tory is in the last place you’d expect. We’ve covered online success stories from corporations large and small, non-profits, and some fun contests as well. But today we had the opportunity to talk to a one-man online success story: The WWE’s Zack Ryder.
The WWE is a household name brand with an established legacy and fan base. They’ve been a publicly traded company for over 12 years and produce multiple programs on a weekly basis that reach 145 countries in 30 languages, reaching over 600 million homes worldwide. Their website sees over 12.3 million hits each month and has over 10 million Facebook fans.
When Zack Ryder was signed by WWE in 2006, he thought he had finally made it. All his life, his dream was to become one of the top superstars in the company and make his mark in the industry. But as time went on, Ryder struggled to find his place in the WWE’s busy and ever-changing programming schedule. “I didn’t feel like a superstar, you know?”, Ryder says, “I didn’t have an action figure, I wasn’t on TV, I didn’t have a promotional [photo]. I was just sick of pitching ideas and nothing getting done. But I did realize I had to do something about it.”
That’s when an “Oh Mom and Dad, you shouldn’t have!” moment turned his entire career around. “For Christmas in 2010, my parents got me a Flip video camera. I really didn’t know what to do with it so it just kind of sat in my closet for a while.” Then Ryder decided to showcase his entertainment and humor on YouTube. “In February 2011, I started ‘Z! True Long Island Story’ which was just me talking and trying to be funny just by making fun of myself, getting my friends and family involved, whatever I could do.” The way Ryder speaks of it, you’d think it was just another YouTube viral-esque cluster of sketches of inside jokes but nothing is further from the truth. The show skyrocketed into popularity with fans of the WWE in a matter of weeks and has since gained in excess of 13 million views.
This is when Ryder really started to notice some things catching on. He used the YouTube series to show that he was just a big kid who grew up a fan “living the dream” and invited viewers to take a look at his entertaining, albeit rare, life off the road (WWE does 250+ shows annually). The amount of interaction and increased views made Zack aware that his popularity online had some serious potential. “That’s when I started going crazy on Twitter and Facebook. I was always on my phone, tweeting and trying to get the fans behind me because that was the only voice I had.” Ryder’s efforts quickly paid off with love from the crowd. Chants would break out for him in arenas across the country. “A lot of the time, I wasn’t even at the show. I wasn’t even in the building.” They’d bring signs saying things such as “We Want Ryder”....More?