social media | Jan 10, 2024 |
Marco Zamora is using social media to establish his brand—his design business is next

In Ask an Influencer, Business of Home explores the creator economy. This week, we spoke with Marco Zamora, the content creator behind @want.zamora.

What does it take to build a million-follower audience in a little over a year? For Marco Zamora, it involved opening the floodgates on years of pent-up creative energy. In late 2022, he was fully enmeshed in the corporate world, working as a civil engineer despite a lifelong love of art and architecture. After college and a few years in the field, he had just moved to Los Angeles, where he had his first apartment to himself.

“That move is really what started everything,” Zamora says. “I got to experiment for the first time with buying my own furniture, decorating my own space, and really curating it to be mine. Along with that, it was like, ‘OK, well, I want to share some of these things with people on social media.’”

Crucially, he decided to let the dialogue flow both ways. With his design perspective guiding the way, he implemented follower suggestions in real time: to add a color stain to his armoire, to paint his kitchen Parisian yellow, to buy a new bed. With his apartment functioning as a living design laboratory, Zamora continually ups the ante—partnering with makers on unique projects his followers are inspired to re-create. The formula was an instant success: Today, he has a following of one million on Instagram and over 650,000 on TikTok.

Ahead, he shares why he’s resisting the advice to churn out content, how a viral video spawned a Banana Republic collaboration, and why his first hire is taking over the business side of his operation.

When did you find a content strategy that worked for you?
The biggest growth happened when this really became my job and I could fully devote my energy to it. Once I was able to clear up more time, I was able to really harness my art form and create little art pieces—that’s how I see each video.

Marco Zamora is using social media to establish his brand—his design business is next
A living room by Marco ZamoraCourtesy of Marco Zamora

March 2023 was a very big month for me. Right after I decided to go full-time into content, I took a trip to Mexico City—I’m fully Mexican—and I just got so much inspiration, especially from an architect I admire, Luis Barragán. After going to visit some of his projects, it really inspired me to create and harness my culture and what makes me uniquely me. When I got back, I started my kitchen renovation project. I took a boring white kitchen—this very traditional renovated kitchen that didn’t have much character or hominess—and I transformed that step by step and took it to something that felt very original to me.

I love looking at Architectural Digest and beautiful projects that other interior designers and architects create, but I also acknowledge that a lot of that is hard to make accessible for everyone else. For that project, specifically, I told myself that I wanted to really make it as accessible and affordable as I could. I added a doorframe with a transom window, and I found this really cool technique where you create faux stained glass with a little kit that you find on Amazon. It has been so special to see so many people do what I did and take that in different directions. It definitely shows the power of social media and the impact you can create.

Your series around “deinfluencing” viral home items—where you debunk the hype around “must have” decor pieces and furniture—is one of your most popular. What was the idea behind that?
Trends have been around forever, but in 2020, we saw this growth and movement of a lot of trends coming in and out quickly. Trends can be a good thing—a lot of people will talk about them in a negative connotation, but they can be an amazing opportunity to experiment and to learn. But at the same time, I don't think it should be something where you feel the pressure to change your home or your style because of what is in right now. I wasn’t the first one to do that series—I had seen a lot of other creators do it in different niches—but I wanted to take a spin on that and do it in the home world. There were a lot of good responses because in those types of videos, I’m able to really express my thoughts, whether favorable or not, and people like that. On social media, people like people who have an opinion on things. That’s what sets you apart and makes you unique.

Many of your videos are direct responses to follower comments or suggestions. What’s your policy on fielding comments and DMs?
Anytime I see something—a comment or an idea—and it’s a cool rendition of what I was doing, I love exploring that. That’s what social media is: It’s about building a community, expanding on ideas and adding your own spin. I love replying to comments.

Do you have any other strategies around posting content?
Whatever I’m putting out, I want it to be intentional, and I want it to have meaning behind it and inspire. When you create quality content that you’re putting thought and process and time into, you really do create this piece of art. There’s a big push for, “You have to put out two videos per day, or a video per day.” You totally can do that, but specifically for the home world, things move a little slower, so I like to move a little slower too.

When you’re stumped for content ideas, how do you get inspired?
I keep a little Notes file on my phone with all of these ideas for projects I want to create. I get ideas just by absorbing and exploring. I recently did a video about how I acquired almost a thousand vintage Architectural Digest magazines, and I love going through those and picking inspiration from decades of architecture and design history. I got them from Facebook Marketplace. It’s actually such a cool story: It was this gentleman’s dad; he had passed away, [and] he was a writer and an artist, and he collected a bunch of Architectural Digest and Vanity Fair magazines. He posted on Facebook and said he wanted to get them to someone that would appreciate this collection. For me it’s like, Oh, my God, this is perfect. I took on this big career change and I always dreamed of being an architect, so what better way to learn and get inspiration?

Do you work with management?
I’m not represented right now, but I’m expanding my team. I recently brought on my sister to work full-time with me, so we’re partners now. I’m trying to be very smart about when I bring on management, and who I bring on as well. Because I have a corporate background, I’m used to reading contracts and negotiating, and I’m able to handle that side. As you scale, though, it does make sense, [especially] when having conversations around books, TV, product development and licensing deals—then I think it is important to look for management. I just want to make sure that the team I bring on is a good fit.

I have my degree in engineering and background as a project manager, and my goal is to have my own interior design firm or potentially do a design/build firm, and to have that as a separate business from social media. So, it’s also about making sure I partner with a talent management company that has the experience and knowledge in the home and interior design world.

What role did you hire your sister for?
She currently is handling the business side of social media—negotiations, partnerships, plus helping me expand my business—so, those bigger conversations around product development, taking on interior design clients.

What does your business look like on social media?
My main source of revenue is from brand deals. I’m working as an affiliate with Amazon and different brands as well. There are also creator funds [that platforms use to directly compensate content creators], which is part of my revenue. I have taken on a few consultation clients. But throughout this year, I’ve really been focusing on continuing to build my social media. Next year, I’m planning on expanding to in-person design services, as well as online consultations.

Marco Zamora is using social media to establish his brand—his design business is next
A kitchen by Marco ZamoraCourtesy of Marco Zamora

How do you choose which brands to work with?
So far, brands have reached out to me, and I’m so thankful that’s been the case. The whole world of social media is constantly growing; there’s a lot of nuance and a lot of unknowns. Especially when it comes to rates and deliverables and that sort of stuff, there’s a lot of flexibility. When I first got started, I was reaching out to friends or people that I knew in the industry to set a baseline, and then you just learn as you go.

It is an interesting world in the sense that I fully understand that the reason why I’m doing what I’m doing is because of my audience, my followers, and because they’re engaged in my content. It’s a community that I built, but there’s also the business side of social media, so you have to balance the two. In any partnership I take on, I want to make sure it’s very authentic to me and my brand and that I can stand behind it. That’s where you can go wrong in social media, when you start selling or standing behind things you don’t necessarily stand behind in real life. Sometimes that does mean passing on really good opportunities that are going to bring in money. But for me, the way I see it is that in the long term, it all pays off—the community that you’re building is so much more important than one brand deal.

Your recent collaboration with Banana Republic went viral on social media. How did that begin?
It was very organic. I partnered with Los Angeles–based artist Juan Renteria (@elcreativo.la) because I had this vision the year before to create this tinsel tree, which went completely viral, and this year I was like, “I want to do something special again, but I really want to shake it up and do something different.” I had the idea of doing a floating tree, and I wanted to incorporate florals, but I also wanted to keep the design renter-friendly, to keep it on brand and make it accessible, so I used shower tension rods in between my [ceiling] beams to suspend the tree—that way, I didn’t need to make holes in my ceiling. For the partnership, Juan had been following me for some time, and it was one of those things where it was like, “Oh, my God, I’ve been thinking of this, and I didn’t know who to partner with, and here he comes messaging me.”

We created the floating tree, and then Banana Republic saw our video and wanted us to replicate it in their store. There was some back-and-forth, because we had to make sure that it could be brought off by [their] visuals team, [but] we executed it—the tree was almost three times the size of the one in my apartment. And I’m so happy with the results, and the brand is so happy with how everything turned out. It was such a cool win-win, for sure. The [original] video is almost at 10 million views on Instagram, and the Banana Republic video is almost at 7 million. Since posting those videos, I’ve also gotten tagged a bunch of times from people re-creating the tree or adding their own twist to it. It’s so cool to see the impact and how quickly it’s moving across the world.

What are you working on right now?
[I’ve launched] an art collection partnered with Antonia Figueiredo, a Brazilian artist based in Lisbon, Portugal. We collaborated with this collection that consists of four pieces, and I’m so excited to share it with everyone. Bigger picture, I’m so excited to continue to collaborate with other artists. There was so much positivity with my first partnership with Juan, and [this is another] I’ve been working on for a few months now. It really brings out everyone’s strong suits and highlights different creators. That’s something I’m excited to continue doing in the new year.

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