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24hourlondon meets social media influencer tikichris

By Emma Hartley - Wed, 21st Jun 2017

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"I'm not a twenty-something blonde girl," Chris Osburn tells me in his soft American accent.

He is responding to a question about where he fits in to the rapidly developing digital landscape and explaining – odd as it may seem – his unique selling point. We have met at The Dove pub on Broadway Market in Hackney because much of the advice I have been receiving about how to market 24hourlondon has included intriguing references to co-opting "social media influencers". Which is all very well but my ideas about them come nearly entirely from reading arch articles in the Guardian about jet-setting glamourpusses wth vlogs. Whereas, to the naked eye at least, Chris seems more like one of the guys who would write about them in print and I find this oddly reassuring.

So I'm trying to find out more about these exotic creatures and what they do? How can Chris – exotic on the inside – help me and how can I help him in return?

I'd found him on a list of the UK's top food and drink influencers and many of the others had indeed been twentysomething blonde girls – so he stood out. He's originally from the US state of Georgia, has around 16,500 Twitter followers and a healthy looking blog about food, drink and travel. He tells me that he gets around 19,000 unique views a month for the blog and has around 26,000 followers there in total. And although he is on Instagram it's not the medium where he feels the most comfortable. "One thing I pride myself on is that all my Twitter followers are real people," he says. "None of this internet echo chamber, bot stuff."

I'd thought he might be interested in 24hourlondon – I was wondering in particular if he could help us out with our competition – so I'd messaged him and had a pleasingly speedy response. So how has this worked for you, Chris?

"About ten years ago, when I started blogging, it was almost entirely for socially awkward types who had found a place where they could express themselves without having to meet people. But these days it is seen much more as a way to promote yourself and get yourself out there, especially with selfies. Back then I knew a lot of people who were online but who used pseudonyms and wouldn't want their photo taken. Now it is much more a vehicle for would-be celebrities who want to say 'this is my brand'.

"But I guess this is why I'm still in it now: I was rather taken with the medium. You don't have to submit to an editor, you don't have to write proposals and it's accessible to the whole world. I do see myself as an introvert. But I also like to meet people and I can see that it is important.

"I went to this thing called IPW earlier this year. It's America's travel industry annual conference and I went as part of the British delegation. A lot of it was cocktails and mingling to start off with, and I just found it really difficult. But then later there was something that was almost like speed-dating, where you sat down opposite people to talk about working with them. And that part was fine."

So is it a living for you?

"This year has been a good year for me because every month I've been able to cover my living expenses: we're talking about advertising and sponsorship mainly. But other work comes my way as a result too. A couple of years back I found myself working for Trip Advisor, writing lists for them: what do to with three days in London, romantic Istanbul, that kind of thing."

What's your personal goal here? What gets you out of bed in the morning? "I want to write. I want to do things that are worth writing about and I want to write about them."

This is very interesting to me as this is essentially why every newspaper journalist I've ever met went into the trade, myself included. And many of the good ones, by the way, are introverts. Chris's career looks very much to me like journalism disrupted by technology.

So why are you known as tikichris then? "Ah. Many years ago - in around 1999-2000 I had a strong interest in Hawaiian culture. There was a bulletin board called Tiki Central and I needed a handle to go on it, so it made sense in that context. I made some friends through that and moved on to MySpace and Facebook. Then when I started blogging I thought that it would be the easiest way for people to find me. It's kind of sticky, that name. People remember it. I know I've had at least one job where I wasn't the first choice but the guy who was hiring was able to remember my name better."

I'm looking forward to seeing what happens next.

* @tikichris can be found here on Twitter. His blog is here and his Instagram account is here.

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