HONY’s 6 million followers and counting

6.3 million followers on Facebook. Over 1 million followers on Instagram. Millions of visitors to the website per day.

‘Humans of New York’ or ‘HONY’ for short is the story of an overnight social media success. You may have heard of this fast growing viral sensation, you may not of; but what I can promise you is that once you take a look, you’ll be hooked. You’ll keep scrolling until you run out of time. What Brandon Stanton has so beautifully done is capture the heart, mind and attention of an online audience craving authenticity.

HONY who?

This extract is direct from the Humans of New York website:

My name is Brandon and I began Humans of New York in the summer of 2010. I thought it would be really cool to create an exhaustive catalogue of New York City’s inhabitants, so I set out to photograph 10,000 New Yorkers and plot their photos on a map…somewhere along the way, HONY began to take on a much different character. I started collecting quotes and short stories from the people I met, and…Taken together, these portraits and captions became the subject of a vibrant blog. With nearly four million followers on social media, HONY now provides a worldwide audience with daily glimpses into the lives of strangers in New York City.

Humans of New York became an viral sensation around the world offering insights into the lives and stories of ordinary people walking the streets of a city that has fascinated millions for years.

I want 6 million followers. How do I get 6 million followers?

From a branding perspective, it’s fascinating story. Here are 3 key truths that I have taken from the HONY story.

1. The power of the pivot

To pivot is to turn or change direction. Brandon started off taking photos. He then created a Facebook page to post those photos, primarily of New York. It wasn’t until he paired stories and photographs of real people that things began to take off. Humans of New York is the result of a series of pivots to his original idea and one began to catch on. Often we don’t realise we’re doing it but pivoting is powerful.

2. The power of authenticity and stories

What I love about the world today is the craving that we as people have for authenticity. Real stories attract us. We love movies. We follow celebrities. But the idea of real people in a real city with real stories. Now that’s something that we connect with on a deeper level and we can’t help but be drawn in to the lives and emotions of these people that Brandon Shoots. It wasn’t until Brandon began providing insight into the people he was shooting, their lives, their stories, their emotions, their struggles and their fears that things began to explode.

 3. Different captures attention

Brandon takes nice photos but he is by no means the world’s best photographer. Brandon shoots people but they are by no means the world’s most beautiful people. What has captured the attention of the online world is that it was so vastly different to everyone else online, and when something is both different and good, people pay attention.

The path ahead

4 years in, it’ll be very interesting to see where this online brand goes. It to date has felt very organic and authentic. My hope is that it remains that way.

Want to check him out?


HONY Facebook 
HONY Instagram
The Website
Buy the book on Amazon