Tell me a little about yourself:
I would consider myself a jack of all trades or a professional hobbyist– somebody who’s taken a lot of the creative arts and found ways to monetize it. What I’m probably most known for now is my work as a social strategist. I create mobile content for brands and help them tell their story in a more authentic way.
Can you tell me about the businesses you’re involved with right now?
Right now, I’m focusing on a company called Beef Bureau. We create monthly installments of content for brands. A lot of the times, brands are really good at creating a product or experience but they don’t know how to share that story every day. So we pair them with a photographer and a strategy to knock that out. We’ve been doing that now for about six months.
I also co-founded another company called Popular Pays (with Allan Holmes & Corbett Drummey) that connect brands and “influencers,” all through an app. We basically democratized “social currency.” There’s a lot of photographers who work really hard at creating a personal brand for themselves and consistently share amazing images & stories. With Popular Pays, we’ve tried to create that easy, sellable system where influencers can log in to the App and find opportunities for brands they can partner with in telling their story together. It’s cool because they get paid for it too. They submit a bid, the brand can check out the proposals and choose whether to accept or deny. It’s a really easy, scalable system for brands and photographers to be able to profit from each other in an unique way. That’s been going on a for over two years now and we have close to 25,000 influencers using the app.
How did Flock of Fools come about and what does the #LiveFoolish lifestyle represent to you?
I started Flock of Fools because I wanted to travel more, and I wanted to personally find a way to do it somewhat frequently with a group of guys that inspired me creatively. I felt like there wasn’t really anything for “The GQ guy with a Jackass heart”– guys who are style conscious and like more of the finer things in life, but also like to have fun, let loose, and enjoy being adventurous. They’re kind of polar opposites, right? You’ve got the GQ guy, but are not used to seeing him doing interesting things. Then there’s all these sportswear brands and adventurous magazines, but again vice versa.
So I wanted to try to create a mashup of the two and promote it through Instagram so we could share that story and inspire other guys to create some of the same adventures within their own groupings. We’re dedicated to taking quarterly trips and promoting a new city and a different lifestyle with every destination that we go to. The goal is to take two domestic trips a year and two international trips a year so we can highlight some interesting places that we hope other guys will a) want to watch and b) want to travel to and check out too one day. And then with each city comes a little bit different style.
What approach do you take when trying to uncover a new city?
The nice thing is, with Instagram and social media, a lot of us just ask the people following us. It’s a great way to crowdsource knowledge and trends that are happening in that city. Surprisingly, even in Palm Springs, we found a few places that we really enjoyed, all through just asking the Instagram community.
I also like to research. I go to different online sites like Thrillist or The Infatuation I’ll hop on Yelp and see what’s going on too; it’s at least a good way to start. For the most part, if you can ask people who’ve been there, you’re going to get at least one or two places that are interesting and cool. The nice thing with traveling with a larger group of guys is we can get a little bit of a varying opinion from everybody and find out what the common threads are when planning a trip.
Your personal Instagram account has almost 80,000 followers; what do you want your followers to take away when they see your images?
The thing that I hope my followers take away the most is that there’s so much to be enjoyed out of life. So just get out and explore more. It saddens me that so many people live their life out of this fear and doubt that life isn’t supposed to be good for them. But really, there’s just so much of life that’s yet to be experienced for ourselves, and it’s just going and doing a little something every day that ignites that fire in your heart. Just experiencing people and enjoying experiences with people you know.
My hope is that people aren’t intimidated that they have to spend a lot of money to suck the marrow out of life. I wouldn’t want that to be the case. I want to at least sparking ideas on how they can get out there and explore so you can look back twenty years from now and say “Man, look at all of these really great experiences and memories I have with people that I really care about.”
What’s your advice on how to build and sustain a large audience in the realm of social media?
I think building anything that grabs people’s attention has to be consistent. If you’re not consistently putting art out there that has a consistent quality, most people just aren’t going to pay attention. There’s a reason why people love going to Chipotle, and it’s because they know what they’re going to get every time. And people like that.
You also have to dissect the value and experience that you’re giving the people. And if you’re giving people a shitty experience, most likely they aren’t going to want to follow you. Sadly, you see a lot of big brands who have been around for a hundred years that actually have a decent product who are being tripped up over social media. Because they’ve actually never had to create that experience on a daily basis on a social trend. Even bigger brands– it’s a big question to them to say “how do I make this work?” Same thing– you start at creating a really interesting process and you find that recipe. And with anybody out there who’s wanted to build a consistent thing with social media, I like to say “What’s your recipe? What’s your theme? What’s your quality look like?”
Also, work on defining your audience before you get that audience. It will change, like any good brand you want to listen to your audience. The brand doesn’t control the brand; the people control the brand. I never specifically looked at being the “food guy”; I just happened to listen to what was working best on my feed, and that was food. Once I saw that that’s what people loved, I positioned my feed to show more of that.
What personally inspires you?
People who care inspire me. It doesn’t matter what you do, but that you care. People who care about their families, who care about the work that they are doing, who care about the hobby or the profession that they’re working on. If you care about something, if you care about anything, we’ll probably get along really well.
What observations do you have on millennial men? What would you say defines us?
Overall, the thing that I’ve realized about millennial men is that they are apprehensive to grab life by the balls. For some reason, people still believe that they need permission to do what they love. And you don’t. You don’t need permission. You don’t need permission from your boss, you don’t need permission from your family. We live in a world that has more resources & information available at our disposal than any previous generation, such that you can literally do anything that you want to.
#livefoolish by @johnstoffer
People still live under this umbrella of “I don’t know if that’s for me” or “I don’t know if I could do that,” and I really believe that you can. You just have to have the guts and the gall to get out there and go do it. And that’s not saying that you need to be financially stupid or unwise or you need to put yourself in danger or harm to make those things work. But, if you apply discipline and sweat, you can really do anything you want. And it’s amazing.