Television and Web personality, video blogger and social media expert Shira Lazar embodies the evolution of entertainment journalism. Though she possesses the interviewing and reporting chops of a traditional entertainment reporter, she also has her finger on the pulse of the tech space and is adept at communicating with Web 2.0 audiences.
As the creator, executive producer and host of “What’s Trending”, a blog and Web-based program found at Whatstrending.com, Shira Lazar covers viral social media trends—those things that people are tweeting about and linking to. In terms of production value, “What’s Trending” raises the bar for internet programs while still maintaining an aesthetic that appeals to the Web audience.
Shira Lazar is also the host and creator of Partners Project on Youtube, which she describes as an “Inside the Actors’ Studio” for Youtube stars. On Partners Project she has interviewed such Youtube ingénues as iJustine, Lisa Nova, Freddie Wong and Nice Peter, who offer advice to people trying to create their own viral video content.
We recently got the opportunity to speak with Shira Lazar about social media startups, personal branding and content sharing.
EVIDENCE-BASED MARKETING: Business Insider recently ran a story quoting original Facebook investor Roger McNamee as saying that all the big social platforms have been created, and that “the last 500 social companies funded by the VC community are all worthless.” Is he just a cynical old coot, or does he have a point?
SHIRA LAZAR: A lot [of startups] are getting big valuations, but then they go public and realize that maybe they shouldn’t have [gone public] as quickly, or that their IPO isn’t worth as much as people thought.
They’re often like big fish in small ponds. While their worth to the community they’re a part of is big, it doesn’t necessarily mean that there is mainstream potential or a viable business model in place.
Facebook and Twitter did it right, but they were first. A lot of people are trying to jump on the bandwagon, but it’s hard to gain the traction that [Facebook and Twitter] have.
EVIDENCE-BASED MARKETING: Do you think that, on a strategic level, new startups aren’t going after a revenue-based model?
SHIRA LAZAR: I don’t think people tend to create networks with a revenue model.
When Mark Zuckerberg created Facebook in college he wasn’t looking to be bought out right away. It started out as a passion project … that he could build into something bigger.
I think people are realizing new uses for social networks as they continue to be used. Twitter didn’t know they could be used for breaking news at the time. It was just about letting your friends know what you were up to in 140 characters or less. It wasn’t like there was a clear path from the beginning.
EVIDENCE-BASED MARKETING: Are there any Social Media Startups you are excited about?
SHIRA LAZAR: I’m interested to see where sites like Klout.com are headed. The social data is going to be huge as a way to analyze the value of a brand or person. Right now companies are using it, but eventually it will be used by the public. We’ll be able to scan a product and look into an augmented reality to see what other people think of it.
Youtube is also becoming more of a social network. There is more engagement and click-through on Youtube than on any other social media platform. People are making more revenue per subscriber on Youtube than on Facebook or Twitter.
EVIDENCE-BASED MARKETING: Do you feel that video is the direction that all viral content is moving?
SHIRA LAZAR: No, I think for some people video works and for some people it doesn’t. Some people are better at sharing content in 140 characters. As people decide how to connect with their audience, some need to be honest with themselves and say, “maybe video isn’t my thing.” While it’s great to be doing everything, if [video] doesn’t work for you it could ruin the other ways that you connect with people.
However, I think that if you can tap into a way to tell a story in video form it can be powerful. Don’t put all your eggs in one basket or platform.
EVIDENCE-BASED MARKETING: Speaking of storytelling, do you have advice for people building their personal brands?
SHIRA LAZAR: It all comes down to story. Whether you are blogging, tweeting, doing a status update or doing a video, if you don’t have a story to tell that moves emotions your content won’t be passed around.
EVIDENCE-BASED MARKETING: Do you think it is easier to achieve social media influence as a content creator or as a content curator?
SHIRA LAZAR: I think a bit of both. It’s all about balance. Curators would be more respected if they were contributing value to the conversation rather than just linking to other people’s stuff.
[On What’s Trending] I give shout outs and recommendations. I look at what I do as curating some things, but how I built my brand is by bringing in my original take.
EVIDENCE-BASED MARKETING: Google’s Panda update was intended to reward brands that create quality content. At this point, do you think it is more useful for brands to focus on creating a large quantity of original content or a lot less content that is of a higher quality?
SHIRA LAZAR: I think the most important thing is consistency. If you update once a year, people won’t come back for more. It’s also important to be consistent with the quality of your content. People have done well on Youtube or blogging by posting every day, but it just adds to the noise if there is no quality to [the content]. You’re only as good as your last tweet or video.
Watch Shira Lazar interview The Black Eyed Peas’ Will.i.am about technology, innovation and dancing robots:
What’s Trending Airs at 10AM PT. For more details please visit www.whatstrending.com