 does not work like that.

You should go deep down and find 100 people who would love to hear from you. You need to start caring about them and understand their difficulties and challenges. Then create content that either entertains or educates them.

When you have taken hold of that niche, start focusing on the next niche and the next 100 people.

Start with one niche and build from there

Robin Sharma quote: The business (and person) who tries to be everything  to...

Consuming a ton of content, but never creating any content

Haris: They spend more time listening to the platform and less time creating for the platform. People spend close to 12 hours on Instagram just consuming content and listening to what other people have to say. If you're a creator, you have to spend more time creating the content and less time consuming it.

I have a research account where I only follow my mentors and top players in my niche. Whenever I open that account, I only see their content and I don't follow anyone there.

I spend more time consuming the right type of content that will benefit me.

The Surprising Truth Behind Creating and Consuming | by John Spencer |  Creativity Illustrated | Medium
Consume the right type of content. Source: John Spencer's Blog

But, other people follow random accounts and consume content that ends up wasting their time.

They don’t use stories to its full potential

The third mistake people make is not using stories to their full potential. I was able to crack business deals of more than one lakh rupees (~$1,400) by selling through stories. You need to give beneficial content in the feed and then sell using stories. That's the exact strategy I use on my Instagram profile as well as my client’s accounts.

The goal is to put out a lot of content that helps people and attracts them to our feed. When they follow us, we start selling using stories.

Check out this blog to understand the different ways in which you can use stories for your business.

They don’t work on their bio and their link on the profile

Haris: Your bio, your profile picture, and your last 9 posts are the most important factors on your profile.

The bio link is important for business owners who have digital products. People should come onto your profile, read your bio, and immediately understand what’s in the link below. Yet again, I see a lot of people confusing their audience in two ways.

  1. They don’t explain what the link is all about
  2. They change the links and never update them on their Bio

You need to write what is down there and set a realistic expectation to what they will get when they click on the link. It's like a funnel you're creating for your profile visitors. You need to understand that when a stranger comes to your profile he's not gonna check all the posts on your profile. He’s gonna check your bio, your highlights and then he will probably do three swipes before moving on. 

Famous research actually states that any profile visitor will do three swipes on a new profile. This translates to the ninth post after which he will stop scrolling and hit the back button. Your first 9 posts, your bio, and your profile picture must actually convince people to follow your profile.

Understand that before you put out any new post on your profile.

Mistakes to avoid on Instagram by Haris

Q: What is a 'social media superpower' you'd love to have?

My superpower - I should be able to talk to all my followers and build conversations with them on a personal level.

Haris Aboobacker's Social Media superpower

I have done this experiment in the past, where I used to post a lot of pictures on my profile. Whenever someone liked my picture, I would visit their profile and see if they follow me.

If they didn’t follow me, I would directly message them with a “thankYou“ message. I would ask their permission and send them one of my e-books. I would personally ask for their email ID and send them my ebook.

Now two things will take place when I do this. 

  1. Some of these people become my most loyal followers and actually refer me to other people. (I got real clients out of that )
  2. I was able to build an email list of 600 people for free.

Yes, my recommended superpower is to always talk and connect with my followers on a personal level.

Right now, I have a person to manage my Instagram and other social media profiles to take bookings and respond to any queries.

But yes, it would be cool if I had a superpower to do all that by myself.

Q: What’s your biggest goal in life?

My future goal is of course to become the best marketing agency in Kerala.  Right now I'm just focused on my city and my state. So my goal is to become the best marketing agency in Kerala and that's what we are working towards.

We are also obsessed with results and we celebrate every small result that we bring to our clients. 

There are two types of digital marketing agencies in the world. One is the type that does the work and calls it a day. Another is the type which is restless till they get results for their clients and makes them happy.

We belong to the second category. We want to change a lot of business in Kerala and change the way online marketing works in this state.

Yes, so that would be my big goal.

Haris's story is just one amongst a series of fabulous conversations that we've had with achievers. Here're other fabulous conversations in our "Grow Your YouTube" series:

  1. Trekers - The YouTuber couple who shot to celebrity status with a video of a secret World War II U-boat
  2. The story of how a celebrity interviewer-YouTuber discovered his "Aha!" moment three years ago - Chris Van Vliet
  3. How a French guitarist got 2 million views on his YouTube videos - Tanguy Kerleroux
  4. The awe-inspiring tale of a 55-year-old realtor-YouTuber who's aiming for 100k subs from zero!
  5. "If you aren't authentic on YouTube, people can smell you from a mile," says a flight attendant-YouTuber