5 Things We Can Learn from This Year's Shorty Award Winners

By Minda Smiley | Reporter

April 21, 2015 | 5 min read

The Seventh Annual Shorty Awards hosted in NYC had its fair share of celebrities, including host Rachel Dratch and presenter Johnny Weir, two-time Olympic figure skater. But many of the night’s biggest winners were up-and-coming stars who have built their large social media presences from scratch through the interesting and compelling content they create on a daily basis.

“Everyone in this room has different interests and different backgrounds, but you all have one thing in common, and that is your parents don’t understand what you do,” joked Dratch.

“Technology has evolved so much that we’re at a point now where anyone with an iPhone can just go out and make a movie. I mean you can send a 12-year-old out with an iPhone and he can come back with a movie. That explains Sharknado,” she added.

Here are five takeaways from the event celebrating the best in social media:

1. There’s no magic social media formula

Up against NBA star Kevin Durant and professional tennis player Caroline Wozniacki for the ‘Best Athlete’ Shorty Award, runner Lauren Fleshman said she really didn’t know how she won.

“I’m a wildcard candidate in a minor sport,” she said. “I guess the fact that I’m standing here means there’s no formula really to all this. Just like in sports, sometimes the wildcard wins.”

While it can be important to have a social media strategy, those such as Fleshman serve as a nice reminder that sometimes spontaneity is best.

2. While you don’t need a formula, it’s still important to be prepared

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Speaking of wildcards, the wildly popular ‘Serial’ could have never predicted the success it saw not only in terms of listeners but on Twitter as well.

When the podcast won the Shorty for ‘Best Podcast,’ production and operations manager Emily Condon joked, “As of today we have about 185,000 followers on Twitter. That’s about a 178,000 more than we expected,” proving that even the most succesful in media are never certain of building an audience at the outset, but that quality will find those who are interested in the topic.

3. Social media is not linear and any platform can be used for journalism

When Washington Post reporter Wesley Lowery accepted his ‘Best Journalist’ Shorty for his coverage in Ferguson, Missouri last year, he discussed how the same tools he uses in his personal life are the ones that have helped him the most professionally as well.

“When I got to Ferguson, what I relied on to tell the stories of the people who were in the streets, to tell the stories of the unrest, to tell the stories of Michael Brown and his family, were the same tools that I use to watch funny videos on Vine, to hang out with my friends on SnapChat, to be jealous of what you’re eating and where you’re partying on Instagram, and how I keep up with all of my buddies on Twitter," he said.

4. Social media platforms provide a level playing field

When Jeff Barrett accepted his Shorty for ‘Best Business Blogger,’ he commented on the fair playing field that social media provides for aspiring comedians, writers, artists, and more (after making fun of Kevin Jonas for mispronouncing his name).

“This is a really exciting time to be alive because you don’t have to wait for somebody to give you an audience, you just go out there and grab it,” reminding everyone that nobodies can reach celebrity-level status if they’ve got the passion and drive to do it.

5. Even as we’re bombarded with video, writing still matters

Although ‘Bored Elon Musk’ wore a green-colored mask when accepting his award for ‘Best Fake Account’ to hide his identity, he did reveal a bit of encouragement for some of the writers in the crowd.

“I want to give a shout out to all of the writers out there. They say a picture’s worth a thousand words but a thousand words is literally a thousand words and it’s a really tough thing to communicate stories and not have visuals and not have video to tell it. So to all the writers out there, keep on doing what you’re doing. It’s not a dying art form, it’s still alive and well.”

Vine, Meerkat, Periscope, and YouTube are just a few examples that show how prevalent video has become and likely will continue to be in the future. Yet strong writing skills are still largely the basis for some of the best journalistic, literary, and creative work around.

To view the full list of Shorty Award winners go to the dedicated homepage.

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