The Clout Cloud: Student spurs online influence with social media brand

Sophomore Ilias Anwar started The Clout Cloud in 2017. Since then, the social media platform has gained over 15,000 followers. Photo by Gessler Santos-Lopez

Andrew Ringle, Spectrum Editor

At the wooden desk in his small apartment bedroom, sophomore Ilias Anwar was checking his phone again. His business page on Instagram finally surpassed 15,000 followers. Sitting across a wall full of posters, photographs and a clipped picture of his dream car, he scrolled through the latest posts and discussed his goals for the future.

The Clout Cloud is an online entertainment news platform, started by Anwar and his friend in 2017. In the past week, the group made more than 500,000 impressions on Instagram and reached the scrolling thumbs of 250,000 users. The account posts viral news from the entertainment industry, and it’s operated by a team of interns working under Anwar’s direction.

“If it’s been viral, we’ve already covered it,” Anwar said, adding that his main goal is to get The Clout Cloud’s posts onto the Instagram explore page.

The explore page operates on an algorithm, curating posts for the individual user based on their previous interactions with the app. Making it onto the page can be a big opportunity for small accounts to get attention from other users. Anwar said he studied the page when he started The Clout Cloud’s account.

“When we were first looking at our phones and everything, and when you look at the explore page, there’s always three things that you always see,” Anwar said. “It’s always, like, people fighting, or drama or something that catches somebody’s emotion. That’s where business and psychology go [hand] in hand.”

Anwar is now a business student at VCU, but he studied fashion merchandising his freshman year. He said he uses experience from both programs to inform the management of his brand.

Ilias Anwar. Photo by Gessler Santos-Lopez

The Clout Cloud sells merchandise designed by We Grind Apparel, another Richmond start-up with which Anwar works closely.

Anwar said he wants The Clout Cloud to function like The Shade Room, an Instagram-based mass media company that The New York Times called “the TMZ of the Internet.”

“That’s kind of like for girls,” Anwar said of The Shade Room. “But I kind of wanted to make [The Clout Cloud] for guys specifically.”

And Anwar’s audience engagements reflect that motivation. According to his latest analytics, 91 percent of his audience is men.

Anwar said he has plans for his company to promote concerts for musicians and record labels, and he eventually wants to host larger events under the umbrella of The Clout Cloud.

“Our end goal is honestly to just try and throw our own festivals,” Anwar said. “That’s looking at the bigger picture. As of right now, we’re just going to these artists and asking to promote for them.”

Audience analytics from The Clout Cloud’s Instagram profile showed that most of his followers live in New York, but Anwar maintains a close connection with his brand and Richmond. The address for the University Student Commons is listed in the Instagram page’s bio.

“Richmond is so cultural and artistic, and everybody here is extremely well-driven,” Anwar said. “Everybody’s either a photographer, a SoundCloud rapper, or they’re an [Instagram] model. Everybody’s pursuing their dream, and I think it’s a good place to be.”

The Clout Cloud can be found on Instagram and Twitter at @thecloutcloud.

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