Operating social media accounts for a company is a fantastic thing – you get to show the world why you’re the greatest every day, but you never have to expose your actual self on the Internet. Exceptions may happen.
Social Media KurierZentrale
Basel, 2014 – 2016
Right after the company moved into its new home towards the end of 2014, I took over @kurierzentrale, the Instagram account for Kurier Zentrale, which at that point had 234 followers.
My first post showed designated Quality Manager Alain in the middle of a late night fight with the IT system, trying to get things up and running in a somewhat dramatically lit new office.
Being a big movie fan, I enjoyed making cinematic references whenever possible. At the risk of getting too nerdy, I really liked this take on Kubrick’s Space Odyssey: picturing Basel’s exhibition tower as the black monolith in a dystopian environment. #aslargeasnecessary provided a subtle hint.
Public bathrooms play an important role in the life of a messenger.
I can’t remember which bathroom I was in, but it made me happy at a time when I was regularly dispatching calls. There was many a day when I wished to just pull the chain at 4pm, flush the whole messed up dispatching board down the hole (along with all the delayed jobs and the riders responsible) and go home.
April Fool’s Day. The city had just recently banned cars from entering the inner-town area, which greatly affected us as well. With a fake advertisement, we introduced our own cargotram outfitted in a complete company paintjob. It ran through the city, picking up and dropping off at every stop. I published this on all of our channels, and combined with an official press release, attracted a massive response. As a special highlight, we even managed to fool our own dispatcher, who got a bit stressed out when “our” tram conductor didn’t know anything about the rush job he was supposed to pick up over an hour before.
As a messenger, you develop a very intimate relationship with a city and its buildings, both of which change rapidly. Sometimes when I stopped for a wee while holding a job, I would imagine that the house I was supposed to deliver to would’ve already been demolished, and all the people would be gone by the time I came out of the bathroom. #theyreallgone became a popular running gag whenever I saw a spectacular deconstruction site.
On the flipside, I would always imagine that I was faster than time on a good day, reaching my drop-off location before the building was even finished yet. Dispatchers weren’t too happy about those calls; I had usually just gotten the wrong address. In one case, even the wrong town. At least I got there fast, faster than time.
This post was to demonstrate my love and excitement for the Tour de France and the silly habits of pro riders. I always considered myself a professional cyclist; shaving my legs was an expression of my commitment to the job. It feels nice in the sheets, too.
The big international messenger championships always meant big stress, especially from a social media point of view. Everyone wants to show they’re the fastest, raddest, stokest, loudest, craziest, and best. Ironically, they try and prove it by snapping and posting all the same photographs. Of course, I had to top them all. Not sure if I succeeded, but I was always grateful for the Monday morning after, when I could just enjoy a quiet cup of coffee in the office.
Consider yourself lucky if you have friends who don’t mind making a fool of themselves by pretending to shave while repeatedly riding a bike over a bridge at 8 in the morning just for you to snap a picture. (“Yes, we need that specific light!”) This one was inspired by Lucky Luke’s Pony Express cover and got fairly popular.
It’s important to always stay humble, while simultaneously feeling that you’re just a glorified mailman in shorts and also a self-proclaimed rockstar of the road. At the end of the day, what you’re doing is pedaling a letter from A to B, and as the picture shows, even a monkey could do that job, right?
Likes, likes, likes! That’s all we want at the end of the day, right? Not surprisingly, this was our most-liked picture while I was in charge. The internet likes girls, bikes, girls on bikes, and especially girls on bikes carrying an unreal amount of stuff on their back. (These boxes were actually empty). Somehow, nobody even asked how far she actually got with the whole thing. The answer would’ve been: nowhere. It didn’t move the tiniest bit, and collapsed right after I took the picture.
Certificates are for bragging on the Internet, right? This one was awarding the sustainable side of our business and our love for mother earth. Look how green we are, even bringing the rainforest back to the city!
Unfortunately, accidents play an important part of life on the road. Best to embrace it, keep the camera ready, and stay trigger-happy all the time.
There were rolls and rolls of great pictures taken of Totti performing his “Superman” over the bridge on a very stormy fall morning, but the one that made the cut in the end was of him literally getting blown out of the saddle. He didn’t get hurt; just look at that big grin on his face.
The “elevator selfie” has become a staple in the world of bike messengers, and while I don’t really like posting them, there is only one elevator in the city where taking a selfie might be acceptable: this one. You could say it really adds another dimension to the photograph. And another one, and another one, and…you get the idea.
Another movie reference. Have you seen Premium Rush? Likely not, but every bike messenger definitely has. For half of them today, it’s probably what made them want to have this job. Until their first winter hit, at least. (I did not jump, by the way).
The Basilisk was a present to the company from our Canadian employee Ricky and many weeks of sweat and glue went into making this monstrosity, so I felt the only backdrop that was worthy for a photo shoot with it was the Basler Münster. On the way there, we gave it the grand tour around the city on Strom’s shoulders, getting a fair amount of love from pedestrians. Real-world likes, I guess.
The secret joy of bleeding: another selfie I took when I got into an accident and saw all the blood on the street. Of course I had to post it, scars are sexy and we’re proud of risking a lot to make our clients happy, it’s our passion.
This accident took me out of the game for three weeks; I lost four kilos and got a free nose job. It’s not the worst spring beauty program, is it?
It wasn’t even Mirko’s birthday, but sometimes you just have to cake something up to highlight the friendly atmosphere in the office, right? Heartwarming.
Carrying big things and looking fast doing so became our specialty in times of full on social media coverage of our daily grind. Speed only doesn’t really translate in a picture, does it? Also: admitted, I’m a sucker for compliments.
Some pictures have to rest in the drawer for a while until they find their perfect context. You’re always on thin ice when you’re making a religious reference, but in this case, it seemed like the lord himself was giving us a sign to use this as an Easter post. Michel’s face looked like it was coming straight out of a Caravaggio painting.
This was the only logical next step after the Easter post, though one week late unfortunately. It still got a great response, and the boss got particularly excited about this one: “What takes others a couple of hours to plan and set up, we’re spontaneously doing during lunch break!” That’s actually how it happened; nobody even had to stop eating.
When HdM’s Legotower in Basel was finally finished and became the tallest building in all of Switzerland, it became an entertaining game on social media to look for it from every possible angle in the city. This picture was taken after my first run of the morning; note the ToiToi.
“Perfect! Let’s do it one more time!” The trombone shoot went on and on and on and on and people on the bridge seemed to really enjoy it.
Here’s a picture of Mirko taking a picture, while I was busy Instagramming, Boomeranging, Snapchatting, Periscoping, and jumping around all excited because the whole thing turned out to be even better than I expected. The ride of the valkyrie over the bridge was packing a punch for sure. This one was fun.
Post-It Wars, Basel edition (#postitwarsbasel) was a total flop unfortunately. Not only did no other local business accept the challenge, but nobody else in our company seemed motivated enough to create a new image after the first week this one was up. If you want something done, you have to do it yourself, I suppose. At least no one got distracted in the very busy intersection out front.
Even after the quick success of the @messmemescollective account, I remained hesitant about creating my own memes. It didn’t fit with our style of communication. That changed the moment I saw Chris Froome running up Mont Ventoux in the 2016 Tour de France. I knew this was going to be meme dynamite, which seemed like the perfect opportunity to enter into the race myself.
This copy is a reference to American courier companies making all of their messengers sign new contracts. These contracts declared them as “walkers” in order to forego the incredibly high Workers’ Compensation for bike messengers, while still expecting them to be on bicycles for the job.
This was my first meme, and though it’s targeted at a very specific audience, I’m very proud of it.
How is the Internet supposed to know you’re out there if you stop taking pictures of yourself?
With too many coworkers taking too many selfies on the road, owning #messlife while at the same time complaining about too much work and stress to the dispatcher, this post basically wrote itself.
Voila, the demolition of the Hilton Hotel Basel. It looked so oddly familiar (have a look a the new Roche Tower 1, will you?) at this stage that I hoped they would maybe just start the new building on top of what was still standing. They didn’t; it’s all gone now. #theyreallgone
I got so stuck on the insect reference that I didn’t even notice how much Mirko looks like Ali G in this picture. Despite the nice Photoshop effort, this was obviously a missed opportunity and demonstrated how important it is to keep your eyes open and your mind wandering at all times. Spheric lenses might help; thanks Adidas Sports Eyewear.
The cargocruiser is certainly a hilarious vehicle, just asking to be manipulated in Photoshop.
The Rosiecopter was a spontaneous project. When everyone else was racing the monopoly alleycat on a warm summer night, I was home alone and sick, playing with pictures.
Due to the small format of a smartphone, I think some people actually believed this. Although the Rosie Submarine and Ariella in Space weren’t anywhere near as successful as the Rosiecopter, I got hooked on manipulating pictures, and these obvious Photoshop shenanigans would make a regular appearance on our social media from then on.
When I met Knut on the road for the first time, he wasn’t too happy about riding his bike in the city. “All of this cutting between cars and stuff isn’t my thing at all, I prefer to ride my bike in the woods. I prefer the fight of man against tree,” he said. Under the @querterium label, he soon started throwing a series of cyclo-cross events where men could fight the trees…on their bikes…and get very drunk sometimes.
I would bring my 35mm camera to take pictures, and post a series of portraits on the weekends as a countdown to the events. Here are two of my favorite trilogies.