Influencer Interview: Conner Cayson / Find Me In Seattle
Chances are if you’re familiar with the Seattle influencer community, you’ve seen Conner Cayson (aka @findmeinseattle) around. Whether he’s hanging with CenturyLink testing out their 1-gig internet and connected home capabilities, bus-hopping from neighborhood to neighborhood for client work or searching for Seattle’s best ramen bowl, Conner is known for taking his audience along for the ride.
“I started working for a company called Knotis five years ago – they make those Seattle neighborhood maps – and a big part of my job was walking from neighborhood to neighborhood and connecting with businesses,” Conner explained. “I’m a big fan of Gary V, who’s a business and social media expert, and he talks a lot about documenting your process, so I decided, ‘why don’t I document what I do every day?’” And thus began Find Me.
Over that past five years, Conner has turned Find Me into a full-time gig. He spends his days working with Seattle’s small business owners to promote the cool places that make Seattle unique, and shares the insider scoop with his followers in the process. Our team had the pleasure of sitting down with Conner to get his insights on all things influencer relations.
How would you describe your personal brand? What’s most important – your feed? Your partnerships? How you build your community?
“Building personal relationships and one-on-ones are really important to me. One of my biggest priorities is creating that mutually beneficial personal connection which almost always pays off down the road. It’s also important to me to stay true to who I am – I want people to meet me in real life, and think “oh, this is the same guy I watch on Instagram!” I want people to feel like they actually know who I am, and I want to take them on the journey with me.”
What do you wish the PR industry knew about working with influencers?
“Numbers are overrated. Follower counts don’’t necessarily dictate the value of content. The real metrics are tied to who can drive your audience to engage. Who is a trusted enough figure that their audience will actually swipe up to buy those tickets?
“Comments, engagement and depth of content are the biggest factors you should look at. Don’t be afraid to request their insights. I always tell businesses not to pay someone if they’re not going to reach the audience they want to reach. A quick screenshot of their Instagram insights or Facebook insights will tell you where their audience is based and what they’re into.”
How do you see other influencers demonstrating their value?
“In a sense, influencers are celebrities. They’re the popular kids, and they influence decisions and trends. I know personally, I’m confident that if I talk about a restaurant positively at least some of my followers will check it out. In the end, it’s about their endorsement and showing businesses the return on their partnership.”
How do you choose which partnerships to pursue and which brands to work with?
“I’m usually down to try anything! But generally I don’t talk in absolutes – like good, bad, best, worst. I try to just provide facts. When it comes to food and restaurants specifically, I try to provide as much description as I can, I call out good customer service, and the owner’s story is really important to me, but I try to avoid including too much opinion. A food critic can make or break a whole restaurant, and I don’t think anyone really deserves that much power – so my goal is just to work with as many companies as possible, and tell my audience “hey, this is an option, and this is what it’s all about.”
What do you think sets the Seattle influencer community apart from other markets?
“I think there are a lot of creative, motivated people in the group who are committed to doing something different. For most of them, they have full time jobs and the influencer part is a side hustle, and because there really aren’t that many of us the group feels pretty close knit. We also don’t have a huge media culture here – Chicago, New York and LA have multiple huge media companies, but Seattle feels kind of grassroots.”
What food trends are you loving lately? Are there any you really hate?
“I don’t really follow food trends; I don’t look at the calendar and plan ‘taco Tuesday’ content or anything like that. All of my content is really dictated by the schedule of my meetings, or the shows I produce, and the neighborhoods I end up in as a result. Foodie trends aren’t a huge priority for me unless they’re hyper local and relatable to my followers. But, looking at the food industry, I love latte art – it’s beautiful and there’s so much talent out there. It performs well on social especially because it’s so aesthetically pleasing.
I’m also really happy that ramen is so popular here in the city – my favorite spot is Yoroshiku in Wallingford. It has a great story. The chef went to University of Washington as an exchange student. During the time he was here it was all teriyaki, and he really missed ramen since that was his home comfort food. So he went back to Japan after graduating, perfected a recipe and moved back here to open a ramen shop. Talk about dedication!”
True to form, as we wrapped up our discussion with Conner on a Fremont cafe porch, he pulled out his phone to snap a picture of his raspberry Italian soda (suggested by the barista, and Conner isn’t one to turn down the suggestion of a local expert). “This is what I love about my job. If none of my followers knew about Fremont Coffee before, and one new person comes in here as a result of my post, then I view that as a success.”