February 12, 2016
Interview with Jimmy Niggles
Jimmy Niggles is a freelance creative from Sydney, Australia. In 2010, Jimmy started up a blog called Beard Season, where he would make a post everyday about growing his beard, and challenge someone to get a skin check. Since then, Beard Season has grown into a global movement, turning beards into life-saving conversation starters about melanoma - one of the world's deadliest cancers.
Beard Season has been able to grow astonishingly through Instagram, and Jimmy recently had a chat with us about how BeardSeason earned its Insta-success.
Why did you first create your account?
I run a charity called Beard Season, and every day since I started growing my beard I took a photo with someone who I challenged to get a skin check. These lived on a blog for a while, but it wasn't until my mate Grant from OneWave told me about Instagram at Anzac day in between games of Two-Up that I got into it.
Why do you think that so many people follow and like what you do?
Well, it's the perfect format for the Beard Season mission. I can take a photo with someone I've never met before, tag them, and bring them into the story. They tell their friends, and it spreads. Everything starts with a one on one conversation then spreads online after that. If each person I meet gets a skin check I'm potentially saving one person a day. If they tell their friends, it multiplies. Plus beards seem to be fairly prolific on instagram - if we can make them stand for something more we're winning.
Do you set goals for yourself through Instagram? If so, what are they?
Ummmm. Likes and comments are great. But the main goal is for people to follow through. The most people at risk from melanoma are blokes aged 18-45. This is our target audience, and they're the hardest to convince to be sun-smart and get in to see a doctor. So our biggest goal is to get people to have a #BeardSeasonSkincheck - then encourage their mates to do the same. We have another hashtag called #BeardSeasonVictories. This is our biggest KPI. People who have found an early stage melanoma because of what we're doing. That's the best buzz.
There may not be a real way to define a “good” Instagram account, but what do you think is essential for Instagram success?
My favourites usually have plenty of LOL's, smarts, intelligent commentary, hidden gems, style and a real sense being REAL. There's so much fake crap being posted which makes kids aspire to the worst kind of ideals. Low hanging fruit if you ask me. If you're going to use social media to make your mark, make it mean something.
How much time do you put in each week on Instagram?
Probably too much. People get addicted to it and at times I've been one of them. Someone from Google said the other day people aren't addicted to their phones they're addicted the content. It can be very cathartic scrolling through people's lives, but nothing beats the real thing. I've been trying to keep it to one or two posts a day.
You must get countless comments, or DM’s on Instagram from your followers, what’s been the weirdest or funniest that you’ve received?
One of the best things I've seen is how our community self-corrects - in quite an inspiring way. One of our queens for @MrElbank's #BeardSeasonPlayingCards - @HarnaamKaur - has a glorious beard. She has Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome, and has overcome some serious bullying to become a global icon for positive body image. When I post her amazing portraits some people post the most horrendous and hurtful comments. Initially I wanted to delete them and block the user. Instead, people started replying, educating them on why she has a beard, what she stands for and eventually turning their minds around. This kind of thing really impresses me. As for DM's, less beard selfies please. More #BeardSeasonSkincheck's. You may have a beard, but it's how you use it which really matters.
Technology is changing like crazy, what do you think the future holds for Instagram, and those who are Insta-famous?
This is an interesting one. I've been watching periscope very closely. Snapchat has exploded - however I think it's pretty annoying to have a phone in real life - interrupting the moment. It's great to broadcast things, and the realer it is the better, but you have to think about the person on the other side - not your ego. What's the engagement? Are they right there with you? Or just a mirror for your ego? Paid posts are infiltrating Instagram more and more, which is going to force a change sooner or later with audience. I wouldn't say Instagram is going to cark it like MySpace, but it will have to adjust. But what it does well is simplicity - unlike Facebook which is trying to do everything. So I'm not sure where it'll go. Probably Live Streaming I reckon. People have so much invested in their profiles these days to they'll keep fishing where the fish are.
When did you create your Instagram account?
About three years ago I think.
What has been the key to your account’s growth?
Meeting someone new every day and getting a photo with them doing the #BeardSeasonPoint. And the mighty @MrElbank, who put together an amazing portrait series featuring the world's greatest beards for an exhibition in London which attracted over 35,000 visitors. You're a star mate I love you.
Do you manage your own account solely or do you receive assistance?
Just lil ole me at the moment. I might start throwing it over to other #BeardSeasonAmbassadors soon. And If I sell the #MillionDollarBeard it might benefit from some more professional guidance. Then I might even be able go back to my Nokia 5110.
Has your experience using Instagram pushed you in a direction you didn’t imagine it would?
For sure. I went to Coachella last year and stayed over (in the garden) of the Soho House villa and the next day when I was walking back along this road in the middle of the desert (lost) I ran into a bloke who instantly recognised me. "Jimmy Niggles right?" he said, "How are you mate I follow @BeardSeason on Instagram. I got all my mates to get a skin check this winter can I get a photo with you?". He then helped me find my hotel, insisted I take his sunglasses (which his friend makes), and is now a year in year out #BeardSeasonAmbassador. It's such a small world. People really love being part of our story and the support has been truly phenomenal. It helps us go from strength to strength.
How many new followers have you added in the last 12 months?
Have you represented charities/causes/or political views on Instagram?
Apart from ours, I generally just try not to be a dickhead. Bullying, miss-representation and selfish, indignant misuse of this beautiful blue planet we are lucky enough to live on can go in the bin.
How many brands have you done work with in the last 12 months through Instagram?
I only work with companies/brands who want to help us encourage people to get #BeardSeasonSkinchecks, or reward them for doing so. We've been really lucky in this respect. Some of these amazing people deserve a big plug if I may:
All off the top of my head. There's been plenty more and I'm honoured to be working with you all. Onward and upward.
What’s the number one problem you face when using Instagram as an app/service?
Hmmmmm, I wish it could teleport. If they sort that issue out let me know and I'll happily be a Guinea Pig.
Follow @beardseason on Instagram!