Updated: Apr 28
Stolen content, deception, and the rich getting richer.
Fraud or Marketing Genius?
A few months ago, I had no clue how lucrative online coaching could be and how it is riddled with frauds, scams and copycats. As artists, having a strong online presence is crucial if we are not associated with a gallery who can represent us.
My experience in social media started in 2014 when I started an Instagram profile called @for_your_vocation. I shared memes and quotes related to the Catholic priesthood. In due time, I grew that account to a modest following of a few thousands. But, like many people, surprise, I changed and found a new vocation: art.
I decided it was best to repurpose this “established” account, rather than starting from zero.
In January of 2019, I made my first art post while sticking to a religious theme with the hope of not confusing anyone. Well, I confused everyone, and thousands unfollowed within hours of my first post. In a few days it was down to 1,600 followers. You see, I was being naive. Instagram was changing and I was not paying attention.
The Case of Brock Johnson, the Instagram Bro
I was still focusing on the picture only system and relaying heavily on stories. When new features started rolling out like guides, shopping, and reels, I was hesitant to use them. Failing to realize, that change is good.
Have you watched ‘The Gemstones’ on HBO? Well, that's the type of vibe I got from the Johnson family. Bright, shiny veneer white smiles, living the dream life, running a six-figure company, and their endless 'calling to serve' sharing the good news of how to successfully grow on Instagram. I drank the kool-aid.
Brock is the is your typical football guy, white, upper middle-class, you know the privileged type who never had to actually work. Being an Instagram Growth Coach is his first job out of college, but he's been more or less in the field since 2020. Some people picked sourdough baking during the pandemic others creating multimillion dollar companies.
To tell you the truth, I don’t remember following Brock. He was always on my feed. One day he announced that he was going to be having a 14-Day Reel Challenge. This challenge was going to be “affordable” because they wanted to help as many people as possible. The only thing I had to do was send him a DM.
I followed the directions and an automated bot pretending to be Brock welcomed me and sent me a link to his website. At the website I was prompted to sign up for a 14-day trial of his Instagram learning platform for $7. In order to participate in the challenge, you needed to sign up for InstaClub Hub. It was only $7. I could write it off as a business expense, right?
Those $7 gained me access to a daily 7:30 am text message instructing me, step-by-step, how to compose a reel, including the audio to utilize and the text to include. I was also encouraged to “take advantage” of my InstaClub Hub membership ($47 a month after the 14 day trial), which was an extensive library of videos relating to the most basic topics regarding Instagram. Before you could explore the platform, you were forced to go over an “Instagram Basics Course” where after being told how lucky I was to be there, I had to watch a video telling me to “find my niche”. LOL!
Users were encouraged to spend as much time on the platform as possible. Each video lesson you watched earned you a point. The points could be exchanged for goodies like a free month of InstaClub Hub or even a 1:1 call with Brock or his mom. It was like being in elementary school all over again.
They also heavily pushed their other services such as profile reviews. These started at $59, plus an additional $20 for a follow up. I bought the profile review. I thought it would be useful to have an actual human being look at my stuff. After all, these were “experts.” Below is the actual report I got. For the most part, the advice was generic. Nothing Brock hadn't already said on his Instagram for free.
I participated in the challenge for 13-days. The reach for my Instagram reels was not crazy. I didn't increase my following and did not make any sales during those days. By the end of the 14-days, I felt as comfortable with reels as when I started. I did not learn anything new, but reels had become a routine.
What I did learn was just how predatory these coaches can be, and how they hook you with the “the secrets of Instagram” only to end up repackaging information they have acquired from others or are actively experimenting with.
Eventually Brock disclosed that 15,000 people had signed up for the challenge. By that logic, he made at a minimum $105,000 in half a month via the Reel Challenge - not counting all the little add-ons. Was this all a scam or is he and InstaClub Hub one of the smartest salespeople on Instagram today? I’ll let you decide that.
All Bubbles Burst
My original article ended with the previous paragraph, but then something curious happened. On Thursday April 14, 2022 @yoursocialteam went live alongside @bsquared.social & @thesocialmedia.ceo to talk about copyright infringements, Instagram community guidelines and creator best practices. You can actually watch the live replay here.
As the conversation went on Manu, Stephanie and Laura began talking about other creators, who were reposting their work and flat out stealing their ideas without requesting permission or giving them credit. They explained how these large accounts then went on to charge for classes based on their supposed expertise.
Manu explained how the day before she had submitted an official copyright infringement to Instagram, concerning content profesional accounts had posted as their own. Instagram ruled in favor of Manu and removed the content violating community guidelines.
The conversation steered towards the sinister intentions of these accounts of exploiting as many people as possible, for their sole financial gain. While pretending to be experts on something, when in reality they are only curating content from other marketing specialist and offshoring the redesigning of the information to fit their brand.
Neither of these women, named Brock Johnson, Team Johnson or InstaClub Hub directly, but when the glove fits...
At minute 14:26 Brock Johnson requested and joined this live and was directly questioned about his and company's "strategy of using viral content from other creators to grow." I used to follow Brock and I was notified of this live once he joined.