Social media stars can turn their influence into empires, reaching an audience even the best of advertisers could only dream about. Consider the likes of reality TV star and makeup magnate Kylie Jenner, whose social media stardom has helped bolster her cosmetics empire to nearly $1 billion in worth. Or the What’s Up Moms, who have such a lucrative following that brands queue up for partnerships.
Meet Nuseir Yassin, the 26-year-old behind the extremely popular Facebook channel Nas Daily (Nas is short for Nuseir and means “people” in Arabic — a fitting name, as you’ll see). He’s cashing in on experiencing the world and bringing you along for the ride.
For more than 800 days, he has travelled to more than 60 countries, making (mostly) one-minute videos that are much more than your run-of-the-mill travel vlog.
They most certainly offer stunning glimpses of far-flung places, grabbing your eye as you scroll through posts on Facebook. But Nas attempts to take you on a journey beyond what flashes on your screen, to really see the world around us and to understand the people in it.
Nas set out on this mission in early 2016, on his own and certainly not with the more than seven million followers he has now.
He built his audience, view by view, but now averages between one and three million views daily, depending on the location or topic. His most-watched video, about the shrinking of the Dead Sea, has about 70 million views on Facebook.
He has hung out with the tallest man in the world, worked out at a “1,000-person gym” on a beach in Senegal, and toured a landmine field in Armenia, just to list a few of the unique experiences in his videos.
Occasionally, he veers into discussion of hot-button topics that are sometimes personal, such as clashes over the plight of Palestinians and Israelis.
Nas is Palestinian-Israeli. As he explains in some of his videos, his family remained on their land in what is now Israel after the 1948 partition.
He broached some of the tensions between Israelis and Palestinians, from his own experience, in one of his most popular videos, garnering more than 50 million views in the six months since it was posted.
But his real goal is to connect people, and he’s doing just that with an online community (on Facebook) where people share their own personal stories and videos based on his work.
“All I’m doing is just making the videos and they’re making friends with each other,” he said. “It’s amazing how much people want to meet the other. You just got to, you know, help make it happen.”
The origins of Nas Daily: He quit
So how did he get here, you ask (wherever “here” is for him right now, as you’re reading this)?
Nas studied at Harvard and landed a job as a software engineer in New York. He worked for Venmo, an mobile payment service now owned by PayPal.
If you search his name, you may find stories headlined “25-year-old ‘NasDaily’ $120,000-a-year job to travel the world.” But that kind of money doesn’t go very far in the Big Apple, as Nas attests.
“I knew in one year, in New York City, you’re going to spend $60,000 because it’s so expensive. So, I saved $60,000 and, instead of spending it in New York, I spent it all around the world — and that could last you for 10 years because the world is actually cheaper than New York,” he explained.
Want an idea of how cheap some other places are? Take a look at his video from his time in Sri Lanka, where you can dine for just 70 cents.
“The minute I saved enough money at my job in New York, I quit. I knew in one year, I could figure out something better than my job.”
He admits not everyone has the financial resources he started out with or has it in them to take this kind of a risk.
“I’m not here to tell you to take risks and quit your job and travel the world. No, don’t do that if it doesn’t make you feel comfortable and excited.”
He obviously isn’t living off that same chunk of change he started out with. In fact, he said he lost money in the early days. He does, however, make a fair amount money off his Facebook channel. He recently posted about earning $80,000 in a single month. That’s in large part from Facebook ad revenue-sharing, but in the past he also freelanced as a videographer and a consultant to keep the journey going.
Facebook pays content creators to insert 15-second ad breaks or six-second ad pre-rolls on their videos. The creators, according to Facebook, take away 55 per cent of the earnings from those ads.
“There is a huge stigma around people who are online making money online,” he said, adding that although he does profit from Facebook ad-sharing on some of his videos, it in no way influences his principles or his content. It’s allowed him to keep this adventure going and to hire a team of three to help put the Nas Daily videos together (he was on his own until day 670).
He spends about 10 hours a day working on each one-minute video, not counting the thought and planning that goes into each beforehand. He realized along the way that he’s a bit of a “perfectionist.”
All good things come to an end. Or do they?
Nas knows he can’t do this forever. In fact, he plans to say goodbye to this labour of love at day 1,000. That’s coming fast. He’s still figuring out what’s next.
“After 1,000 days, I want to take a week off. Disappear, you know, in the middle of a cave. I don’t know. I don’t know what to do next,” he said. “It’s really hard to imagine something that’s better and bigger than what we’re currently doing.”
And with about 150 days to go, he still has a few places left to visit, including one place that he has somehow missed along the way.
“Canada! Canada. I want to visit this place. I’ve heard so much about it, and I don’t know how I skipped it in my 800 days.”