Will The Real Daquan Please Stand Up?
If you’re on Instagram, you probably know who Daquanis. He’s the guy behind some of the funniest memes on the Internet. He has 10.3 million followers, including some of the biggest names in entertainment: Shaq, Demi Lovato, The Kardashians, and Drake.
Here are a couple of my favorites memes:
After reading his posts one day, I started thinking, “Who is Daquan? Is that his picture on his profile? Is it a team of comedy writers, a kid in his basement? Who the heck is Daquan?”
I wrote a similar piece on another popular meme account, Fuck Jerry, earlier this year. That one was pretty easy. There were several articles about the founder, Elliot Teable. There were pictures of him online, interviews, etc. He was happy to hop on a call to discuss his life and his company.
For Daquan it wasn’t as simple. I could only find one interview, in The Observer, that he ever did. Turns out he’s anonymous. That’s not him in the profile pic either.
The anonymous part really sparked my interest. Almost everyone is trying to be social media famous. They want to be verified, get a million followers, and become a YouTube star. Not Daquan.
To get the interview, we couldn’t meet in person or even have a voice or video call. It could only be conducted, via email, through his manager.
Tom Ward: Who is Daquan?
Daquan: “Daquan” is fictional character that grew into an internet culture icon. He defines what’s trending by creating and curating content in a unique point of view, tone, and humor that is loved and shared by millions of fans daily.
Ward: How many followers does Daquan has on Instagram?
Daquan: 10.3 million, and growing.
Ward: Who are you? How old are you? Where do you live?
Daquan: I’m not going to say who I am but I can say I’m 20 years old, lead editorial for Daquan, and live in Calgary, Canada.
Ward: 99.9% of people's goal on Instagram is to get verified, get millions of followers, and get famous. Why do you keep your identity a secret?
Daquan: The goal was to create a social media content brand that is synonymous with internet pop culture, not a personality brand. This is substantially different from influencers who rely on their appearance and/or personal style.
Ward: Is your profile pic on Instagram you? Is your name really Daquan?
Daquan: No and no.
Ward: How many people know you're Daquan? How do you make sure they don't tell everyone? You don't want your name released, but you said in an interview that everyone in your town knows you. So you're not really anonymous right?
Daquan: My friends and family call me Daquan, but it’s not a personality brand so I prefer to stay under the radar. It’s fine if they tell other people, but I won’t share my identity on social media.
Ward: Seems like you are part of a team? You've got a couple of business partners from Comedy.com.
Daquan: We’re all part of Comedy.com, a technology and media company that creates content brands for social audiences. Barak Shragai and Dor Mizrahi are the Co-Founders who oversee the business side. I lead editorial. In addition, we have growing tech, brand partnerships and content teams.
Ward: Do you write everything, make the memes yourself?
Daquan: I curate/create all the meme content. When there’s video production involved, than we have a team that does that. I approve all content before it goes live.
Ward: Where do you get your content from?
Daquan: We get hundreds (if not thousands) of content submissions daily from everyone who’s trying to break the Internet. Twitter is another place to find hilarious memes. A lot of celebrities send me content via direct message and ask for a repost. We also have proprietary technology that sources content that just started catching fire.
Ward: How often do you post?
Daquan: 4-5 posts a day.
Ward: How'd you start memeing?
Daquan: I’ve always been a fan of memes and followed a lot of meme pages on Facebook/Instagram, and just one day I thought about making one of my own. I started posting memes on Instagram and the account grew quickly to 150,000 followers. Back then it was impossible to predict that this would become a full-fledged business.
Ward: What's an average day look like for you? Do you wake up and start trolling the Internet for funny stuff? Do you start editing pics? Making memes, etc. Do you have Daquan headquarters?
Daquan: The team operates Daquan like a daily show. We start by reviewing content submissions, checking out what’s new in pop culture and on the Internet in general, brainstorming, and finally posting. I’m in Canada and the headquarters is in NYC.
Ward: Everyone follows you. Tons of celebs. Have you met any of them. What's your best celebrity encounter?
Daquan: Yes, tons of celebs follow and engage with the posts. I talk to celebs via DM. I really haven’t met any in person yet. I play 2K and Call of Duty with some NBA players and in November last year, Nick Cannon went live on the account and joked that he hacked Daquan.
Ward: Do you keep an eye on what the other guys (Fuck Jerry, Fat Jew, Sailor Mike, Beige Cardagin, etc) are doing? Do you guys ever use the same meme with different captions?
Daquan: Not really. The stuff they post is funny but the editorial guidelines we have for Daquan are different. Their content will not get good engagement on Daquan.
Ward: Let's talk advertising. Saw your Bevel post last week and thought it was a funny post but when I looked closer I noticed it was an ad. Genius! When did you start doing sponsored posts?
Daquan: Initially, we barely accepted any sponsorship offers until late 2016 to keep the brand authentic. Then we started forming brand partnerships in the beginning of 2017. We had more and more brands reaching out not to “advertise” but to actually be part of internet/pop culture. For example, we’ve completed successful campaigns with the likes of Burger King, Netflix, Atlantic Records, MTV and more.
Ward: What was the most exciting sponsored content that you’ve posted?
Daquan: If it’s not exciting we probably won’t take it, but I think the most epic one was The Mannequin Challenge in partnership with a music label. That went crazy viral!
Ward: Wait. You’re telling me that the post with the pitbull was paid?
Daquan: Our technology spotted the original Mannequin Challenge video gaining momentum on Twitter and we decided to post it organically on Instagram. I don’t even think it was even a “challenge” at this point. After we posted it, there was a paid element to it.
Ward: My guess is because of the music. Are you also promoting music?
Daquan: We are working with most of the major music labels on breaking new songs. We are measuring incredible results in music. Memes and viral sketches are significantly affecting people’s music playlists and searches on Spotify and YouTube.
Ward: Sometimes you don't even notice it's an ad. Is that the point? Like, you need to entertain and make people laugh first and then the ad comes second?
Daqaun: The effective branded post organically blends my humor and the brand message. For example, this Burger King meme we created generated over 85% positive engagement:
Ward: When did you start making money at this? You don't have the ad revenue, like a YouTuber, so are sponsored posts the only source of income for Daquan?
Daquan: Today, our main revenue source for Daquan is sponsored content. There are other exciting opportunities in the works for 2018.
Ward: Are you intentionally just on Instagram?
Daquan: We are dedicated to become the most dominant internet culture brand on Instagram and we believe the platform is going to keep growing exponentially in the future. Yet, we are in the process of developing a strategy to reach existing/new audiences on other platforms, such as Spotify, where we have our own playlist that is updated weekly.
Ward: Who are your comedy heroes?
Daquan: Dave Chappelle, Kevin Hart and Chris Rock are my top three for sure.
Ward: Being an "influencer" is kids number one career aspiration these days. Do you have any advice for them in growing their Instagram? You've obviously figured it out. Do you have any insights? Like focusing on a channel; scheduling your posts; finding your niche; figuring out what your audience wants to see; having a social media strategy?
Daquan: Instagram is a great platform to start. Finding your niche, posting content daily, collaborating with other creators – these are known and important tips to follow. I believe however that people are usually missing three other important points:
First, being an influencer is the outcome of being an exceptional content creator. It’s all about the character, talent, voice and art expressed in your content. People with large followings but not great talent usually have no real influence.
Second, look at data. Surprisingly, many influencers don’t pay enough attention to metrics. A lot can be learned by measuring and “listening” to what the audience actually likes and shares. If one post got 1000 likes and a second one got 5000 likes, one has to figure out why.
Third, don’t overvalue follower count. For many emerging creators, hitting one million followers is a goal. It’s a mistake. Having followers and engaged fans are two different things. Achieving the latter is the most important goal. That means that your audience sticks and follows you wherever you go.
Metrics, developing a social media strategy, engagement? Not what you expected, was it?
You think this is a hobby or some kid in his basement, smoking weed, and coming up with funny memes?
Daquan is an advertising agency. It's big business.
But Daquan is also a person, an artist. He's like a standup comedian, constantly tweaking his routine until it's perfect.
Daquan is a comedy team too, no different than the crew at The Daily Show, producing a "show" every day. They're watching the news, the culture, and what's trending to develop the best content possible.
But the beauty of Daquan, is you could walk past him on the street and never know it was him.
Like Chris Rock said, "You want to be rich, not famous."