Going viral

With one of the fastest growing channels on YouTube, fans are flipping over local teen

Julie Schillings | Photography by Darrin Hackney

When 16-year-old Tanner Braungardt began posting videos of trampoline stunts and tutorials on YouTube in 2011, little did he know that he would become one of YouTube's fastest growing stars with over 1.7 million subscribers and more than 250 million views.

Fast forward to 2016 when the Augusta, Kansas teen had gained a respectable following of a few thousand subscribers to his YouTube channel. Awaking to an unlikely spring snow on Easter Sunday, Tanner captured the day on film flipping onto a snow-covered trampoline, dying Easter eggs at his grandparents a typical post, but not a typical response.

Tanner's five minute "Snow Challenge" video went viral with over 1.5 million views. Within the month, subscribers grew from 3,000 to 50,000. And by the end of summer, numbers reached 700,000. It was evident that Tanner's hobby of shooting and editing videos had become big business.

"I've been flipping since I was about seven-years-old," Tanner said, "and I started posting videos to YouTube five years ago." Tanner shared how he participated in sports when he was younger, and because of his size, didn't find much success. But he was really good at doing tricks on the trampoline and spent hours perfecting flips with his cousins and friends.

Early on, Tanner had developed a niche audience on YouTube primarily kids and teens engaging them with consistent new videos and by responding to their comments and questions. He jumped off almost anything, he filmed flipping tutorials, he filmed trampoline fails and hosted "meet-ups" with other flippers. Along the way, fans got a glimpse into Tanner's life.

Working to hone his quick commentary, film and editing techniques into tight five to ten minute packages, Tanner studied successful YouTubers and taught himself how to optimize videos with tags and titles. His channel includes more than 300 videos representing thousands of work hours. The foundation had been laid for his future.

Today, Tanner is one of YouTube's newest stars with more than 1.7 million subscribers. Along with his newly-found fame came a new reality of monetization, sponsorships, MCNs, hackers and merchandise support. (Yes, hackers! But that's another story.) Kim Braungardt, Tanner's mom, found herself serving in the role of business manager. Because of Tanner's rapid success, Kim had to learn the industry quickly, and she is working with experts to secure professional management.

"I trust Tanner's social media instincts," Kim said, "and he trusts me to run the business side." When asked how Tanner's life as a YouTube star has impacted the Braungardt family, Kim said that an amazing amount of work goes on behind the scenes, and that Tanner's brother and sister, Tristan and Taylor, are very supportive. "We travel as a four-pack," Kim said. "We are a great team." All of the Braungardts have cameo roles in Tanner's videos and have become accustomed to Tanner's camera.

"It's not worth it if you aren't having fun"
Tanner Braungardt

Tanner is savvy about managing his brand like a job. He films and edits videos on a daily basis and according to Tanner, it's a great gig to have. Friends, Quinton and Dylan, are frequent cast members, taking part in antics such as the "Coke vs. Mentos Bath Challenge." Ten million viewers watched as the friends shopped at Wal-Mart for supplies and tested their explosive theory in Tanner's bathtub. (No spoilers here. You'll have to watch it on YouTube to see the results.)

Some of Tanner's favorite videos include those where he's jumping off of high things like the roof of his house or jumping from a bridge into the lake. "The videos I end up liking the most, are usually the ones that are the most fun to film," Tanner said. "People tend to like it when I take risks, or do something they've never seen before." Tanner said that he is trending away from doing so much trampoline so his fans get to know him better. It is a move that is paying off, as his fan-base grows by the thousands each day.

What does life look like on the other side of Tanner's camera? To accommodate his work schedule, Tanner attends online school. He plays video games, adores his rambunctious puppy, Rose, and recently had his braces removed. Tanner's a typical teen from Kansas. Really. He just has millions of eyes watching his every move on a daily vlog. Snapchat, Instagram and Twitter. (For those new to YouTube lingo, a vlog is a video blog).

To fans, YouTube stars like Tanner feel more authentic and relatable than traditional celebrities. In fact, a recent study conducted by Variety showed that teens love the people they see on YouTube more than Hollywood celebrities. Of Internet users in the United States aged 13-17, 91 percent regularly use YouTube. It's big business. Their role as an online influencer makes YouTubers a hot commodity for marketers. And the fact that its appeal baffles parents makes it even more attractive to America's youth a generation who have grown up in the age of social media and mobile devices.

An interesting thing to understand about YouTube is that the content of the videos whether it's video game commentaries, cooking tutorials or personal vlogs is only a part of the appeal. The connection to YouTubers audience is key, and Tanner dedicates a significant amount of his day interacting with fans to build those relationships.

Only time will tell how long Tanner Braungardt will remain a YouTube star. For now, he is learning the business and working to build the Braungardt brand as a springboard for his future and the future of his whole family. Despite his millions of fans, Tanner admits that Internet fame may not last forever. "I don't want to get lazy with it. I need to keep searching for funny stuff and keep having fun," he said, "because this may not last forever."

Tanner's social media

Tanner Braungardt
Age 16

YouTube 1.7M
Instagram 497K
Twitter 91K
Snapchat 100K

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