Updated: Apr 29
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.
Brock immediately responded, "I believe this is in reference to a repost done in one of the accounts of our business, InstaClub Hub?"
"Um No. It's more like hundreds of reposts in all four accounts that you guys own." Manu responded.
"I run my own personal account; my mom runs her own personal account. All of the other accounts where you see our faces all the time, we own those accounts they are a part of our business. But we are not the ones doing or creating the posts." Brock responded. "So, as I said, I take full ownership. We do not personally run those accounts, but they are our employees, our staff."
Brock admitted to not creating the content. All of a sudden, the "I only spend 43 minutes per day on Instagram" made total sense, of course it's easy to post three reels a day, a carousel, still pictures, more than ten stories if all you're doing is posting content already brained storm, prepared and written by someone else.
it was just a sham.
The rest of the live was both cringy and an epic. Brock could not recuse himself and as a matter of fact had no choice but to admit guilt and deflect the blame to his team. Classic corporate move bro.
I will admit that Brock did a good job in keeping his composure, despite his shaky voice here and there. He did not admit wrongdoing personally but admitted to not having created clear guidelines for his employees to follow.
Brock also shared his own personal views regarding the use of intellectual content, in his eyes, if content can be used for others to learn its fair game regardless of who makes it as long as credit is given...somewhere. It was awkward seeing him accept blame, but at the same time still defending his practice.
Once that live was over, he went over to his stories claiming he knew his truth and his creator and that he was at peace. He called on his followers to not attack his critics. That was followed by a short emotional live where he finally apologized, then followed with posting a soapy walk on the beach reel where he pulled the victim card fishing for sympathy comments. Really?
You know I like being transparent: I reached out to both Brock whom I've bought services from, and to Manu who hosted the live where my suspicions about Brock were confirmed. They both were ok with me sharing my experiences with their services and/or sharing this information with you all.
Personally, I feel terrible for the women in this story. I find the stealing of intellectual property from women and women of color, specially coming from a straight, white and privileged man absolutely despicable and shady. These women are the real victims here, and in my opinion, should be compensated for their work.
Unfortunately, because this is the internet, it is safe to assume Brock with all his privilege will continue to do this once everything calms down. As a matter of fact, his following grew as a consequence of this scandal. He currently sits at a comfortable 440K followers, up from 438K. Integrity matters, respect matters, women's work matters.
This is what I recommend you do instead of paying a Growth Coach.
Be your own Growth Coach. The algorithm is not against you. Knock off the pity party. Instagram literally tells us how it works.
These ‘experts' capitalize on the fact you are intimidated by social media. They target small accounts. We are their ideal customer.
For pete’s sake, do not pay anyone who uses any of these titles on their bio: Expert, Guru, Social Media Queen/King/Boss/Unicorn, Marketing/Growth/Social Media/Business/Transformational Coach.
They also know we hate these terms and have begun campaigns advising others not to use them.
If you want to still buy the services of a marketing specialist, consider @yoursocialteam, @bsquared.social & @thesocialmedia.ceo I am sure they will provide quality services and you will support a woman run business.
Be sure to follow Instagram’s official creator profile, Instagram for business profile, Meta for business profile, and Instagram CEO he makes regular announcements of new features. Also check out Instagram Creator Lab. Meta wants people to stay on their platforms and they are doing that by providing tons of FREE resources to content creators. If we succeed, they succeed. Yay for corporate greed!
Instagram Creator Lab: Resource Hub for Creators Welcome to Creator Lab. Craft your voice, bring ideas to life & share your content with the world. Meet creators like you & get inspired. ✓ Chart your own path. creators.instagram.com
Data is powerful and statistics are your friend. Use them to see what works. Be willing to embrace change or be left behind. The choice is yours.
Post at a level you can sustain and feel comfortable with. There's no magic number or time to post each day. Only trial and error.
My fellow artist, use reels. Let's be honest; attention spans are short. I’m surprised you have made it this far! My reels always have better engagement than anything else I post. Also, if you made a reel already why not cross post to TikTok? Work smarter not harder. Meta even has an incentive bonus program for creators. They are literally paying us to make reels. Do you really need another reason to make reels?
Be patient and kind to yourself. It’s just social media. So go mess up BUT keep doing it. Because I will mess up too and it's going to be awesome. Stay kind.