Teenagers are always connected—to their phones and to social media. Yet, in recent years, it's been reported that now more than ever, teens are suffering from an epidemic of loneliness. Teenage isolation is on the rise, with young adults being three times more likely to spend most of their time alone than retired people.
In an attempt to negate this feeling of isolation and create a safe space online, AT&T Hello Lab set out to create a show that not only encouraged, but necessitated interaction amongst its fans: Guilty Party.
With this show, we didn't want to just create a fandom. We wanted to create a community. A place where our audience had the opportunity to not only interact and engage with the story and each other, but also with the characters. To make this possible, our first step was creating a story that entertained and engaged our audience through issues that matter to them, like cyberbullying. Our second and equally important step was fostering social communities for our fans. They would be able to be as interactive as they wanted across various social channels, including YouTube, Instagram, Tumblr, and private invite only messaging groups.
Because we designed Guilty Party as an interactive, immersive, socially driven scripted series for a young generation of viewers, we cast nine social media influencers (Miles McKenna, Teala Dunn, Alexis G. Zall, Jessie Paege, Manolo Vergara, Kian Lawley, Tiffany Alvord, Vale Genta and Kenny Knox) with a cumulative reach of over 38 million fans. By tapping into the fandoms surrounding these influencers, we were able to reach a massive audience and talk about a relevant topic to their demographic—high school cyberbullying.
We took a tiered approach to community building—our audience could not only watch the show, they could also tune in specifically for vlog content from their favorite influencers/characters. We engaged each influencer's fandom by focusing every episode on a different character's story and having each influencer create ancillary vlogs, in character.
We also created social media profiles for each of the characters and had them leave comments on each other's video diaries, as well as comment back to fans—and the fans loved it! To build the community and leverage the fandoms further, we created social media experiences revolving around the series: a Tumblr where fans submitted theories, a novelty Instagram that poked fun at the fictional high school, and private groups on Instagram where we dropped weekly clues to superfans.
In the series finale, we integrated fan comments on previous episodes, which was a huge payoff for our fans that were actively engaged throughout the series. In the end, we didn't just create a YouTube series, we created a community that continues to connect over shared strategies on how to combat cyberbullying. When fans say things like Guilty Party is "the future of TV," we know we did something right.
As a vehicle to drive audience connection and engagement, Guilty Party exceeded our expectations and was a success in more ways than one. In just ten weeks we accumulated 42 million views, 351 million impressions and 38 million engagements—an organic YouTube engagement rate 5.7 times the industry standard.
In just one season, we effectively created a diverse community that actively engages in meaningful conversations on our channel, even months after the finale. That's something to be proud of.
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