HEY THERE, HUMAN began on March 19, in response to California’s COVID-19 Safer At Home order that was issued just days earlier. It was a passion project for SoulPancake and its co-founder, Rainn Wilson, whose sole purpose was to give people some upliftment and much needed human connection during this bizarre and difficult time.
In each episode of the Instagram Live show, Rainn talks to famous friends and random humans about their hopes and fears, and explores what they’re doing to get through this challenging period in human history. Mixing Rainn’s signature style of deep-thinking and compassion with his unfiltered and unfettered humor, HEY THERE, HUMAN invites viewers to join Rainn to discuss their realities, fears and stories of coping with quarantine, and showcases creative ways people are staying connected and hopeful in this new era of social distancing. Throughout the show’s 76 episodes, SoulPancake’s objective remained the same: to connect people from all over the world and to give them hope, connection, and a virtual community.
Connection is the glue that holds us humans together during life’s ups and downs. But what do you do when a global pandemic forces people to be physically distant? You figure out new ways to stay connected, which is exactly what SoulPancake did. Strategy for HEY THERE, HUMAN focused on staying flexible and working with the limited resources available (this was the beginning of the pandemic, after all):
LIVE STREAMING: SoulPancake wanted to create active connections with real-time responses, so it utilized Instagram Live and went live at noon every weekday from Rainn’s iPad. The community that formed would gather to listen to Rainn each day, engage in the comments, hoping to be chosen to go live and share their story. Notable moments include:
Rainn interviewing a Special Olympian
A pregnant couple sharing their experience in one episode + then Rainn announcing their new baby months later
Rainn giving a graduating senior a commencement speech
REAL-TIME RESPONSE: HEY THERE, HUMAN started in response to the stay at home orders at the start of the pandemic. But it didn’t stop there. When George Floyd was murdered and when protests began in support of Black Lives Matter, HEY THERE, HUMAN responded yet again. It quickly changed its guest lineup to reflect the cultural shift and started amplifying Black voices and heroes involved in the movement. Notable real-time moments include:
Dr. Robert Kim-Farley lending his COVID-19 expertise to keep our audience safe + informed
Robin DiAngelo, author of WHITE FRAGILITY, having a no-holds-barred conversation about institutional racism in America
Nifa Kaniga, the Texas student who became famous for holding up a sign inviting his community to ask him anything about racism, opening up about his experience
INSTAGRAM: SoulPancake utilized Instagram to its fullest for HEY THERE, HUMAN. By inviting celebrity guests with large followings to join the livestreams, their followers would get notifications which resulted in larger, more diverse audiences. Ahead of each show SoulPancake would also DM relevant fan accounts to help promote tune-ins. SoulPancake also created GIPHY stickers for Instagram Stories for the community to use when posting about the show. Lastly, after each Live, the episode was posted to IGTV to extend the life of the experience.
CELEBRITY + INFLUENCER PARTNERSHIPS: While the show began with Rainn only going live with random humans, he soon also had a celebrity or influential guest on every episode of HEY THERE, HUMAN. This helped amplify the show to new audiences and was integral for positive press. A big draw was always THE OFFICE reunions with Rainn’s former castmates. Notable guest moments include:
Rainn stumping Billie Eilish in THE OFFICE trivia
John Krasinski opening up for the first time about why he sold SOME GOOD NEWS
Rainn + Ed Helms singing a duet of TAKE ME HOME, COUNTRY ROADS
Leslie David Baker addressing online bullying + racism as a Black actor
Chris Wood, a guest host, + Kevin Smith celebrating May the 4th
Private concerts from Finneas O’Connell, Andy Grammer, + Jason Isbell
Over the course of 76 live episodes, HEY THERE, HUMAN had consistent viewership (with a peak of 119K viewers during the Billie Eilish episode) and 2M+ episode video views. SoulPancake’s Instagram followers also doubled in size during that period.
HEY THERE, HUMAN was featured in 73 articles across publications from CNN and TODAY Online to People and Buzzfeed.
Most importantly, HEY THERE, HUMAN built a community and a safe place for humans to learn and grow from one another. As Rainn loved to say on the show, HEY THERE, HUMAN was a place for people to stay physically distant but feel socially connected.