People often believe their dreams are unrealistic. The success of John Derting, however, is proof that following your passion pays off. After getting an associate’s degree in speech communication, John took off on a more adventurous path.
He leapt from Arkansas State University all the way to Anchorage, Alaska. There, he began capturing videos of the state’s pristine, natural landscape. His clips routinely take his followers where few dare to explore, across rugged glaciers, through half-frozen rivers, and into dangerously beautiful ice caves.
The self-taught nature videographer now has over 1.9M followers on TikTok with a total of 28M likes. He also shares Reels with his 260K+ Instagram followers and posts longer videos to his self-titled YouTube channel.
In John’s exclusive interview with Mediakix, discover how he got started on social media and what adventures he’s planning next.
1. Can you share a little about your journey to becoming a nature photographer and travel influencer? What pushed you to pursue videography as a career?
One day 7 months ago I was out shooting underwater photos and I decided to take a video instead. It was a half over half under video of melting river ice.
It performed really well on both Instagram and my Facebook getting about 2k views (I only had 2k followers on Instagram and Facebook at the time). Then an old friend I grew up with, Ariel Mullen, messaged me saying I need make a TikTok and start posting.
I didn’t even know what TikTok was at the time. So I loaded my first underwater video and awoke the next morning to 50k views. Three weeks later — millions of views and 100k followers. Two months latter — 1.9 million followers and over 1 billion views on my most used hashtag, #Alaska.
I film every day it’s sunny and will lay down in frozen rivers if it means I get the stinking shot. My most viewed video was 71 million views.
2. What was the biggest obstacle to growing your social media following, and how did you overcome it?
Mine was for sure when Trump wanted to ban TikTok. My account growth went from 50k new followers a day to less than 500. I was sure I was shadow banned or something but my account has since then been getting seen on the For You Page.
It was also a big hit when India banned TikTok. That’s when I started really learning Instagram Reels and have had much more consistent success gaining 260K followers in 4 months with most of them coming from going viral organically on Instagram.
On Instagram Reels, your fans actually see your posts unlike TikTok where you are either favored by the algorithm or forgotten about. My best Reel got 23.5 million views on Instagram.
3. Often influencers rise to fame with nothing but their smartphone. For adventure influencers like you, what equipment is required to produce your quality Instagram and TikTok content?
Okay, I use iPhone GoPro and some custom underwater gear that helps with image stability that I made. Mostly I don’t own any high end film gear even tho a lot of people think I do lol.
4. In addition to TikTok, you’ve started using Instagram Reels. So far, do you have a preference between the two platforms, and if so, why?
Instagram for sure!
They are so much more reliable in pushing your post. You post one “not right” video to TikTok and you basically kill you account’s algorithm that was pushing you worldwide.
It’s kinda like a tier system on TikTok and if you fall out of the top viral tiers, you are going to struggle to get back.
On Instagram I can post a boring pic and it still gets shown to a ton of users. It might only get 5,000 likes, but my point is their algorithm is much more forgiving and you always have a fair chance of going viral.
Lightning Round Questions:
5. Summer in Alaska or winter?
Summer, rivers aren’t frozen and you don’t need thousands of dollars of gear to stay warm.
6. Favorite hiking spot of all time?
Probably Castner Glacial Ice Cave or back in Wrangell-St. Elias National Park.
7. Scariest moment during filming?
Falling in a frozen river and nearly dying of hypothermia before getting to my car.
I have also nearly frozen to death last winter in -45 Fahrenheit just a ½ mile from my car when a snow storm cut out all visibility and I got lost.
Luckily, I used either side of a river bed to zigzag my way back down stream on frozen ice. Every time I got to a bank it kept me in the right direction.
I was genuinely thinking I might die though. The panic will make your ski mask freeze up with fog and then you take that off and everything ices up, even your eyes can’t open hardly.
8. As an influencer, how do you decide which brands to partner with? What values are most important to you in a brand partnership?
I’m actually very picky and the only brands I have worked with are ones that closely match my theme (e.g. Clif Bar or Lume Cube).
9. Which partnership are you the proudest of so far, and why?
Probably my partnership with Alpine Air Alaska (helicopter tour company) because they enable me to see impossible to reach places deep in the Alaska wilderness.
10. Many influencers produce content from the comfort of their home. Making videos like yours takes a little more grit. What advice do you have for those who aspire to become outdoor adventure influencers?
Get used to being wet and cold and camera gear failing you.
I have lost or broken over 10 GoPro’s in six months. I have filmed over four terabytes of video in 1080p so that means thousands of hours filming things I never post.
My advice is to be very picky with every post and I even watch YouTube videos about cinema and music pairing to better my content.
Every video must still be good after I watch it 10-20 times.
11. In the next year, what exciting new developments can your viewers expect?
They can expect me to stay driven on the content creation. I’m building a website to share the LUTs (Look Up Tables) presets I use with my audience and I hope to travel the world filming the wildest places for all to see from my engaging perspective.
12. Anything else you would share with people who are new to the influencer space?
If you are new to media, I would consider twice before trying to go viral.
It’s a full time job basically and you are fully responsible for everything lol.
It’s certainly not for inconsistent people as even missing 3-4 days without posting is detrimental in my opinion.