Southern charm is the first thing that comes to mind when speaking with social influencer Daniel Bear Hunley. His friendly temperament and slight drawl naturally draw attention. A military child, Hunley has no real home state to call his own; he has lived all over the southern United States, including rural western Kentucky and Tennessee. This foundation has greatly influenced his Pinterest page, which now has more than 1.5 million followers.
We caught up with Hunley, who recently was asked to serve as a guest pinner forCoca-Cola.
IN YOUR OWN WORDS, WHAT DO YOU DO?
I’m a social influencer, which means I work on building up a large following centered on a couple of themes. For me, I’ve always liked collecting things on Pinterest that a Southern guy might be interested in posting. I post all sorts of content including food, which is one of my favorite things, men’s style, and home interiors. A lot of the things that are already shared on Pinterest are things I like to share. But I tend to share the ones that fit with a guys’ aesthetic.
I’M A TUMBLR GIRL – I DON’T DO PINTEREST. BUT I’LL GO ON AND REPOST THINGS IN MY SPARE TIME. I FIND IT RATHER RELAXING. WHY DID YOU CHOOSE PINTEREST OVER TUMBLR?
When I was in college, I wanted to work in an advertising agency. I knew that the easiest path into an agency for me would be through social media. When both of us, you and I, were graduating, it really wasn’t… easy. It was the part of advertising that agencies were giving to young guys and girls coming out of college because they were the ones who knew how to do it. So I joined pretty much every single site at that point, and something about Pinterest just hit and took hold. I wasn’t trying to create a massive following… it kind of just happened on its own.
HOW EXACTLY DID IT HAPPEN? DID YOU JUST WAKE UP ONE DAY WITH 1 MILLION FOLLOWERS?
Actually, kind of. I’ll never forget… there was this period of time in 2011 right before Christmas where I had just quit using it for about a month. And then I got a call from a friend asking, “How did you get 100,000 followers?” I logged on really quickly and was like, “How did this happen?” From then on, it just kept growing and growing.
SO YOU REALLY HAVE NO IDEA HOW IT HAPPENED? YOU WEREN’T FEATURED ON SOMETHING? OR WRITTEN ABOUT?
I now know what happened. Anyone who has a major following on a social media site has been given that following by the platform. I was one of the recommended follows for people who signed up for the site. So everyone who was a recommended user was using Pinterest correctly in Pinterest’s eyes. And they all had a different aesthetic. So I’m a good poster child for them.
AND THEY DIDN’T TELL YOU? IT JUST HAPPENED?
Yep, and afterward I felt an intense sense of responsibility about it. I realized it was a really awesome opportunity to continue building it. I know a lot of people who have large followings that don’t do anything with them and I think it’s a really missed opportunity. It has opened up a lot of doors for me professionally.
So what I’m doing right now with Coca-Cola is a great example. I find brands that fit with the types of stuff that I’m pinning already, and I either create content for them that would go well on the website, or curate content they already have and make a promotion that I share out – a collection of images that go out over a certain amount of time.
SO WHAT ARE YOU DOING FOR COKE?
I made 23 images for Coca-Cola. I photographed and styled all of them and they’ll be going out over the course of the next month. This project is kind of on the larger side of projects I normally do.
I’VE GOTTEN TO SEE THE PHOTOS BEFORE THEY GO UP, AND THEY’RE AMAZING. I WOULD TOTALLY RE-POST THESE ON TUMBLR ON MY OWN BLOG. WHERE DID YOU TAKE THESE? AT YOUR HOUSE?
Some of them were at my boyfriend’s house. Some of them were at a campground here in Nashville where I live, and some of them were at my actual house too.
THE PHOTOS OF THE INTERIOR SHOTS WITH THE DOG ARE AMAZING. THEY’RE BEAUTIFULLY STYLED.
That’s my boyfriend’s house. He is pretty talented.
I’LL SAY! CAN HE COME AND DO MY PLACE? SO THERE ARE SOME SHOTS OF YOU MAKING FOOD. WHAT WERE YOU MAKING?
Oh! I was making barbeque chicken with Coca-Cola Barbeque sauce. That’s going to go on my blog. Coca-Cola will be the first sponsored post.
OFF THE RECORD, DEPENDING ON THE ANSWER, IS THE RECIPE GOOD?
Oh yeah! It really was! That recipe is round five of making that BBQ sauce. I tinkered with it. I looked at a whole lot of recipes that used Coca-Cola in them. I looked for the common denominators in each of the recipes and set out to make my own. Because I like making things more difficult than it needs to be, I made a number of them and chose the best one. The recipe will be on my blog so look out for that!
HOW DID YOUR HISTORY WITH COCA-COLA BEGIN?
My grandfather had a “Buy Coca-Cola” sign in his tire store, which has been operating from the time it opened about 50 years ago. I remember as a child going into his office and asking for quarters to buy a Coke from the Coke machine in his shop. My family loves Coca-Cola. I think my family was the single largest purchasers of Diet Coke in the city of Jackson, Tennessee. I’m almost sure that Coca-Cola would have collapsed without my family’s participation.
NOW I WANT TO ASK YOU SOME RAPID-FIRE QUESTIONS. FIRST, WHAT’S YOUR FAVORITE FOOD TO MAKE?
I really like grilling a whole chicken. It’s called spatchcock chicken. You want to make sure that the legs get cooked at a higher temperature than the chicken breast
so you have to split the chicken.
FAVORITE PIECE OF DESIGN – WHETHER ARTWORK, FURNITURE, ETC.?
I really love anything made out of leather so old leather Chesterfield sofas, club chairs, etc. If I had the money, I’d have one in every single room.
FINALLY, IF YOU COULD SHARE A COKE WITH ANYONE IN THE WORLD – PAST, PRESENT OR FUTURE – WHO WOULD IT BE AND WHY?
This one is tough. I would probably share a Coke with Julia Child, because I have read a lot of the stuff she’s written, watched a lot of the TV shows she’s done, and
she’s taught me a lot about a subject that is very important to me. I would have loved to meet her and tell her how appreciative I am for her.
IT SEEMS LIKE YOU REALLY LOVE COOKING?
I grew up reading Southern Living because it was the magazine of choice for my grandparents and my mother. I was steeped in this tradition of being really proud to be a Southerner. I have an aunt from the Northeast, and we always playfully joke about her being a Yankee. Being in that environment, has really shaped my aesthetic – especially in food. My grandmother lives in Columbus, Mississippi, and has been cooking her entire life. She has so many recipes that have passed down. She’s taught me a number of tricks throughout my life. I think having that experience has been paramount in my curation. My upbringing has been so wrapped up in the South.
I RELATE SO WELL TO YOUR AUNT BEING A YANKEE MYSELF. IT IS A WHOLE DIFFERENT WORLD DOWN SOUTH. ANYWAY, YOU’RE VERY TALENTED, AND I’M REALLY EXCITED TO SEE THE COKE PINS YOU’VE MADE!
Thanks so much. It was a really fun project.