Interview: CEO Gregory Galant Discusses The Shorty Awards

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With this year’s ceremony coming to an end, Charlie Derry talks to Gregory Galant, the co-creator of The Shorty Awards, about how getting recognised for using social media can advance your career, and why it is important to keep your social media profiles up to date in today’s society.

Set up in 2008 by New York technology start-up company Sawhorse Media, The Shorty Awards honour the best producers of short content on the web, recognising people and industries using the likes of Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr, YouTube, FourSquare, and the rest of the social internet.

Hosted by Samantha Bee and Jason Jones from The Daily Show, The Shorty Award’s fourth annual awards ceremony was held on 26th March. Every year millions of people are nominated for a Shorty Award and this highly anticipated ceremony is where the best users creating short content on social media are brought together to be celebrated.

When the awards were first set up, they originally only recognised users on Twitter, created as a means to help users decide on who they should follow. But like with most technology, Twitter was still rapidly growing. As Gregory Galant, co-creator of The Shorty Awards and CEO of Sawhorse Media, comments: “Soon people were creating content for people other than their friends and they were covering bigger topics on Twitter trying to educate others.”

“We didn’t have any intention at the time to make it into a big event or a ceremony,” Gregory continues. “But within 24 hours we became the top 10 trend on Twitter, so we dropped everything and found that our Twitter was growing and that we were getting a lot of interest. Then after two months we were putting together a ceremony and were bringing people in from around the world.”

Sawhorse Media are known for a number of social media websites, including Muck Rack, the leading destination for journalists on Twitter, and Listorious, the directory of Twitter people and lists. Because social media is ever-changing, it wasn’t long before The Shorty Awards found themselves evolving too.

“One of the biggest shifts is in recognising that the social web has become very expansive and that it has become available on so many different platforms,” says Gregory. “Every year we have to kind of rethink things and keep it evolving, and one of the big things we have done is to create new categories to recognise new social networks that have sprung up since we started.”

Now The Shorty Awards have also started working with Tumblr with a ‘Tumblr Of The Year’, with FourSquare with a ‘Mayor Of The Year’, and have also created awards to recognise the best in Facebook and YouTube too.

Recognising the best in all of these social networking sites, one reason that Gregory believes you should get involved “is to inspire other people to do things with social media.” He believes that this notion of discovery can be very useful to those who are doing great things with social media, and that: “If you’re creating great content but you want to expand your audience, then The Shorty Awards are a great way to get all the people who follow you to start talking about you.”

Another is to give people a ‘creative licence’. “So many people are using social media but they are not really pushing the boundaries,” he continues. “Part of The Shorty Awards is to show these case studies about how people are using social media and who are doing great things in their field.”

A lot of the people who use social media don’t have a big following so this is what gets them from having just a fan base on the social web to getting better known and to doing better things in their careers after that. he continues. “For people who start using the social web as just a hobby,” says Gregory, “The Shorty Awards are an opportunity to turn what you love into how you make your living.”

Their website not only showcases some of the most notable stories of how winning an award can open new doors, with one of the most renowned of these being the designer of Twitter’s Fail Whale, but Gregory also comments that, “We’ve actually heard many stories of people who have won an award in their past that has advanced their careers. It’s kind of a similar effect to winning an Oscar in the movie business.”

The awards do not only recognise individuals using social media either, as The Shorty Industry Awards recognise agencies, brands, and industry leaders who create social media content professionally too. Gregory adds: “For companies that have won an award, they can show clients and other companies that they are with it on social media and that they really get how it works.”

Sherlockology, an online guide for BBC’s Sherlock fans, won two awards at this year’s ceremony, the first being The Shorty Award itself for the best ‘Fansite’ and the second being a Vox Populi distinction, the award for the most audience nominations. “It’s all very surreal,” the team comment. “One second we are working on the site back in the UK, the next we’re in New York standing on a stage in front of hundreds of people accepting an award.”

Led by a team of people in their free time, the website is run alongside their full-time day jobs. “For us to win this award means a hell of a lot,” they continue. “It means that the hard work and late nights have all been worth it. When we look at what we’ve achieved in such a short space of time, well we can’t really believe it ourselves sometimes.”

But that’s not all; winning a Shorty Award also shows the great effects that using social media can have. “When we started Sherlockology less than a year ago we never expected it to turn out the way it has,” they say. “To win the Award has confirmed that we must be doing something right, that we actually do it well enough to be recognised, proving that social media matters and that it really does have an impact.”

Brian Owens, assistant News Editor at Nature News, an international weekly journal of science which won a Shorty in the ‘Science’ category, agrees. “We take social media quite seriously here so it was great to have our work recognized,” he says. “While it’s nice to be able to put the award in our bio, the main benefit is internal as it’s something to point to when the people higher-up inevitably ask ‘what’s the point of all this tweeting?’.”

And it really is important. With websites such as LinkedIn, 1 in 6 workers successfully use social networking to get hired and 75 of the ‘Fortune 100 Companies’ use LinkedIn as its corporate hiring solution.

“Social media is essential now,” says Gregory. “In a way your social media profiles are more important than your resumes. You used to apply for a job and all they would have to look at was this piece of paper to figure out who you are. Now you know that when you meet someone you’re going to Google them; you’re going to look at their Facebook and Twitter probably before you even look at their resume because you know it’s going to be more interesting.”

“I think for anyone starting off in their careers now, they should Google themselves to see how they are presented to employers and clients,” he continues, and this only begins to emphasise why being awarded for using social media will soon be something we will all strive towards.

So what will next year’s ceremony bring? Because of the constant changes in social media there are no plans as of yet, but as Gregory concludes: “We’re going to get bigger every year; we’ve already doubled in size and we have no signs of slowing down yet.”

Categories for the 2013 awards will open around January, and nominations are all done through Twitter, where you can either nominate yourself or better yet you can let your followers nominate you to show that they really appreciate what you are doing.

Last year there were over a million and a half tweeted nominations so Sawhorse Media do not choose the winners themselves; this is determined by the Real-Time Academy of Short Form Arts & Sciences. “We just try to encourage as many interesting people as we can to enter,” says Gregory, “Then we let the rest of the process is let run wild.”

If you’re thinking about nominating someone, or even if you would just like some advice on how you should approach a campaign, then you can visit The Shorty Award’s official website for more information.

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