Social Media

Social media now has its own Oscars

Frankie J. Grande attends the 8th Annual Shorty Awards at The New York Times Center on April 11, 2016 in New York City.
Mike Pont | WireImage | Getty Images

Selfies and Snapchats abound, The Shorty Awards in New York brought together everyone from a famous plastic surgeon in Miami who documents his patients surgeries to record producer to DJ Khaled.

As nominees made their way through the red carpet before the show, it was nearly impossible to find someone without a phone in hand. This was, after all, their very business.

The Shorty Awards is an annual show which honored anything from major brands to YouTube stars for their innovation in social media.

The show, in its 8th year, garnished 3.4 million fan votes for various categories, a large increase to its two million total votes the year before.

For the category of, "Snapchatter of the Year," Danny Berk, a younger surfer from San Diego, found himself nominated alongside names like DJ Khaled and Kylie Jenner.

Berk, a semi professional athlete, started recording his adventures, built a following and that's when brands begin to reach out to him. In his Snapchat account, he does everything from documenting surfing to interviewing random bypassers on the street. Recently, Cinnabon commissioned him to take over its Snapchat account for their 30th anniversary.

"A lot of brands have Snapchat accounts, but they don't know how to use it and that's why they bring influencers like us," Berk told CNBC.

"If you're trying to reach a younger generation, that's what everyone's on," he said of Snapchat. "I can't believe where I am today and that I'm making money off this app. It's like a dream come true."

Berk said his dad is his is agent for now, since he doesn't have a professional agent yet.

More and more influencers are getting agents, and traditional talent agencies like CAA and WME are starting to add divisions to represent them.

Kate Albrecht, a.k.a. Mr. Kate is a YouTube star represented by Abrams Artist Agency.

Also sometimes referred to as, "the antithesis of Martha Stewart," Albrecht was nominated for a Shorty Award for best DIY (Do It Yourself) category. Her work on YouTube includes beauty tips, style suggestions, and she's even wrote a book, "A Hot Glue Gun Mess."

Last year, she signed a deal with Maker Studios, a subsidiary of Disney and recently became the top lifestyle brand content integrator for the production company.

She started six years ago and believed she had a first-mover advantage, "I definitely think it'd be really hard to break in now, because it's so saturated," she told CNBC. "You have to find new platforms that are coming out."

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Albrecht, lost the Shorty Award to ThreadBanger, a husband and wife team that creates messy craft projects.

For the influencers, they're finding themselves in an evolving digital commerce trend.

"We do lifestyle content and a lot of brands want in on that, so it's changing commerce a lot," she said. "Brands want to access influencers and our audience."

Roman Atwood, won the award for YouTube comedian. He turned his more than 1 billion YouTube views into his own commerce store where he sells everything from shirts to beanies and pens. "Having a fanbase gives you massive upper hand, right away," he said. "No matter what you have to sell, you already have an audience that may be willing to purchase."

Like Albrecht, he recognizes the importance of being in the right place at the right time, when he first started posting his videos in 2009.

"There's so many content creators now in the space. I don't think it's too late to get in, but I would hate to be starting right now. It's a different world," he said.

Victoria Bachan, Manor and CompanyPartner, equates getting nominated for a Shorty Award to that of a Golden Globe or Oscar for digital media. "It gives influencers confirmation that they're the upper echelon of the internet," she told CNBC. "It can also entice Fortune 500 companies to notice you and give you legitimacy in digital media."

Bachan represents clients like the famous dog, "Doug the Pug," which now has a calendar and book as well as video blogger, Ari Fitz, who provides fashion advice for tom boys.

"If I can go to brands and say,'my client is nominated for a Shorty Award,' it shows they're a proven personality on the internet who has fan engagement and that's what advertisers want."

Harris Markowitz, who was also nominated for "Snapchatter of the Year" told CNBC he was reached out to by multiple companies following the nomination, who were seeking influencers to contribute and run their Snapchat accounts.

Several weeks after his Shorty nomination, he signed a deal with Zillow to help launch its account, where he now contributes and produces various stories promoting its brand.