Youth speaker who has embraced online platforms.
(WORLD) The MediaSnackers podcast focusses on individuals, organisations or companies who are simply impressing us and which are crying out for more discussion.
Josh Shipp is a one-man media machine who ‘slings’ advice for young people and who also makes films (see under time-stamps below), here discussing the reasons and benefits of using different online platforms.
1.50—3.49 HeyJosh and main issues youth are facing
3.50—6.36 why Josh uses Twitter, Facebook, MySpace, YouTube etc
6.37—9.04 Facebook competition (winning group)
9.05—12.20 changing issues for youth and HeyJosh strategy
12.20—12.29 thanks and outro
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Josh Shipp: I’m Josh Shipp. I’m a youth speaker, an author and I sling advice.
DK: Well, it’s great to have you with us Josh. Thank you for giving up your time. For people who don’t know who you are, give us a bit of background of what you actually do and how did you get started doing that?
Josh Shipp: All right, so basically I’ve been traveling around in the States speaking to youth, full time since I was 17 years old. I basically sort of this class clown kid that always got kicked out of class for talking, which is brilliant because now I get paid for it. Essentially I had to, you know, a teacher one day, sort of bribe me to be quiet in class by saying that if I calmed down in class that she would let me MC the pep rally at our school.
And so that sort of made me realize that maybe this whole talking to my peers was maybe at first a distraction but something that I could use and be good at if I got them to laugh at me then they were listening. And then I had an important opportunity to share a valuable message with them.
So that is sort of how I got started and now what I do is I travel around and I speak at different youth events, I write books, I write in magazines. And then recently, I launched heyjosh.com which is sort of an advice website for teenagers; has writing and films, interactive components and then I’m also doing other media involved in radio and television.
DK: So what are the main issues from your perspective and from your experiences that young people today are facing then?
Josh Shipp: Yeah, well, so, sort of, let me tell you how this Hey Josh thing sort of started. Is that when I would travel around and speak, I would get a tons of emails from students afterwards asking me for advice, which is sort of interesting because you know I went and I spoke at their school or at their conference, they felt like they kind of knew me and so they felt like they could write in for advice.
So I though, huh? You, know if one student is asking this question then there’s probably ten others that have a similar questions that maybe don’t have the courage to ask or just wouldn’t think to ask. And so I thought, well you know, maybe I should start responding to these in sort of a larger format; maybe online or maybe through video or something like that. And so that’s how heyjosh.com started is just started out of that necessity that was there.
And within a year I got about 100,000 emails and about half of the emails are some sort of dating related question. You know, how do I know if this guy likes me? Or what does it mean when she does this? Or, you know I think this guy likes me but I’m not sure. Or, my boyfriend did this, what do you think that means?
So, probably half of the questions are some version of a dating question, but then there’s also lots of questions about, you know after I graduate high school what do I do? I’m not sure what I’m going to be best at in life. Or you know, I feel pretty depressed and I feel like my life is kind of pointless. You know, what is the point of my life?
Lots of questions about my parents, you know my parents don’t trust me or they’re paranoid. How can I get them to understand my situation better? So, it is amazing the age range, the demographical range, the geographical range. A lot of the questions are very similar even though the circumstances are a bit unique.
DK: Interesting. And you’ve already touched on the fact that you’re a bit of a media machine there. You do a lot around traditional media, but also online media. You embraced online platforms like Twitter, Facebook, MySpace, YouTube. You’re all over the place man, in a good way, in a very good way.
Josh Shipp: Yeah.
DK: But why have you done that? Why have you spread yourself around all these new virtual spaces?
Josh Shipp: Yeah, so the new media thing for me is sort of two fold. Number one, I’m in a unique position where I am in this age demographic. I’m in my twenties, where a lot of these, a lot of these platforms, YouTube, MySpace, Facebook, Twitter. These things are just selfishly really interesting to me anyway.
My first motivation for getting involved in these wasn’t necessarily as a business tool, but as a – I just thought they were cool. Even if I wasn’t speaking to youth or involved with youth media I would be – you know, I’d have a Facebook profile and I would keep in touch with my friends that way. And so that was sort of the primary motivation.
And then secondly, for me I came to a point in my life where I realize, all right, if I travel around on a good year I can speak to 100,000 teenagers. And that’s great and that’s fairly impressive but for me it’s just not enough. I always wanted a way to keep in touch with my audience.
You know, it’s like, you know I would get these emails like, “Hey you came to my school and you spoke and it was really great and you inspired me.” And those were so brilliant, but then there’s no ongoing conversation and that sort of stinks.
And so for me MySpace, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, all of these things are a way for me to keep that conversation going and because for some of these students I may be the only person in their life that gives them encouragement in an entertaining way or someone who they feel they can, you know, kind of talk about their issues with. So for me that was the primary motivation; is that ongoing conversation.
And then from a business standpoint it is a great way to keep in touch with this audience. I mean and I think in traditional businesses maybe one of the most powerful platforms you have is your email list. Well for me, you know, I do have an email list, but the Facebook groups or the people I can get in touch with on MySpace; teenagers are way for so more checking their Facebook or their MySpace much more than, you know, their email accounts which are just being just bombarded with all these special offers. And you’ve always got that relative in some crazy country that left you 20 billion dollars and he wants to give it to you. All he needs is your social security number and all this crazy stuff. So Facebook, MySpace, Twitter, those have been the way for me to keep in touch.
DK: And I’d love to ask you a question around the Facebook issues, because is you just search for Josh Shipp you get a ton of kind of Facebook groups and I know recently you have asked, I think around the end of last year you started not a competition as such or kind of challenge if you’d like to start a Facebook group under a Facebook tour and you might go there. Could you tell us a little bit about that and how you’re utilizing Facebook? And what you’ve learned from doing that.
Josh Shipp: Yeah, It was sort of a contest of sorts that if you started a Facebook group called, “Hey Josh Facebook Tour” and you could get 2,000 of your friends to join that I would come to your school completely for free, on me, my treat, happy to do it, excited to do it. And so there were a couple thoughts behind this.
Number one, it’s one thing to ask someone to promote your brand or to promote what you’re doing and give them sort of no incentive. But it’s a second thing to give someone incentive and that, you know, if you help me out I’ll help you out. And so actually so we, yeah we started the competition actually just a couple weeks ago and as of about two days ago a student had gathered closed to 21 hundred of her friends in a Facebook group and so I’m going to fly to Pittsburgh and speak at her school and we’re going to bring a band and films and do some really rad stuff.
So, what I learned from that is that you can promote your brand a lot better in a smaller sort of niche demographic and I mean, these girls made T-shirts that said, “Join the Hey Josh Facebook Tour Group” and they sent me a T-shirt and I took a picture with it.
And then secondly, the thing that’s interesting thing about Facebook groups as apposed to just a Facebook Profile is that you have the ability to personally contact each and every person in that group. And so you want to limit how often you do that, of course, but then if you have some sort of big thing going on or some special announcement or you’re launching something, you can contact each and every person.
So as apposed to me having an email list with maybe 10,000 contacts on it, if you had 10 Facebook groups with 1,000 contacts on it, you can contact those people and particularly for teenagers they check that a lot more. So it’s a great way to contact and keep in touch.
DK: And going back to the heyjosh.com platform for a second and you reacting to the problems that kids send in. Are there any changes that you’ve seen in the last, maybe couple of years in reaction to kind of the digital age? Are the issues that young people are facing different?
Josh Shipp: You know I think, I’m still finding that regardless of how old a young person is or where they live or the, you know, the economy or whatever. I’m finding that young people still laugh about the same things. They still cry about the same things. They’re still concerned about the same things. I mean a lot of them are just around these bigger ideas of identity and dating and interacting with their parents, interacting with their peers. What is my future about? What am I going to be? You know I find that probably the two biggest things are dating, you know sort of that dynamic and then also just personal identity. You know, who am I, what am I about? How do I matter in the world? How do I matter in my world, in my schoolmates and my friends? What is it that I bring to the table?
And one of the things we’re trying to do with Hey Josh is several things. For me, you know, Hey Josh is certainly a venture but I really made a decision this year that I don’t ever want to ask teenagers for money.
You know we’ve been making these short films that cost upwards of $100,000 per film to produce. We shoot them with really high end stuff and make the message really, really sharp and interesting and entertaining. And we had an option, you know, we could ask a student, a teenager to buy these films. And for me I just don’t think that teenagers should have to pay for good advice.
So as approved to asking a teenager to buy it we’re giving it away for free on YouTube and on the website and then, you know, seeking corporate sponsorship and seeking partners and getting the films distributed and to bookstores and then parents can buy them and this and that. And so that was one thing that’s been interesting with this venture.
The second is that, you know, I think that I certainly can sling advice on certain topics, but also I’m wanting to provide a platform where young people can interact with each other and give one another advice because, you know, I think that if the website helped you when you were going through a hard time I think it certainly makes sense that you could help someone else when they’re going through a hard time.
I think, you know, you are certainly an expert on something if you’ve been through it and for me, you know, I grew up as an orphan and a foster kid and I’ve overcome a lot in my life and so I can speak to a lot of that. But I’m excited about, you know, in the next few weeks we’ll be giving young people a platform where they cannot only ask for advice and listen to my perspective, but ask for advice and listen to hundreds of their peers perspectives on their issue and what they’re going through.
DK: Sounds like exciting times for Hey Josh then?
Josh Shipp: Absolutely Man.
DK: Alright, well we’re wrapping up here. Josh I’d just like to thank you for giving up your time and speaking to MediaSnackers. Appreciate it.
Josh Shipp: My pleasure.