Local Chicago Instagram account helps launch international media company

By Seth Schlechter
Medill Reports

Andy Lederman describes himself as the friend who likes to find fun new things to do with his pals. This mindset didn’t change when he moved to Chicago after college seven years ago to work in private equity. The issue was he couldn’t find the go-to guide he wanted, so he decided to produce his own.

“We were all working really hard at our respective finance jobs so we didn’t have time to research this stuff and there was no good research out there,” he said.

Lederman created Chicago Bucket List, an Instagram account with a mission to curate a list of the best things to do in Chicago for his friends.

His account started with just 10 of his friends as followers.

Through experimentation, Lederman learned what types of posts created the most engagement and would pop up on the application’s discover page. These posts featured different things to do around the city like festivals to attend and restaurants to visit.

 

As the account grew in popularity, Chicago Bucket List became a necessity for many who call Chicago home.

Despite growing up in city’s north suburbs, Danny Slutsky relied on the account when he moved downtown upon graduating from the University of Illinois.

“I grew up coming to the city with my family but once I moved down town Chicago Bucket list showed me so many new places to check out that I had never heard of,” he said.

Advertisers took notice and Chicago Bucket List would occasionally get approached by companies like Bud Light who were willing to pay to be featured on the account. These revenue opportunities became more frequent and Lederman quickly realized this could be a thriving business.

Lederman knew operating and growing the account was his true passion but was also cognizant that he had to make a calculated risk before completely switching careers.

He decided he could only run the account full time when he met revenue goals that could match the salary from his day job.

Last March, he met those goals and he was able to make the leap.

Chicago Bucket List is now part of parent company Bucket Listers. Lederman acts as CEO and launched the company with the goal of bringing his bucket lists to cities that include New York, Los Angeles, and London. Today the company operates 30 accounts in 25 cities to an audience of 10 million followers. What started as an Instagram account for friends has transformed into an international media company with freelancers across the globe.

Through its accounts, Bucket Listers works with partners to promote brands, drive sales, and boost social media presence.

“Companies spend on advertising through the radio, billboards, and magazines but that’s not where millennials are looking,” explained Lederman. “If they want to reach this target audience they need to get on Instagram.”

The use of specific referral and discount codes allows partners to see exactly how much business is generated through partnerships with Bucket Listers.

Unfortunately, this model isn’t as practical with restaurants, Lederman said, However Bucket Listers has found other ways to create meaningful partnerships in the industry.

“We’ll do a restaurant giveaway and 15,000 people will comment on it to tag a friend to be entered to win and go follow the partner,” said Lederman. “One specific campaign garnered 7,000 new followers for a partner on Instagram.”

In the future, Bucket Listers hopes to enable in app reservation capabilities for restaurants. By swiping up and making a reservation, restaurants would be able to track how many customers a campaign with Bucket Listers brings in.

As his company continues to grow in to 2019, Andy Lederman is truly proud of the work he’s done.

“We are giving people inspiration to put their phone down and get out and explore.”

Photo at top Millennium Park Chicago (Pedro Szekely) https://www.flickr.com/photos/pedrosz/