Given the popularity of its stars, #HeyUSA season two was also going to be a hit. Mamrie Hart, the star of Astronauts Wanted’s travel web series, has a devoted following on her You Deserve A Drink YouTube channel, and the five guests who joined her on the road–Kinglsey, Tyler Oakley, Flula Borg, Colleen Ballinger, and Jenna Marbles–are all online video stars as well.
When Astronauts Wanted produces a series, though, it is interested in much more than video views. With programs like #HeyUSA and @SummerBreak, it creates a vast network of social media content that continues to engage viewers after they’re done watching. In #HeyUSA’s case, these social media integrations were particularly vital, as they directed fans to the show’s primary home on The Scene. “Our goal was to increase the social cloud and decrease the YouTube piece of it,” said Nick Shore, Chief Creative Strategist at Astronauts Wanted, “so we were deliberately building the cloud and delivering it towards the Scene.”
Sure enough, Astronauts Wanted managed to build up a huge social cloud far bigger than the one that surrounded #HeyUSA’s first season. Hart and Grace Helbig’s maiden voyage generated 186 million impressions on social media; this time around, #HeyUSA achieved more than 290 million impressions. Social media engagements also rose, from 3.85 million to 5.9 million.
How did Astronauts Wanted score such a big upward trend? The answer, it says, is superfans. By engaging with the show’s most devoted followers, Astronauts Wanted was able to drive a huge amount of traffic. The top 40 superfans drove 22 million impressions on their own.
Astronauts Wanted has a very clear definition of a superfan. “We mark super fans as someone who continually engages with HeyUSA content (that is not a host or cohost), is a fan account, or continually shares the sentiment of “I am crying/ you are my everything / you are life / OMG YOU RESPONDED I LOVE YOU HEYUSA,” wrote Shore in an email. When the #HeyUSA social media team sees those sort of tweets, it is quick to respond. Here is a recent example of the show’s Twitter account’s interaction with its fans:
@bubberbuddy i knew i could count on you for the drink emojis!
— #HeyUSA (@HeyUSA) May 26, 2015
These short of interactions provide a “push” for #HeyUSA superfans:
“They tend to act first socially. They’re the first ones to say something is new out. They’re waiting for it. And they talk about it a lot…The bulk of the interactivity is on Twitter and Instagram. It’s their frequency there. And their sentiment as well. We run sentiment tools over what they’re saying. You can screen for certain language, such as “HeyUSA is my life”…The [fans who] are causing the most noise are probably the ones who have fairly excitable followings as well, they’re causing the most ripple socially. It’s all organic. Our only incentive really is that we’re in a dialogue with them and giving them special access and assets.”
The assets Shore mentions include VIP access, swag, and social media shoutouts, all of which build positive relationships with superfans. “Our social teams are building a relationship with those superans, beings nice to them, and priming the pump to give them free merchandise,” he explained. “We give them private links and assets and photographs and gifs and stuff that is unique to them and say, do with this as you will. We treat them like super-consumers of the content, almost like creative collaborators.”
#HeyUSA’s hyper-focused social media strategy certainly isn’t unique to the show’s second season, but but a few important decisions helped Astronauts Wanted expand its network of superfans. Most notably, fans were allowed to vote for the YouTube stars who they wanted to see traveling alongside Hart, thus allowing the audiences of the chosen stars to connect with #HeyUSA’s audience. In particular, Shore noted that Ballinger’s episode was most successful on social media, in part because the woman behind Miranda Sings posted “like crazy” on Instagram, said Shore. There are huge fandoms talking about who should come on as guests in Season two,” he added. “So it dramatically increased the size of the social footprint in season two.”
As Astroanuts Wanted continues to produce more content across the Internet, it will continue to work with its audience to spread the world. As Shore puts it, the passion of superfans “is like a super targeting marketing tool,” and at any time, those fans are just a tweet away.