How to turn success on YouTube and Instagram into a career, from star Josh Peck: 'Honesty and vulnerability wins'

Josh Peck.
Matt Winkelmeyer | Getty Images Entertainment | Getty Images
Key Points
  • Actor Josh Peck appeared on popular Nickelodeon shows like "The Amanda Show" and "Drake & Josh" as a teenager.
  • As an adult, entertainment became a tough industry to earn a consistent living.
  • Peck began posting videos on Vine in 2013 and quickly gained a following that's translated into earning millions from social media.

Josh Peck found stardom young in life. The 35-year-old starred on Nickelodeon shows like "The Amanda Show" and "Drake & Josh" when he was just a teen, and slowly built a repertoire expanding to 2008 Sundance favorite film "The Wackness" and Fox show "Grandfathered" opposite John Stamos. Still, piecing together a life in entertainment proved unstable.

"There were some nice wins in the traditional space but, you know, inevitably I found that I was in this holding pattern," he says. "We're so at the mercy of the gatekeepers, and so many people have to sign off on us even getting a couple lines in a movie or a TV show that it's really hard to plan your life."

Peck wanted to be able to start allowing himself liberties as simple as going on vacation with his then-girlfriend, now-wife.

In 2013, he decided to try his hand at a now-defunct social media site called Vine, which let users create six-second videos. His videos took off, and so did new opportunities to earn through sponsored content. Peck realized he could make a living "without having to be at the mercy of show business."

He's since expanded his social media output to Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, and YouTube, and he brings in seven figures per year. In March, he published an autobiography, "Happy People Are Annoying."

Here's how he's built his social media business, and his advice for anyone who wants to follow suit.

'I was uniquely suited' for social media

Vine proved to be a great platform for Peck. "I was uniquely suited for it because I had sort of this big, schticky comedic sense from being on a sitcom for most of my life," he says. "I found that that really worked in a six second video format."

Peck began to see other popular people on Vine find paid opportunities on the platform, and eventually booked a $5,000 deal to create a video for dating site Badoo.

Unlike in entertainment, Peck didn't have to wait for someone to greenlight his ability to work. On social media, "if I worked hard, I made good videos, good content, I got more followers," he says, that popularity brought opportunities to earn his way.

'Twitter was funny phrases'

As he continued building his following on Vine, Peck found he could use the platform to start growing his base on other platforms, like Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.

Each medium required its own form of content, which Peck learned to tailor accordingly. "With Instagram, that was interesting pictures and eventually it was videos," he says, adding that, "Twitter was funny phrases. Facebook was more family, sort of mom centric."

When Vine folded in 2017, Peck decided to take the opportunity to expand to yet another platform: YouTube.

'Honesty and vulnerability wins'

Success on YouTube, however, did not come as easily. "My first year on YouTube, my views were dismal," he says.

"In an age where everyone is presenting these beautifully curated lives that just look so plush," says Peck, what he believes people really want to see is honesty. Peck was making a lot of videos in the vein of other YouTubers, but it didn't feel right or natural.  

Drake Bell and Josh Peck during Nickelodeon's 17th annual Kids' Choice Awards in April 2004.
Albert L. Ortega | WireImage | Getty Images

So he conceived of a setup that would speak to who he was as a person: He'd buy a bucket of chicken wings, and he and a friend would sit in front of a camera "and we'll just kind of take the piss out of each other and joke around and eat these delicious chicken wings," he says.

That video got 5 million views. For Peck, it was proof that on this platform, "honesty and vulnerability wins."

Remember: 'Consistency. Like, blind consistency'

For anyone looking for social media success, Peck has one word of advice: "Consistency. Like, blind consistency."

It's something a friend who works at a social media outlet told him. "The algorithm will always shine brighter on people who are consistent," he says. So it's important to keep putting out content.

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