Zach King may not be a household name but he’s might as well be Brad Pitt among certain circles – namely hip and young (as in 25 and under) social media users around the world.
Hailing from Portland, Oregon, the 24-year-old’s been billed as the King of Vine, which is like Instagram but for videos six seconds long or shorter. His Vines are what King calls “digital sleights of hand”: they’re like visual puns, made possible by his goofy acting, creativity, and tiny-budget special effects.
Here’s a compilation video of some of his slightly older Vines:
In only six seconds, King manages to win over his audience. “The biggest takeaway I’d want them to get is that sense of wonder, that child-like moment where they say ‘Oh that’s awesome!’ or ‘How did he do that?!’” the half-Chinese, half-American told us on a recent visit to Hong Kong, where he has family.
King is the logical product of the 21st century’s increasingly accessible and affordable technology, minimal attention spans, and viral video-obsessed culture. Coupled with his genuinely funny and wow-inducing videos (and perhaps his boyish good looks), it might explain why his reception across different social media platforms has been so massive.
The animated social media star has over two million followers on Vine, and 1.5 million followers on Instagram. His YouTube channel has reached over 109 million views, with his most popular video (about fighting Jedi kittens, of course) has reached 12 million views alone. We won’t even delve into his Facebook, Twitter and Snapchat stats. (His Snapchat username is “ZachKingSnaps”.)
And large corporations have taken notice: he’s made videos for Starbucks, Chrysler, Lacoste, and LG, keeping his signature style while using their products in his short clips seen by tens of thousands.
Despite his commercial success, maintaining a relationship with his fans is still King’s top priority. He spends time every day responding to comments, sending people personalised Snapchats, and visiting fans if he’s in the area.
“That’s my favourite part: live chats and responding to fans,” King said, with no hesitation. “They want to know you on a deeper level. You’re starting a kind of friendship. It’s a weird friendship because you never meet most of them.”
King’s insistence on keeping his videos G-rated means his fans include young kids. “One thing I love about seeing kids watch my videos is when they smile,” he gushed.
He’s had young people thanking him for brightening up their day while they go through a rough time, like their parents’ divorce, and it makes King happy to see kids “excited, and maybe even a little inspired” by his work.
His young, devoted fan base extends to our corner of the world. “I’ve met a lot of kids on the street here in Hong Kong,” King said. “I just went shopping at the Ladies’ Market and there were a bunch of kids getting out of school who were stoked to see me.”
While he was here, King found the time to film a Vine on the MTR:
He also managed to take a trip down to the Occupy Central sites in Mong Kok and Admiralty, and though he thought about filming an Umbrella Movement-themed Vine, he said he was unable to come up with any Vine-worthy ideas.
He was, however, very impressed by the protest art: “I thought it was fascinating to see the many ways they could represent their cause in picture and in statues, and how they’re writing on the Post-It notes.”
“I thought, wow, people can use creativity in such a powerful way? That was inspiring.”
We think King’s art is pretty powerful too. Thanks for bringing us a bit of magic through our cell phones.