As Forrest Gump famously said: “My mama always said you can tell a lot about a person by their shoes, where they going, where they been.”
It all started with a text – a cool photo of shoes (of course), a quick grab of a soon-to-be very important Instagram handle (@shoesofNYC) and a casual inquiry of interest – what do you think? What followed: thousands of photos, thousands of stories, and 32,300 (and counting) Instagram followers.
In many ways, the Forrest Gump quote (sent via text by Huston to his now business partner, Lexi) defines the Shoes of NYC (SO/NYC) mission: photograph the shoe, and always feature the story behind it.
SO/NYC is content-driven and that’s what makes these two Seattle transplants so successful as social influencers in the most competitive city in the world -a focus on followers as people, not power.
Whether it’s a funny quote, a particularly nostalgic memory, or an inside scoop on where to snag fresh kicks, SO/NYC has become – in Lexi and Huston’s own words – a discovery platform, home to both shoe and story lovers from around the globe.
Lexi and Huston have captivated their audience one post a time, and we’re no exception.
We wanted a firsthand account of how they got here, what they value most, and where they’re headed next. Lexi and Huston were kind enough to share the scoop…
1. How did you get started and build your audience?
Lexi: “We had a couple of partnerships with some bigger influencers; other Instagram accounts discovered us and used us as a way to inform their own audiences of interesting content that was new. We also did a lot of work to reach out to publications to let them know what we were doing, and we both really tapped into our personal networks.
When you start something that you really believe in and something that’s your own, you cash in on all of those contacts you’ve made over the years and you really go after it. It’s like, this is it. This is the favor I need.”
Huston: “Along with that, a lot of our growth can be attributed to word of mouth from people we feature. More often than not, they’ll repost it to their personal page if they get featured. Also, people tagging other people when a story reminds them of something memorable. That stuff is small but it builds up and it matters.”
2. What was the first piece of content you created?
Lexi: “I remember we were in Central Park, Huston and I were sitting down with friends and saying ‘Are we gonna do this or what?’ We saw a guy in the park; he was playing frisbee in Sheep’s Meadow, wearing some old school black Adidas.
I walked up to him and asked and he said, ‘I’m not gonna stop for you, but if you can catch me, go for it.’ Of course I couldn’t get a good photo! So we never posted those but it was our first interaction.”
Huston: “I remember thinking, this is going to be hard. You just have to go for it. Maybe they’ll say no – who knows. The more you do it, the more comfortable you become and the better you get at it.”
3. Talk about the story aspect of SO/NYC.
Huston: “There’s an interest now in the story behind the product of everything we buy – I think that focus is at the crux of why we incorporate content and stories into our own posts. That story aspect, mixed with having an eye for fashion and what we think looks cool…it’s come together very nicely.”
Lexi: “It’s something that’s so simple – shoes and their stories – that at the time no one was really documenting in the way we decided to do it. I think people either follow us for the quotes or the photos or both, but it’s not complicated. It’s a pretty simple formula that can have a lot of impact.”
4. Most interesting part so far?
Huston: “What’s been the most interesting and eye-opening is that, of the thousands of people we’ve stopped and interviewed, they’ve all been really really nice. I think New Yorkers get a bad rap as being standoffish or rude, but outside of a handful of people, everyone is super welcoming and takes the time to hang out so we can get the content we need.”
5. How do you work on increasing engagement with your followers?
Huston: “Asking for feedback from our followers is really important – what do you want to see? What are we not doing that you want us to be doing? It’s good to always be learning from them.
We do this because we love it, but also because they love it too. We want the content to be stuff they want to see. Engage your audience. Ask for feedback. We’ve also started accepting user-generated content and done some BTS (behind the scenes) coverage on Instagram stories as well.”
6. What’s next for SO/NYC?
Lexi: “This is an overarching theme, but, whatever we choose to do next – whether that be a product, website, etc. – we want it to be a platform of discovery where people can come and discover new footwear and stories.
We really want to be the discovery platform for anything and everything footwear related. Every type of shoe; from sneakers to luxury brands. It’s all about diversity for us, and discovery.”
Clearly this is only the beginning for Huston and Lexi – with a laser focus on their priorities (people) their expertise (footwear) and their platform (Instagram)… the sky’s the limit.
We’re delighted to have @shoesofNYC as part of our influencer community on BrandBrief. You can follow them on Instagram @shoesofNYC to be sure you won’t miss a beat. And if you’re in New York, put on your coolest kicks. You never know where – or when – your paths might cross.