Every growing company needs a video strategy. You've heard it time and time again, but most companies do not take the time, or invest the resources necessary to use video to grow their businesses. I recently had the opportunity to sit down with Shira Lazar, the founder of What's Trending and one of the pioneers of vlogging and short-form Internet video in general.
In a wide-ranging interview, Shira provided some extremely valuable advice for companies considering a major investment in Video.
Describe what you are aiming to accomplish with "What's Trending"?
Shira Lazar: We started off originally as a live weekly show (when live wasn't as prominent as it is now), then evolved into a daily live show, which then evolved into more short-form daily content. It was obvious that the idea of What's Trending wasn't just a show, but a millennial brand and so we took our passion for digital and the creator community and extended the experience to our site, social platforms, and across multiple syndication partners.
As the landscape has grown, we've grown with it and now we are a digital publisher with multiple shows and formats, through which a ton of new talent has been discovered. We definitely have numerous stories of talent from musicians, actors, comedians, and other "digital stars" who were on one of our shows and later went on to build massive followings and careers.
That is something I am proud of, and I want to continue to build What's Trending as a platform for great premium and real-time content, as well as a place for this new wave of stars to get discovered. Like what Arianna Huffington did for celebrities via a blog, I want to do with social stars and online video."
How has the concept of celebrity changed since you started WT?
It has definitely changed a lot. Talent that emerged from digital were considered cute or only talked about when they went viral. Now we see these talent as having careers.
There's a real business model and the power of their audiences is being taken seriously. It's leverage for everything. There's been a ton of studies also done showing digital stars being more popular than what people consider to be mainstream celebrities to younger audiences.
I don't see this trend slowing down anytime soon. It's pretty normal to be on vacation or traveling, and a younger fan will recognize me or my boyfriend, who's also a content creator, and want to take a picture, which never happened when I started What's Trending years ago. The only place we'd all be recognized were the conventions like Vidcon and Playlist Live. Now, it's just part of everyday life.
So how should companies think about this?
If you are a company and you don't have a strategy to attack this audience and the places that they live in a real way, you are going to be left in the dust. I am seeing a lot of smart, forward-thinking companies shift budgets, marketing, and advertising spends towards social and, specifically, digital video.
Of course, not every company is going to be targeting 14-year olds, but there are ways to use these platforms creatively and effectively for an older audience too. Follow Gary Vaynerchuk on snapchat or VC's Mark Suster and Justin Kan and you'll see how it's done.
The fact is, as these platforms build more audience, become more mainstream--which leads to more money being funneled there--it's only a matter of time that it ages up (like we've seen with Facebook). You want to be there or at least be open to playing in that sandbox in order to figure out what works and what doesn't work for your company, brand, and audience.
What do brands need to know about creating video content?
I've worked with numerous brands over the past several years on consulting projects related to the growth of online video. A lot of what we do at What's Trending with our brand partners includes just that. I don't think brands should expect some sort of 'silver bullet' strategy to exist, where you create one video, it goes viral, and all of a sudden everyone recognizes your company and what you stand for.
Yes, this does happen and, even if you do go viral, where do you go from there? I think brands need to focus on creativity, collaboration, consistency, quality, and experimentation. Show your audience you're there for the long haul and you're part of the community in an authentic way, and they'll be more willing to be loyal viewers, customers, and "friends".
Is there anything you'd like to plug?
What's Trending will be partnering with Muscular Dystrophy Association for the launch of their #LiveUnlimited summer campaign on 6/20 with a celebration of music on Facebook Live. Look out for a schedule of performances from over 12 artists from 7am PT-7pm PT! We'll also be bringing together digital influencers who will be sharing their stories of how they #LiveUnlimited and encouraging the community to do the same! If you're reading this, jump on board and share your #LiveUnlimited story on June 20 and tune in to our awesome lineup of musicians across Facebook, too!