Food Reviews

Peep THIS Out!

How My Interests and Talents Made Me A Versatile Content Creator.

Full-Time Creator
July 31, 2020

Who are you and what kind of content do you create?


Hello! My name is Ian K, Creator, Producer, and Host of Peep THIS Out Reviews on YouTube. It’s what I like to call a High-Quality Foodie Feature Review Channel specializing in the up-close-and-personal looks/opinions of the latest Fast Food trends with some local spots thrown into the mix. There’s also Weekly Livestreaming on Friday Nights where I’m able to further connect with my audience and what an audience it is! Lots of amazing members of our growing community that hang with me for an hour or so where I usually do live food reviews with plenty of Q&A. It’s my way to spend quality time with the people who continue to make my Channel what it is and I’m grateful for the opportunity.


I’m based out of Pasadena, CA, where I’ve lived for more than 25+ years. I’m pretty much about 40min from some of the most popular places in Southern California so I definitely get around, but I’ve networked with many places closer to home so I’m able to balance my travel time. That’s a good thing too because I’m a one-man show when it comes to what I do! I’ve created every aspect of my brand over these last 6+ years from the ground up so that balance not only includes travel but also the planning, filming, and promoting aspects of running the channel. Ensuring the timely release of my content to coincide with the release of what I’m reviewing along with keeping the quality up to the standards that people expect is a consistent focus. I’m always trying to learn, always trying to get better which means I’m ALWAYS doing something with respect to my channel every day!


This has been a passion project for me since its creation back in August 2013 but my interest in what I do goes back a bit farther, though I didn’t know it at the time. As a Broadcast Journalism Major in College, I’ve always had an interest in the topic so I went through that program getting used to cameras, writing news, and editing on the equipment of the time. Completing the required internship in order to get my Bachelor of Science Degree in Communication, it was here that I decided to apply to the Marketing Department of the Wireless Carrier I was working for at the time. I had a chance to see how things were done behind the scenes with respect to commercial filming/writing along with other small side projects. 


Not long after, my company asked me to be a point person for some T.V. Shows as it related to product placement/education. I got to see Keifer Sutherland and the rest of the cast in action filming on “24” for a couple of seasons up in Chatsworth, CA, along with assisting with other T.V. related content. I was instantly fascinated with the process and, given my prior schooling, even more, interested in pursuing something related. Fast forward a few years and things became a little clearer to me when my niece sent me a video of someone reviewing food in a comedic way on YouTube. That led me down a rabbit hole of other related content where I ultimately decided to get involved. I bought a MacBook Air and a SONY Handycam and that’s when it all became real. I was invested now.


First Channel Trailer (2014)


Let's go down memory lane, tell us your backstory! 

I knew I wanted to review food as the main focus, but I also wanted to have what I thought would be more varied content at the time so I focused on a few niche categories. I envisioned more of a variety channel with a little something for everyone based on my topic choices i.e. Food, Movies, Tech, T.V. That was the easy part. Coming up with a channel name wasn’t! What would I call it? As it turns out, that’s where my Mom comes in as she helped with what would ultimately be called “Peep THIS Out!” on YouTube. Peeps Marshmallows are some of her favorites and as she was eating some when I was talking with her about channel name ideas, “peep this out” kind of clicked as it’s a play on “check this out.” Peeps references your eyes so I really liked that. I would later add “Reviews” to the title down the road once it was obvious that my food reviews were gaining more traction and I was creatively advancing my outlet of that category. I also wanted the name to be even more specific. 


As I was navigating my early days on YouTube, I was still working full time for the same Wireless Carrier and when that came to end after 17+ years of employment, I decided to keep continuing my journey online while pursuing interests that could make better use of my talents. I’ve always loved technology given I had worked in Mobile for many years and with my Journalism / Communication Training in College, I was able to effectively write and tell a story. Watching the behind-the-scenes on the T.V. Shows I was briefly involved with prior also assisted in the further experience of the process. I just needed to keep growing my skill set on-camera as I self-taught myself on the first iMovie for Mac and then Final Cut Pro X. 


I was told once that if you want to BE the next level, you have to ACT like the next level so I’ve always conducted myself in that manner. I believe it’s important to do whatever it is you do to the best of your ability. Shine brightly because, at the end of the day, you’re responsible for the person staring back at you in the mirror. Strive to keep that person happy, focused, and determined to keep that needle moving forward. Don’t look back...too much. I’ve invested in the process and I’ve doubled down on the presentation of it treating my Channel as if it has millions of subscribers because I can envision that one day. If you believe you already have that, it makes it easier to stay motivated because you’re delivering to your base no matter the number. I try to make the next piece of content even better than the last as it’s all about evolving.  


It was here that things began to accelerate and after a few side gigs here and there, I was securing some brand deals that really helped boost my confidence in that companies were seeing value in what I’d created and that it could also help their own brand by enlisting mine in some way. Having worked directly in some fashion with McDonald’s, Arby’s, Taco Bell, El Pollo Loco and Carl’s Jr. along with having relationships with some the marketing departments with other chains who continually reach out regarding local events that come up from time-to-time, I’m grateful for those experiences as it furthers the growth and expansion of what I do. 


How do you brainstorm ideas for your content and your advice in getting the creative juice flowing.

One of the great things about being a Food Reviewer is that there’s literally an unlimited amount of content that you can create since the menus at various restaurants and drive-thrus are packed with choice. Naturally, focusing on the newest items first definitely garners almost immediate attention because once companies launch their own advertising campaigns for their products, interest is peaked and people tend to search them out online.


Given the amount of networking and research that I do, I definitely have my feelers out there and that helps with the planning of my content. I have a rough idea of when items are coming and, aside from a few surprises that tend to pop in there from time-to-time, I can block out my schedule usually about 2 weeks out. Should anything arrive earlier ahead of what I already have in place, I simply pivot to make room. It’s a little bit more work given the time it takes me to create each piece of content, but I love it so much that what normally turns into 2+ Reviews weekly sometimes can reach as high as 4 plus any live streaming for the week too.


The important takeaway here is that while focusing on the new items in my particular niche is always the first thing to consider, the other is that regular menu items can be of value review-wise for my audience too. There’s ALWAYS something to take a look at and chances are creating a piece of content on something that’s been around a while will almost assuredly benefit someone in the community. I try to keep my portfolio rounded with that type of content on top of the current trends that will always be appealing to viewers searching for them.

What are the tools and platforms you use to help with your brand?

When it comes to the various Content Creator Tools and Platforms out there, I settled on Mac ahead of Windows early on given its reputation in the entertainment field. Being a Windows guy previously having built my own computers for gaming back in the day, I literally had to self teach myself the Mac platform which admittedly wasn’t too overly difficult. With that said, I had never used any of the current editing software suites on either platform out there so iMovie was also completely new to me as well. After a couple of weeks or so, I was having a lot of fun with it while getting more comfortable and soon thereafter I was experimenting with green screen, plug-ins, etc. Things would only increase from that point when I upgraded to Final Cut Pro X and never looked back. I’m continually trying to push my creativity in the content and learning how to make that happen in the post using the power of Final Cut is always a blast. 


My major support platforms of choice for all the artistic parts of the channel include some awesome websites like Picmonkey (templates, graphics, text, design, photo editing), Lunapic (PNG manipulation and other graphic related needs), Flaming Text (Logo Graphics and design), Fiverr (Direct graphic artist help) and The Creator by Laughing Bird Software (Thumbnail graphic design). I’m very big on using official company logos along with any marketing images in my content because I always aim for that professional look. Generally speaking, what you see in my content is what you can expect to find should you get the same product I’m reviewing. It also helps to stand out and differentiate yourself in a crowded space too. My favorite scheduling tool that helps with all my social media blasting is definitely HootSuite. Whenever a new review launches, there is always an Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter post to go along with it. 3 hours later an IG Story Post and 6 hours later a 30-second clip also on Instagram. I base those times on when I know my audience is most available to watch and that comes from analyzing my analytics.


Every aspect of my Channel has been created with the idea of keeping a consistent visual look that transfers across my social media platforms. Viewers who visit my YouTube Channel, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Patreon will see the same distinct look so they know they’re in the right place. Branding is extremely important and the more focused and recognizable it is to your audience will only help solidify what I hope is a lasting impression. Whenever I update one aspect of my branding whether it’s a Channel Banner or other visual element, I always make that change across the board so everything matches. You always want your message to clear no matter the platform.

 

What were your fears starting out? How did you handle it? 

When I look back on my early content creating days, I wouldn’t say there were any real fears that I was dealing with leading up to making my first video. If anything, I was extremely excited at the possibilities because, as with anything new, it seems pretty exciting to me. I suppose one aspect I was nervous about was hoping I was charting a course that would be fruitful. I was more and more excited as I was getting better at video editing, working on my camera presence, and overall growing my skill set. Also, I was making content at the time that I really wanted to make. You have to have fun doing what you’re doing and by enjoying the process while learning, it meant my consistency in creating content would there, and should my audience grow, that would be a benefit for everyone.


As my audience grew and more and more of my content was getting noticed, so too did an influx of comments...both positive and some not so. That’s expected. Now chances are, there will always be more positive comments than negative and, thankfully, that’s been the case for me overall. I’ve never been affected by anything negative directed towards me primarily because while everyone is entitled to their opinion, it’s just that...THEIR opinion. ‘Ya gotta have a little bit of a thick skin if you’re on YouTube. If you’re putting something out there into the public space, it’s going to be judged no matter what and there will always be some in the community who are more vocal than others. Truth is, I’m too focused on the ultimate goal of making my Channel as successful as it can possibly be to let an anonymous comment affect me in any way. Besides, they say if you don’t have any haters, you haven’t arrived so I guess I’m doing OK! ;-)  

How did you build your brand to where it is now, take us through your process.

When it comes to the building of my brand, the main avatar was the first point of focus I worked on as soon as I knew what my Channel name would be along with the type of content I’d be making. I wanted a recognizable main avatar image that people would know was mine when they saw one of my reviews. The idea of a detective, who I call “‘Lil Ike,” actually started out a lot different from what he is today. I went through a few different changes with a graphic artist whom I was working with on Fiverr. Unfortunately, the original avatar I started with turned out to be an existing design so I immediately changed gears and went for a more stylized “anime” look and had the final image copyrighted to ensure I was covered.


 

Avatar Branding Evolution


Fast forward about a year from launch and everything was in place with content coming out about 2X/week. I was slowly growing and making new friends in the Food Review space, many whom I’m still in contact with today. Working early on with Ken Domik from KBD Productions TV, who was a big influence, along with communicating with Daym Drops definitely added a layer of support/experience to my humble beginnings as I’m continuing to write the story of my Channel. I’m always honing my craft trying to deliver bigger and better content with each release and try my best to keep pushing that needle forward. Let’s just say that I take what I do very seriously! ;-) It would be about 2 years from the start of my Channel when I’d have my first viral video, BK’s Mac ‘N Cheetos Review. That kickstarted an increase in the number of daily subscribers and overall exposure to my Channel and it’s led to solid growth month-over-month since.



By the time August rolls around, I’ll have been on YouTube for 7 years with new content released multiple times each week since Day 1. When I look back on the early days, I can totally appreciate the experience I went through to make my Channel what it is today. It’s hard work, but it’s FUN work too! In fact, I wouldn’t really call it work because it really is a passion project for me. I take what I do seriously always creating to deliver the best each and every time while working to make each piece of content stronger than the last. 


It took about a year to get to the 1,000 Subscriber mark and I remember how that felt because I’ve gotten the SAME FEELING with each 1000 Sub Milestone since. It’s extremely humbling, to say the least because I consider my community/audience a portion of my extended family. Interacting with the community on live stream reinforces that for me. For an average guy who reviews food in his car, I’m humbled by the direct messages from viewers thanking me for helping to distract them from something they may be going through even for just a few minutes at a time. The fact that what I do resonates with some people on that level really warms my heart. It absolutely means a great deal to me. 


For someone who wants to get into content creation, what is your advice?

Looking back on what I probably would’ve done differently in the beginning, I suppose I should’ve listened to my most dominant thought in that the category that appealed to me the most, in this case, FOOD, is what I should’ve focused more intensely on right out the gate. Targeting a specific niche and focusing on it is the way to go and while the excitement of creating a channel that I thought would appeal to a wide audience was the main reason for choosing the variety format, ultimately as I continued it became evident what was garnering the most interest. In the early days of most anything, you see what works, what doesn’t, and then you pivot. Once you do that, things will begin to get a lot, and pivoting to the next step will be even easier. It’s all about evolving your content as your own skills begin to mature/evolve. Comparing my content today with what it was, in the beginning, is a clear indication of how far things have progressed not just from my technical level, but from the presentation, delivery and focus in each review.


Thinking back on it, while I did have a decent amount of content in the other categories of my Channel, I always came back to FOOD and that’s what excited me the most.

Focusing on what excites you the most after a fair amount of reflection within will ultimately bring that part of the eventual journey into focus.

For Creators just starting out or for those already traveling down their own YouTube path with established content, the early days are always about experimentation in your chosen niche. Everyone’s journey is different so it’s important to listen to your audience, research your most popular content and attempt to replicate key aspects of it in newer videos while also working to improve your skillset in delivery, presentation, storytelling, editing, etc. We all want a “well-oiled machine” so by giving adequate attention to each part of that machine a.k.a. the creative/learning process, you are actually guaranteeing that it will be.


Another major point to keep in mind is to know your audience. Who are you serving and what value are you providing? Is the content being delivered in a dynamic way and if I were to watch it back myself, would you understand the message or point of why the content was made in the first place? Is what you’re doing going to make a difference to my audience, will it elicit a response and will it be engaging enough that they’ll want to comment on it? For me, the goal is to Enlighten, Inform and Entertain so if I can produce a review that gives you an understanding of what I’m looking at while doing it in a dynamic way through bother delivery AND presentation, in the end, I will have hopefully given my audience a little bit of foodie entertainment that they can take something away from...and come back to see more of! ;-)

How did you finally commit to X platform rather than your regular day job?

I think most of us have dreams of being our own boss and as things began to wind down in my previous career, I began to do a little more soul searching because I wanted to be happier, more in control of my future and less fearful of it at the same time. I was always told never to invest 120% of yourself into something you don’t own and while I totally understood that, I always did the very best I could which translated into doing that 120% only I didn’t feel like I was going anywhere anymore. Things had to change and when they finally did, so too did the lessening of that initial fear because things were now REAL and all those thoughts about “What if?” were now “OK, we’re doing this!” This was MY time and while sometimes you may not feel ready when “life happens,” all you can do is adjust your sails to some degree because you change the motion of the ocean. 


I’ve always believed I was meant for bigger and better things and it was finally time to put what I was truly capable of into practice while continuing to hone my skills. This meant leaving my old comfortable way of thinking in the past because what I was used to for so long was no longer there...and that was both EXCITING and TERRIFYING! Remember Tom Hanks at the end of CASTAWAY where he was at a crossroad wondering which way to go? That’s exactly what it felt like. Look for another structured career opportunity and continue down the same path I’d been conditioned from since Day One of that lifestyle or make a NEW Day One where I can choose my own path navigating the waters maybe a little blindly but with a focused passion heading towards that small glimmer of light in the distance that I could just maybe lead to greater self-fulfillment and overall happiness.

 

Of course, embarking on what I considered an entrepreneurial journey was a little scary for me in the beginning since I was used to so much structure over my 17+ years of Wireless Carrier employment. Still, that fear didn’t keep me from trying since the idea of a possible future where I was in control, working on my time all while doing something that could hopefully make a small difference to some while also bringing me creative satisfaction.

Tell us your best milestones in being a content creator.

Aside from the Mac ‘N Cheetos Review that went viral, the increased exposure of my Channel and Brand was beginning to catch the eyes of companies that have enlisted my help with a few projects. The following 5 milestone videos really helped to add to my overall experience in talking to market agencies/decision-makers and it further assisted in keeping my journey focused as I was producing my regular content.


Producing a sponsored behind-the-scenes video for McDonald’s highlighting some new products along with innovations they were putting in place to keep competitive in the fast-food market was A LOT of fun. Thanks to this first sponsored piece of content, I was able to seriously upgrade my camera equipment so this really helped to further improve my presentation.

 

I’d work with McDonald’s again a couple of years later producing some content for their Fresh Beef National Launch showcasing another behind-the-scenes video on how that process was implemented. It was also a great networking opportunity in that I met a lot of the upper management folks for the organization, both Regional and National. Again, lots of fun!



Flying to Atlanta, GA, to produce content on a special promo for Arby’s was a major shift outside of my comfort zone. It really opened my eyes in terms of broadening my horizons to enhancing my own future content as my Channel was growing. Meeting the great management and marketing folks along with other Influencers, many whom I keep in contact with today, was definitely a bonus!



Being part of a select few to help get the word out on Beyond Meat launching at Carl’s Jr. was yet another event to help add experience to the overall history of my Channel and Brand. It was another great exercise in navigating the needs and requests of the client while creating engaging content that my audience was used to seeing. Being able to give my honest opinion on the product was also a plus.



An on-camera interview for El Pollo Loco filmed in Los Angeles discussing the Tapatio Hot Sauce Brand given their partnership for promotion was another fun and exciting event to participate in. My reviews got the attention of the Ad Agency representing El Pollo Loco and I was able to give a little insight that appeared on their Social Media platforms.



The professional experience from those 4+ pieces of content along with over 1000+ Reviews currently on my Channel has led to a milestone that I’m continually proud of each day and that’s the growing size of my base. With currently over 28,000+ Subscribers, I’m gearing up to celebrate that BIG 30K very soon. None of this would be possible without the support of my audience who continue to subscribe each day and share my work as they put their faith in the content that I deliver multiple times each week.  It’s a very humbling feeling to know that what you create affects people in a profound way and in this current day and age, I’m grateful to be able to “distract” in a positive way.


At the end of the day, I’m just an average guy giving his opinion on what I’m eating in my car but on a broader scale, I’m connected with people on a level that makes it personal for them and, hopefully, relatable as someone genuine who they might want to share a table with at lunch. That greater level of awareness is in the background of my thinking when I’m producing my content and it’s an important part of my finished reviews. Smiling is infectious and keeping things upbeat and “moving” really helps to bring viewers into the experience even if it’s for just a few minutes at a time. Making sure my content is polished with official company logos, graphics, green screen elements, sound mixing, and color balancing also ensures that the presentation is strong and matches the detailed information being delivered. I want my viewers to have a clear understanding of what they just watched and if they learned a little something from delivery of the content along with maybe cracking a smile or 3, I will have done my job. 

What are your marketing strategies to grow your brand?

Marketing is an on-going thing and it definitely helps to branch out whenever possible from the usual sites that most everyone uses i.e. Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, etc. From the get-go on Day 1, those have been my main avenues but as my Channel began to get bigger, I wanted to have a dedicated website to act as a companion to it. Utilizing WIX, I created my site (www.peepthisoutreviews.com) and I’ve been tinkering with it every so often. The idea was to have content that related to my regular reviews and, as time went on, I began to filter much of my reviews and/or products that I may mention in my content to the site. I’m actually due for an update soon too since I’ve recently changed my YouTube Channel Banner Art and with keeping with the consistency aspect across my platforms, I want to make sure everything looks the same. Participating in like-minded Facebook groups was something I did for a while early on too and that is something I may want to return to at some point. What I’m finding now is that I’m contacted so much for various things on top of the networking I do around town with the various places I do reviews on that I just don’t have the time as I used to when I was starting out. Putting out 3+ pieces of content each week in the way that I do them has been translating into the organic growth I’ve been striving for since the beginning, but it also takes up a lot of time. The thing is I definitely love it so I don’t mind it all, though I wish I had more hours in a day! 


The Admin portion of my Channel i.e. once a review is finished and ready for release is usually an additional 1 - 2 hours. That includes bulk Social Media Posts, launch scheduling/timing, closed captioning, translating into different languages, etc. As a Content Creator, you wear a lot of different hats so creating a streamlined system to help you take care of those important tasks is ultra important. After 6+ years, I think I have it down pretty well. All this translates into fully focused launched content that’s visible everywhere that it needs to be and in its most optimized form, something that YouTube recognizes. By utilizing all the main tools on the YouTube Platform along with your own customized “behind-the-scenes” setup of your channel, you’re one step closer to that eventual next level as content continually gets better and better.


Naturally getting the word out for what I do on my channel is just as on-going so I’m always looking for ways to find that “organic fit” which will make sense for me and my audience. Working with like-minded creators who consistently produce similar like-content is always appealing and I have worked with a few great creators since the early days of my channel. Many are within the same circles in the community but, the goal of getting in front of viewers who have never seen my content is something I’ve been focusing on as of late.


Since I’ve been live streaming for a while now, I’m finding that having the ability to place those streams on platforms other than Youtube is an area that I need to venture into. Cross-platform streaming using services like Restream.io can really help increase awareness/exposure and it can be done from one platform that spreads out to many others. For me, this is attractive because as you already know, I’m a one-man-show so the easier I can streamline how I get myself out there to a greater number of people just makes sense.

How do you handle brand deals and sponsorships? 

When it comes to brand deals and sponsorships, as mentioned earlier, I’ve done a few that have been a great overall learning experience. Naturally working with brands that fit the niche of my channel are always preferred and I usually don’t stray too far from that. I do get a lot of solicited opportunities from companies in other categories but most of the time, they just don’t fit what I think my audience would necessarily respond to or the niches are simply unrelated. Aside from the occasional tech item that I may do once in a while, getting solicited from, say, swimwear companies, household items and/or services that are totally opposite to my channel topic are not something that I’m particularly interested in at this time.


It’s important to entertain a brand deal that DOES fit with what it is that I do and I strive to ask lots of questions when I receive something along those lines because I want whatever the brand item is to be and “organic fit” for the channel. Whenever I’m discussing a particular opportunity with a brand, say for a commercial, it’s important to clarify if it’s for a national ad, worldwide or both, The reason is that if your SAG (Screen Actors Guild) Member, you have a different opportunity when it comes to the level of payment you can receive i.e. residuals and the like as opposed to a Non-SAG Member where a flat payment is usually settled on. It’s important to not undercut your potential but you also want to be open to negotiation so whenever I number is thrown out there, I always ask for a follow-up to discuss it further based on the company’s budget for the project. This is all based on careful analytic research to back up why you’re asking for a particular amount. If a company is serious in wanting to work with you, that dialog will continue, and eventually, the details will hopefully be worked out. Sometimes that doesn’t happen and that’s OK because some things just aren’t meant to be. Most companies typically work with an Ad Agency who does the heavy lifting for them and whenever I’m in the deal process, I always do the research online to make sure the Agency I’m communicating with is legitimate. You can never be too careful! Google Search the Agencies / Companies because you don’t want to just freely give out any personal info. 


Having a Media Deck is also extremely important in that it gives the potential client a snapshot of what you have to offer. It can include data from your YouTube Analytics, Social Media Reach/Followers, and overall highlights of what you’ve done so far that you’re most proud of. A synopsis of what you and your channel is all about is important so you can add some context to that data. I usually update my info every 6 months or so. I can only speak for myself, but no one is going to promote your brand better than you! Having as much out there to showcase what you bring to the table can only benefit you. If you’re worried about having TOO MUCH, hey, I rather have that than too little! If anything, you’ll have talking points with the brand that can better help you leverage the opportunity.


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