Zander Shine lives an enviable life by anyone’s standards. The social media accounts for which he is famous depict beautifully photographed adventures, bucket-list travels, and a constant theme of adventure and living life to its fullest. As a brand, Zander creates an image that reinforces his modeling career: The aesthetics are very carefully curated, reflecting a man immersed in his surroundings, experiencing them, but often at arm’s length (or more) from the camera. Each image tells a story, and together, the images convey an imaginative narrative, one in which the reader can both see the specifics as well as project his or her ideas onto it.
As a model, it is critical to have a portfolio of impressive photographs. However, the site and brand Shine has created communicates more than his value as a model. It creates a set of stories and a personality to go along with it. Further, it shows him in action, instead of the traditional headshots privileged by competitors. The result is that he has built a following and a community of engaged followers who eagerly await every post.
From a branding standpoint, this is actually a genius move. Shine, influenced early on by his athletic parents’ healthy lifestyle, sought to monetize what he was already doing: Traveling and having adventures. His passion for travel and outdoor activity may not be the job people encourage youth to pursue – but he turned his mind towards documenting it in engaging, exciting ways. In fact, he describes “documenting” as the main task he undertook to transform hobbies into a personal brand. While many people put photographs of their travels on Instagram, Shine emphasized the ways that the story of his travels were told, and developed the asset of a tremendous social media following.
The lessons for other entrepreneurs are simple. One does not have to be a model to learn from Shine’s approach. Whatever one’s brand, if you develop a visually engaging and story-based approach to social media, people will become interested. The human need for stories will spark curiosity and, therefore, engagement. Reconsider social media marketing as a way to tell stories: Reframe it as a task that involves documenting what you are already doing, but in an engaging and irresistible manner that speaks to your audience and builds a following. Engaged social media followers unlock many other opportunities, as most people know. Authentic, visually engaging design is more than a nicety. It can develop a brand because it can make marketing more subtle and align it into a narrative. A narrative in which people can both imagine themselves within it, or project their own fantasies onto the image, is powerful.
Shine’s success lies in how his own value proposition as a model is bound up in a strong personal identity, showing potential that he is a recognizable personality. However, the way in which he built this success is not limited to modeling, and shows that any business can use these strategies for success.
Opinions expressed here by Contributors are their own.