How DevinSuperTramp hit it big on YouTube with 1.2 billion views and counting
EDITOR’S NOTE: This is the final part in a series EastIdahoNews.com is calling “Social Media Stars.” Every day this week, we spoke with average Americans who made it big on YouTube and Facebook. Watch the previous stories at the links below.
Devin Graham is a YouTube pioneer.
Nine years ago, as a poor college student, he began posting videos online featuring extreme sports and activities. In less than a decade, his channel has reached an astonishing 1.2 billion views (and in the time it took you to read that sentence, the number just went up).
Graham’s channel is called DevinSuperTramp, and yes, you’re likely asking how in the world he came up with that name.
“One of my favorite books is called ‘Into the Wild.’ It’s a true story about a guy who goes out to live his dreams, and he calls himself Alexander Supertramp,” Graham tells EastIdahoNews.com. “When I started my channel in 2009-2010 … I wanted to give homage to the idea of going out to pursue your dreams.”
At the time, Graham was working for a company that made tongue cleaners. They were using social media to promote the business, and he was in film school at Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah.
Graham decided to start making videos with his friends, but he had a problem – he didn’t own a camera and couldn’t afford to buy one.
“No joke…I was borrowing other friends’ cameras. Probably the first 10 videos I didn’t even own a camera,” he recalls. “I uploaded them, no followers at all, and my second video blew up right away. The first day it got 1,000 views, the next day it got like a couple more thousand and then four days into it was at 400,000 views. Within a week, it was at a million views.”
That video featured people riding off a bike jump in Alpine, Utah, into a pond.
That’s how most of DevinSuperTramp’s videos are – relatable activities that viewers have never seen before presented in a larger-than-life way.
“We do a lot of extreme sports all around the world. It could be anything from launching something off a 500-foot slide over a cliff to playing football out of an airplane,” he says.
Graham didn’t make a penny from YouTube during his first year, but businesses were seeing his work online and hiring him to make videos for them.
He was also shooting weddings and other projects and became so busy that he dropped out of BYU his final year.
His career continued to boom, and he eventually established a production company specializing in short videos, documentaries and films being shot all over the world.
“We’re just trying to expand the way we’re telling stories and do more longer-form content,” Graham says. “We want more narrative structure content as well instead of just the extreme sports stuff.”
Graham used to post several videos a month, but now he puts one out every three weeks or so. He has a full-time staff of seven employees and often hires dozens to appear in his projects.
Over the years, Graham says he has developed thick skin from reading viewer comments on his channel. He says dealing with changing algorithms and analytics is “like a rollercoaster.”
“Algorithms plays a big stake in our livelihood, but it plays a bigger stake on my stress level more than anything,” he says. “Ever since the beginning, our analytics are always changing. We were killing it on Facebook a year ago and, with just the push of a button, someone at Facebook changed the algorithm, and now it’s a completely different game we’re trying to figure out all over again.”
Graham has learned not to focus solely on YouTube. He uses other social media platforms, sells his footage to 4k television companies and makes movies for businesses. His long term plans include producing films for Netflix and Hollywood.
The DevinSuperTramp founder is often asked by other YouTube hopefuls how to be successful. He says the answer is simple.
“Everyone is trying to be heard on social media, so the first question I’d ask is, ‘What makes your voice different?’ A lot of people will see someone successful, and they’ll try to replicate what they’re doing, but you have to figure out your own voice,” he says.
Graham credits his wife, Megan, for being supportive of his dreams.
He says he looks forward to what’s next.
“I love what I do. It’s definitely a rollercoaster. It’s very hard. It’s stressful. You’re constantly getting brought down by all the comments … but I love it,” he says.
WATCH OUR ENTIRE UNEDITED INTERVIEW WITH DEVIN GRAHAM HERE