Renters: When Bragging About Your Home Is Also Your Job

Renters: When Bragging About Your Home Is Also Your Job

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“After I graduated from high school, I spent a year looking at how people grew their followings,” said Ms. Baumberger, who, using her modeling name, Kirsten Brooke, boasts 150,000 followers on Instagram and has worked on social campaigns with Samsung and the Montauk Beach House, among others. “I learned what captions draw people in, the best times of day to post,” she said. “If you spend a while on it, you start to get the pattern and the rhythm.”

Names: Kirsten Baumberger and Austin Rogers

Ages: 20, 24Occupations: Ms. Baumberger works as a model and Mr. Rogers is on the marketing team at Bespoke Post, a men’s e-commerce start-up. The couple are also the social media managers for Herald Towers, at 50 West 34th Street, where they live, planning and shooting posts for Instagram, Twitter and Facebook. They also do social media work for other brands.Rent: $2,650 a month.Fringe benefit of their Hearst Towers position: Exploring their neighborhood is a professional obligation.Living in a Midtown studio: Is great for now. They expect to scale up at some point, possibly moving to the Upper East or Upper West Side. Hosting out-of-town guests in a studio, Ms. Baumberger cautioned, “is basically a sleepover.” Favorite nearby spots: The Harold, Bryant Park, and the Broadway French Market.How they met: On Instagram. Mr. Rogers, a student at Ohio State University, was trying to build his photography portfolio and found Ms. Baumberger on Instagram. She liked his work and after they met, discovered that she liked him, too.Manhattan vs. Brooklyn: Unlike many of their generation, the couple didn’t arrive with a deep desire to live in Brooklyn. “If you move to New York from the Midwest you want to be in Manhattan,” Ms. Baumberger said. “You want to experience it all when you’re here.”

Perhaps just as essential for someone looking to land not-so-social-media-savvy clients, Ms. Baumberger is also adept with an older communications technology: the phone.

“Kirsten is a cold-calling machine,” Mr. Rogers said admiringly of his girlfriend. At their meeting with Douglas Elliman, marketing director JR Sena liked the pair’s proposal enough to hire them as social media managers for the 690-unit building. But he countered with one of his own: What better way to represent the building than by living in it?

As luck would have it, Mr. Rogers and Ms. Baumberger had been hoping to find an apartment in Manhattan, as their studio in Crown Heights, Brooklyn, was a month-to-month Airbnb sublet. A short time later, they joined a small cadre of live-in social media influencers who mine their experiences living in a building.

Free rent, unfortunately, isn’t part of the deal. But Mr. Rogers, who declined to disclose their monthly income from the arrangement, said that while it didn’t cover their $2,650-a-month rent — more than they had been looking to pay — it helped them justify it.

The couple’s apartment is a studio with a separate kitchen. Besides their work for the building, she also models (as Kirsten Brooke) and he is on the marketing team for a men’s e-commerce start-up.

Credit
Christopher Lee for The New York Times

“The subsidy from the social pushes it over,” he said.

Their apartment is a large studio, with a separate kitchen, a short hall between the main room and the bathroom, and lots of closet space. It’s sparsely furnished — the contents of the suitcases haven’t yet been greatly augmented — with two chairs, two side tables, a desk/table and a crate that can serve as a spare seat in a pinch. The bed was an in-kind trade for some influencer work done by Ms. Baumberg.

Instagram-friendly succulents dot the room, though the couple rarely post from their own apartment. A desire to maintain a boundary between their personal and professional lives? Not quite. “The biggest concern of posting from the apartment would be fatigue,” Ms. Baumberger said. “We try to find unique things you wouldn’t see otherwise.”

Instead, their posts feature neighborhood spots like Ruby’s Cafe, Korean barbecue, kayaking on the Hudson River, or a trip to the Rizzoli Bookstore. Occasionally a cityscape shot from the building’s shared terrace may pop up, but there’s not much in the way of direct promotion.

“We want people to be like, ‘I want to move to New York,’” Ms. Baumberger said. “It’s supposed to be inspirational, to show them what it’s like to be here.”

“So that Herald Towers will be a place to look for someone moving from Nashville,” Mr. Rogers added.

Since the pair took over the posting, the Herald Towers leasing office has experienced an increase in traffic generated by social media. A studio that rented this May was the first time a deal could be directly linked to the couple’s efforts.

Of course, it’s not only social media followers the couple hope to impress with their first New York apartment, but also family and friends back in Columbus. And on that count, Hearst Towers has not disappointed.

“The neighborhood is very much what people think of when they think of New York,” Mr. Rogers said. Shortly after moving in, he popped outside to FaceTime with his family in front of Macy’s. While many 20-somethings partake in a similar ritual, trying to convince dubious parents that Hell’s Kitchen or Bushwick are very desirable places to be these days, Mr. Rogers’ family needed no such persuasion.

“They were like, ‘Is that the Empire State Building in the background?!’” he said.

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