Return On Courage with Ryan Berman and Assistagram: Your Personal Instagram VA with Zach Benson

It takes courage for a person to be able to act in the presence of fear. Ryan Berman, an author and the founder of Courageous talks about courage. He has been able to create programs, release a book, and launch a podcast that is courage-inspired. Ryan’s book, Return on Courage: A Business Playbook for Courageous Change, was written to position his last company and to start helping stuck companies or leaders get unstuck. He dives into courage and what impacts it, the difference between call for action and call to action, and why it’s important to find out authentic rally cry.


Instagram is one of the most popular social media platforms today. It is an avenue for influencers to share their message to people. Zach Benson is a professional dancer, TEDx speaker, and CEO and Founder of an Instagram management agency called Assistagram. He talks about Assistagram and how it helps your Instagram account grow and reach more people by getting your message, story, and products out to the world.

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I’m so glad you joined us because we have a Ryan Berman and Zach Benson here. Ryan is the Founder of Courageous. He’s the author of Return on Courage. Zach Benson is the CEO and Founder of Assistagram. We’re going to talk to both of them.

Listen to the podcast here

Return On Courage with Ryan Berman

I am here with Ryan Berman, who’s the Founder of Courageous, a change consultancy that develops courage brands and trains companies how to operationalize courage through Courage Boot Camp. He is the author of Return on Courage, a business playbook for our courageous change. I remember when I was looking at your bio and looking at the book, it made a lot of sense of what you’re going to get back and I’m very anxious to talk to you about this. Before we get into the book and everything else, I know that you’ve interviewed hundreds of business leaders and brave mavericks as you put it worldwide. Up until that point, I want to know what got you interested in researching courage. What’s your background?

I’m a recovering advertising veteran. It was a great place to make your career to be honest because advertising as a word gets a bad rap. I’m not defending it just because I was in it. When you come out of the marketing and advertising arena, you get the luxury of fiddling with multiple verticals out of the gate. I got to see apparel, hospitality and technology. True innovation sometimes comes from learning something in one vertical and bringing it to another. For twenty years, I’ve been able to fiddle in that space and started my first creative agency in 2004 in a city known for fish tacos and skateboarding called San Diego, which brings us to the question.

We were a 70-person agency. My last company was called IDEA. You could call us IDEA. What I learned was we were prepared for any type of meeting. I could get a client to San Diego, they would see we were ready for them but when they had to go share us with their bosses, they’re like, “Who are these people? They’re based in San Diego. Why don’t we use a company in New York or San Francisco?” This is back in 2015 of writing Return on Courage. To be very honest, the original intent was to put a point of view book into the universe that shares our philosophy on how to break through the messy media-obese world we’re living in.

That’s an interesting perspective. My daughter, my sister, a lot of people I know and my family live in San Diego. I’m starting to see a little bit more business coming down that way. My daughter works with Helium, which is that startup there. What you’re talking about happens a lot and there’s so much confusion in the workplace about how to get it ahead with branding and in some of the stuff that you deal with. I love that you’re dealing with the courage aspect of it. We talked about the connection between courage and curiosity, which is what I study. You said that you had to deal with the word curiosity quite a lot in your book. I want you to hear what you had to say about that.

I’m launching the Courageous podcast and we were out in Las Vegas. We had a chance to sit down with Tony Shay, the CEO of Zappos. He also talked about the importance of curiosity. You and I could probably talk for hours on the two words and the importance of the two. If you’re not curious and you’re not open-minded to playing a little bit and seeing where this thing goes, you’re going to miss the good stuff. You got to keep going down that. When you go down the path, if you allow yourself to go down the path, that’s where sometimes courage kicks in. The point of this was Tony was making a joke that my next book should be called Return on Curiosity. I’m like, “No, that’s not mine. I appreciate that. That’s not where we’re going here for me.” I do think the two words do play very well together.

[bctt tweet=”You can be proactive on how to take your fear down versus reactive.” via=”no”]

What you’re talking about ties in so well. When I researched curiosity, I found four things that impact whether we’re curious or not. The first one is fear. You have to have a courageous nature to overcome that aspect because a lot of us are afraid of looking dumb, being shut out or all the things that have happened in the past that you replay in your mind that ties into our assumptions, which is the other factor. The other factors are fear, assumptions, technology and environment, which I found are impacters. What do you think impacts courage?

It’s ironic that you started at fear. There is this proverb that fear and courage are brothers. You actually cannot get to the courageous choice without first channeling it through fear. What most of us want to do with fear is suppress it versus address it. One of the major points I tried to make in the book is that fear is not trying to hurt you. It’s just a data point. The idea is to smoke out your fears, understand what these fears are before it’s too late. When I talk about courage, I’m looking at it from a corporate perspective. Most companies are hoping things don’t get them. Hope is a terrible strategy for protecting market share. The idea is to know what the fear is before it’s too late because if you know what the fear is, if you smoke out that fear, you can be proactive on how to take that fear down versus reactive.

That’s exactly why I created the assessment because a lot of people don’t recognize a lot of things. Recognition is huge to the problem. I know you wrote a lot of your information based on interviews that you had. I’m curious about some of these interviews. You’ve interviewed an astronaut, a Navy SEAL and a lot of different people for your work. Were there any stories that stand out the most in your mind you want to share?

I had the luxury of going on a thousand-day listening tour. There are things I cannot explain. I cannot explain why many people who have never heard of me before would allow into their lives to share. I tried to compartmentalize the interviews into what I say are the three B’s. The first B is the brave. These were Navy Seals, tornado chasers and ER operating chiefs. I wanted to learn what’s that process when you have these 26 Alpha doctors and you’re not sure what’s coming through the door, but you have a process to deal with whatever emergency lands as a doctor in your hospital. I got to sit with an astronaut. I had the opportunity to sit with a woman named Loretta Hidalgo. She’s a founding astronaut at Virgin Galactic. She’s an hour up the road from me in San Diego. Loretta happened to be the very first in-person interview I was able to run. At this point, you’ve got to go back to 2015, I have my own fears as I was trying to write a book.

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Return on Courage: A Business Playbook for Courageous Change

I don’t want to sound stupid or with my questions. There are all these things I’m coping with too. I get up there. Before my tray even hits the table at lunch, she goes, “What makes you qualified to write a book about courage?” “Touché, astronaut.” She goes to me and says, “You’re putting the emphasis where I’m not, I didn’t tell you to go write this book. You’re on this journey for whatever reason. Part of the reason you’re on it is you need to figure out why you?” She proceeded to tell me that her definition of success is when there’s no daylight between the personal her and the professional her. If you know anything about the service business, you know for twenty years, 1% of the time, and sometimes you sacrifice yourself. You take that call at midnight or you bite your lip when you know what’s right, even though you know it is right and you go with the status quo when you shouldn’t have.

I proceeded to drive back in silence with my hands in the ten and two position from Orange County to San Diego thinking about how I can sort of mitigate the daylight between the personal me and the professional me. Part of the irony here as I wrote this book to position my last company and it gave me the courage to fire myself, to start over, to start courageous, to start helping companies that are stuck, get unstuck or help leaders that are stuck, get unstuck. There’s immense joy in being able to work with people that have massive potential and to do the right thing even when it’s hard. That means getting clarity where maybe they don’t have it.

I admire people who are courageous and handle things. When you mentioned the ER thing, my husband’s a plastic surgeon and I’ve always admired how he handles that stress. He used to deal with ER situations through different residencies and different things. Do you think it’s something that people are naturally inclined to be that way? Are they born with it or is this something we develop? Is it like curiosity where we all have it, then we lose it and we can build it back? How do you see it?

I see very similar to that last little snippet you said about you can build it back. Build it back means it’s a muscle. Build it back means it’s a skill. Let’s take our minds to the mental gym and work on it. I can’t help you if you’re not open and willing. That’s the first part. That’s where you need curiosity. This is not a new idea. When you commit to something, especially if it’s courage, when you have seen the same scenario 500 times, 1,000 times, the luster of the courageous act dwindles a little bit. It doesn’t mean it isn’t hard, especially in the moment, but it’s a little bit of Malcolm Gladwell’s 10,000 hours rule. The more you practice, the more prepared you are. Your husband, how many procedures does he now done? It’s the same thing.

One of my favorite moments, I’m interviewing Reed Timmer. He is a tornado chaser. He is one of the premiere tornado chasers in the country. He sits there, travels and tracks tornadoes. He knows exactly how these things are going to move. What he tells me is he’s afraid of heights. He said, “I’m no daredevil. I’m afraid of heights.” I said, “You’re afraid of heights?” Maybe he doesn’t have the knowledge on what’s going on up there. He knows exactly how that tornado is going to move. He knows exactly how to attack that tornado. Even the language that he uses, he’s like, “I come up from the up sheer side of the tornado.” I’m like, “What is this guy talking about?” This is what he does every single day. It’s very similar.

I’ve had some Navy Seals on the show. What did you find out from a Navy Seal?

[bctt tweet=”If you don’t know what you stand for, you’ll never know when to take a stand.” via=”no”]

Jeff Boss was one of my earlier interviews as well. Probably one of my favorite lines came from him, which was, “I don’t see anything I’ve done as courageous. I see it as the byproduct of the purpose I’m pursuing.” What that tells you is the importance of having clarity, the purpose and then the willingness to go after it. I also interviewed a bank teller who was robbed at gunpoint. Her name was Patricia Bailey. I told Patricia that if I have a crystal ball, if you take this job, you’re going to get robbed, do you think she takes the job? Of course not. What are the commonalities between a Navy Seal who willingly knows what they’re going to see? They’re going to see some level of live bullets versus a bank teller who’s just trying to get a job and cannot get the job if she doesn’t pass the training simulations.

The only commonality is the training. When she got robbed, the training basically took over and it was habitualized. It was ritualized. A year into the job when it actually happened, the mechanics of what she had learned just took over. To me, that’s preparation. The a-ha moment for me was you can train people to be courageous. The irony here also, especially in the workplace is it’s a little bit of, “Break glass before an emergency.” You have to know how to do it before you need it. It kicks in and off you go.

You never know what’s going to be the twist. As strange as it was, some woman actually rammed her car through the wall of my husband’s plastic surgery practice. Her car ended up hitting his office manager. It landed smack down in the office, right where she was sitting. I can’t believe she didn’t get hurt or worse. She’s pretty okay. I was listening to the nurse in his office and how she came to take care of the situation because we were actually out of town and missed being there. Her nursing training took over. She handled the whole thing in such a calm, rational way. Like you’re saying, if you have this training, it kicks in.

I never thought in a million years I’d be a guy with a method. I’m a guy with a method and after twenty years of being a compensated observationalist, maybe it isn’t that surprising that you see these common themes. It doesn’t matter if it was a flight attendant who’s trained for terrorism or the president of Domino’s pizza. You see these common themes and you just try to bring clarity to a situation that can help people. What I’ve found myself saying quite a bit is that if you don’t know what you stand for, you’ll never know when to take a stand. Where we need courage is in the messy middle when things are hard.

You are in a dark moment and we don’t know how the outcome is going to be. That’s where we need to hold firm on the journey, which is where courage plays. I can’t even imagine what that must be like. You’re just sitting in the office and a car comes ramming through. As you said, her training just took over. It’s ironic to take the emotion. If we are buying things on emotion, which the data says 80% of our decisions are based on emotion, it’s ironic to be unemotional about looking at an emotional process. Your background is studying emotional intelligence. What do you think about that?

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Assistagram: People are afraid to be vulnerable at work and everybody wants to sound smart.


I was surprised by how much emotions play into everything. I found that when I was researching curiosity and perception. Your emotions are a big aspect. I was in marketing and sales forever. You’re playing into emotions with your sales. Everything kept coming back to it. You’re dealing with people getting along in the workplace, it’s a huge factor because your perception of everything ties back to your emotions and your reactions to everything. If you don’t work on understanding how to control the way you react to your emotions and how others react to your emotions, you’re going to have so much conflict. It’s a huge problem.

Going back to the human side, people are afraid to be vulnerable at work. Everybody wants to sound smart. Everybody wants to sound smart. The companies that are winning are embracing their freckles. They’re not perfect. Last I checked, we’re all imperfect. That’s going to resonate with us.

I see them looking at failure a lot differently than when I was first in the workplace. They see it as much more of a learning situation, where before you failed you were gone and that was it. I’d like to see that change and I like that you’re teaching people all this stuff. I saw your Rady School of Management course. I am curious about that. You offer a course online that people can take.

There are multiple courses. This is based in San Diego. Rady is the only one where anybody can sign up. If you want it to sign up, you can do that through Rady’s. It’s a half day courage boot camp. For the audience, this has been April from the last Courage boot camp, which has been the last six months scripting, working, designing the construct of the boot camp. That will be available primarily for corporations and for their teams. It’s an exciting time for me because it’s nice to see all of the studying come to life and teaching. We actually have our first, Harrah’s Casino is the Beta in the program.

How long is the boot camp?

[bctt tweet=”80% of our decisions are based on emotions.” via=”no”]

I’m going to give a little bit of a lengthier answer and you’ll see why. In the book and my book, I talk about why of all things we need courage. There are four truths of what I call the business apocalypse. If one of them was happening, that would be brutal enough. The fact that all four are swirling at the same time, you understand why there’s a little bit of stress and chaos going on in the workplace. One of the truths is you need time, but you don’t have time. I couldn’t exactly make a six-month program knowing that you’re time-starved. It’s a very thoughtful program. It’s an eight-week online boot camp because of learning theory. It’s not stuff that I knew. This was thankfully partnering with people that understand how knowledge transfer happens.

The modules drip weekly. You can’t even jump ahead if you wanted. It’s an eight- week online boot camp. At the end of it, hopefully, we not only help you be courageous and hopefully you operationalized courage back in your company, but we’re also providing more clarity back to the company that hires us on, “We have a conviction problem here. We haven’t locked in our cause or purpose.” You need that. I always talked about the next generation. They want to have their cake. They want to eat it too. They want the cake to be gluten-free. They want everything. I don’t blame them. As the leaders of companies, how are we creating that environment for them?

You’ve got Harris signed up to go through this and then after eight weeks, what’s the end result from that?

The people that are going through the course are learning the tools they need to better operationalize courage back in the culture. That’s the number one thing. What we know for sure is that the next generation is yearning for skills. They want to be challenged and they want to be invested in. Many times, these companies are failing because there’s just so much turnover. It’s the highest rate of turnover that we’ve seen in the last sixteen years. 43% of Millennials are going to be in a new job and the next two years. Part of this is to give them what they want, which are skills. Give them challenges. Two, we’ll also be able to help companies pinpoint who’s testing well through the boot camp. It’s almost like future courageous difference-makers for your company. This is all theory because we haven’t even launched the Beta, but that’s the hope of the program. How great would it be if not only are we operationalizing courage back at your company or pinpointing not only future leaders but also where are the problems in the organization to date?

You identify a call for action versus a call to action. I’m curious what do you mean by the difference between that?

In marketing, we get caught up in our own acronyms. What’s the CTA? Does this commercial have a CTA? Does this digital ad have a CTA? We’re driving people, let’s extended the ad. A call for action is more about the movement. It’s more about the purpose. Simon Sinek got it right when he told us to find your why. To add on to Simon thought is you’ve got to have a rally cry in that why. What is that true rally cry that people are going to stick around for? You’ll get a company like SpaceX, the rally cry in their why life on another planet. You can’t say there’s a ton of proof yet that they’re going to be successful. If you work at that company, you have true conviction. You are there for the story. You’re willing to be there seventeen hours a day and work weekends sometimes to fulfill on that particular purpose. Not every company can be Space X, but we have to find our authentic rally cry or our why. When we do, it makes it easier to actually put a call for action on the movement into the market.

What is the reason that you came up with when asked why are you writing this? What is your purpose?

There’s a small answer and there’s a large answer. If you study great storytelling, it’s in line with almost every movie. Every movie is pretty much the same. The hero thinks that the treasure is one thing and it turns out to be something entirely different. I wrote the book to position my last company and what I realized is I needed the book. I was dealing with things that I needed to work through and how courageous am I really if I don’t take action on those ideas. I felt like a little bit like a fifth-year senior in my own company. We had 70 people and I had hired well. I wasn’t able to be as creative as I want it to be. I was more of a manager. The book allowed me to take action. I don’t know if you’ve seen my sock company called Sock Problems.

Is that part of UNICEF? What is that for?

Sock Problems, I call it my Courage brand. The idea is it’s a sock company that is turning a sock into a verb, meaning we’re going to have to sock problems with socks. Each sock in our line, whether it’s sock cancer or sock inequality or sock racism is a sock built for particular communities and the design matches the community. 25% of the sale price goes back to a targeted charity. For example, Alex’s Lemonade is our partner on our Sock Cancer Sock or Trevor Project is our partner on our Sock Hate Sock or the Rodney King Foundation is our partner in our Sock Racism Sock. A lot of these give one get ones that are out there, where you don’t know where the money’s going. Here is this targeted cash back to each of our partner. If you wanted to talk about breast cancer, prostate cancer, we have a sock for you. Not only does it support you, but it supports all these different causes around the world.

Ryan, you’re certainly doing stuff that is amazing and I was looking forward to having this chat with you. Obviously, we both have similar interests in and what we research. I really appreciate you sharing this with everybody, but a lot of people are going to want to know how to reach you or is there certain websites you’d like to share or anything like that?

If you wanted to learn a little bit about more about me, you could go to That’s the easiest one. If you wanted to know the one that delivered a little bit more about the company, it’s You could find me on all social media apps, Instagram is @Ryan_Berman. Twitter is @RyanBerman. I look forward to hearing anyone who wants to talk more about the topic because I’m sure you feel about curiosity. I’m wildly passionate about helping companies unlock this thing. I call it a competitive advantage and courage.

It’s nice of you to be on the show, Ryan. Thank you.

Thank you for having me. I appreciate it.

Assistagram: Your Personal Instagram VA with Zach Benson

I am here with Zach Benson who’s the CEO and Founder of an Instagram management agency called Assistagram, which has served high-end clients like the Ritz Carlton and the Four Seasons. He is a lot of different things. He’s a professional dancer and a TEDx speaker. I’m looking forward to this, so welcome Zach.

Thank you so much for having me. I’m excited to be here.

I know that Dave Lukas at Misfit Entrepreneur introduced us. We’ve done some stuff together. He had great things to say about you. I’m interested in what Assistagram does, but before we get into that, can you give a little background on how you ended up where you are?

Before all this marketing stuff, I was a break dancer. I traveled the world everywhere I go. I was also a participant on So You Think You Can Dance, which kickstarted my career into the dancing world. I traveled to 50 countries and made a fulltime living and career out of that. The funny thing is that the same guy who got me into dancing in Iowa got me in on to Instagram. It all started with an old childhood friend. Fast forward, we’re working with some of the biggest brands in the world doing Instagram marketing for companies like Click Funnels, Gary Vee and a bunch of other people.

I saw you have some amazing people. Gary V, that’s a big one. You had John Lee Dumas as well. You had a lot of people. I’m curious about the dancing before we get off that. What kind of dancing?

I got into break dancing. My friend gave me this DVD by Mike Garcia on how to breakdance. I watched it and fell in love with it. I made my own crew and started working. Eventually, I started winning competitions. I was on So You Think You Can Dance and things blew up from there.

How was that being on that show?

It was a pretty cool, positive experience. I auditioned three times. Each season, I advanced a little bit more. I didn’t go all the way. I never won but it was amazing being able to meet dancers from all over the world that was trying to make it. I gave everything up to pursue this dream on that show. It was a very inspiring experience.

I had somebody on the other day who made it on Shark Tank. It’s always interesting to hear the behind the scenes of what it is like. You’ve also made it on the TEDx stage. A lot of people say that that’s stressful, but they loved doing it, that it was so great of an experience. What did you think of doing that?

It was scary. I grew up in Iowa and for most of my life I’ve struggled with this speech impediment. I couldn’t stay the letter R until I was in my twenties. As funny as it sounds, it scared me to death to speak out and be on a big stage like that. In the end, it was all worth it. I like to do things where it puts me outside of my comfort zone and challenges with me. Doing that TEDx was definitely a challenge, but it’s so rewarding at the same time. It’s so cool sharing my story, dancing on stage and being vulnerable with it all. I did it in South Korea a few years ago. It was cool to talk to my people.

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Assistagram: Do things that put you outside of your comfort zone and challenge you.


Is that where your family’s from originally?

I was born in South Korea and then adopted by my parents in Iowa. I grew up in Iowa, went to high school and college. Several years ago, I went back to Korea to try to find my birth mom and then it took me about a year, but I found her. I actually live in South Korea.

You’re in Arizona. What are you doing here?

My parents moved here. They have a place in Iowa and then also here in Arizona. I came out here to visit them. I finished up this radio interview on Robert Kiyosaki’s show. I came here for that and to meet you.

That’s pretty nice to be in that company. I want to talk about what you’re doing. This Assistagram is interesting to me because everybody loves Instagram and it’s so popular. A lot of people are frustrated because they don’t know how to use it. A lot of people need help with it. I want to know what you do at Assistagram that helps companies and why they would need it.

Think of Assistagram as your personal virtual assistant, a team member from my company. They are working on your counter, grinding on it seven days a week, doing hundreds of thousands of manual actions that help your Instagram account grow and reach more people. It’s a whole lot of human power. I have teams of people from all over the world working on people’s accounts, doing everything from content creation and design to caption writing, engagement groups, hashtag research, a bunch of other stuff that we do to grow these accounts. It’s a full-blown Instagram growth media agency. We also help tourism and hotels organize influencer campaigns to drive more people into their doors and enjoy their hotel. We work with a lot of companies because they are all trying to grow their audiences, get their message story and their products out to the world. We help them do that on Instagram.

I see that you stayed in hundreds of exotic hotels for free for this exchange of some of the stuff you do. Tell me about that, I thought that was interesting. It was a Forbes article I read on.

It was the Forbes article on how Millennials use Instagram to travel for free. It’s pretty much my story and how I’ve done it. In that article, I just break down the strategies that have gotten me over to now. I’ve gotten over 550 nights in the past years. I get these trips sponsored and paid for, everything from breakfast, lunch, dinner, spa treatments to transportation and sometimes even flights. I do travel for free and it all started years ago, which is pretty amazing. These hotels invite me out, meet me, my friends out to create content and then post about her experiences. I’ve been to places like in the Maldives that had cost $23,000 a night. I sealed a deal with this hotel in Bali for 125 nights. I got all of my friends, family and business partners going out there to stay. It’s helping these hotels that we work with. We’re helping them grow their Instagram and helping them bring more customers into their doors through these influencer campaigns that we set up for them.

I know you’ve had the Ritz Carlton. They’re building one right by my house. That sounds like a cool thing that you get to do that. That would be my dream just to go around all the nice hotels. I take pictures and do that. I’m sure it’s a lot more work than what you’re making it sound, but I’m sure it’s a lot of thought. I know how hard it is to create good content on Instagram. In fact, I’ve used Canva. I know I’ve had the CEO of MeetEdgar on my show. Laura Roeder was on. I’ve had a lot of guests that have talked about social media and the challenges involved. What do you think is the hardest part about getting followers and just being good at Instagram?

First off, I actually have an academy that teaches people how to travel for free and grow their own travel repost account without having your own personal Instagram account, without saving up miles, points from credit cards and about having a big network. I can honestly just teach people how to do this in about an hour. It’s at It’s my whole academy that breaks down these exact strategies, these free hotel hacks and travel hacks. Social media is a challenge for people because one, it takes a lot of time to create epic content. A lot of people don’t have the time, the money and energy to invest in a good camera, lenses and all of that. They don’t know how to use it. That’s the struggle one too.

[bctt tweet=”Creating great content takes time and money.” via=”no”]

Two, people don’t ever think that their stuff is good enough. They are afraid to put it out because they have a fear of looking bad or what people think and failing. Three, even though some of these companies have tons of money, they’re world renowned and super famous, a lot of these companies can be good at everything. They think by hiring one digital marker, someone who has been through college that they’re going to be able to handle all things digital marketing and on top of that grows their Instagram account. That’s where a lot of companies and people are going wrong and failing in social media because there’s so much misinformation out of there. It’s hard for people to be a jack of all trades.

Either do just pictures if you’re an individual, but some people are trying to do brands, a lot of the audience do what I do. They have a show. They are speakers or they’re authors. They’re not the Ritz Carlton or Four Seasons. They’re more of a smaller group. Is Assistagram for somebody like that or is it mostly for the larger organizations that have big budgets to get help? I’m curious who’s your target audience.

Everybody needs more growth. We work with people who are starting out and have their new startup, new fitness supplement or product they’d been trying to promote to authors and coaches. They’re trying to sell their services and coaching packages to a personal trainer. We do work with a lot of people who are starting out with their business or even just a one-man show to big companies. It’s about creating your own personal brand. Think of Instagram as your number one PR tool. By growing your brand, by growing you and your tribe, you will have more people from all over the world following you commenting, engaging on your post. That’s how you create a tribe. By growing your following and your numbers, you’re able to connect with more people, get your product and services out to more people because it’s a numbers game. Not everyone’s going to be interested in your products, not everybody is going to be interested in what you say, but you have to find the ones that get it. That’s why growing your Instagram is so important because it’s easier to make stuff happen.

I actually got hacked on Instagram and I don’t understand. It happens to you on all of these things. It was hard to get it back. They changed your name that you have and then when they disabled that account, then you’ve lost your content. Do you have that happen very often that people get hacked? What do you do if you get a hack?

That’s happened to a lot of people. It never happened to us because we have a team of software engineers that is managing all of our accounts. A lot of people have gotten hacked because they either try to buy accounts. You can actually buy accounts on these underground websites and stuff, black-market stuff. A lot of people get hacked on those sites just because they have no idea what they’re doing. These people that are selling these pages have software that can hack your account. There’s stuff like that happening, but with account connections at Instagram and stuff, if people do get your account hacked or shut down, most likely we’ll be able to their account back.

I don’t know how they got to mine, but it’s interesting that a lot of people want to get that verified thing. They want to be able to swipe up. What’s with the swipe up thing for people who don’t know about that? Do you have to have a certain number of followers to be able to do those offers? Can you do it if you’re just verified? What do you have to be verified? Can you address any of that?

In order to get the swipe up feature, it basically guys mean that you can do what’s called an Instagram story. You can promote your website, products or try to do your promo there and people can swipe up on that story and it’ll go straight up to your website or your link. It’s a powerful lead generation sales tool. You need at least 10,000 followers or you need to have the blue check mark, which means that you’re verified on Instagram. Everybody wants to have that because it’s social proof and it’ street cred. It’s a lot harder. You have to have a ton of press and it definitely helps if you’re already verified on Facebook and Twitter. You can actually submit yourself to be verified and get that blue check on the Instagram APP platform. It’s highly unlikely that you’ll get it unless you have a Wikipedia page, a bunch of press, and like I said, other verifications on other platforms.

If somebody came to you, they have less than a thousand followers, they said they want to get at least 10,000 followers to get verified to get the swipe up and all, whatever. How long would you tell them it would take to get there if they worked with you?

We have a few different packages. On our basic packages, we can grow somebody 5,000 to 8,000 targeted USA followers or whatever country they want to target, we can do that guaranteed a month. Some of our higher-level premium packages, we can grow people 30,000 to 60,000 followers a month.

For those who were trying to create kind of unusual content on their own, I mentioned Canva and I’ve used Placeit and a few different things, is there a particular software that creates cool stuff that everybody should be using if they aren’t even using what you’re doing on their own that they should know about?

TTL 540 | Assistagram
Assistagram: By using a lot of these software, third-party apps, and tools, you are damaging your Instagram account.


The thing is there’s a lot of misinformation out there about Instagram. The key take-home point that I want you guys to know is that by using a lot of these software, third-party apps and these tools, you are damaging your account. Instagram gives you this secret health rating score that nobody knows about, but we know about this because we’ve been in the game so long. We’ve tested and figured out what works or what doesn’t. We’ve learned that if you’re using a bunch of these tools and software, you’re buying fake followers and using fake likes, all that stuff is bad for you. If you are changing your profile picture, you’re changing your name, your user name, if you’re liking and commenting like outside of your target market and niche and you’re randomly falling a bunch of people, Instagram downgrades you. It punishes you and penalizes you so that your stuff will never get seen. I tell people straight up hire a graphic designer or try to do stuff yourself manually because that’s going to be better for you in the long haul.

Can you use the software within Instagram to make good enough videos and graphics or do you need to use some app?

For example, if you’re trying to edit a photo and make it look nice and you don’t have design backgrounds, I use this app called Enlight. It automatically edits. You can crop photos and different stuff. Instagram has its own nice features and tools that you can use on the platform that can make your stuff look good.

If you’re doing a job like I’m doing where I’m basically in front of a computer with my headset on all day, what cool things can I post that make it interesting to follow me as a radio host? It’s challenging on a visual platform sometimes for some of us.

I usually tell people to make it a mix of your personal life/family/business and to do about maybe 40% videos because you can get a lot more engagement on videos, get more attraction and 60% just posts. With Instagram, you want to create content that piques people’s interests. That’s why even if you use a video, you want to choose a good thumbnail that’s going to create an emotional reaction and getting people to go, “That’s a really cool video. I want to check this out.” They click and they watch. It’s thinking of content that’s going to make people click and hit that follow button. That’s why for a lot of people that are starting out on Instagram, I recommend what’s called a repost strategy because again, creating great content takes time and money. I tell people to begin with the end in mind.

Think about the audience and the people that you want to reach. Go ahead and see what other influencers and what other people that you admire, respect are doing and do what’s called a repost. Repost some of their amazing video content, quotes or pictures on your Instagram wall. That’s a good way to save time, money with content and then also to get their followers following you. That’s something I recommend. If you see a cool picture, video, a quote, you could screenshot it, crop it, then post it up on your wall. Write a description and give that person credit. That’s pretty much the strategy that we use to build some of our travel accounts and get all this free travel stuff with, simply repost.

You do have to actually take a picture of it and you can’t just share it. You have to edit it and then give credit. It’s not you just share and then it says yes like on Twitter, how you share stuff. It’s a little different then. They don’t have a problem with that on Instagram. They look at you for things that you do. Do they like that or don’t like that?

People are happy because it’s more exposure for them.

Is there like a good resource for learning Instagram that you think would help people understand it better?

For all of your audience, I’m going to be including our free Growth Hacking Guide if you guys want it. It’s a PDF that you can download and we’ll teach you a lot of this stuff and the basics that you guys need to grow your account.

[bctt tweet=”The more you practice, the more prepared you are.” via=”no”]

Does that include learning about hashtags in case people are confused? How do you know which hashtags to use and which ones to follow? I’ve heard if you use the same ones over and over, it’s not good to continue doing too much of the same stuff. How do you know?

I’m going to teach you with what’s called Instagram SEO. Hashtags are super important. Where a lot of people get hashtags and where they go wrong is that they are using hashtags that are too generic and basic. For example, we’re talking about travel, if you look up the travel hashtags, it has hundreds of millions of posts in it. Meaning that if you’re someone starting on Instagram, you don’t have 500 to 1,000 followers and pretty low engagement per post, the likelihood of you using the hashtag and ranking for that hashtag in the top nine posts is impossible.

If you’re searching for these basic generic hashtags and then seeing the related hashtags because when you go to the tags tab on your Instagram app and you type in travel, you’re going to see all of these other related hashtags to travel that have a smaller number of posts. By using hashtags that have a smaller number of posts, you have a higher likelihood of getting that top posts, which will drive more traffic to your page. I suggest using hashtags that have 10,000 to 20,000 posts, 20,000 to 50,000, 50,000 to 100,000 posts in that hashtag. Seeing the related hashtags, you can see all of the numbers of posts that each hashtag has. Create multiple sets, mix them up and see which ones perform the best throughout the week. That’s helpful.

That would be helpful to have a resource to help them because I know you learn Facebook and then you learn Linkedin, then you learn on Twitter. A lot of people are behind on Instagram just because there’re so many. If you have a resource, how can people learn more? Is there a website you want to share as well?

If you’re interested in a free travel hack, it’s If you’re serious about Instagram, or even if you’re not on Instagram, you can go to our website, Send us a message and send a free guide. We can give you that guide. I might send a link to my Forbes article too because then it’s automated in my Chat Bot. It can automatically send you a free guide, but either of those work.

It’s so nice of you to share all this, Zach. What you do is such a great, interesting job. I can’t imagine having that experience of going to those exotic places, doing all of this and it’s so artistic. Everything goes together and this was fun to talk to you about it. Thank you so much for being on the show.

Thanks for having me. I’m excited to help you. If you have any questions, feel free to reach out.

I’d like to thank both Ryan and Zach for being my guests. We get so many great guests on the show. If you’ve missed any past episodes, please go to If you want more information about Cracking the Curiosity Code or the Curiosity Code Index, you can go to I hope you enjoyed this episode and I hope you join us for the next episode of Take The Lead Radio.

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About Ryan Berman

TTL 540 | AssistagramRyan Berman is the founder of Courageous, a change consultancy that develops Courage Brands® and trains companies how to operationalize courage through Courage Bootcamp. Ryan has spent a career developing meaningful stories for household brands—like Caesars Entertainment, Major League Baseball, New Era, Subway, and UNICEF—and he believes that courage is the ultimate competitive advantage for any willing business, being or brand. Ryan used the courage methodology detailed in the book to launch his own Courage Brand called Sock Problems, a charitable sock company that socks different problems in the world. He is the author of Return on Courage: A Business Playbook for Courageous Change.

About Zach Benson

TTL 540 | AssistagramZach Benson is the CEO and Founder of the Instagram management agency Assistagram, which has served high-end clients like The Ritz Carlton and The Four Seasons. Benson has engineered viral Instagram campaigns and boasts the ability to reliably build massive accounts from scratch in a short period of time. He’s stayed at over hundreds of exotic hotels for free in exchange for exposure to his Instagram travel network of tens of millions of followers. He’s also a professional dancer and a TEDx speaker.
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