For the summer 2016 “Social Media Issue” of Resource Magazine, we caught up with social media stars @KrispyShorts and @NicholasMegalis, two far-reaching influencers with very different perspectives on how social media can be used for self-expression, entertainment, and brand marketing.
In some ways, their relationship is comparable to that of Warhol and Basquiat; they’re both artists, yet use their creativity in different ways to achieve the same goal: to inspire an audience. So we hit up Root Studios with Chief Photographer David Johnson to shoot some modern interpretations of the iconic Warhol-Basquiat ‘Boxing’ series, as well as some original screen printing concepts by David.
Check out the photos and read our interviews with the influencers below.
I understand you’re the chief content officer of JerryMedia, a digital content agency born out of @FuckJerry. Can you tell me a bit about that?
I used to work in finance, hated my job, and made a lot of video content just for fun. It had been growing steadily; I gained 200,000 followers in a year. I realized to get my numbers up I needed to speak to someone like @thefatjewish or Elliot (@FuckJerry), so I emailed [Elliot] every day until he finally responded, “Dude you’re annoying, come see me.” When we talked he said he needed help with video content, and I obviously needed his network to grow my own account, so we worked together and did a lot of videos together. We would always sit down with a little pen and paper and draw up how we could help different brands when they needed a skit. About six months ago, we were getting so much inbound business we decided to make this an actual agency, so I quit my job in finance. We hired four people, got an office in SoHo, and now we work with some of the biggest brands in the world.
Specifically for social media content, what do you look for in a branded content pitch? What are your requirements for taking a job?
It’s more about what [the client] wants. For the longest time, these Madison Avenue agencies would take these $500,000 TV spots and try to translate that to social. But I don’t think brands are actually making highly engaged videos on Instagram. If you see a sponsored post you usually just click right through it. They don’t really know how to connect to millennials so we try to concentrate on videos that everybody wants to share and engage with. It’s been a very complicated thing for brands to do. Like, how would Samsung make a video advertising a phone on social media? That’s our job. We do two things: make videos for brands that we push out on the @FuckJerry network, which is north of 20 million total reach on all of our accounts, and we run branded social channels as well.
It’s a similar shift to what we’ve seen in the photo industry. Much less do we get those high budget advertising jobs, in exchange for smaller social media jobs happening a much higher frequency.
Yeah, exactly. We could churn out 10 videos a day for a company while it could a brand six months to do a 30-second spot. We also have videographers, editors, and people who are willing to act for free just to be associated with JerryMedia.
So how do you go about pricing a campaign? With all of these different networks and accounts, do you often sell cross-platform?
We try to monthly retainers and amplification, for example, let’s say we’re doing videos for DirecTV. We’ll not only create the content, but we’ll distribute it to our network and charge anywhere from 15 to 20 thousand dollars a month for that. We’ll offer an X amount of videos for an X amount of impressions, and we’ll distribute [the content] on our channels until we hit our numbers.
Does this require you to repost or repurpose content until you hit your goals?
Yes, exactly. A brand may want a million impressions on five different videos surrounding a new product. So we write the skits for that, shoot them, and then post them on our channels until we get them their views. There’s not one company that does what we do, and I think that’s why we’re so successful right now. We can grow someone’s Instagram account by 5,000 followers a day by driving traffic to it. We can also drive content to the ‘Popular’ page by liking and engaging with it from 10 different accounts, which no other brand can do. Instagram’s algorithm is set so that when a number of the largest influencers engage with something, it’s put on the ‘Popular’ page. It’s almost like tricking the algorithm in a way.
Has Instagram had any issues with this?
Uh, no. We’re actually very close with Instagram. They’re our friends.
Generally speaking, is there a particular form of social video content that you get the best response from?
Videos in 15 seconds or less.
Has this been consistent in the past? Or is the “15-second-rule” a new phenomenon?
I think the biggest mistake people are making now, especially since Instagram began supporting 60-second videos, is that no one is using the platform to watch 60-second videos. You have to be short and concise to get your point across. And if you’re a brand, you need to incorporate your product somewhere into that short story. But as far as what I do personally on Instagram? I just do it for fun and to make people laugh. And I hope that the 15 seconds they give me of their day is a little more entertaining than their day jobs.
A few years ago, Casey Neistat told me that mobile video sharing has yet to be perfected. What are your thoughts on this?
I think it’s come along way in those few years. Facebook is now taking a big step toward video content, so they’re on their way back up in popularity. Snapchat is the up-and-comer in the business, even if it’s not edited video. But I think the three big platforms—Instagram, Snapchat, Facebook—have all done a great job with their mobile platform. It’s the video content of the future. But as far as what a company could do to make a better platform for individuals? The only drawback is that most platforms don’t support HQ quality. It’s all quite low-res right now.
What’s your earliest memory using social media?
I was an obsessive Myspacer. After I graduated high school I didn’t have a job and had this freedom to be on Myspace from morning ‘till night. I used it largely to promote my music. I’m a singer, songwriter, and performer, and I booked tours, made music connections, worked with MTV, and got label attention, all from being glued to Myspace at 17, 18 years old. I was messaging sometimes 400 people per day—manually, not spamming—and writing personalized introduction lines, like: “My name is Nicholas Megalis. I’m 18 years old. I live in Cleveland, Ohio, and I’m a singer, songwriter, musician, and idiot. Check out my music, you’re going to love it—and if you don’t you can come punch me in the face.” That was about 10 years ago, and after that, I didn’t use Facebook. I didn’t think it had a place for someone like me. It wasn’t very creative, but it has changed a lot since then.
So how did you transition from Myspace to Vine?
Vine launched in 2013, and I immediately became obsessed with it. To me, it was clearly a vehicle to be creative and make art; I didn’t look at Vine as a promotional tool right off the bat—I looked at it as a place to make something visual that gives people a sense of what my brain is like. So Vine, for me, happened organically. Initially, I didn’t even see it as a way to get my music out there. I didn’t know what it was, I didn’t know what it would become, but I became obsessed with it to almost a dangerous level. I would be on Vine all day long, just watching it, consuming it, creating with it, and spending every last penny in my bank account on props and costumes. It became my life. By the summer of 2013 I had done, like, 100-something videos which is when it really took off for me.
At what point did you begin to monetize your feed?
My dad is a filmmaker who’s also in advertising, and has been a commercial director since before I was born. So I grew up around advertising, filmmaking, commercials, and multi-media, and I’ve been doing jingles, writing, and commercial work for 12 years. In summer 2013, I was dead broke, self-funded, and everything I’ve ever done, up until the past three years, was paid for out of my own pocket. Going on tour costs money, playing shows costs money, making CDs costs money, and I was also making short films with my friends, which also costs money.
I didn’t have an agent or manager, and I started to get phone calls and emails from Fortune 500 companies. They obviously saw that I knew what I was doing, and knew how to get a message across. Believe me, for every five things that you see me do on the brand side there are 500 things I say no to. And that might not even be an exaggeration. So it was me and a small group of very close friends and family making videos in my apartment, and I was doing it for the sake of creating art and creating an identity for myself. But after that I had to do laundry and buy groceries, which was when we started to work with companies to make cool shit. That’s the only way I want to work with anyone—if I’m allowed to be myself because I have zero interest in doing something that makes me uncomfortable, even for money.
I’ve always wondered how influencers such as yourself price your work. Is there some form of business structure you work within?
I don’t know how anyone else conducts their brand or their business, but personally, I get asked this a lot in interviews and just really don’t like talking about money. I really don’t. You could honestly even print that. I feel like money is gasoline. I mean, I need money so I can make art, make dinner for my wife, travel, and do things for my life. But I think a lot of influencers are so driven by numbers and statistics that they gauge their success by their rates for a piece or promotional work or branded content. I judge my success by how I communicate to an audience, and if I’ve delivered something fucking beautiful, unique, and weird. Like I said, money is like gasoline—you need it to drive your car from point A to B, but when you’re driving the car you’re never talking about the gasoline. You’re just driving.
Understood. That’s a totally valid point.
I’m sorry if that’s dodgy. For three years, you have to understand, in every fucking interview I’ve been asked like, “How much money do you guys make?” “How do you make the money?” “What does money smell like?” It’s just the grossest conversation.
So let’s switch gears. Almost three years ago I interviewed Casey Neistat. He was very adamant about the idea that mobile video and sharing it socially has yet to be perfected. What are your thoughts on this?
Forgive me, again. I don’t mean to sound like an asshole for dodging questions. I just don’t like to talk about money. But I love talking about the creative stuff.
Your answer was honest and truthful. I really appreciate that.
Growing up with a dad who made a living as an artist, he was always the only one at, like, the school book fair or parent teacher conferences who didn’t work in an office. People would come up to him, adults, and say, ‘How do you make money?’ My dad would say, ‘Like anyone else. It’s how I support my family.’ For some reason—I say this for everyone to feel it—it’s okay to ask artists how much money they make, but you would never ask a plumber or a doctor. Anyway… back to Casey Neistat.
Casey is a gift to NYC and a gift to social media, because he’s another person not driven by money or numbers. He’s a guy that wakes up at 4:30 every morning and runs because he has to. He is on fire and he has to make his work. He’s a genius. I’m sorry… I forgot the question.
When it comes to mobile video and social media, in what ways do you think it could be improved or innovated?
Well, Vine just extended their platform to be longer than 6 seconds, and I actually just publicly released my first two-to-three-minute Vine yesterday. I think if you would’ve told me that three years ago I would’ve laughed. I’m not in the business of predicting trends, and actually if I was able to predict trends, I would be a lot wealthier than I am. But I’ll tell you that I’m inspired by new mediums everyday. Every medium is different, and if you’re artist and you turn your back on technology, innovation or social media as a means to express yourself, I think you’re a fool. I have friends who are talented singers, songwriters, and artists that don’t use social media. It blows me away. What’s the point of making work if no one is going to see it? I don’t know! So to sum it up in a roundabout way, I don’t know where video is headed. I’m still using 16mm cameras, I still shoot Polaroids, and I still love projecting film onto my brick wall. I still love technology pre-internet, but I’m telling you man, I am psyched. Today things are happening so quickly that we can’t keep up with it, and that’s what excites me. When I get out of bed I want to be a part of the conversation. I want to chip in and make my mark as Nicholas Megalis, and use it in ways that no one else can but me.