When Omar Raja created the sports-focused Instagram account House of Highlights, he optimistically hoped for 100,000 followers.
“Now we’re almost at 10 million, which is just insane,” Raja said on the latest Too Embarrassed to Ask.
House of Highlights is now owned by Bleacher Report and managed by two people, Raja and Drew Corrigan, with efforts under way to expand the brand on YouTube and Twitter. And the fame has connected Raja, now 24 years old, with some of the biggest celebrities in the NBA, including LeBron James, Carmelo Anthony and Dwyane Wade.
But there are drawbacks to being a social media star, too. For one, Raja hasn’t taken a single day off in the past four years. He said he was feeling burnt out in early 2018 — until he ran into Kobe Bryant while the former Lakers star was promoting his Oscar-winning animated short, “Dear Basketball.”
“I was like, ‘Kobe, when does the grind stop?’” Raja told Recode’s Kurt Wagner. “He says, ‘Not until you’re six feet under.’ Then we talked about that topic for an extra two minutes, where he’s like, ‘I still work as hard as I do now than when I was in the league.’ It was like a heart-to-heart moment. Now I’m good.”
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On the new podcast, Raja also talked about how he developed the style for House of Highlights posts, focusing on the best clips from televised sports that don’t get the most airplay — so while sometimes he’ll share a highlight of a big play, he’s more likely to excerpt a “weird face.”
“I think the moments that matter often are not all the time those dunks or those crossovers or those assists,” he said. “It’s the moments that go unnoticed by the human eye or by most people.”
“My goal in the beginning was, ‘I cannot have any piece of content waste your time,’” he added. “The content has to be great. It can’t be good. It has to be really, really good.”
Raja focused on quality rather than gaming the system by overloading his posts with hashtags, a common Instagram influencer tactic. He credited that focus with helping House of Highlights go viral and get bought by Bleacher Report.
“Since the content is good, people tag their friends and they tag their friends and then they tag their friends and they tag their friends,” he said. “I would focus on the comments section. Obviously, you care about people’s feedback, but I’m like, ‘They tagged three friends.’”
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