When we were in Texas at SXSW a couple weeks ago, I started getting a ton of “likes” on my Instagram posts tagged #SXSW from an unfamiliar account. The multiple notifications were hard to ignore, prompting me to investigate the enthusiastic handle, @SXSWrides. Here’s what I saw:

I was quite confused, yet intrigued as to why a cab company, perhaps a chauffeur, was “liking” my photos. Little did I know that surge of SXSW attendees makes getting a cab in Austin nearly impossible. This is where Robb Erwin, the 20-year-old behind @SXSWrides, comes in.

A longtime entrepreneur from Houston, Robb had a brilliant idea: use his Mercedes to act a personal driver for those who weren’t lucky enough to track down taxis (a.k.a. EVERYONE).

The million dollar question was: how would he get the ‘business’ out there and let people know about his services? The answer? Instagram.

Robb created @SXSWrides, monitored accounts with pictures tagged “#SXSW” and then “liked” various photos. This is, of course, what happened in my case. All he did on his own Instagram was post the same photo over and over, tagging it with iterations of “#SXSW” to keep his photos at the top of users’ feeds. 

The results were impressive. Days after his first post, one company booked him for the entire night. As SXSW progressed, business was so good that Robb hired an employee and took a 20% commission of his pickups. In total, he gave more than 150 rides, 99.9% of which were generated via Instagram. (A Craigslist post garnered a whopping ONE customer.)

Robb’s experience is yet another example of the incredible value social media unlocks for businesses, especially grassroots ventures like @SXSWrides and others that are just getting started.

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