Accidentally an Internet Sensation

Kristen Hampton’s Facebook Live Segments are a Case Study in “Authenticity”

It was a happy accident, and it made Kristen Hampton a Facebook sensation.

Hampton — then a WBTV Charlotte feature reporter — began her foray into Facebook Live in June 2017 when she saw an advertisement for a three-second eyebrow stamp — literally what you think it is…a way to stamp eyebrows on your face. She decided to test the product for herself, and she turned the camera on while she did it. She was just being her normal, goofy self, and pretty soon she had thousands of viewers. “I think people appreciate you just being no holds barred,” Hampton said. “It’s not a facade. It’s not covering up the imperfections.”

Hampton produced one more Facebook Live video that June, but it wasn’t until April 2018 that everything came together for her. “I saw another thing on Facebook that were these giant red rubber lips that looked like a big clown mouth, but they were advertised as a facial slimmer,” Hampton said. She ordered it, fired up Facebook Live in her “carfice” — the office space she has in her car — and started testing the product. Within a couple of days, the video had almost 10 million views, and after about a week it had almost 20 million, she said.

To this date it’s still her most viewed video, with over 42 million views.

Without intending to, Hampton had just created the social media craze that is Product Testing Tuesday. “All of this happened by mistake,” Hampton said, “but once the mistake happened I’m proud to say that I embraced it and my work embraced it and said, ‘Let her just go be her.’ And they didn’t stop it.”

While she enjoys seeing how many views her videos get, Hampton said she has been blown away by the overwhelmingly positive response she has gotten from her followers. She continues to get emails every week “from people who have cancer, who just had a friend die…they just put their dog down,” she said, “and they’re sending me an email saying they watched one of my videos and it made them laugh.”

Once Hampton came up with the name, she was stuck, though: she had to try out a new product every week. She produced the videos for Facebook Live while doing day turn stories at WBTV for about eight months after the facial slimmer video went viral. The stories she was producing for her TV segment “Good News” were more heartwarming feature pieces than the stories a news reporter traditionally produces, but Hampton believes any reporter or on-air personality can balance a social media persona with credibility. “Just because you’re fun, doesn’t mean you’re not credible,” she said. Audience members understand the difference between the platforms, and “I think they really appreciate being able to see the real you,” she said.

For Hampton, it’s all about being authentic — a quality she says comes naturally or not at all. “When I say authenticity, you know I think everybody’s like, ‘Okay, let me go do an authentic Facebook Live.’ Well, you’ve already screwed yourself up if you say that because authentic is not a way you act. Acting like yourself is authentic.”

Gray Television, which just acquired Raycom Media and along with it WBTV, was authentically impressed: it moved Hampton up from her position at the station to expand her segment “Good News” nationally. But it hasn’t asked her to change a thing about what she does on Facebook Live, which Hampton really appreciates. She says management has treated the segment like “a child and they want to protect it.” Throughout this transition, she has continued “PTT” on Facebook, with no plans to tinker with it or move it to TV, at least for now.

That’s one of the things she’s been pleasantly surprised about since “PTT” took off. “No one has said, ‘Do this, or don’t do that,’” she said. “And that’s because when I started doing this it wasn’t at the direction of anybody. I just got on Facebook Live, and I was 100 percent myself.” And this hands-off approach has allowed her to remain her authentic, goofy self with her followers.

(Hampton says her favorite PTT so far is something she calls the Trilogy. It is three-day adventure that begins with her testing wrinkle face cups)

Her work, and the success of “PTT” on Facebook Live, has not gone unnoticed by the rest of the journalism community. At the end of last year, Hampton was honored with a NewsTECHForum Social Media Excellence Award for her work. She doesn’t know what to do with the honor, she said, because “most honors you feel like you deserve.” And although she did work hard, “I’m not going to take credit for some brainchild incredible thing that I crafted,” she said. “It was an accident. It was a gloriously wonderful accident.”

We at the Knight-Cronkite News Lab found out about Hampton’s work after receiving multiple email tips from our readers in response to a story we wrote about WKRC’s morning anchor Bob Herzog’s Wake Up and Make Up videos on Facebook. Her work, like Herzog’s, is an example of how TV personalities can leverage social media to connect with their viewers.

Do you know someone who is using social media in creative and unusual ways to engage with his or her viewers and community? If so, email us at cronkitenewslab@asu.edu, and we’ll check it out.

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