The perpetual motion of Akash Joseph’s electric skateboard belies physics. Without pushing off the ground, Joseph, 23, silently propels forward on Avenue E in Bayonne as if traveling downhill. It’s an exhilarating mix of business and pleasure for Joseph, who was given the board by a skateboard manufacturer to review and broadcast to his 500,000 Instagram followers.
Joseph, who attended Marist High School in Bayonne and lives in Jersey City, is considered an “influencer” in the marketing industry. He uses his social media cache to promote various products and companies. While he sometimes reviews skateboards and “quirky tech products,” his primary focus is on PC gaming – hence his Instagram account, @PCgaming.
His feed is populated mostly with images of gaming products, like computer hardware, keyboards, monitors, game controllers, gaming chairs, and games. He purchased a virtual reality headset and was invited to a virtual reality gaming conference in California.
“At the moment, virtual reality is not ready. It needs a couple more years of refinement to be completely there,” Joseph said in a hot-take review of Oculus Rift, a Facebook-owned virtual reality helmet. “I was more worried about tripping on the cord.”
It’s not the kind of job you apply for. Joseph fell into it after years of sharing his interest in PC gaming with fellow Instagram users (his favorite game is the widely popular Fortnite).
After netting 100,000 followers three years ago, companies began reaching out to him to promote their products. Companies sometimes let him keep the products, and as he racked up followers and started producing YouTube commercials, they started to pay him.
“This didn’t start overnight,” Joseph said. “I started this off in high school. When I was three years in, I hit 100,000 followers, and I saw more potential in the page. When more companies started approaching me, I thought this is getting serious now. This is something I can do in the future and it can be my job.”
Building his brand
Companies have long co-opted other companies’ personal brands to advertise, such as Cindy Crawford advertising Pepsi or a superstar athlete promoting Nike sneakers. But today’s media landscape is dominated by Facebook (which owns Instagram), where anyone can create a channel and a brand. Instagram and YouTube take the lion’s share of influencers’ revenue generated by sponsored posts, according to eMarketer.com.
Companies already advertise their products on their own social media feeds, but Joseph has something advertisers lack – trust and authenticity. That’s what he sells and plans to build on.
“Right now, this is a very tight niche. I want to turn it into a place where everything PC gaming and tech-related is one stop, one place,” Joseph said. “I want to have PC gaming news, reviews, everything in one place, one website so it encompasses everything. I want to get console gaming in here as well.”
Joseph’s story is proof that you can make a living marketing on social media. For those who know how to do it, the career can be liberating. Joseph has no boss and takes breaks when he wants. He’s a self-described gym nut who can be found on a triathlon bike at Liberty State Park in the mornings.
The idea of monetizing social media is appealing to other young people, as well. Joseph gets messages all the time from aspiring influencers asking for tips.
“What I can tell them is to have fun with it, start off not thinking of it as I’m going to be huge, I’m going to be a big brand and get these cool products,” Joseph said. “Don’t think of it as a job, but as a fun hobby that you’re doing.”