For content that evokes an effortless love of travel, lifestyle and music, look no further than @mehta_a, who balances all three with a consistently stunning aesthetic.
How do you do both? It’s a question we ask ourselves constantly; I want to do this but I must do that. I want to fit this in, but I’ll have to sacrifice that. Until we can be in two places at one time, we will always have to choose something over another. But Akash Mehta – who graduated in Engineering, worked for Estee Lauder Companies, and is now Global Digital Manager at Dior in charge of Earned Media, whilst also maintaining his influencer status with just over 300k followers – shows us that whilst you can’t always do both, sometimes you can be both.
Singer turned Influencer
“From being a singer, that’s how kind of how my social media journey began”, he says. Before his life as an influencer, Akash performed in a group and then embraced a solo career. This is where he says social media, for him, came out of necessity, rather than a choice. A producer he worked with suggested his songs would gain more views if he grew his following, and Akash got to work right away. From travelling due to his music, he had a bank of photographs which he posted to Instagram, which he noted “did well”. “People were more engaged with my travel photos [than my music photos], so I decided to switch tactics”.
But Akash quickly realised that once he’d grown his following to gain awareness for his music, he didn’t need to post on social media anymore; he wanted to. He paused his musical career, but continued to post the travel and lifestyle photographs from which he gained popularity because of a deeper meaning. “I post photos of my travel to really inspire people to see the world. We only live once, and we want to see what is out there. If I can travel and I've seen something beautiful, I share it and give a bit of history, a bit of background to inspire people to go there, to encourage people not just to look at a pretty photo”.
Akash has other reasons for posting content, too.
“I try to do a bit of lifestyle. I think it's always good to get the audience involved into your personal life so they become closer to you. They believe more of what you have to say, you have a bit more authority, I guess.” And although it might be the last reason he posts, raising awareness for charities is his “first intention”. “The other reason I post is to spread awareness of the charitable work I do, initiatives I do, to put things into the spotlight. And that's why in my bio I put all my charity initiatives because I think it's important to say look: I'm not an influencer here in my mind. I want to be a bit more different”.
But Akash’s journey to become an influencer, and to enter the world of luxury media, wasn’t always his career path. He went to Imperial College to study Electrical and Electronic Engineering. Although he doesn’t regret the experience due to the life lessons he learnt there, he says “I regret not choosing a degree that was really me. I think I was just convinced in high school that you have to do a certain type of degree at university, any else isn’t considered ‘proper’. But the day after I left engineering and I graduated, I made my decision, and went straight to Estee Lauder Companies to Aveda”. And with high pressured jobs within hugely successful companies, it’s a surprise Akash manages to upkeep his influencer status; a job in itself.
Akash realises that as he’s grown older, his priorities have shifted to focus more on his ‘main career’, and his ‘Instagram life’ comes last. “I work long hours every day, so by the time I go home, whether I go to the gym or not, I just want to sleep, not post. But at the same time, I don't want to lose my following, because that's an edge I have in the working business that no one else has. So I'm finding the balance. I have such a great audience that I feel I owe it to them to post.” Instead of treating being an influencer like his career, Akash balances his life by regarding it as a secondary, weekend job. “I try to do weekend trips to European countries. So my weekend is always for my Instagram content creation. Monday to Friday is work only with no Instagram focus because I need to give my full dedication to work. And throughout the week if I need to post some photos I can do it from the content I got from the weekend before. So that's usually how it works.”
Establishing a blueprint
A formula that sounds simpler in theory than practice. As well as balancing content creation and audience growth with the job that takes up his working week, Akash must maintain his loyal following, as inactive users tend to lose followers the fastest. So, what keeps his audience coming back for more, even with his infrequent posting schedule? Akash says it’s all about experimentation. “I just posted my first cinemagraph, it's new for me but I spent some time trying to perfect it, so when I released it wasn't like a half-hearted result. I wanted to make it professional, as if I'd done cinemagraphs for years.” But it’s not just about perfect content, it’s also about heart. “Have a bit of personality in the caption. The balance between caption and photo needs to have a sense of this being who you really are. Because everyone who reads it, they can tell if you’re being authentic – and you should be as authentic as possible.”
Akash thinks it’s this edge that’s secured him collaborations with huge brands. Although he only accepts sponsorship irregularly due to his demanding career, his influencer status means he’s worked with some of the biggest and best in the business, something he can barely believe himself. Speaking to the popularity of influencer marketing, Akash notes that “a lot more iconic brands - which have been our childhood dreams to work with - are now reaching out to people like us, it’s amazing”. Akash is also totally transparent with his following, “I asked a question to my Instagrammers, "Do you like it if someone does an ad or not?" I thought most people wouldn't like an ad. But they don't mind it as long as it fits the theme of that feed”. And if you are posting an advert, how do you make the content work? “I think, first, originality. Something they haven't seen before engages them quicker, something to make them say ‘this is cool, this is different’. Secondly, believability. It really needs to fit with that person.”
Akash puts his advice into practice when he tells me about his favourite sponsorship, something that was barely a sponsorship at all; “I was given a trip to go to Tel Aviv fashion week, to see Tel Aviv. I was with 20 other influencers and press. And it was one of the best experiences. There was this blogger with two million followers, there was press, like a Vogue editor, Forbes style director, the founder of Paper magazine. And with all these people, you wake up at seven in the morning. You go on the bus. You have lunch. You have dinner together. You go to drinks together. It's like a school trip.”
But what made this sponsorship so special to Akash? “I know that’s how press trips usually are, but this was amazing due to the flexibility. When I got the brief there was no limit applied. There was no, "Okay. We need four photos, or three photos." They didn't even tell me what hashtags to use. And it was a perfect situation. And I ended up doing eight to ten photos, just because I had so much fun and I felt that I had full creative control.” Sounds amazing to us. But with a full-time job, you can’t always drop everything to fly around the world; “The issue is that I have now a lot more of these kinds of collaborations, but I just can't do them because I’m limited with a set number of days off but that’s a sacrifice I’m happy to make as I truly love my job”.
The future of being an influencer, to Akash, is all about authenticity and the ability to drive action not just awareness; “I really want to do more to connect with my followers and build a true connections, which in turn will have a truer and more impactful influencer at the end”. Although he realises your priorities change as you grow, Akash gives the advice to aspiring creatives to ‘never give up’, especially in the context of social media. “Always be consistent. If you promise you're going to post once a week and you only have 300 people seeing it, post once a week. Make it exciting. Be tactical. Use keywords. That kind of stuff, minimise the risk and maximise the reach. Don't give up and keep on doing it but never lose sight of your first intentions”. And from a less formulaic point of view, he advises to think ‘about creation’. “Some small accounts have such great vision; their content is stunning. It just takes a beautiful feel, a beautiful story, a beautiful message and with one view it can easily convert to a following”.
As always, I had to ask Akash some quick-fire questions to round off our interview.
What’s a phrase you hate?
Well this is not really a phrase but I guess something I really don’t like is when people message me (especially those who never normally message me) and say ‘Hey how are you? Long time! Quick favour, do you mind posting this on your Instagram? It will really help me out!’ I get a lot of messages like this, sometimes daily, and I feel really guilty about the whole thing. On one end, I don’t want to use my Instagram as an advertising outlet for my friends/family but I also don’t want to let them down for such a simple thing as a post. So, yeah even to this day it’s a phrase I hate but mostly because I feel guilty saying no.
What are you obsessed with?
“Dinosaurs, I think in my flat I have over 8 dinosaur skeleton statues haha”.
What three things do you need to work?
“I need a matcha in the morning. Definitely. I need my to-do list to keep on track of everything and lastly I need my air pods!”.
Is there anything else you want people to know about you?
“I would just say if they want to know and ask me specific questions they can email me. I love people emailing me and I can email you back. I don't bite so please do. If you DM I might not always reply, but I have my email in my current Instagram bio. So if anyone wants to email me, do. And I will reply to all of them.”
Thanks, Akash. Follow him on Instagram here. @mehta_a
As told to Chelsea Carter
Words by Amelia Perrin
All imagery by Akash Mehta