Brooke Berry Helped Bring VidCon To Life After the Pandemic Shut Everything Down
In 2019, 75,000 VidCon attendees traipsed the halls of the Anaheim Convention Center, braving blisters and sunburns for a glimpse of their favorite creators. It marked the 10 year anniversary of the influencer convention created by Hank Green. But this year, the coronavirus pandemic halted plans for number 11. And while the IRL convention was called off, Brooke Berry’s work got a whole lot harder.
Berry, who previously worked at Fullscreen and AwesomenessTV, has run social for VidCon since 2018. Before she arrived, the convention’s online presence was limited to the event. Berry helped the brand extend its voice throughout the year—and not a moment too soon. While VidCon anticipates a summer 2021 return, their stopgap, VidCon Now, has been so successful that the virtual programming remains ongoing. Instead of being one weekend a year, Berry is turning VidCon into “your best friend that is one text away,” she tells me in a phone call.
Outside of VidCon, Berry is a creator herself, occasionally posting with people like David Dobrik and Liza Koshy, the latter of whom was her former client at Awesomeness. She shares social media tips on her personal platforms like Instagram, where she has 43,000 followers, and sees herself as a mascot for VidCon and its up-and-coming creators.
In fact, Berry thinks she already knows what’s next. While TikTok took over the convention in 2019, 2021 is a whole other ball game. Ahead, Berry tells us about the next big platform to look out for, how to build your narrative on social media, and more.
I suspect that anyone in a full-time position at a digital creator company probably started as a fan. Is that true for you?
Honestly, it's kind of different for me. I worked at an artist agency prior to digital. I worked in scripted television with writers, producers, and directors, and it was 2014 when I was like, I want to get into digital. Even back when I was a film major, I was always obsessed with this idea of a personal narrative. What is the story that people are telling?
So there was probably a culture shock transitioning from traditional artists to digital artists.
It was like a whole different world. It literally felt like we were living on our own planet.
How did you end up getting involved in VidCon?
I was at Awesomeness for a couple of years and an email hit my inbox saying that [VidCon was] looking for a social person and that I came to mind and I should apply. What was interesting for me about it is not that it was a social media job, [but that] no one had really done it before and there was an opportunity to pave that foundation.
Is there a difference in the role of VidCon social media when the IRL convention is happening versus the rest of the year?
One thing that always baffled me about VidCon prior to joining was I would see all the creators at VidCon, but I'd oftentimes see them on everyone else's social platforms except for VidCon's. I was like, “Okay, we're the first line of defense. We shouldn't be giving out our creators like candy.” Covering VidCon in real time is something that I brought to this role. But I think when people see me on site capturing the event on my phone and uploading it in real time, they think my job is fun—and trust me, it's a lot of fun—but all of the other times I'm not doing this, I'm planning and it's a lot of administrative work.
What is the content that VidCon followers really want? What performs best?
Multiple choice questions are something that kids love, like pick two of the four creators to be on a Zoom call with. It's got to require very little thought and it's got to incentivize the fans to engage. Don't ask a generic question: “How are you today?” That requires so much brain thought. However, we can flip that question and say, “Describe how you feel in one word today.” That serves the same purpose and it's fairly easy to come up with a word.
One of the things I've always liked about VidCon is it adapts with pretty much any kind of digital platform. Last year was TikTok, and this year, just looking at some of the programming that's happening virtually, it's expanding to Discord and things like that. Do you have any idea of what the next big thing is?
In 2016 I came up with this idea: I said there will be an Instagram for audio content, mark my words. I'm not talking about a podcast. We think we're so reliant on visuals, and unfortunately there's this idea of if you're not good-looking enough or interesting-looking enough there's no space for you, and that's simply not true. We're kind of seeing this unfold. Twitter released audio tweets, and I think people are catching onto this idea of there [being] a place for audio content.
Now for the obligatory pandemic question: I'm curious specifically about your role since VidCon previously was so based around an in-person large gathering. When all this hit, how did your job change?
If anything, my role probably got busier than it's always been. It was sort of up to the socials to keep the voice of VidCon alive, especially until we shifted to VidCon Now. As soon as we got the stay-at-home orders, we started putting out quarantine content. My favorite campaign we did over the summer was a featured creator bracket where, just like a sports bracket, we essentially put feature creators up against each other, but we left it all up to [the followers].
Join our Featured Creator Bracket on our Instagram Stories! The choice is YOURS! pic.twitter.com/rmnangMaKu— VidCon (@VidCon) April 27, 2020
It got down to Shane Dawson versus these massive Colombian creators, Calle y Poché. They beat out Shane Dawson and drove our [followers] nuts. They couldn't believe it. They're like, “Who are these creators we've never heard of?” And it was actually a great educational moment for the Colombian fans and the Spanish speaking fans to say, “American creators aren't the only popular creators.” And then the week after that, we did a Q&A with Calle y Poché for the first Q&A for VidCon Now. So that fed in nicely to our programming.
On your personal Instagram and Twitter, you give lots of advice about social media. When did you start doing that? Was that always how you used your personal platforms?
I'm a kinetic learner. I'm a doer. I have to actually get in there and play to know what's up. Because this is something that's always just been interesting to me, I'm always experimenting and figuring things out. I would say my following really amassed earlier in my career back in the day when JC Caylen followed me. I got like 500 followers just ‘cause he followed me. I had a YouTube channel back in the day with my ex-wife and we have a big LGBT following. But I think a good chunk of them too are just from creators I've been associated with trickling down.
How much do you think your personal community overlaps with VidCon? Is VidCon part of your identity?
I've always been someone who kind of becomes a mascot for the place I work at. Whether it's my first job at Chuck E. Cheese where I'm literally Chuck E., or AwesomenessTV where I own a ton of merch. Any place I work, I really do kind of feed it into my brand because it's a narrative. And like I said, I'm working on other people's narratives, my narrative is always super solid because I believe social media is a resume.
I have to come back to Chuck E. Cheese. Did you wear the costume?
Oh yeah. Like the bullshit thing about getting your first job is that you have to have experience to work, but then you don't have experience. So I said, “Listen, I am the mascot at high school. I could be Chuck E. I can do this.” [My supervisor] let me be Chuck E. and I got promoted.
You post a lot with popular creators, obviously because of your job. Do you see them as colleagues or do you kind of get excited about them?
No, it's funny. I can't let myself. These are work people, like Liza [Koshy] had been a client of mine back at Awesomeness for a long time. I knew David [Dobrik] even when David was still helping Liza shoot her videos. I'll always view him as that. We grew up in this space and I'm maybe an older sibling. The people I do post on my Instagram, like I said, the narrative has to make sense and it has to be tight. I never want to come off like it is fan girly, but more like, Oh, this is my work.
Do you ever give them advice or do they give you advice? What is your relationship like?
Liza is so fantastic and I've given her off the cuff personal advice, like it's okay to not feel like you've gotta always be "Liza" and vice versa. Liza knew me when I was married and then she knew me when I was going through a divorce. David, I don't really give him advice, but I did tell him once, “You are crushing it not as a creator, but as a business person.” People witness David and think it's just like, “Oh, David's doing David.” There's so much strategy and tactical things going on behind the scenes to do what he's doing.
Is there a creator who you haven't met or worked with yet, but that you like what they're doing?
There are so many TikTokkers. And I find myself gravitating towards the TikTokkers, as a Black creator, doing these tropes that maybe someone only in the Black community would understand. There's one woman whose name is [@flossybaby]. It just kills me. They're freaking creative.
I feel like everyone who's in this space is aware of VidCon, but is there a behind-the-scenes side that attendees wouldn't know about the convention?
I think people don't realize how small the team is. We're talking about a 26-person team and, you know, the marketing team, it's three to five of us. I am the one only person doing social. It's a small team doing a lot of things.
Is there an up-and-coming creator you think is about to blow up or that people really should be paying attention to?
I am going to tie this back to my earlier [answer] about platform development. Obviously with an audio app comes the rise of audio influencers. So really thinking about, “Who are those people doing voice overs? Who are those people on TikTok doing beatboxing and just doing impressions and interesting things with their voice? Once a platform like that really does stick in the market, they will probably be the first on that platform to garner a million [followers].