In keeping up with my recent efforts to write weekly, I wanted to reflect on an exciting event that occurred last week: Conrad Benner of Streets Dept, a blog highlighting street art in Philadelphia, featured me on his Instagram account, which boasts around 140k followers.
The exposure on his account produced the largest boost in followers on my page (my follower count went from ~3,800 to ~4,300) since the first time I received any type of publicity (Walking with Strangers). I also received about 35 additional requests from people to meet, all outside of the college demographic that my project has hit over the past couple of months.
I wanted to reflect on how I felt about being featured because I’m extremely thankful for the publicity, but I’m even more so thankful for the fact that it came last week as opposed to the first time he and I met back in April.
I remember even being surprised that Conrad answered my initial requests to meet because most accounts with that number of followers rarely respond to DMs.
I first messaged him on March 6, 2016 saying, “Hey Conrad, I’m starting a new project in Philly where I’m trying to spend 1 hour with 10,000 different people in (aggressively) about 5-10 years doing what makes them interesting. Just started at the end of November and am at 15 people right now. Wanted to see if you’d be interested in meeting because I’d love to learn more about the art scene. Would you be down to hang for an hour?”
On March 17, 2016, I followed up, “Hey Conrad – just wanted to check back in to see if you’d be interested in meeting. Just met with Nate Nichols the other week. I think you guys know each other right? Anyways would you be interested in being part of it too?”
He got back to me 11 days later on the 28th, “Hey man! I’m into this! Could you email me though? Appreciate it: StreetsDept at gmail. Thanks!!”
Conrad and I then met in April and he became the 27th friend of my project. When I met with him, he seemed to like my idea and after taking his picture with me, mentioned that he should take a picture of me by myself in case he could use it on his blog. After we said our goodbyes, I was so excited at the idea of being featured on his account. I thought, “Wow, now everyone will know about this awesome idea I have.” I thought if he posted about my project, I’d immediately be catapulted into a higher level of recognition and the road ahead would be easy.
Of course, I was young and naive at the time because I was looking for all of the recognition with barely any of the work (as I continue to grow my project, I think this will be one of my biggest takeaways from the early days). Had Conrad posted about a guy trying to meet 10,000 people who had only met 27 people, I would have had no credibility to stand on. At that point I was not invested full-time, and though I knew I’d continue to aggressively pursue my goal, there was no reason for anyone else to believe that.
Fast forward to last week, I had been pursuing my goal full-time for over 5 full months, had met with 580 individuals, and had been covered by a handful of local media sources. Those facts provided a much more solid ground to stand on when telling my story and created a more compelling reason for people to follow along with my progress. I’m much happier that I was featured as the man who had met over 500 people rather that the man who had almost met 30 people.
In thinking about that experience, I’ve adjusted my mindset towards publicity as I continue to grow. I now realize that people will pick up on my story once there’s enough of a story to be told. Until then, I have to stay focused on continuing to write it.
Happy Holidays everyone!