How Instagram is the new “sponsor-me tape” capable of making your skate dreams come true.
It’s no doubt that social media has changed not only our personal lives, but also how many industries operate today.
Few industries have been impacted by social media in quite the same way that skateboarding has, particularly with the help of Instagram.
The ability to instantaneously post clips from practically anywhere in the world has given unprecedented power to skaters to be recognized by industry leaders or gain an insane following, sometimes just for one well-edited clip or banger.
With great power comes great opportunity, and for any skateboarder nowadays who strives to “make it” in skateboarding, Instagram is essentially a requirement to get noticed.
I think it’s a great tool for an upcoming skateboarder to be discovered or for someone that lacks the resources to be seen. – Guy Mariano on Social Media, Thrasher Magazine Interview
The hashtag #skateboarding currently has over 12 million posts on Instagram. That not only means a lot of skaters are posting on Insta, but that there’s also a lot of “junk” posted everyday. Keep in mind that this tag doesn’t include the millions of clips under different skate-related tags, or none at all.
For an aspiring young skater who aims to build a following and get noticed, it’s a busy world on Instagram. However, it can certainly be navigated and, with the use of several strategies, used to stand out in the skate industry.
Here’s David Gravette on using social media in 2014:
And here’s Gravette’s “verified” Instagram account today with 163,000+ followers:
Whether you like it or not, the era of sending a sponsor-me tape to your favorite skate company is becoming seriously old school. If you do, be prepared for them to check your presence online which really could make or break the deal.
Here’s 9 tips for skateboarders using Instagram to build their reputation or find sponsors:
1.) First and foremost, have a standard of quality and limit what you post
Honestly, if your goal is to get sponsored by a skate company, what you’re really asking for is to be used as a marketing tool by a brand.
In a marketing sense, Instagram is purely a means for a skateboarder to create their “personal brand”. What you post permanently on your profile is creating an image that brands will look at and analyze whether it’s beneficial, from a marketing standpoint, for you to represent them.
There’s totally no problem with posting a clip of a kickflip in your driveway, in the end, it’s really all about fun anyway.
But, if you are absolutely driven to be sponsored by Thunder and Spitfire, the stuff you post should be on par with at least their flow riders and you’ll have to think twice about the brand image your target sponsor represents.
2.) Do something to stand out
With so many skate clips and photos being posted on Instagram literally by the minute, it’s inevitable that what you post will be placed in a crowd of skate content.
Unless…what you do or how the clip looks gives it a reason to stand above the others.
While it is a pretty extreme example, a skater who managed to go from local Texas ripper to now having a global reputation is @ribs.man.
Ribs man is a seriously gnarly skater, but ironically what has gained him over 52,000 followers was not only his skating, but the skeleton costume he wears in his clips.
This unique image even landed him an interview on “The Nine Club Experience”, alongside interviews with legends like P-Rod:
Not necessarily saying you should put on a costume for all your clips, but rather think about something different you can bring the feed.
Whether it’s a style of filming, type of music, filter, style of trick, or whatever, just get creative.
3.) Post more than just skate clips
As dope as it is to see that you practice every day at your local park, it’s just not really that interesting to see a clip of you skating the same mini ramp every day.
Nyjah’s instagram is really a carefully crafted mix of skateboarding, product marketing, and lifestyle photos.
While Nyjah’s “job” is to be a professional skateboarder, his instagram is essentially a highly valuable marketing tool for personal branding, his skateboarding, and his sponsors.
Kevin Long’s Insta has a much different vibe, but ultimately a similar approach. Spanky is almost as well-known for his insane Etch-A-Sketch skills as he is for his skateboarding, but you’ll find both things on his page.
The reality is, “making it” as a sponsored skater nowadays will involve creating your own instagram that brands want to be seen on.
To keep your profile engaging, people want to see more than just endless skatepark clips. You can keep it skate-related, but at least switch things up a bit.
The next 3 tips are about gaining followers on Instagram.
Again, Instagram is about marketing and the number of real, legitimate followers you have will greatly determine your perceived “reach” and how valuable you are to brands.
4.) Use hashtags but use them correctly
If you haven’t already made enough of a name for yourself to where people are searching for you, they’re gonna have to find you.
Hashtags are tricky because they’re powerful enough to bring hundreds of potential followers to your page, but also capable of making your posts look like some spam-filled garbage.
Regardless, your page simply won’t grow in the beginning without them. Keep this stuff in mind:
- You can post up to 30 hashtags in one post
- You can hide hashtags from the title of the post by immediately placing them in a comment after you’ve made the post
- You can further hide hashtags by going into the “notes” app on your phone and typing 5 periods, each on a separate line, with no spaces before or after any period. Copy this and go back to Instagram, paste them, and then begin typing your hashtags. The comment will then appear on the post as […], so it doesn’t look like spam.
- Choose tags that appeal to your “audience”. A mix of specific, semi-specific, and somewhat vague words will bring in a good mix of viewers.
- Pay attention to the number of posts for a specific tag after you’ve started typing it on Instagram. Vague tags with millions of photos means it has a pretty constant stream of new stuff for your post to get lost in, but many potential viewers. More specific tags means maybe less viewers, but a more accurate potential audience.
5.) Interact with the brands, companies, and pros that you want to associate with
The reality is, there’s a high chance that even the most well-known pros are not that much different than you.
You share the love of skateboarding with all these dudes, so hit them up if you want to say something! It’s simple, but the riders from your favorite team are probably never gonna know you unless you make yourself known to them.
Like their posts, comment, send them a direct message, make a post and give them a shout out, anything! There’s a good chance they’ll be hyped on it and say what’s up.
In many ways, “making it” in skateboarding is about who you know. Well, Instagram is an easy way to make yourself known to whoever you want to appeal to.
Who knows, maybe they’ll even follow you back.
6.) Get off Instagram and go skate
You might have seen online or even an ad on Instagram promoting how you can pay someone and “instantly get 1k followers”.
Well, go ahead…
What you’ll get is a thousand bot-controlled fake profiles that fill your page with spam.
What really matters is having legitimate followers, you know, fellow skateboarders who your favorite brands want to market to.
The best way to get skaters to follow you, is to go skate!
You can’t be shy, just talk to the skaters you meet! Don’t ask them to follow you, just ask if they have Instagram. If they do, follow them and chances are they’ll do the same.
Maybe you’ll even get something better than a follower, a friend!
The final three steps are about maintaining the following you already have.
7.) Use the story and live features
This post wouldn’t be complete without a mention of @weckingball.
Whether you love him or hate him, this dude is a textbook example of using social media and Instagram to gain huge popularity in skateboarding. His page is full of hilarious posts like MannyBusters or him messing with mall skate shop employees.
However, part of what keeps people coming back is his live broadcasts. Even if you don’t want to listen to him rant on about what he classifies as “yummy” or how much he can bench press, an endless stream of people writing hate/love comments will definitely have you laughing.
Weckingball’s Instagram fame has landed him a feature on Jenkem Magazine, a full interview on 2.2 million+ subscriber podcast No Jumper, and possibly most epic of all, this section in the 2018 Dime Glory Challenge:
8.) Maintain consistency with posts
To keep your followers, keep posting interesting stuff to give them a reason to keep following!
This actually isn’t easy to do, as it means that they are pretty much always looking for, creating, and posting interesting content.
9.) Actually have fun skateboarding
Seriously! The best content you can possibly create will be a result of you truly having fun on your skateboard.
People can tell when they’re being sold to or when you’re trying to portray an image that doesn’t fit you. One thing that’s guaranteed to both build and maintain your following is if what you post genuinely makes them want to go skate and have fun like you are.
Finally, just like life, skateboarding is what you make it.
For many, skateboarding is purely about having fun with friends.
For the few who are convinced that they want to be sponsored and make a name for themself in the skate industry, hopefully this post helps you out.
Burnett, Michael. “Guy Mariano Interview.” Thrasher Magazine, 7 Mar. 2016, www.thrashermagazine.com/articles/guy-mariano-030716/.
RIDEChannel. “David Gravette – Social Media, Meltdowns, and More on Free Lunch (Part 2 of 2).” YouTube, YouTube, 29 Jan. 2014, www.youtube.com/watch?v=Mv2bSJGMZo8&t=25s.
The Nine Club. “Who Is Ribs Man!??” YouTube, 2 June 2018, www.youtube.com/watch?v=PStl07YMwbM.
Thrasher Magazine. “Dime Glory Challenge 2018 Video.” YouTube, 20 Sept. 2018, www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=400&v=7Z3m9mAGp0c.