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.
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