Brendan Lowry understands how to harness the power of social media. He spends his days as the marketing director of Curalate, one of the fastest-growing tech start-ups in Philadelphia, focusing on the Instagram experience for brands. When he’s not in the office, running to meetings or attending conferences, Lowry uses his spare moments to hustle on his main side project: Peopledelphia. Taking inspiration from the well-loved Humans of New York, Lowry’s Instagram account shows the hidden layers of Philly and tells the stories of its inhabitants.
With his experience as a marketer, Lowry is equipped to cultivate engagement and build a strong online community. What shines through is his drive to generate real conversation and truly connect with the faces of Philadelphia. It’s more than just a passion project – it’s how he’s met lifelong friends and a way to stay on top of the fast-paced, ever-changing nature of the online world.
We met Lowry on a sundrenched day in Kensington, an up-and-coming Philadelphia neighbourhood, home to edgy ’grammable walls and a communal space where Lowry works and connects with other entrepreneurs. There we discussed stepping out of our comfort zone, making feedback actionable and keeping up with the rapid pace of social media.
Kit and Ace: Why did you decide to create Peopledelphia?
Brendan Lowry: I love the idea of meeting new people and hearing their stories. Most people won't recognize this, but everyone has moments in life where they think the world revolves around them – I’m guilty of this. You’re with yourself all the time, so it makes sense. As a result, it’s not second nature to realize the person you just brushed past is building their own story. The ultimate goal for Peopledelphia – and the reason I started taking candid portraits – is to inspire others to take a step back, start genuine conversations with strangers and recognize that everyone has a story.
How did you cultivate the community you have?
BL: It was an interesting challenge. I have a lot of things happening with Curalate and other projects, so I’m not able to go out and take portraits every single day. I knew this account needed a lot of content to create interest, so I not only use my own photography, but feature other artists as well. It’s really been win-win. By curating other people’s images, it allows me to share more content, drive higher engagement and grow the Peopledelphia community.
How does speed influence Peopledelphia and the social media industry?
BL: Social media allows artists and creatives to move much faster. The great thing about Instagram is if you have an idea, you can now push it out to an audience and have immediate feedback in a way that is unmatched. Content is now released out into the ecosystem for people to discover. I see 15-year-old kids who are able to share their photography and have thousands of people react to it. Instagram and its feedback loop are accelerating creativity.
Do you adjust your style based on people’s comments?
BL: Absolutely. I’m constantly scanning the type of content I’m posting and taking note of the overall interaction to get a sense of what the audience actually wants to engage with. One thing I’ve noticed is that, while Instagram is clearly all about the imagery, if you’re able to tell a compelling story, it certainly drives up engagement. I use the feedback from my posts to figure out what type of content people are responding too and I’ll focus on that for a few months.
How do people respond when you ask them to tell their story?
BL: It’s been a big challenge for me to muster up the courage to talk to a stranger. Just like with marketing and sales, you have to be comfortable with rejection. People can be a bit thrown off and you have to be able to build relationships within a matter of minutes. It’s about making them feel really comfortable and being transparent and honest about the point of Peopledelphia. I’m still learning how to help people really open up and to share their story in a creative way. I’m slowly getting better at it.
Has Peopledelphia had a profound affect on your life?
BL: I started this account because I was struggling to meet creative people in Philadelphia that I wanted to connect with – I wasn’t looking in the right places. With Peopledelphia I can reach out to anybody in the city to meet up and no one has ever said no. It’s extremely inspiring. It’s rewarding to give other artists a platform to share what they’re doing and why they’re doing it. The fact that I can embed myself into their lives for a few hours has been a lot of fun.
What single experience really stands out for you?
BL: A teacher was working on a project where she wanted to explain the concept of six degrees of separation to her students. They picked Jason Kelce from the Philadelphia Eagles and wanted to figure out how to get him to their classroom. Peopledelphia was tagged on Instagram and I regrammed their photo. Within five minutes I had a direct message from the Eagles PR team and I ended up at the school with Kelce to surprise the entire class. It was an awesome feeling to inspire these kids and bring that online connection to the offline world.
Discover more from Lowry @peopledelphia