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Devan(@DevanOnDeck) was one of the first employees of Snapchat, specifically on the Content team— specialized in local Los Angeles coverage as well as Fashion.
Throughout his time there he learned a ton! Most notably how tech and creative can support business goals and drive revenue through effective storytelling.
As a freelance Art Director, he has always known that at a high level, but his time at Snap allowed him to get a granular view of things. Every ounce of time outside of work was used to build his personal brand via Instagram and construct a body of work.
After about a year and a half of building relationships with fashion retailers, style influencers & tech wizards, he acquired the final piece to his professional acumen to make the leap. As a result of a department closure, he left Snap as a self-reliant content producer, digital strategist and story teller; with proofs of concept to boot.
He is currently thriving as a Style Influencer with the ability to both effectively communicate and teach how to use digital means to support business and career goals for just about anyone.
The reason that he has clients from all walks of life—professional athletes, entrepreneurs, musicians, fashion retailers, etc— he is a practitioner in his craft and able to foresee trends before anyone else and give his clients new advice before anyone.
Having worked with big brands like Cartier, Reebok, Acura and many more- Devan is on the forefront of everything social media.
1. Devan how did your journey start ? Did you always know you want to go into fashion ?
It started around my senior year of high school; when I grew a thriving sneaker customization business from my parent’s garage. Next I enrolled into art school, where I studied men’s footwear design at a University level.
2. How did you land the opportunity to work at Snapchat ? What were 3 main lessons that experience has taught you ?
I was referred by a close friend; an early engineering recruit who caught wind of the then-brand-new stories platform being developed. By that time I’d already dropped out of college and was a manager at sneaker store; moonlighting as a freelance digital marketer and creative director for emerging menswear brands.
I was totally caught of guard, because I had no idea that my skillset could be an asset at tech startup. Nonetheless, my portfolio landed me position on the Content Team, where I specialized in Men’s Fashion & local Los Angeles coverage.
My time at Snap taught me a lot–– the 1st lesson being about myself. I was one of the first employees at the then-hottest tech company in the country, yet I could not shake fact that my ultimate purpose was to help build someone else’s dream.
Since there was no immediate clear path to independence, I then focused on taking the University approach; embracing the level of the access I had to high-level fashion retailers, style influencers & tech wizards alike.
After a year and a half of developing relationships and building my professional acumen, I left Snap as a self-reliant content producer, digital strategist and story teller; with proofs of concept to boot. None of that would not have been possible if I had not learned my 3rd lesson: to intentionally build my exit strategy. Getting into Snapchat was by accident, but leaving, I was prepared for.
3. Being an Influencer and having the opportunity to work with different brands, what are 3 things brands are getting wrong about marketing on social media and how can they fix that ?
I’m pretty optimistic when it comes to this topic. There’s so much information available at our fingertips, social media marketing in the Consumer Goods space is becoming more and more savvy across the board. Every day there’s a new digital agency popping up to tackle a certain niche market. I love it, because that means less time spent educating my brand partners and more time helping them tell compelling stories.
For some though, often legacy brands, the wheels of progress turn slowly. It’s hard to accept sudden change when the same tactics have been working for your business so well for decades.
So when they dabble into influencer marketing for the first time it’s the same as it was with everyone in the early days: Expecting maximum ROI in one-off partnerships, looking immediate sales when posts go live, and solely measuring results quantitatively.
This is unrealistic, shortsighted and causes unnecessary pressure on all parties involved. As more of the industry looks at tastemakers from a quality perspective and focuses on true storytelling, the more successful we’ll at making impact on consumers.
4.You have foreseen trends before they have “popped”, with video content being king- how can people who are building their personal brand capitalize on this opportunity.
Yes, in 2016 I noticed the video trend emerging on Instagram as they began to prioritize it on their platform. That mixed with the rising competitor Snapchat taking away market share for the mobile video space, I knew the wave was coming. I was the 1st Men’s Fashion personality on Instagram to delve heavily into imaginative video content, and I got a lot of attention as a result.
The best way to utilize video to build your personal brand is to lean on your strengths. Find what comes to you naturally that can be utilized to strike an emotional nerve in your target audience. For me, my Art Directing experience gives me an advantage with creative animated effects in my videos.
Another way to think of social media is word-of-mouth at scale. The more emotion evoked from your content, the more sharable it becomes. In my case it’s the element of surprise; my audience know to expect something mind-blowing, just not exactly what it will be.
5.What are your 3 tips for someone looking to develop their brand on Instagram and crush it ?
First, never post horizontally; always 1×1 ratio (square) or 4×5 (tall). The reason for this is simple: Instagram is a vertical app, where fullscreen works the opposite of traditional image viewing on a computer or television. More mobile screen real estate you cover, the more time it takes for a person to scroll past your content. The longer it takes them, the more likely they’ll stop and engage with it… then boom! More likes and comments.
Next, you want to understand your competitive landscape. Searching relevant hashtags will give you great insight into what communities are thriving best on Instagram and what kind of content is working for them. Not only will you stay up to speed, you might discover what your niche is missing.
Last but not least, convert your Instagram account into a business profile. With this you’ll get insights to your audience demographics as well as personalized daily peak posting times, depending on when your followers are online most.
6.Did having a non traditional background be a hindrance in working at a tech company ? What would be your advice for students or people who are currently in a similar position you were in ?
Yes and no. The truth is tech was nowhere on my radar when the opportunity presented itself, so much so that I dismissed the possibility as soon as it was presented to me. It took my wife and close friend’s to convince me that this could be a life-changing experience. They were right.
Sure I was a bit ahead of my time– producing marketing assets solely intended for social media before “digital content” was a buzzword– and documented all of my projects in my portfolio. But I still wasn’t thinking big enough! My advice to students on a creative path is do not put your passion in a box. There are so many uses of art across industries; some that don’t yet exist. Perfect your craft and trust the timing of your journey.
7.Your videos are really creative on Instagram- how much time do you dedicate to working on content ?
Thank you. I typically spend two days per week shooting and editing content for Instagram
8.How important has networking/building relationships been for you in having the success you have today ? What would be your recommendations for the next generation on building a network and how can they do it starting from scratch ?
Relationships are what matter most. Personal brand goes far beyond digital. It’s the energy you bring into a room, how punctual you are, and how you treat people who you perceive as unable to do anything for you. You’ll find that people are watching you closer than you think and that you never know who you’re actually talking to at any given moment.
My rule of thumb is to sit down over coffee or a meal whenever possible, and always care more about the person in front of you as apposed to what you could get from them. Being intentional and genuine with this has opened up doors for me and some my of my most successful friends.
Starting from scratch? Slide in some DM’s, send some emails, practicing introducing yourself to local like-minded people you find on the internet. I’ve met tons of dope people this way.
9.What is your legacy ? How do you want people to remember you ?
Great question. I’d have to say my wife is my legacy. I can’t be successful if I’m not first taking care of home.
I want to be known for making a positive impact on the creative community; giving people the tools to market themselves and design their own futures.