The Man Behind Instagram's Eavesdropping Empire

By Christina Najjar | March 13, 2019 | Lifestyle

OverheardLA. Everyone’s favorite, cheeky Instagram account that pulls back the veil on the City of Angels. The account can induce laughter, groans and even the odd facepalm for it’s honest depiction of young life in LA. Overheard doesn’t shy away from exposing the best and worst of the city, and highlighting all of the stereotypes that make Los Angeles the unique, beautiful melting pot that it is. Sometimes manically wellness focused, often fame hungry but somehow always hilarious, the citizens of LA provide endless fodder for the account. With over one million followers and equally popular sister accounts in other cities, people often wonder, what evil genius is behind all of this?

The short answer is, we can’t exactly say. The founder of Overheard likes to keep a very low profile, (ironically the anti-LA!), and let his work do the talking. He has made a career out of chronicling other people’s most embarrassing sound bytes, but the mysterious figure doesn’t like being quoted himself. We can say that he does live in Los Angeles and is just as witty, endearing and loveable as his famous Instagram account. We chatted to the enigmatic founder about building his unexpected empire, and of course the best places to go in LA. (For dinner… or to overhear hilarious comments.)

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How did you start OverheardLA?
I was searching for a creative outlet because I was quite unhappy in my job. I was casting for reality shows and docu-series, it was kind of just a freelance job. I had a personal Instagram account and I would post little funny things out of boredom really, like emoji book covers and Rorschach latte art for my friends.

Then I was at Erewhon and two women were talking about their friend and it was an absolutely absurd conversation. So I wrote it down without any artifice and posted it and my friends all thought it was hilarious. I did that for a couple of weeks and eventually, my friend convinced me to make an account. And the rest is very temporary history.

How did you know OverheardLA was big enough to quit your day job? (Of latte art.)
Around six months. I turned down a lot of cheesy Instagram brand offers… I didn’t understand the role of social media at first so I was just trying to keep it very clean and pure. And then I launched an account with Le Labo called Overheard Le Labo to supplement income. And then after about six to eight months, I just took the leap. I joined a coworking space, because I had previously been working out of coffee shops. And then I think when we launched the New York account a year later that’s when I realized this had traction.

What’s the most ridiculous submission you’ve ever received?
There are so many absurd ones. I do love, “Literally. Possibly.” It says a lot symbolically. There was one where a woman talking about how spiritual she was because she was from Connecticut and had three dads. But my personal favorite has to be, “You can’t be Vegan in jail”.

How do you know what to post and what not to post? Is there a process behind this?
I think it’s about genuinely trying to walk the tightrope of keeping it on brand and making sure it is genuinely engaging content along with not repeating.

How do you think Overheard differs from other similar famous Instagram accounts?
I think Overheard is completely different. Firstly, it is mostly user-generated content. We aren’t picking memes from all over the internet. It’s totally user-generated. We have really high standards with who we partner with, and all our growth is organic. We make sure the quality is high and do our own thing.

There’s something about text on Instagram. The white square. Something about the aesthetic... you can see the geotag. It interrupts the feed and breaks it up and you can imagine some weird version of the quote.

How do you work with brands to make them cool? What are some successful partnerships have you done in the past?
Monetizing the account and working with brands is something that we have done really carefully. We’ve been lucky enough to work with amazing partners like Le Labo and Bumble that set the bar really high. The basic rules are that we don’t let the brands take over the account. It’s about finding a creative way to find their voice. We have really great regular partners like Four Sigmatic and Parachute.

What we’ve really done differently is that we have these branded accounts. So we had Overheard Le Labo and Overheard Bumble and then last year we added Overheard Uber. Sometimes it’s hard to move followers when you have multiple brands, but it’s an important thing for us to help brands to build this less corporate voice on social.

What do you love most about your job?
I love that we can press a button and make people laugh. That as terrible as social media can be it can also be incredibly cathartic and provide opportunity. If you do something authentically and it resonates with people you can build from there. I think just being able to press a button and make people laugh is amazing.

What are some of your favorite go to spots in LA?
Erewhon, Gjusta, LACMA and the Chateau.

What’s next for Overheard?
We’re trying to figure out what Overheard is off of social media. How do we activate and manifest at events? How does it appear on merchandise? How does it come to fruition on digital video or as like, a stunt. Our first project is a print project and I can’t say more right now, but it’s going to be amazing.



Photography by: Photography Courtesy of OverheardLA