Not long ago I had lunch with the vlogger and lifecaster Sarah Austin. We ate on the patio at Aureole and not ten minutes in she asked if I we could shoot our interview for a reality show she is doing. She said she'd send me what she wanted to use before it went live and wouldn't ask for a release until I gave her approval.
I agreed and she rolled tape.
Looking back, I realize this is what Austin does. She turns her life into content. And at the same time she is reinventing not only what it means to be a media personality, but is also defining the concept of the individual being the new network.
Austin hosts a weekly Webcast on Justin.tv/pop17 that attracts 50,000 viewers and has been endorsed by, among others, Leonardo Dicaprio, Steve Wozniak, and Demi Moore.
We recently spoke about online influence and our conversation landed on the question of when we thought was the best time to break news. We instantly realized it was a subject other people would be interested in too. So I asked Austin to produce a broadcast that revealed the best time to not only tweet and post, but also when to pitch editors of top tech and news sites, as well as tips for getting your voice heard above the social media din of everyone trying to capture their 15 minutes of fame.
Read the Q&A, then prepare to reschedule your programming.
Mark Borden: When did you first go online?
Sarah Austin: I was 10 in 1996 and my dad had a PC in his home office. Under his supervision, he would let me go online.
What is the most interesting thing you're working on right now?
I'm relaunching Pop17 as a new media brand that tells personal stories and tracks and analyzes Internet fame, social media news, tech tools, and trends.
Over the last two years, I've told the tales of social media influencers. Now I'm chronicling the next generation. The people who have influenced me and told me their stories are now collaborating with Pop17 and contributing videos, blogs, live shows, tweets, events; while simultaneously building out their personal brand.
The more a contributor posts and interacts on our Twitter and Facebook pages, as well as pop17.com, the more social capitol they earn for media spotlights, features, and promotion in their social media field. Badges will appear on their pages to show their level of engagement. Influence is not top down, it's circular and cross-distributed. It will be interesting to see how the contributors will leverage Pop17 to tell stories and build their brands.
How do you gauge a person's online influence?
Virgil said, "Follow an expert." If social media had a king, he would say: "Follow an expert you like on Twitter and Facebook."
Influence is about behavior, social capitol, and a likable personality. Social perception, impression management, and persuasion are the three pillars of social capitol. It's less about how many fans and followers you have, and more about what other people say about you and the psychology of persuasion.
Robert B. Cialdini points out that politicians use celebrities to sway votes. The association to celebrities can be linked to the way people make assumptions that we are like our friends.
Duncan Watts revokes the influencer theory to some extent, stating that true influence will never be traceable. However, Watts misses the phatic dimension. In Roman Jakobson's work, Phatic‚ communication is when someone says, "Sorry I can't hear you, your breaking up. I have bad reception." Micro-blogging and online communities host most phatic conversations. Despite Watts‚ findings, the influence debate will go on and on, and in my opinion, authenticity and personality are at the core of influence.
Who do you influence and how?
The social media marketing, new media PR and entrepreneur crowd. Personal branding gurus and tech heads tend to follow my voice. I'm influential to an emerging market on the brink of Internet stardom. The video blogging, new media, creative entrepreneur crowd is listening as well as the technology enthusiast crowd.
18-35 year olds are the largest demographic I influence, but of these people I reach, many often ask, "How can my social media savvy translate to business?"
I reach an average 50,000 people with one hour live on Justin.TV. I engage with comments and questions live and that makes for a truly connected experience that cannot be replicated by mainstream media. I provide information to business minded people looking for a fresh take on technology from a user's perspective.
What accomplishment are you most proud of?
I've always wanted to be the first to do something.
To this day I want to start a revolution in new media.
In the spring of 2007, when Justin Kan asked me to lifecast my life 24/7 with wearable technology to his Web site. I did. I was not alone and others like Lisa Batey, Jody Gnant, and Justine Ezarik joined.
We said that it was a trend in exhibitionism and transparency that everyone would soon be doing. To an extent, we were right. Lifecasting today has evolved into sharing images, videos, tweets, location based updates, and blogs about day-to-day life.
The most mundane moments have become voyeuristically enchanting. I would chat with my viewers while out to lunch and keep a camera running. Other times I'd strap the Webcam to my hat and take them around town in San Francisco and New York City.
As a student of social experimentation, I once updated a calendar on 30boxes that acted like a lifecast TV guide to my personal schedule. I would take my lifecast to tech and media events where I'd encourage others to join the movement.
Describe the last time someone in your network inspired you do something—even something as small as clicking on a link to a great video or a revealing site?
Nerdfiighters are changing the world one video at a time. The VlogBrothers (Hank and John Green) collaborate with their audience—the nerdfighters— annually as a way to raise PR for charity using the power of YouTube. Alan Lastufka, a fellow nerdfighter, sent me a link to Hilary Clinton's annual U.S. Department of State Exchanges Connect contest calling for short film submissions. Instead of submitting my own film entry, I filmed and submitted my little sister's video.
My 17 year-old sister has some troubles at school and is moving around from school to school, so I felt she could use a summer exchange. Guess what? She won!
What's one thing you've done online that lit up your network and caused a major reaction?
In an interview with YouTube founder, Steve Chen, I broke the news that YouTube would be introducing live video streaming.
How much time do you spend on your Wall, your Feed, your Lifestream, Updates, Tweets or other social media?>
Around 30 hours a week.
What is your favorite blog?
What is your worst experience in the digital world?
My twitter account, @SarahAustin, was hacked by a phishing scam and posted sales tweets without my knowledge.
Twitter Tombstone: In 140 characters or less, how would you like to be remembered?
I'd like to leave a legacy in new media... just sayin'.
Read more about The Influence Project.