With over 2.6 million followers and known for creating highly effective collaborations with popular, female-centric brands such as Le Labo and Bumble, social media sensation Overheard, popped up virtually overnight on the Instagram scene in 2015 by “poking fun at people’s pretensions.”
It all started after founder Jesse Margolis overheard two women “having the most absurd conversation at the health store he’d ever heard.” He posted it on his newly minted Instagram account (overheard LA) and “got, say, 30 likes instead of his usual 13.” Inspired, Margolis tried it a few more times using things he heard from around LA from “bizarre characters.”
Days later, the inspiration for the business quickly progressed after a long weekend in a locked room. Margolis strategized about how to shape the account into a viable business platform while giving it a distinctive brand personality.
Margolis outlined details such as never using hashtags to gain followers, only using humor to avoid personally calling out or embarrassing specific individuals, choosing comedy over gossip, and avoiding politics and religion as much as possible. One rule was to include the location where the conversation was overheard and a signature color for the brand identity.
Within 6-8 months after launching, Overheard began to see some real traction, but the initial intent was both as a creative outlet and to create a place where people could have a laugh, and maybe reflect on their priorities and daily behaviors.
Margolis explained, “People see themselves in our work. It’s lighthearted and relatable, and because so much of it is user-generated content, there’s this ironic ’15 seconds of fame’ involved with getting on the account. Which, of course, isn’t fame, but that’s kind of perfect. At a time when influencers were producing the same content, in the same places, with the same brands, in a very cheesy way, Overheard began offering a fresh, satirical take on Instagram culture.”
Today the platform has expanded from the popular Overheard LA Instagram page to creating a total of eight branded Overhead accounts to reach an audience of two million-plus cumulative followers on a daily basis. The brand also currently doubles as a media company, creative agency, content hub, and is now the “Insta-voice” of millennial culture.
Overheard has also reshaped the landscape of creative advertising by collaborating with popular companies for highly effective campaigns with the main business driver the branded accounts @OverheardLeLabo, @OverheardBumble and @OverheardUber.
The brand also use Instagram stories “as a way to advertise without really ruining the spirit of the account.” Most recently Overheard successfully pursued partnership and merchandising opportunities including coffee sleeves with Alfred Coffee in L.A. and the millennial-focused L.A. “horror stories” for a partnership with American Horror Story.
Margolis shared his top five strategic tips on how to leverage social media and engage like-minded communities to propel your business forward.
Offer Something Authentic And Unique. Just like Margolis, this means potentially sequestering yourself alone in a room to hone in on a effective point-of-view.
Margolis advises “You have to strike a chord that is heard through all the noise. A lot of people look at the Instagram platform with the intent or hope to ‘go viral’ or ‘make money’ nowadays, but Overheard truly started without an agenda…as a more satirical, meta interpretation of social media culture.” Whether its for your personal profile or your business, this is probably the most important strategic thinking you can do to build a brand platform.
Leverage New Social Platforms And Offerings. It’s important to stay on top of new ways to use social platforms and continue to constantly evolve your social dialogue. When Instagram Story took off, Margolis immediately noticed as did so many others, that “all of a sudden there was a way Overheard could keep the integrity of our feed while extending ourselves visually.”
Overheard started experimenting with new and different content—an animated DM interview series, advice columns, travel guides—that could live in a Story without compromising the soul of their accounts: the feed. This turned into a new way to leverage social media and to engage with like-minded communities, which respects the audience and excites advertisers.
Early next year, you’ll also start to see Overheard grow and evolve with Instagram in more ways. They’ll be experimenting with video content living on IGTV, and also have some riskier but exciting ideas on how to take our content off social media and into the real world and then back onto Instagram in a never-ending feedback loop. Take note as these same ideas may apply to projects on your horizon.