SpeakHub was lucky enough to get an invite down to The Influencer offices in New Cairo to interview Aly Osman on his rise to success, his date with Miss Lebanon, and of course to find out how he has been using his voice to help others to make it big.
- a person or thing that influences:
- a person who has the power to influence many people, as through social media or traditional media
SpeakHub: You started one of Egypt’s biggest Instagram accounts. How did it all begin?
I was still at University. I was lucky enough to attend AUC (American University Cairo) I never intended it to be a big thing. It was simply a passion. We used to do like, three large scale events every year, and for every event I was responsible for hosting the Facebook Page. I loved social media and everybody knew that.
SpeakHub: What made you choose Instagram? And why comedy?
The humour came because it was a time in Egypt when people were depressed and miserable. The economy was collapsing and people felt down. An escape was needed. My friend came to me and was like, I’m going to be, like the best Viner. I was like, what are Vines? He started showing me some of the videos. Now, I am a very competitive person and decided I was going to do it on Instagram. About a week later I already had more followers. At the time Instagram was not as popular, but I could see the potential.
SpeakHub: When did you realise that your page “EgyFunnySociety” was taking off?
I was in a lecture. I had posted a silly picture. It was just text. It had the caption “like this picture with your nose”. People started tagging each other saying, try it, try it. I didn’t know it would catch on so well. I even saw my professor and two other students in my lecture do it! At that point I started to think. I made them do this. This is a kind of power. I could not just let it pass by. So I kept posting stuff.
After just a couple of months a well known multi-national company contacted me and asked if they could put their advertisements on my page. That was the start of the climb. Other multi-nationals called me saying they wanted me to be responsible for their campaign as a freelancer.
SpeakHub: But you were just – a kid back then. You must have been a little shocked. How did you deal with these big companies?
I’ve always been a believer in trial and error. At the time I didn’t even know I was supposed to get paid. There was no formal contract. The company handled the budget, and effectively, I didn’t get paid anything. I didn’t know. But the best experience comes from actually doing things, getting it wrong, and learning so you know what is right. If you make the same mistake twice – then you’re an idiot, but if you learn, then you get better every time. Now I know about contracts and clauses and what I need when someone calls me up. My team and I now have more knowledge and better experience than a lot of the competitors – even more than a lot of the multi-nationals. We give them training.
SpeakHub: When people imagine a social media expert, they think of an introverted computer geek. You seem different. You’re sociable, talkative, and “the life of the party”. How?
Knowing how to talk, when to talk, and what to say, is an art. Not everyone knows how. Most people don’t know what to say in a meeting, especially with a high profile audience. It takes years of practice. I know high profile individuals who have trainers who teach them how to communicate – how to talk. A lot of ministers, artists etc – are designed. They have been taught how to speak.
SpeakHub: Are some people born with an ability to communicate well? Or is it always learned?
Definitely, some people are born with it – some lack it. But we all lack something. I believe your success has more to do with character and determination, and everybody can turn themselves into a determined person. You need to be a go-get-er. You need to be the type of person that, if you want something, you won’t stop until you reach it. There will always be people telling you that you can’t do this; that you don’t have the budget; that you need connections, that you need…. But it’s your job to be determined – to find the budget, to find better ways, to find cheaper ways, to find the connections – any way in the world to reach your target.
SpeakHub: Let’s talk about Miss Lebanon. There were rumours. Are the two of you dating?
(Laughs) No, no, no. She is a very good friend of mine. It’s a funny story actually. I went to Lebanon because I have a couple of friends there. I was meant to meet one, but she wasn’t free. She asked me what was was going to do meantime. I said I was going out with Miss Lebanon. She laughed so much. She told me that even if I tried and used all my connections – that Miss Lebanon would NEVER go out with me. Being the competitive and stubborn person that I am, I put it as a target for myself. I was going to make it happen – today. So I sent an Instagram message out and tagged Miss Lebanon. I simply said “Hey, it’s Aly Osman. Let’s do something that will increase both our followers.” She replied within a couple of seconds with “Hey, where are you…I’m coming.” And just like that – I went out with Miss Lebanon and we became friends. When I returned to Egypt I proposed to her (not that kind of proposal) I proposed some work in Egypt – and she loved the idea. She came down for some activation work and had a great time – just like that I became the agent for the “Sisters of Lebanon”.
SpeakHub: You’ve been giving talks about Social Media and your rise. How did that start?
My cousin was responsible for TEDx. He called me up and told me that people wanted to know about my story and how I reached where I am. He asked me to be a guest of honour at a TEDx session. I had never done it before, but I love influencing people, so I did it. I loved it. People came up to me afterwards taking pictures with me, asking questions about how I do what I do and then posting about me on social media. So public speaking turned into another passion of mine. I give speeches to help people to discover opportunities. I discuss how we just need to connect the dots that are always all around us. We just need to see them. As an example, I was just a friend away from Christiano Ronaldo. I sent a direct message on Instagram to one of the biggest businessmen in Egypt. I just said that it would be an honour to meet him. He texted back and said he was in Lebanon on his way to Madrid and when he got back we could meet up. I was like “Wow!”. I didn’t know him but I sent back and said “..well if you meet Christiano Ronaldo say hi from me.” He said he would. As it turns out he was actually meeting him. He wasn’t kidding. He posted pictures of the meeting. So you see – there is no ceiling. Ceilings are self-inflicted. If you have the belief you can do what-ever it is you want. If you believe it – that’s 50% of it done.
SpeakHub: Were you nervous giving that first speech?
Very. Moments before I was to go on stage I actually forgot everything I had prepared to say. I quickly wrote some stuff on my hand and I soon as I got on stage I was honest with the audience and told them. I started the speech by telling them that I had forgotten my speech, written it on my hand, and if they saw me continuously looking at my hand – that was why. So please clap for me now because I’m feeling very stressed out. Everyone just started laughing and clapping and I won their hearts before I even gave my speech and that made them listen to me.
SpeakHub: So, what is next for Aly and The Influencers? How does social media work….work?
We are going to go regional very soon hopefully. We are going to Lebanon. We are thinking of opening in Dubai. There are a lot of proposals that are coming from all around the world currently. We just need to find places where there is the demand for social media and a limited amount of supply. Social media is not about buying or selling – many people don’t understand that. Social media is about entertainment. It’s about laughing, it’s about social elements, it’s about relationships, it’s about fun, politics, gossip. It’s about connecting. If you can find the thin line between a business and connecting that business – that is the key to being successful on social media. Know your audience. Start with you. I am one of the consumers – so I ask myself what do people like – what do they not like. That’s how it works. I experiment a lot with the content on my page. That is the best way – trial and error, till you get it right.
SpeakHub: We believe that learning to speak is about more than giving speeches. We want to give students that confidence that they will need to make something of themselves after school. To be confident talking to pople. You made it. What advice would you give to young people who might read this and aspire to be like you?
Take risks. If you are sacred of doing something – do it. It will hurt you if you spend the ext ten years wondering if it could have worked. If you have something that you need to say, whether it’s asking a girl out, or talking about your achievements in an interview – take the risk. Do it. No one will die of humiliation. If you get it wrong, it will hurt, but you will live and you can try again. As soon as I heard about this SpeakHub – remember I was the person that contacted you – I loved it. I saw the posts and I wanted to be a part of it. I loved the idea. I lot of people don’t know how to communicate. There are so many distractions in this world and we can so easily be dragged off our correct paths. I think SpeakHub is going to be a great value to anyone who is a part of it.
Aly Osman is a founder partner of The Influencers Social Media Agency and creator of Instagram page @EgyFunnySociety. At just 23 years old he and his business partner Sherif El Shafei can already boast clients such as Huwawei, the Lebanon Sisters, and legendary composer Omar Khairat. Aly presents speeches all over the country at prestigious venues to help young people realise their potential. Aly loves SpeakHub. (We had to add that part – it makes us proud.)