Mar 22, 2024
54 min
Episode 3

Break The Internet: Kyana Sue Powers: The CEO of Iceland

Kyana Sue Powers  00:00

If I've learned anything from my entire journey is that I know I can just go and do anything. I can figure it out, go try something new and not have a plan B it just get it done.

Ben Kaplan  00:12

This is the show about the people who create, amplify and influence our culture and how they do it. Want to capture lightning in the bottle? want your content to spread like wildfire? I'm Ben Kaplan, and let's Break The Internet.

Tom Cain  00:31

With a tale that begins with a bold leap Kalyana sold everything to move to Reykjavik, Iceland Fionna

Kyana Sue Powers  00:36

I'm Kyana Sue Powers and last year I fell in love with Iceland so much so that I ended up quitting my nine to five job selling everything that I owned and moving there on a whim, transforming

Tom Cain  00:46

her life's narrative into a social media saga that captivates hundreds and 1000s of followers across the globe

Kyana Sue Powers  00:53

by things you see Icelandic tender. If you're coming to Iceland this June, here's everything you need to know some things you should know about Germany and Iceland. Last one is pretty good.

Tom Cain  01:00

Kyana is the CEO of Iceland. She didn't just adapt to a new country, she became the go to authority for all things Iceland amassing a significant following on Instagram, Youtube and Tiktok for her unique insights and mesmerizing content.

Ben Kaplan  01:16

Kyana you have an awesome story about your journey to become a content creator, an influencer. And it relates to a trip you took to Iceland, and the impact it had on you and would in some ways, maybe change the course of your life. So how did you get started? Where does the law of Iceland come from? And how did you become one of the most prolific content creators in the whole country?

Kyana Sue Powers  01:41

Wow, what an introduction, Ben, thank you.

Ben Kaplan  01:44

I'm excited to have you on the show. So you get a good introduction

Kyana Sue Powers  01:47

now. And I appreciate that. So I shouldn't like a hot destination as like everyone knows, not a hot destination, but people want to travel here. I came in 2018 with my cousin because everybody was going so I had to check it out. And I just fell in love with the country. I was like, Wow, there's so much adventure here. I'll never see it all in one trip. I'll never see it on two trips. Like I have to live here. I'm just gonna have to move here. So I went back to Boston and I quit my job.

Ben Kaplan  02:15

In Boston, you had a life, a job, an apartment, the things that people don't often leave behind to move to a country where they've just visited once,

Kyana Sue Powers  02:25

right, I shockingly had a life, I had a nine to five job and apartment with my friends. My whole family lived in the area. And I grew up there. And I didn't want to leave. I was never like looking to leave Boston. But I felt so in love with Iceland. And with the idea that I would one day look back on the best years of my life and have not done really cool things. And I was very worried about that. So I on a whim just quit my job during a very like dramatic meeting. And they were like, so what are you going to do like this is it was so dramatic. Like they did not like me, it was the whole thing. And I was like I'm quitting. And I'm moving to Iceland. And they were like, what?

Ben Kaplan  03:07

That's the first one and like, the exit interview is like, I'm moving to Iceland. Right? As a US person based in based in Boston, right. Okay, so they were surprised. What did your family say?

Kyana Sue Powers  03:16

I was also surprised my whole family was surprised. I didn't know why I said that. That just like came out of my mouth. Like I wasn't prepared to do that. And my whole family was super shocked. Like they just thought okay, she's maybe going to go abroad for like, a few months or something like this. Is this a phase of her life? Like, let's let her get it out. She's young. And I was like, No, I am. I gotta figure it out.

Ben Kaplan  03:37

How many years out of college? Were you at this point?

Kyana Sue Powers  03:40

I was maybe three or four years out of college like a fresh, ripe young 20 year old who like finally found travel.

Ben Kaplan  03:48

Okay, got it. So you got the travel bug, you got this sense of like, Hey, I don't want to have regrets later in life. And I'll regret if I didn't do something cool or adventurous or saw some part of the world. So you do it. And how long did it take for you to just pick up and get over to Iceland? Was this like a thing? Like you did this fast? Or did it like no, no, I got some life stuff. I got to take care of her. Um,

Kyana Sue Powers  04:07

you definitely have some stuff to take care of before you move to Iceland. Like no matter who you are, I'll say. So I think I came in like two months after I quit my job. So I ended my lease. I didn't renew it. And I sold everything that I had and, you know, made a road trip to see my family and stuff like one last hurrah in the US. And then I patched three massive suitcases and coffee and a one way ticket to Iceland. So

Ben Kaplan  04:33

then you land in Iceland, you're like, Okay, I want to be here. I like it. But I also need some kind of actual job or something else. And as I understand you just apply for tons of jobs and you get rejected 100 times is that you're not really thinking about being a content creator yet from what I understand.

Kyana Sue Powers  04:49

Yeah, so that's exactly right. I just wanted any job in Iceland. I didn't care what it was. I was like, I need to just live here and I'll take any job and I couldn't even get a job like cleaning bathroom. In bedrooms in a hotel, because of the visa walls and application process to like hire a US citizen

Ben Kaplan  05:07

until you get a potential job in the travel industry. Right. So

Kyana Sue Powers  05:10

I had trained to be a glacier guide, because I had heard from some people that you could get a special visa if you were a glacier guy, because it's a special skill that not all people have in Iceland, and they need a lot of them,

Ben Kaplan  05:20

was it hard to get glacier guiding skills or not too hard.

Kyana Sue Powers  05:22

I mean, I, it was hard, like, I had never been on a glacier before. So I had to take all these courses. And I didn't know how to do anything in the courses. So I had to reach out to strangers first to like, teach me the basics before going into this course. And then you had to get all these, you know, medical, like certifications and stuff. And I had to get the highest one possible so that I would be like, the best applicant, you know, in the running so that they would have to hire me.

Ben Kaplan  05:46

And how long did this all take? If you're like, I want to be a glacier grad? How long will it take you?

Kyana Sue Powers  05:50

I think it took me about two or three months, I think two months total to get everything together. And then to start like I could apply to jobs after that.

Ben Kaplan  05:59

Okay, so you apply to a job, and you get hired for this job. And then what happens so

Kyana Sue Powers  06:04

I got a job, they were super excited to hire me, they had already hired a Canadian, so they're like, We know all this stuff, it's gonna be so easy, no problem. And then on the same day that I got the offer, the whole two week lockdown and COVID started to really become a thing. And like, there was a travel ban set from Europe to the US. So the same guy just few hours later was like, Hey, you just heard about this COVID thing, whatever that is, but it should be two weeks long. And we'll just pick up in two weeks again. So I'll just give you a call.

Ben Kaplan  06:35

Literally like okay, there's gonna be a little bit of a delay a little bit of a hiccup but of course, right is COVID the pandemic is the pandemic, it kills the travel industry, and I'm guessing they didn't need a lot of new Glaisher guides. Yeah.

Kyana Sue Powers  06:48

So I mean, it ended up being that the borders like never reopened for almost a year. And everyone in the travel industry basically lost their jobs here in Iceland, so there was no way I was gonna do a glitch again.

Ben Kaplan  06:59

And at that point, did you ever think back like, hey, this like Icelandic dream, it's COVID it's a pandemic travel industry. No one can foresee this. There's nothing wrong with just like going home to Boston at this point. Did you consider that?

Kyana Sue Powers  07:10

No. So I was like, I was gonna live in Iceland. I was so determined. There was no plan B for me. I just said we're gonna figure it out no matter what. But I did leave Iceland during that time, because I couldn't legally stay. I didn't have a visa. And also, if we remember, COVID was a little bit scary. In the beginning, we're like, Oh, my God, and people gonna die. Are we gonna get stuck in this country? Like, you know, I've got a little like, looking back or like, okay, we're all fine. But right in that first week, you know, I was like, Oh, my God, I have to go see my parents. What if they die of COVID? I don't know. But everyone's

Ben Kaplan  07:38

alive. Yes. Okay, so So you left the company, but you never lose sight of getting back there. And really, at that point, you go to your plan B, which is a student visa, you can be a student at, I guess, the University of Iceland, right?

Kyana Sue Powers  07:51

Yeah. So that was kind of my backup plan. Like you had to apply a year in advance. And I found that out. Like, when I was applying for all these jobs and couldn't get anything. I was like, What are my other options here, it's okay to be a student. I hate being a student. Like I do not like the like, sit down classroom education thing. But I was like, if you can figure out your life in the next 10 months, at least, you would have this to fall back on as just your ticket into Iceland. So I had applied to the University just a few months prior to that moment in time. And I ended up having to lean back on that. And I came back Dyson in the fall as a student learning Icelandic, it was an option because the tuition in Iceland is free. So it wasn't like it's crazy, expensive thing. Like it was very affordable for me. Yeah. And

Ben Kaplan  08:33

a lot of the courses, it's probably like online and stuff like that. So it wasn't a huge demand on you either.

Kyana Sue Powers  08:39

No, it was a, it was a huge blessing for me that the classes were online, like I couldn't have been the worst student like it couldn't been more worse as a student, that I didn't care about anything. I cheated on every test, like all I had to do was getting like a passing grade, you know. And once they couldn't get me out anymore, like at a certain point in the second semester that I just stopped going all together. Because when I had come back and being a student, this is all when social media started to ramp up at least short form videos. So that's when I started making my first videos was right there.

Ben Kaplan  09:09

And was it just, you know, at the beginning, when you're making content, you had an interest in a bit of a background? It sounds like in photography, so you're thinking about doing that? Was it just that, hey, I'm in this really beautiful, amazing place in the world? I want to document this and I want to share this or what was the motivating factor? Was there any sense like at this point, like really early on that like this could become my job like no one else will hire me? I'm gonna hire myself. Did any of that run through your mind? Or was it just like, document my adventure?

Kyana Sue Powers  09:36

None of that was going through my mind at all. I really didn't know what would be next after the student visa. But I you know, I was a consumer of Tiktok and Instagram, and I really liked these vlogs that people were putting out that I had, like, I don't know anything about flight attendant but people were like posting their daily lives as a flight attendant. I was like, Wow, that's so interesting. That's like the only thing I know. So Oh, I'm gonna do that here in Iceland. I'll just post up my daily life and talk about how it is here. And how

Ben Kaplan  10:05

were those first posts? Like, was it easy? Was it hard where you're more photo based? I know, this is like, we're starting to like, you know, reels are starting to be prioritized by Instagram. There's the rise of other formats and things like how did you even, you know, go about those first posts? And did you get any traction or not really, my

Kyana Sue Powers  10:23

first post only have probably a couple 100,000 views, not 100,000, just maybe 1000s of views, but they were like, pretty decent. And each video got more and more views. And I think what was most compelling at that time is that I lived in Iceland, and like you couldn't travel, like everybody was stuck at home. And so it's very interesting that I lived in Iceland, and people wanted to know more about that. And this is like the time where nobody knows how to make the short form videos at all. They're like, not this today. There's so many good apps and so many good features in these apps make videos, there was nothing really like that before, there was very few options. took me like two hours to make my first vlog and it was like, looking back, it's like really funny, but I told myself, well, the more you edit videos, the better you're gonna get and the faster you'll get. So you have to edit a video every single day and you can edit a vlog every day because that's content you live life and you just talk about it. Also, we're all pretty much to unlock down here in Iceland so like you had never anything else to do. So you had all this time on your hands. You couldn't go like out in public really there was like a, you know, we were all just like locked down. So I had a lot of time to figure it out and to get better at it and grow those skills. My name is Kyana and I live in Iceland. Welcome back to a normal day of my life living in Iceland. Welcome back. My normal day of my life living in Iceland started the day by spilling my coffee I woke up there was news that a volcano erupted This tip will save you hours of driving in Iceland beer day in Iceland today is a big bonding in Iceland, they sell over a million and it's currently the middle of winter now only six hours a day like 1908 beer was made illegal because basically everyone was running around town drunk by some has really decided to take your creative approach on this holiday. This is a view from our bedroom heavy beer day from Iceland definitely approved.

Ben Kaplan  12:07

Well you're doing shoots with like other people to learn where you're doing other things where you can kind of like ask people at this point, have you like made connections with other people who are either creating content or just other folks in Iceland that are just are local. So you're here now like, how did you learn from others,

Kyana Sue Powers  12:23

um, I learned a lot of photography from others, but I didn't learn that much video from others because again, people weren't doing it. It's like hard to remember the time when nobody was making reels. But that was the time I was like the only person making reels. And so I didn't know what to do and nobody else do what was doing at that time. Why

Ben Kaplan  12:41

did you embrace that? When others you felt like weren't doing it yet? Did you see something like oh shoot like Instagram saying now that like, if you don't have this, they're gonna deprioritize your content. So I better do it. What was driving them? That's

Kyana Sue Powers  12:53

exactly it. So within Instagram, I learned a lot about social media, like during the past year of that of my life that time. And I knew that when Instagram came out with new features, you had to jump on them and like really do exactly what they wanted, or else you wouldn't get any reach for your stories, your posts, like everything would be down. So if you just play their game, then you win. And I was like, Well, I'm just gonna win then. And I saw the effects immediately my views went up. I had like so much growth in the beginning, like, okay, so

Ben Kaplan  13:23

you got positive reinforcement, you're like, Oh, I do what they say to do. And I get rewarded. And you didn't have to like it's not like delayed gratification. You saw it right away. Right?

Kyana Sue Powers  13:32

Exactly. Because I was just one of these early adopters unreal. It's like, I remember everyone being like, I'm not doing rails. Like that's so stupid. I'm a photographer. I'm like, Well, I'm gonna just try it because nothing else is working for me. Look at me. When

Ben Kaplan  13:45

did you get your first bonafide like, holy cow moment? Like this got a lot of reach? How far in were you timewise? What was the nature of the post? That was your first big, big piece of content?

Kyana Sue Powers  13:57

Um, so I made my first real in September of 2020. And posted that. And I think my first like, super viral video that brought in like hundreds and 1000s of followers was in December. And that was the first time so

Ben Kaplan  14:12

from September to December and what was that first one? Like? What were you posting about that you think resonated when you didn't have huge numbers of followers yet?

Kyana Sue Powers  14:20

I posted about the Icelandic Christmas culture and like traditions that they have. So they have 13 Santa Clauses here and I just made a video about that. You won't find Santa at the mall in Iceland. And it went like crazy crazy viral. I thought that something was wrong. I thought like something but I was like, oh my god, I broke Tik Tok like what is that? I don't know where these numbers are coming from what is happening? Like I'm being punked and the same thing happened on Instagram. So that's when like, Okay, people are interested about Iceland. Like they really want to know about what's happened in Iceland. Maybe less about me, like some about me, but like, Okay, I found the interest here. Okay, good

Ben Kaplan  14:59

at this But you have kind of two levers because you're posting about my life in Iceland. There's two parts of that there's like my life part, or there's Iceland part. What were you doing early on? Were you just doing like 5050 kind of split evenly, just not sure what to do. And then you started to be like, I need to go heavier into Iceland stuff. I

Kyana Sue Powers  15:16

was doing 5050. In the beginning, I started making two videos a day, I was like, Okay, we will make one vlog at the end of every day, and during the afternoon, you will edit like a trending kind of video about traveling in Iceland. And what

Ben Kaplan  15:30

happened? Did you keep up with that? Or did you start shifting over time when you started seeing what worked? So

Kyana Sue Powers  15:35

then I saw that the sorry, there's like kids outside and they just noticed me and I'm people know me and ice and they're like, waiting.

Ben Kaplan  15:42

Oh, there you go. So there you go. They're like, Oh, my gosh, there's Kelsey, right there.

Kyana Sue Powers  15:47

Yeah, there's the TIC tock girl that's always

Ben Kaplan  15:50

effective, breaking the internet right there in front of the window. Right

Kyana Sue Powers  15:54

there. So when that was around, 2021 2021, sort of rolled around, I really started to like, focus in on this travel stuff. And also the borders started opening up a new travel. And so I did a lot more of that kind of thing. And then in 2022, I made a vow that every video I make is going to be for person coming to Iceland, I'm going to make a video talking to a tourist who's going to come to Iceland. And that's when you really niche down and found the one person that you were talking to, that's when everything exploded, like it was pretty like steadily growing up until then. But when I found kind of my voice right there and just really like stuck to it, even if I thought it would be boring, or I wasn't really interested in doing that at the time. That's where like when I saw a lot of growth. Why do you think


that was so important? Because another approach that I don't know, seems plausible is like, I'm gonna make different content for different people, right? Like, here's my tourists kind of thing. Here's my one for like, you know, native Icelanders. Okay, here's my one for just like the person who just like loves to travel all over. They're not really committed to Iceland, they're just exploring. Here's one that you know, that would be a plausible thing. Why do you think it helped like focus? And I don't know marketing language, they would say it's like a persona, like, who's my persona target? Audience? Let me make it just for that. Some people say, Oh, that limits your audience.

Kyana Sue Powers  17:20

Yes, some people do say that. But everyone who does it has a lot of success. So I think when you just really find what is working, and you just, like, keep going and the consistency about it, when people get to know you and know the value that you bring, they're gonna keep coming back. And I think that that's why Like, it wasn't just some growth lift device. And it was like, this girl knows everything I said, and we're gonna go, we're gonna follow her. So we, they always knew what they're getting when they came into my page, instead of just Oh, it wasn't random at all. Like I was very, like, serious about just teaching people and educating people on Iceland and what they should do and having the best trip ever. Again, a country I still love. So I've wanted to just share that love of it, people make sure that they're getting the exact trip that they should have, but they also fall in love with this country.

Ben Kaplan  18:08

And how did you center on that target audience that target person? Or was it just by you just observe, you made some content like this, and it just did better? And you just realized, like, Hey, I ought to just like focus on all of this. Is that as easy? It was just like kind of trial and error, or was there some other way that you realize that and I didn't know at this point, if people were starting to want to like brands start wanting to work with you, and you start seeing opportunities there? What sort of a kind of influencing you to to focus on that target? Is it purely performance?

Kyana Sue Powers  18:35

It was definitely just performance. Like it's it became a business suddenly, so I had to focus on performance. If you weren't doing that, then you weren't, you always needed a goal to work towards. So I became this travel expert, and also it became my streams of revenue. So then people would come to me for travel advice. Can you make me an itinerary? Can I hop on a video call with you and talk about questions like ask you things about Iceland and my trip and when I should come. And so from there, there were so many opportunities to sell my own digital project product, and again, the itineraries, and you could sell that in masses. And that is something that you can monetize, I had to like, figure out how to make money here. And I said, it's expensive way to live. So if you're a successful creator, you're figuring out how to monetize. I think that is how I became that was through a lot of affiliates as well suggesting things and using discount codes. And that gives you a kickback. In the end, those became huge revenue streams for me here in Iceland. When

Ben Kaplan  19:31

you start feeling like you could consistently get a big audience, you could consistently get things and 10s of 1000s, hundreds of 1000s Things are starting to get to the millions of views. It's not just like a one hit wonder or a two hit wonder where it's like, I kind of feel like I have a formula for this.

Kyana Sue Powers  19:47

I mean, it was pretty early on that I was like, Okay, this is success. And I if I just keep doing this, I'll just keep growing. I mean, you know, just when within months within just one or two months, I I could see that this was a thing that I could just like plug and chug kind of situation, of course, always thinking of new things to talk about and stuff. But like I had a rhythm going. And a lot of people came to me with help either companies like wondering how they should incorporate rules into their marketing, how they can even make videos when I make their videos for them, and just other creators who are like, Oh, my gosh, how are you going? So much? Like, this is crazy. You know, what you're doing? What are you doing? And so I then early also found out that I was just like, oh, my gosh, I just forgot English. But I knew what I was doing. This feeling I was an expert.

Ben Kaplan  20:38

What do you get that other people find harder to get? That sort of sounds like just hearing your story that like kind of came naturally? I mean, it took some paying attention and observing and learning, of course, but you were kind of natural at it. What is it that you get about this medium that maybe others take some longer to get? Yeah,

Kyana Sue Powers  20:55

I mean, what I tell people who have questions about this is one, you consume content, you need to actively be scrolling, you can't passively be scrolling to pass the time you need to be paying attention. Why did you like that video? Why did that one catch it? Why did you save that one was that interesting to you. And you need to like kind of keep in the back of your mind or save it for later or something you have, like the content is right there in front of you, you can just learn from observing if you can pick up on those kinds of things. And then also to just not reinvent the wheel, like you don't need to come out here and you know, have some crazy big, like campaign idea that's like, just out of this world. So very much keen on observing and then to just always add value. And that doesn't have to be an educational video, it could be like you're entertaining, or you're teaching somebody something, or, you know, there's other things that I can't remember what's on my head right now. But, you know, to add value, don't just make a video to make a video, there should be a reason behind that video, somebody's gonna find it cool. So we're gonna learn something like do that. And then to also as hard as this is for a lot of people to do, I think you need to put your face on the internet, you need to just get over the fact that you hate how you sound in a video, and no one else thinks that and just get out there people want to meet you, people want to know you have something special, and people connect with other people. So if you want to connect with somebody, you need to put your face on the internet and connect with them. You can't just hide behind a camera.

Ben Kaplan  22:21

And what about this idea of some people? I don't know, the minute. This is like, kind of more serious, or I don't know, more professional. It's like, I gotta get my you know, my hair just right, I gotta get my outfit just right, I got to do all this. But of course, like all of that takes time, and sort of opposes this idea of like regular content and get it out there and learn from experience. How does one think about balancing that when pack you're being recognized when people walk by your window, and you got to have everything just right, because I had now have this like Kyana Sue brand that I've got to live up to how do you balance that with just like making stuff?

Kyana Sue Powers  22:57

Um, that's a really good question that I don't know, that I really think about, but something that I also give us a tip is to kind of just care less, you know, you don't have to always wear makeup and do your hair and wear this thing and put up a ring light and I don't even own a ring light. And almost all my videos are like me talking to the camera. And I don't even own makeup, I don't put it on or anything I do do my hair. But I did that before I make videos, I just come as yourself. Like you don't need to be someone else. You don't need to be this like after or another persona just be you because you're pretty cool. Even if you don't think so somebody else probably will. And then just be human. So if you aren't you then when people meet you, if they recognize you like out in the world, then it's weird. But it's not weird if you're just the same person if they if you're friendly on the internet, when I meet people out here in Iceland, they already think that they're my friend, because I've been a friend to them online. They've seen videos of me hundreds of times. And they're like so excited that they're seeing me they almost don't know what to do because they're like, oh my god, I really know you and you have just no idea who I am. But like, I feel like I'm your friend. So I think it's like being authentic is helps to bridge that like gap. You don't have to like pretend to be someone on the camera and then pretend to be someone else when you're like in real life.

Ben Kaplan  24:15

But what do you say to the person though, that is like I get that I need to be like authentic, I get that there's something unique and special about me and that can have an audience. I feel like I'm making pretty good content, but I'm just not getting like traction. I'm just not getting the followers. I'm just people kind of can get discouraged because they feel like I am being me. I'm doing everything. So I do pay attention. I do observe but like I'm stuck at this level of you know, like I'm doing pretty good for my friends but I can't sort of transcend that to get to a next level.

Kyana Sue Powers  24:46

I think that's when you have to start looking at all of the little things I was talking about before like do you actually add value like you might be being yourself but are you when people stop on your video because they're gonna get something out of it or not? If not like you need to really think about that, like sometimes having a plan a content plan is good, or at least having some idea before you go into a video at all write a script or, you know, format something behind a question that somebody would ask. And okay, if you're not getting any watch time, well, maybe you have a bad hook, maybe you're like, first clip is not good enough. Or maybe it's taking too long to get to the point. That's when you have to kind of get into all the like nitty gritty of social media and what's happening. And the worst part about that is that it changes all the time. So you can just like my content has definitely shifted from the first day that I started to now because of the algorithm and because of how people consume content. So you also just have to play with that and learn from your losses.


And in some ways, that's like what you just said there about changing all the time. It's like terrified, but also a bit hopeful. At least I view it this way, because it's terrifying was like, Oh, crap, what worked before or work yesterday might not work today can all change, I have to do it. But it's sort of hopeful, because it's always changing. And if you're new to this, if you're coming in, maybe something changes in like you did by embracing reels earlier on, it's an opportunity, because it's changing all the time. If it was always the same than just like all the entrenched content creators would just stay there, and no one knew would come up because it changes. It's a great opportunity. Yeah,

Kyana Sue Powers  26:14

I definitely agree. I'm seeing new people all the time that I'm like, Oh, wow, what are they doing? Like, when did they come? They just they came out of nowhere, like, and they're super awesome. I'm making like really good content. So there is always room in, in this social media world for new people to come up our attention spans are so short, you know. So meeting someone new on the internet, and always following them for something is just, it's normal. Everyone is always like looking for the next like fun person on the internet or something without you really knowing it, you're not looking for someone new. But when you get it, it's exciting, and you liked them, and you keep following them. It's not an oversaturated place. There are a lot of people on the internet. And there's a lot of information out there. So you just have to be careful with what you're doing. But I think that if you care and you try hard enough, then you'll get there. But I think sometimes what holds a lot of people back is also that they're just limiting themselves. And there's something the back of their mind saying that it's not a priority, you have to make it a priority. If it's not a priority, it's not going to happen. This has to be your whole life, at least at first to kind of get how it's going. And if it's such a priority, then it's showing it's showing your numbers that you want in your engagement. How would

Ben Kaplan  27:26

you describe them? This sort of Kyana Sue method. Now, what's the secret to like your best stuff? You have things in the now it's not even just millions, like 10s of millions of views? What is the secret to that?

Kyana Sue Powers  27:38

Well, I can see that like my most viral videos, they definitely have like a range of topics. But oftentimes, more than often the ones that go super viral is me showing something that is like a super interesting thing about Iceland. And so just in the past, like few months, the things that have gone super viral for me are just showing like a beer koozie in Iceland, it's like a hand knitted mitten, but it's also a beer koozie. And I'm just like, hey, this is an Icelandic beer. koozie like how funny and that's it has like 50 million views. And then another one is just like a handprint in a glacier that I'm like, Wow. Can you imagine there's like a hit like an old handprint and a glacier like, and that was like crazy viral with millions of views. And it's like four seconds long. And did

Ben Kaplan  28:23

you have a sense when you made it that like this could be big. And to your point about value creation? Did you feel like I'm creating value here?

Kyana Sue Powers  28:31

I feel like I'm kind of like a child and a nerd. And when I see these cool things, I'm like, Oh my God, that's so cool.

Ben Kaplan  28:36

I suppose the nerdy part about you're gonna sue but then I'm just joking. But okay, but you say that nerdy part is important meaning like the fact that you find something interesting.

Kyana Sue Powers  28:44

Yeah. And if you think it's really cool, there's a lot of things that is new, I just find very fascinating. Like, I'm just very passionate about this place. But you know, everyone's always like, Oh, my God, Isn't that so cool? Like, why don't people know about that and talk about that more? If you just tell people then they can talk about it, like they are not talking about because they don't know about it. So there's a lot of these just like little things like, have you seen this piece of ice. It's so crazy. And like it's here in Iceland. Like, I think it's really cool. Because it's it has a rainbow in it. Like, isn't that weird? And you show someone else and they also think it's crazy and weird. And that just like leads to virality. And it's just kind of things that you don't know, that are very special to things about Iceland, like a lot of culture videos I make about Iceland, too. They go super viral,

Ben Kaplan  29:23

to your point about adding value. Why does that type of content add value to you think I

Kyana Sue Powers  29:28

think it's just showing people things that they don't know. And maybe you're inspiring people to also get out in the world. They don't have to necessarily come to Iceland, but just to know that there's more out there. Like there's all this stuff in the world that you don't even know exists, like you should maybe go and travel or check it out whether it's ice or not. I don't care but it's probably adding the value in your life that you need to get out and see the world and not just be at home.

Ben Kaplan  29:52

When I think about things going viral or breaking the internet. To me it's the formula is simple plus surprising plus significant pins equals viral meaning simple if you're talking about like the Icelandic beer koozie, that's a mitten. Pretty simple or the handprint colors are pretty simple to like, get it right, you don't need to like a long explanation, you're gonna see it surprising. It's like, wow, like, you know, I didn't know there was something like a beer koozie like this, or I didn't know that you can think about this handprint for generations or things like that. And then significant, I think what you were just talking about this idea that, Oh, it has greater significance, because there's like wondrous things in the world you haven't seen in Iceland and elsewhere. And that's sort of like a statement about our life and what it all means. And maybe you should explore more, and you can be like Kyana and go to a different place. To me that simple, surprising, significant really summed up really well.

Kyana Sue Powers  30:42

Yeah, I think you said it great. Right there. That's probably what I've been trying to say, I didn't even really realize that. Well,

Ben Kaplan  30:49

there you go. mutual admiration society. So take me through the other side, a content that doesn't perform as well. What are the characteristics of those content? What have you learned from that? Just so people don't think like, oh, everything you do is like magically turns into gold? Yes,

Kyana Sue Powers  31:00

that is super true. Not everything I do turns to gold. Um, sometimes I find there's like a, it's probably not even 5050, like the success rate is even smaller. But when I, when I now do daily vlogs, I think that people are less interested in it, or it's not shown to the right people, or, I'm not sure, but I definitely get some lower views on just as a regular old day in my life, like living in Iceland. But on the flip side, that can also go super viral sometimes, because people are like, what the scroll is in Iceland, like you can live in Iceland, like, people also don't realize that Iceland is a first world country, like we have everything that any other country has. And people are super surprised to hear that. But I think sometimes that people get tired of like, you know, days in the life, I think sometimes it's too much.

Ben Kaplan  31:51

I see. So you're saying it's not like a universal truth. But maybe people are like, there's a lot of this kind of content out there day in the life, except when it actually is something that is simple, surprising, significant in the day in your life, that kind of blows people away that it actually still can perform well, if it hits those right things.

Kyana Sue Powers  32:07

Definitely. I mean, I can see the ones that went like more viral than others and vlogs. And it's when you do something that is just like super out of the ordinary, like in your day. Like, for example, there was a whale like in the harbor down the road for like, a few weeks. And it was just normal to go walk down and see this whale like right next, he's a huge humpback whale. And this part in that as part of your like, you know, daily vlogs. And that's really interesting, or else today maybe was super boring. I just went to the gym and worked at home and computer stuff. And I didn't do anything very cool. I just did normal human stuff. So it's not that interesting.

Ben Kaplan  32:41

I know, when we've spoken before, you've mentioned that some content that works for other people does not seem to work for you and your audience. And specifically, I think you mentioned things like beautiful waterfall shot doesn't seem to work. Is that correct? Yeah,

Kyana Sue Powers  32:56

that's definitely true. Like a lot of people can get a lot of success or virality with these very simple shots, you know, just a small person walking on a beautiful beach, or a sunset or in front of a waterfall or something. But I actually don't think that it works from a lot of people, I think there's a very small percent that that works for a lot of people don't have a success with that. And I definitely do not have success with that. I would say it's pretty, pretty rare that I would, it keeps me from posting those obviously, cuz I'm like, Well, when I post this, it's like not gonna do well, like how can I make it be better?

Ben Kaplan  33:27

And how much do you experiment versus go tried and true? Because other people think worry about is like, Okay, if I do too much content that the algorithm doesn't like, then it's going to deprioritize my like, my best content, how comfortable you feel like trying something's out of the box, or you're like, hey, this typically doesn't work. But like, that's a pretty badass waterfall. I still I'm gonna post it anyway, how much do you experiment?

Kyana Sue Powers  33:53

I mean, like, like I said, When I find something that's like, super, super cool. And I think people need to know about it, then I like post about it, like that ice thing, or the Hanford thing or something like that. And I'll still do that if I think it's really cool. But I'll maybe try to add something to it. I think I also am not afraid to fail when like, maybe you will go, Well, maybe not. I'm just gonna put up there and see what happens. But I definitely if it doesn't work, it's fine, then I'll just try something else next time. And if it does work, cool, then we learn something I have no idea because the algorithm is so confusing. But I definitely experiment in different kinds of videos. Like I've more recently started doing more videos where I just talk to the camera and give information as if we were maybe on a FaceTime and you were asking me some questions about Iceland or something. I think that that's been like pretty well received at least like people can get to know me more and really, like feel like they're talking to me, and that I'm talking exactly to them rather than just like making content for the internet. So I've been trying that

Ben Kaplan  34:55

maybe as an alternative to like the day in the life where they got to know you that way. You If that's more, I don't know maybe saturated in terms of lots of people doing it, then maybe that would be an alternate way to do it. Right, they still get to know you. But it's more of like up to your point, like direct way than a day in the life or something like that.

Kyana Sue Powers  35:12

I definitely think that's why it works. But also old contents, like old kind of people have seen for years, it gets tired, it gets boring. People want something fresh. And so seeing a person's face talking to you is fresh. And I don't know, obviously, always, sometimes it works. And sometimes it doesn't. And sometimes it works if I do both. But will I'm just up to try anything, just get content out there. But I also have come to terms with the fact that I don't care. I do care about views, like don't get me wrong, but I care about the content that gets me customers on my back end product. So if millions of people see this, but they're not gonna buy my product, I don't really

Ben Kaplan  35:51

care. I see. So the metric has changed. What is that back end product? Yeah, so

Kyana Sue Powers  35:56

I have an Iceland guide and the math that's interactive. And people can purchase that or purchased at a personalized itinerary from me, or they can hop on a video call with me and talk about their trip to Iceland. And we can plan together on a video call. But I see which video is like lead to those things and which videos don't and I just don't care if it doesn't.

Ben Kaplan  36:16

And what are the ways for you like how much of it is the sort of like back end product that's you've delivered a lot of value to people for with free content. Now they want to get some paid content or help you plan their trip, I also know you create content, because you have this expertise now for brands in two different types. One is like brands, they want to like, be happy, have a presence on you know, countersue, they want to be part of your brand. But then also you have a second part where you're just making content for them that you never appear on. It's just your expertise and making content. So how does all of that kind of monetization breakdown work for you in terms of making this be a business, you can live in Iceland and you can actually grow and be increasingly more successful?

Kyana Sue Powers  36:55

I think probably having my own product is the biggest chunk of my income, which I'm happy with because I don't want to be able to rely I don't want to have to rely on other people or another client to make something to keep me here and ice and wanted like get me money just

Ben Kaplan  37:11

because it can be spiky. It can be like certain months, there's a lot of things and certain months crickets.

Kyana Sue Powers  37:17

Yeah. So I'm pretty proud of that, that like that's a huge chunk of it. And with that is kind of like a sister income is like affiliates. So I think I'm not to toot my own horn. But I'm amazing at affiliates, like I've talked to I have a brand manager and she works with other creators. And she's like, I've never seen anything like this You've really like honed in

Ben Kaplan  37:39

meaning you can drive business to businesses, that converts, you'll get a cut of driving that business. And you're really good at that. Yeah,

Kyana Sue Powers  37:47

definitely. And I think it's of course, because I have this niche. And because you've come to me, because I'm the ice an expert. And if I recommend this ice cave tour to you, you know that this is the best thing that you could do, and I'm gonna give you a discount code, you're gonna get a little wind out of that, and then I'm gonna get a cup back. So that's just like one thing, for example, but there's a whole bunch of different affiliates, but they're mostly in all just related to Iceland, like tours here in Iceland, or things to book here in Iceland. And that is also a massive chunk of that. So I also just make videos that will drive my affiliates, because it also makes me a lot of money.

Ben Kaplan  38:22

And to do that what performs well, for people listening who are like thinking of, you know, I had to get more into, you know, affiliate marketing, is it literally like you doing a review of this tour of this cave? Or is it something else, what performs well, in terms of affiliate marketing,

Kyana Sue Powers  38:36

um, definitely a few things. So I will say like, on those viral videos that I were just talking about, even though I have like maybe nothing to do with a tour or something, but people read comments, and people read captions. So if you just put, okay, that cool piece of ice or something that had a rainbow in it. In the first caption of that, or the first comment, I pinned it, and I said, I found this ice on this glacier hiking tour with this company. And you can use this code and it has like 1000s and 1000s of likes, like people are saving that because that brings them value, like they can go and use that code and brings me tons of value as well. So that's how I do it if it doesn't really apply, like if it's like a kind of small video like that, but I'll do a lot of very informational packed videos. So every month I'll be like, Okay, this is what you should do in March, you need to rent a car and into this company, and you need to drive to this place and do these things. And you have to you can't leave it without booking and rescue to like you need to do in this company is the best and here's why. And you can use my code. So that it will be things like that where you pack a whole bunch of information to it and people will just pick and choose kind of what they want but always work something works.

Ben Kaplan  39:41

It sounds like those ones have the added time dimension to because you've done for March or for this and it's kind of concentrated to be like really useful for people by way Iceland is on my personal bucket list. My wife is like we have to go see the northern lights and Iceland. And so what I do know from us looking at it is that you know you're perience in different seasons will be very, very different. So it sounds like you also have that like time dimension of packing and content to to make it even useful to someone because like, I'm planning a trip for the spring, what am I going to do? Right?

Kyana Sue Powers  40:10

Yeah, so it is very seasonal. Like, of course, now maybe you're kind of I'm maybe heavy on Northern Lights content, because it's the last month we're going to have Northern Lights until the summer. And these ice K is also the last month that you can visit a nice cave before the summer. So it is definitely like very seasonal, the things that I might talk about, or I might push or something, there's also a lot of activities that are only in the summertime that don't apply for the winter. So then I would suggest different things for the winter, or, you know, I recently posted a video last week that went very viral. And it was like, did you know you could snorkel in Iceland and I talked all about how you can do that with a discount code. And it has 10,000 saves. So you know, people are very interested.

Ben Kaplan  40:55

So you know, you can see based on the save that, you know, over time it's going to convert, like, not everyone is like going to Iceland next week. But if you see the save, you know, oh, they found value in that they want to keep that and that's going to convert over time.

Kyana Sue Powers  41:09

Exactly. I think that views always make me happy for sure. But the most important thing to me is saves because they're saving it because there's some value in there, they're saving it because I gave them a discount code that they're going to use in the end. The only reason they say the video, they wouldn't say very What

Ben Kaplan  41:25

do you have? Like, these are my affiliate videos. And these are my non affiliate videos are at this point, are you trying to like walk in affiliate things into everything, there's no clear, I'm sort of selling stuff or not selling

Kyana Sue Powers  41:37

stuff. If I don't sell something in a video, if it's a day in my life video, I have learned recently that people love to read full caption. So I will write something in the caption and at the bottom, just be like, thank you so much for being here. If you would like to support me, then I have this Iceland guide that you can check out or I'm happy to make you an itinerary if you don't know where to start coming to Iceland, people read that and people book because of that. And I didn't even talk about that at all in the video.

Ben Kaplan  42:02

I see. So you're saying there's some other connection to like your business or something else. Even if it's not about the video, even if something low in the description or a caption or a comment or something like that you put it there you sort of give people an opportunity. And those actually do convert?

Kyana Sue Powers  42:16

Yeah, definitely. And then a new thing that is kind of up and coming that people should take maybe more advantage of is is called many chats. So I may be talking about a video and I'm like, you come to Eisen and you you should rent a car. By the way, if you want a discount on your car rental, then comment blue car rental discount or something and then it will automatically send them like a whole thing that I've written up before. And so those have been proven to be very popular because people want information. And I'm not even writing. I'm not even saying that in the video. I'm just printing the caption. People are still commenting. Like I have a packing list. I'll send you a packing list and every single thing in there is an affiliate link. So if you want to listen, here you go comment pack and I'll send it right to you and your DM people also like that personal kind of touch that I've just sent them a DM it is automatic, but you know it's personal. You make it kind of personal when you write it.

Ben Kaplan  43:09

The last question want to ask him this before we wrap up your story is just when you're driven by metrics, it started out with bikes now you talked about some more saves, it's more conversions. How do you I guess the phrase would be like, keep the mental health balance when you deal in like a medium that involves popularity, right? Where it's like, you get that big adrenaline rush that hit because like, oh, wow, it's getting millions, it's getting 10s of millions, I broke the internet. And it's not always like that. Or it's gets to be a little bit mundane or like, well, I'm on the streak of five bad ones. And like what's hot? Why does no one like it? How do you balance all that when you have to be popular to be successful? That's

Kyana Sue Powers  43:50

a really great question. And to be honest with you for a very long time, I had no like work life balance because it was just your priority to get your you know, business up and going and to just as your baby you never want to like it's always something you can do, right? You're never like finished with your to do list. It's always something so I always did that. But once I started dating my partner now if that's taught me a lot more like lifestyle is like, Okay, we're gonna work and day in the evenings, we won't work it like we're gonna hang out. And you know, I would just work until I went to bed. I would just work until 11 o'clock at night, and, and then go to bed, wake up and do the whole thing the next day, every single day. It was pretty horrible. But one thing that I tried to remind myself if things are not going well, it's probably because I've been home for a very long time. I haven't left like, you know, Reykjavik, the city. And I remind myself that you didn't move to Iceland to be in a city you move to Iceland to go out and do adventures. So go go on a road trip, go somewhere or just take a day trip, but go get out because that's where you're inspired to make things or do things or think of things or just you need to Leave. And I that definitely is the number one thing that works best for me sounds

Ben Kaplan  45:04

like some, like, you've got to be devoted to this, you've got to focus on it. But then you've also got to be able to step away. There's life outside of Instagram. Exactly. To kind of finish up your story, you achieve all of this success. I mean, I think over half a million followers on Instagram, close to 200k on tick tock, you have content that performs in the millions, your best content 10s of millions. And you get this obstacle that comes from the nature of you being in Iceland, which is they suddenly want to deport you from the country? Is that a shock? Do you feel like oh my gosh, I've built up this whole following and business and I'm gonna have to start doing Icelandic content, not from Iceland. I'm gonna have to do it from somewhere else, like, what did you feel like? What did you go through? What does it like to get like a letter that you're about to be deported?

Kyana Sue Powers  45:48

I mean, that was extremely hurtful to me, of course, like, how could they deport me? I've been doing so much for this country, you've been bringing

Ben Kaplan  45:56

in tourism, probably maybe unlike anyone else. You brought in more tourism at this point? Yeah,

Kyana Sue Powers  46:01

I mean, I would say like with a lot of confidence that the recovery of tourism after COVID is because of content creators in Iceland, like me. And I can tell you that I can count them on one hand, the people that brought tourism back, and I'm definitely one of those people. And Iceland is a little bit old fashioned. And I know that they don't recognize this at all. Companies also in Iceland are having a hard time recognizing this success. They just think Iceland is amazing. And they're like riding this luck, this wave of luck. But it isn't luck. Somebody was talking about Iceland the whole time. They're like, world was closed. And it wasn't you it was me. I know that I did that. And I have like, the confidence to talk about that. And it's kind of a hard thing. Here in Iceland. I mean, when when they tried to deport me even after I won my visa and could stay, I went through a huge burnout, it like was probably almost a year long. But I just felt like I was very defeated and lost. Even though I had one. I was like, What am I even doing? Like, I can't believe I just had to fight for everything that I do. I do so much. I feel like I just deserve more. Yeah, it's it's a thing that you still work with today.

Ben Kaplan  47:12

And that story was like, basically, you get this letter, you start having like countdowns to like number of days left, you have to lawyer up and appeal things. And there's two separate visa issues that affect you. And you go through all this and you have to make YouTube videos to kind of like show your value and your story and get other people doing recommendations and, and you've done a lot for the country. And it goes all the way down to like a couple days left before you have to leave. And finally, it gets successfully appealed, you're allowed to stay, it must have felt like a sense of relief and elation. But then following it, it's like, gosh, I love this country like no one else almost. And I'm not appreciated, and they wanted to kick me out and I had to fight tooth and nail to stay, I can see how that would be draining after that.

Kyana Sue Powers  47:59

Yeah. And it's something that we still deal with today. Creators here in Iceland. So I see a lot of traders, you know, based in the States, and they make 1000s and 1000s of dollars off of brand deals. And a lot of times it makes sense because of the effort and work and the production that you have to put into like making content that works. At the end, then the reach after that, like it does deserve like the monetary value behind them. But here in Iceland, it's just I'm fighting tooth and nail just to get like pennies from companies that I then bring in millions, of course Icelandic speaking millions of Icelandic krona to that company, but they don't understand the value and see that in creators like me, but I'm like you've reached out to me in the first place. Because you know, I can help your company but you're not willing to pay for it. So there's a different like mindset here in Iceland. And it's something that we struggle with every day because it's like, I take things so personally, my whole page is about me, and I've built them up my whole life. So I'm very proud of that. And it's hard to take these business things not personally, sometimes I always like if they don't want to pay me it's hard to take personally like not personally just remember that it's business. That just hurts me like am I not good enough to get paid? Or like how like how long can I keep doing this and feeling like maybe I'm not worthy of something here. And you know, I told myself I would live in Iceland for as long as it makes sense. And it still makes sense right now for what I'm doing. But I'm not changing any systems here. Yeah, but you have to just remember what works then for you okay, if you can't get this brand to pay you money you just keep you make your own product and you sell that product and sell it because that will make you money

Ben Kaplan  49:35

well there you go that actually that's some of your story right? Like couldn't get anyone to hire you. So you hire yourself can't get a brand to pay you for this. I'm going to make my own product and I'll hire myself again on my own product. And I can also see then why the affiliate marketing makes a lot of sense because obviously affiliate marketing is if you know that you're driving a lot of value can be successful then make sense to take a cut of that and maybe forego a little bit on the front end but you make more on the back tend to wrap up? What is the next frontier for you? Where do you hope this all goes? Is it certain metrics or number of saves? Or business dollars? Or I want to get to this milestone? Do you see yourself staying in Iceland forever? And this is your home now. And this is it, could you expand and be like, I'm gonna do more of Europe, and I'm gonna turn it into, you know, I'm not just the person who knows Iceland, I'm gonna go to Nordic countries. And we're going to do that. And I'm going to profile those, do you think about that? What's next for countersue? I

Kyana Sue Powers  50:29

definitely think about it, and especially a lot recently. So my, my partner has now come on to the team, I've also hired him and we work together on this company that I've built. And he's a chef. And something that we also really like to do is cook in nature and film that and then post that and like, do that whole kind of thing, which is a really nice break for me, because I don't always have to just be in the spotlight. But I do like creating content. So that's nice to just be more on the back end of it and doing something else. And so we would love to just keep growing that and give us opportunities around the world really like I don't want to I have seriously boxed myself into Iceland, but I am ready to see other parts of the world, there's so much out there. And I definitely hope I can use my platform to kind of open that door for me and, you know, let brands know. And people know that I'm, I only know about Iceland, I can go and know about other things. And I can teach people about other things. So I am definitely looking to at least travel around the world more. I'm living in Iceland, not sure what the future holds. But I live here now. And I don't have any plans to move, if that makes sense.

Ben Kaplan  51:50

And I think it's one of those things where it's like, it's just the challenge of this and growing like any kind of business, which is like, Oh, you had this like great benefit from the focus on Iceland the focus on tourists who want to come here, but then you can graduate from that and you want to expand things. And then the same thing to focus that helps you get traction early on can make things challenging and make things difficult to grow beyond that. But then some of what you discover, I think anyone else who's a thought leader, or an influencer or a content creator, is that maybe your expertise is broader than you think. So maybe you know, you know Iceland really like nobody's business really, really well. But you're also now have the skill, not only in creating content, but in like, how do you discover a new place and become an expert on a place? You've done it once? And why couldn't you do that someplace else. And so it's like, you have to balance all these things, and remember why you got started, but then evolve into something else and do what made you successful, but then continue to experiment. And all of those things come together. And in the end, if you started in this for adventure, you've got to keep the adventure and you've got to find a way to do it somehow. And it sounds like you're exploring that and it sounds like I'm excited to see what happens next.

Kyana Sue Powers  52:59

Thank you have if I've learned anything from my entire journey, is that I know I can just go and do anything. I can figure it out. I know that I have the curiosity and the bravery to just go try something new and not have a plan B and just get it done.

Ben Kaplan  53:14

Kyana Sue Powers what a journey. What a story. Best wishes for continued success. And I can't wait to see the next way that you Break The Internet.

Kyana Sue Powers  53:22

Thank you so much.

Tom Cain  53:25

This is how Kyana broke the internet if you need to pivot pivot next is find your niche and own it. Kyana did it with the beauty of Iceland. The next is value value value. Does your content inform inspire or entertain? That's the golden question. So what's the secret of staying relevant according to Khurana keep learning keep evolving and embracing change but most importantly, be resilient. Embrace the journey. Keep pushing forward and never give up. Let us know what you think and how you're gonna Break The Internet. This episode was brought to you by TOP Thought Leader go viral with TTL check out all our shows at Like and Subscribe

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