Hall’s social media has experienced explosive growth since he began uploading videos to YouTube in January 2021. In December, Hall went live on YouTube to cover a tornado outbreak that spawned two EF-4 tornadoes that devastated parts of Kentucky. . Subsequently, Hall’s subscriber count increased by nearly 250,000 in just two months, according to social media monitoring platform Social Blade. In April, Hall announced plans to expand her presence on land as well, adding a fleet of storm-chasing vehicles with colorful decals from the brand. at least one of them was seen during Hurricane Ian.
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To date, Hall has accumulated 828,000 subscribers on his YouTube channel, Ryan Hall, Y’all, and 1.5 million followers on TikTok. His YouTube videos of him, which have recently been uploaded about twice a week, get hundreds of thousands of views on a regular basis.
The videos are fast-paced, filled with maps in vivid colors. Hall has amassed a fan base drawn to her folksy presentation, with videos often going deeper than a typical TV weather forecast. Hall told The Washington Post that he uses a team of meteorologists, editors and writers to produce his videos.
Hall’s YouTube video promoting a “massive storm” after Thanksgiving has drawn more than a million views. One commenter on the video described him as “down-to-earth and to the point,” and another said his forecasts are “more accurate than any local or even national forecast.”
On Twitter, where Hall has more than 110,000 followers, he describes himself as “Internet Weatherman”.
Critics voice concern over hype
As Hall’s audience grows, some in the weather community have questioned how he presents his videos, pointing to specific headlines and images that appear to make promises without scientific backing. Critics argue that when headlines go too far, they have the potential to erode confidence in forecasters.
Hall was also heavily criticized for headlines in a pair of videos in August and September: “Here’s Exactly When You’ll See Snow This Year (2022)” and “Here’s Exactly How Much Snow You’ll See This Year (2022).”
In the online weather community active on Twitter, the title of the video about the amount of snow and the accompanying thumbnail drew strong criticism from meteorologists and weather fans who argued that the trailer over-promised information. A critical tweet drew more than 400 likes and dozens of replies and quote tweets. arguing the thumbnail it was misleading because it suggested that a swath of the country could see 4 feet of snow, including areas where such amounts are rare or unrealistic.
Using flashy images and over-the-top messaging to drive clicks isn’t limited to Hall: It takes little browsing to find YouTubers without clear credentials using thumbnails showing photoshopped hurricanes on land and water. Without naming the specific creators, Hall told The Washington Post that there are YouTubers who “overwhelmingly use misleading titles and thumbnails.” but would not be included in that group.
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Hall said his goal is to capture an audience that traditional sources of weather information, such as television, radio and the National Weather Service, haven’t seen. To do so, Hall said he uses “the same tactics” other creators use on social media platforms: bold thumbnails, large blocky text and vibrant images.
“For the most part, I’m just relaying official information from meteorologists and government agencies that people need,” Hall said. “I’m just doing it in a different way than most people have… seen before in the climate world.”
Still, some meteorologists are concerned. In a recent podcast, James Spann, chief meteorologist for Birmingham’s ABC television affiliate in Birmingham, Alabama, and co-host of the “WeatherBrains” podcast, said the way some YouTubers get clicks is inconsistent with their values. .
“There’s just something in my fabric, in my soul, where integrity is a huge issue, and that’s one of the negatives that I see is having to play a game to be a YouTuber, to meet their standards,” Spann. said.
While Hall agrees that weather misinformation on social media is a problem, he doesn’t view his videos as clickbait or harmful and has even mocked critics. He defends some of his most controversial posts, arguing that they draw people into a video that will include the necessary nuance and substance.
“The title was enough of a hook to grab the attention of people interested in the content of the video,” Hall said of the video. “Here is exactly how much snow you will see this year.” The video itself was “nothing more than a scientifically based seasonal perspective explaining the averages and effect of La Niña on our winters here in the United States.”
Kim Klockow McClain, a meteorologist and team leader for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Behavioral Perspectives Unit, said that while the jury is out on exactly how viewers perceive YouTube thumbnails, research suggests that if people obsessed with thumbnails, it could pose a problem. .
“People tend to base their risk judgments on the first information they receive and then update from that baseline,” Klockow said. “If the first benchmark is extreme, even after adjusting for video content, their judgments may still be more extreme than the situation warrants.”
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Katie Nickolaou, a meteorologist and TikToker with more than 478,000 followers, said she believes the best headlines and thumbnails are engaging, intriguing, and truthful. Headlines and images that don’t deliver on promises could have dangerous ripple effects, she said.
“It will not only be [the user] stop clicking that creator’s videos, they’ll also be less likely to click or trust other weather-related content creators’ videos,” Nickolaou said. “This can be extremely harmful, because it can slow down or even prevent the dissemination of data from meteorologists that could save lives.”
Ultimately, Hall says, he and meteorologists, whether they use social media or not, are all on the same team, educating and informing people. During impending severe weather events, Hall said, he shifts from what he calls a “weather containment” style to a more serious tone. Still, Hall said he learned lessons from the buzz around his miniatures, adding that some setbacks have caused his team to “re-evaluate our marketing.”
Hall said his audience growth has allowed him to expand his business and create more jobs for meteorologists. Hall has also helped those affected by severe storms, something he said wouldn’t be possible without the growth in the way he markets his videos.
“I have been able to donate over $100,000 to survivors of tornadoes and hurricanes by directly delivering supplies, cash and even new cars to people who lost theirs to the wrath of Mother Nature, and none of that would be possible without our modern approach to marketing,” Hall said.
“If any of that is wrong, I don’t want to be right,” Hall added.