Social Media now has its own "Oscars"-type awards called the Shortys.

Attending the awards in New York this past month helped highlight for me several important trends vis-à-vis social media about which every businessperson and career-minded individual should take note:

1.  Social media is big business - While it should be obvious that social media is increasingly important as a means of communication, many people do not yet realize just how serious the social media business has become. Social media stars often have the same types of agents and managers as other entertainers, earn into the millions, and may have far more views and better engagement than even A-list actors. LeLe Pons, whom I met at the awards, for example, has over 8 billion Vine loops. While it is true that Vine loops are short, think for a moment what it takes for someone in conventional media to get anywhere near that type of view count - and think of the business impact of the transition of viewership to social platforms.

Gregory Galant, who founded the Shorty Awards in 2008, told me that "When we created the Shorty Awards there were just a handful of brands on social media. Now not having a good presence on social media is grounds to fire a CMO. It is obvious why: What happens on social media effects culture more than what happens in the movies or TV. Social media has spawned its own economy.  Social media influencers are able to make a healthy living off the medium, and some are making millions. In a way social media stars are more fortunate than movie stars because they don't have to rely on a studio to cast them to reach an audience, they just need to pull out their phones."

From my own business, I also see signs that big businesses are starting to recognize and embrace the magnitude of the change - one of the reasons that some large firms are looking at implementing the new SecureMySocial offering is that by warning people if they are making problematic social media posts, the system enables enterprises to much more safely leverage their employees as de facto ambassadors for their brands - something that they have wanted to do for quite some time but feared what damage could occur if people made mistakes when posting.

2.  Social media is for people of all ages. In case you thought that social media is only for younger folks - the winner of the first Shorty presented this year - Instagrammer of the Year -- was Helen Ruth Van Winkle (AKA Baddie Winkle) -- an 87-year-old grandmother.

3.  Despite the availability of new platforms, Facebook is still king, Twitter still reigns when it comes to news and quick communication, and Instagram rules the photo sharing world. Even the stars who built their brands on other platforms still use the "classic" social media platforms for engaging with fans and documenting their "behind the scenes" lives. Businesses take note. (Snapchat is clearly a player here as well, but its ephemeral nature means that a lot of the content on the platform does not "live" for long, which obviously impacts people whose incomes and brands depend on the mass proliferation of their content.)

4.  Successful entertainers are blending social media and traditional media - in both directions; there were attendees who built their names in conventional venues and have branched out to social media, and vice versa.

Miss USA, Olivia Jordan, mentioned to me how important social media was in staying connected with fans and building brand, Comedian and actor Chris Gethard noted how important social media was in helping him develop a fan base for his comedy show, and  Jackie Cruz (who both plays Marisol "Flaca" Gonzales on Orange is the New Black and sings) told me how valuable the feedback that fans provide via social media has been in perfecting her acting and music. Ballerina Misty Copeland, who won the award for Best in Dance, noted in her remarks that "to be a dancer and to have an outlet on social media, I think is something that the art world has been craving for a long time... It means so much as a dancer, especially, to be able to share what we do day in and day out and the beauty of what we do on social media."

From the flip side, singer and songwriter Hailey Knox, who built her name on YouNow and other social platforms, is currently recording her debut album, Viner Brandon Calvillo is acting in a movie, muscial.ly star  "Baby Ariel" Martin launched a line of lipsticks, YouTube and YouNow stars Vanessa and Veronica Merrell (the Merrell Twins) have joined the cast of the television show Jane The Virgin. Likewise many other of the nominees at the Shorty's have received similar television, movie, music, product, and book deals.

5.  Video is becoming increasingly important - Most folks are probably familiar with YouTube and Vine, but new platforms are joining the mix. (Watch my column or follow me on Twitter for upcoming pieces about some new platforms that are gaining amazing traction.) The emergence of video as an increasingly important staple is not surprising - improved processors in mobile devices, better video sharing apps, a trend toward informal shots, and ubiquitous Internet access has transformed video creation from something that required hours in a studio and in front of a computer to something done in minutes, or even seconds, with a device in one's pocket. Any negative trend caused by some mobile providers eliminating unlimited data plans has been orders-of-magnitude eclipsed by the positive developments in this regard.

6. Platforms are constantly evolving - I sent my first "Snap" (that's a Snapchat "post" for those unfamiliar with the lingo) from the Shorty's when professional rapper, Redfoo, convinced me to send an image via the app rather than just via Twitter. That led to a conversation between us about how not only do new social platforms arrive on the scene, but existing platforms change with time -- adopting the best features of one another. Will Snapchat ultimately allow for easy archiving of a person's entire "story," we wondered -- time will tell. As I discussed with others as well, I also expect video sharing platforms to add livestreaming capabilities, and livestreaming platforms to add recording and archiving (between the time I started writing this article and the time it appeared on Inc., Periscope actually revealed such a feature.)

In my upcoming pieces in this series I will take a look at some new social platforms that are quickly capturing huge markets, as well as speak with some teens who have achieved amazing success on social media. To be notified when the articles appear please  follow me on Twitter.

 

Published on: May 17, 2016
Like this column? Sign up to subscribe to email alerts and you'll never miss a post.
The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.