Instagram Success: Interview with Lola Nekrasova, the founder of Byeaccent
Instagram is changing and the change is for the better. Now it’s so much more than simply sharing pictures and sending out likes. The visuals get more sophisticated, the content gets more insightful, the opportunities for entrepreneurs are almost limitless.
According to some recent studies, over 80% of creators and influencers claim Instagram to be the most important social media platform. And to keep the bar high up Instagram regularly rolls out new features for creators and small businesses alike. Yet, the promise is as much exciting as it is intimidating since the high competition and low attention span make it quite challenging to stand out. Even after you have got tons of content inspiration, learned everything there is about Instagram hashtags, and know who your influencers are and where to find them.
What else is there for a budding blogger to take on board? Trying to figure out the formula of a winning strategy, we embark on our new series of success story interviews. We aspire to look at Instagram through the eyes of bloggers and gain insights for the ones ready to follow in their footsteps.
Our first guest is Lola Nekrasova, the person behind Byeaccent. Started as a blog for English learners struggling with their foreign accent, Byeaccent has now grown into a full-on education business with courses, an English Practice app, and well-curated social media platforms followed by more than 300k people on Instagram alone. We asked Lola to shed some light on the way she has made it this far, and how she manages her account now to stay on top of things.
How it started and how it’s going
How did you start and what do you do now? Is there a story behind your brand name?
I started Byeaccent in 2018 and it happened almost accidentally. My sister got me a business course as I was trying to develop my other business, a jewelry company. One of the exercises on this course was the analysis that I did. And that analysis made me think about the reasons why I was doing what I was doing. Because exactly like many other millennials I was doing what I wanted to do and not what the world wanted me to do. And when I started thinking about what people actually want from me, what kind of my knowledge can be useful, I realized that most often people would ask me how I learned English, or how I speak without an accent or with minimal accent. And as for fun, since I did acting for many years, I decided to start this blog. I literally started it from a message on my Instagram or Facebook. I took a piece of paper and I wrote: “Do you want to learn English?”. I meant it the way I got this idea, I often got asked about learning English, maybe people wanted me to tell them more. And the response was yes! oh my god, yes! please, tell me, tell me, tell me! That’s how I started Byeaccent. And I started it specifically to talk about how to sound more American. So ByeAccent literally stands for “Bye, goodbye, accent!” - my Russian accent or whatever language you speak.
When and why did you originally sign up for Instagram? How did you know it would be perfect for Byeaccent?
As soon as I got that first response on my personal account, @lolanekrasov, I started a separate account, @byeaccent. I liked the name; it came to me easily. And I liked Instagram as a platform because it is so chill - you know a lot of people have fun there. And now it is changing in a very good way because we can get a lot of knowledge from it. Before that, you know, it was just for fun, and this idea was for fun, I didn’t plan it as a business, but Instagram seemed like the right platform.
How important is the design for you? How much importance do you place on cohesion across your website, YouTube, and, most vividly, Instagram?
Design is very important. When I started, I paid a lot of attention to how I could stand out. Because there’s so much content, and the pace is so fast nowadays, everything changes so quickly - so how could I stand out? I have learned that the brain reacts to contrasts and to the bright spots, so I started using this bright pink color just to grab the attention. So, when my post appears people know it is my post and will not miss it in the feed while scrolling. Oh, I see pink, I love it, so I’ll keep watching! Right now, even great content might drown if it looks like every other content. People just won’t stop; they will just keep scrolling and will miss your post. So, I think the design is very important.
I really want to, and I work towards all my platforms to be more cohesive design-wise. I still have a lot to get there. But finally, I got a designer on my team, and before that, I was doing most of my stuff myself. I would use Canva, other great services, and/or my sister who has experience in design and joined the team. She was like the first hire I did because I knew I needed her. But now I have a designer who tries to make it all look better.
How do you come up with ideas for your videos and stories?
I don’t really know. I think my past as in comedy, I used to be part of a Russian comedy show KVN, the closest I could get comparing it is probably like American SNL (Saturday Night Live). So basically, that’s my past. And me and my sister throughout our childhood we would shoot different videos, sketches, just having fun. So, it is truly a form that I enjoy. And I know a lot of people like it because it is so joyful and a lot of teachers would ask me Lola, how do you do that? But it is simply the easiest way for me to express my knowledge. It is not because… you know, I don’t do it because it is fun. It is fun and that’s why I do it.
Regarding stories... right now, as my sister and another girl, Kate, are on my team, we come up with ideas so it could be fun and useful for stories. We try to keep it fresh, so it is like teamwork at this point.
Behind the scenes
You’ve mentioned your team. Can you tell us more about the people who help you?
Yes, at this point I’ve got to give a lot of credit to people who help me as I do have a team. It grew gradually. So first it was just my sister helping me, then I got one more person, one more person, one more person… Oh, I don’t actually think my sister was the first person! I think the first was the editor. We have an editor, Kate, who helps me edit the videos. And of course, in the beginning, it was just me doing all the work: like all the editing, and it was very important for me to find the person who will inherit my style and get my sense of humor, basically, be the second me and better at editing. So yeah, it took a while, but I found her. And now there are just a few people who help me, but we are a team and I really appreciate their work.
How do you communicate with your followers? How often do you check your account and reply to comments and DMs?
We are very prominent with our communication, with our followers. As I said, my team, they check Instagram daily, they check for DMs, they respond to emails, they try to respond to every request and comment they can. Me personally, I do go into comments and I answer. Specifically, when I sometimes cover the news, something that is important, I always check on comments and I add my personal feedback. If that is just a simple thank you or a simple answer, then it is probably someone from my team answering - just to make sure that people are heard that we are here. It’s very important for us to keep in touch because I often ask my followers what they would like to see, whether we should do more of this or that. I don’t want to lose touch.
How do you deal with feedback (both positive and negative)?
Very simply: I focus on the positive. I am ready to get some negative feedback, it is normal. Like I think it would be weird. If you don’t get any negative feedback you are probably not big enough because it is impossible to be appealing to all kinds of people. If you appeal to all kinds of people, it means you have not been exposed to a lot of people. It grows gradually: the more you get exposed, the more people you get, the more kinds of feedback you get. So, you’ve got to be ready. But once again, the focus goes, energy flows. I want to be productive and positive, so I focus on positive feedback.
How has your life changed since you reached 100k, 300k followers as compared to your first days on Instagram?
It’s interesting because at some point as a blogger-beginner I definitely was chasing big numbers, let me say so. Because it felt like numbers were the sign of success, like big numbers equal you are successful. Which is not true. The more I exist in Instagram space, the more I see how many people have big numbers because they use different strategies that can bring them a lot of followers. Yet, these followers are not a quality audience. It’s not their target audience, people don’t know what they are talking about, they comment negatively, they ended up being just somehow attracted to some account. Maybe there was a discussion or something, then they ended up being there or there was some giveaway… So, first of all, for all the bloggers who are just starting, you don’t have to worry about big numbers because you got to be worried about the quality of content you produce and the quality of the audience you attract.
Of course, there are different strategies on how you can monetize your blog. You can be a model, as I call some bloggers who just promote stuff: they send them products, pay them money, and they talk about products. I never liked this type of financial communication. If I promote something, it is because I know that I am promoting something good. So, I don’t do any kind of advertising inside of Byeaccent unless it is just something I am talking about because it is a part of my life. And the way I monetize is through courses, basically, educational content.
So nowadays, as I started as a blogger who would create content to have fun, right now I am more of a business owner who creates educational content and digital courses. And Instagram right now is just one of my marketing channels. Of course, I love it and my soul is in it but it’s not the only thing, right?
What’s your most favorite thing about Instagram?
I love Instagram and hate Instagram altogether - you know, very strong feelings. What would be my favorite thing? Let me think… I know! My favorite thing is that it is a great channel for communication with all kinds of people. You can easily reach out let’s say for a celebrity or a person who lives somewhere deep in the forest - I mean if this person is on Instagram and has a good Internet connection. So, it is all kinds of people. I love that some great people that I like, whose work I admire could be on Instagram and we can engage in a conversation. And it is so easy to reach out! I’m not saying that every person would answer but there’s a possibility and this is great. Specifically, if you are both following each other, you follow each other’s work so it is a great communication channel for sure.
What 3 tips would you give to those making their first steps to Instagram success?
Instagram is changing fast. Nowadays I see a lot of courses, a lot of advice that people give but it becomes outdated so fast. I think you’ve got to learn from people who know more but you’ve got to rely on your own experience as well. Don’t trust anyone blindly whatever idea or strategy they apply - you’ve got to test, test, test. Because even people with big numbers as I mentioned - there are different kinds of bloggers with big numbers and, unfortunately, 80% of them are not quality bloggers. Either their audience is not a quality audience, or their audience is not interested in their topic and not going to invest their time and money and willingness to grow a blog, you know, promote it in the future amongst their friends. So be very aware of that.
But that’s actually number two. Number one is to create quality content. And by quality I mean we often think about what we want to do like when I started. Remember it’s important to think about what the world wants from us, what people want from us. Every time you create something if you are...if it’s just a personal Instagram, do whatever you want. But if you are an Instagram blogger, every piece of content should bring value. It could be anything: information, promotion, I mean, a good promotion like you offer a free webinar or whatever it is, entertainment like funny sketches or a funny quote, or a smart quote - you offer some value. Because every time you post something you’ve got to put yourself in the shoes of those scrolling the feed and then like do I really want to read what you just wrote? do I really want to like? do I really want to subscribe and follow your ideas?
I think it is also a trap to think that Instagram and blogging kind of business are the easiest like she just posts pictures, and she travels all over the world, I want to do the same thing. WRONG! It’s wrong to think so, you don’t know her story, you don’t know why she does it, you don’t know her reasoning and what she implies in her post, and whether she is successful. It’s just my guess, but there’s something more behind it than just the willingness to post yourself on social media and get some money value in return for that. So, don’t go to Instagram because it’s easy, go only if you feel like you have something to share with the world. And then your value comes from that.
Don’t go to Instagram if you are not good with this platform meaning not all people like visual stuff. Maybe you are more into podcasting and like audio/listening and maybe you should create your podcast. Or maybe you are great at writing and you have to create your blog. You can use Instagram as a blog but not a lot of people like to read on Instagram, so be aware of that. Or YouTube. So before defining yourself as an Instagram blogger define just what you want to do and define the medium which works best for your goals.
- Choose the right platform: make it work for your objectives and your audience.
- Provide real value: before you begin, take a closer look at what you can give to the world. Put your ideas out there and test, test, test to see what works.
- Do not ignore design: make sure your content catches the eye. Choose a signature color to stand out and build an association with your brand.
- Prioritize quality over quantity: that works for both audience and content.
- Engage with your followers: respond to comments and DMs, interact with people in stories, make people feel appreciated.
- Focus on the positive: receiving various feedback is natural when you’re exposed to wide audiences. Appreciate praise, learn from criticism, don’t let ungrounded comments get you down.
- Find a team: at some point, you will need help with design, editing, interaction. It’s alright to delegate those duties to a trusted person who gets you and is committed to your ideas.
- Take it seriously: being a blogger is not as simple as it might seem. Just like any job it requires time, effort, and skill (not excluding fun, though).
All of the above is quite doable, even more so with the right social listening tool at hand. Set Awario to monitor your brand or relevant keywords and wait a bit for it to collect mentions. Go to Dashboard to see the number of mentions and spot the kind of content that works best. Study the topic cloud to know the words or expressions associated with your brand, or dive into sentiment analysis to know the feeling behind the words and be proactive with feedback. Set separate alerts for your competitors to see how you compare against them and what you can do to stand out.
Whether you’re a seasoned blogger or a newcomer on social media keeping an eye on best practices and monitoring your stats is always a good idea.