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Hey Shorty, It's Your Awards Day! Meet Greg Galant, Co-Founder of Event Known as the "Oscars of Twitter"

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The awards proper (Photo by Shorty Awards via Flickr)
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You're on Twitter. We're on Twitter. Your best friend is on Twitter. Your favorite rapper is on Twitter. Justin Bieber is on Twitter. Your mom is...okay, maybe she's not on Twitter, but the social media tool has become an undeniable presence in contemporary culture. The peanut gallery has been elevated to a whole new level, with Tweets replacing calls to customer service, taking over the news crawl at the bottom of your TV screen, but, more importantly, giving people all over the world an opportunity to connect.

And there's an award for doing it really, really well.

They're called the Shorty Awards, and the event and accolade are in its 4th year, and the current awardees will be announced Monday, March 26, at a ceremony in New York. (Don't worry, since this is an internetty-social media event, the whole shindig will be streamed live online.)

Twitter is a huge part of what we do, and while for many it's just a chance to tell a handful of people (and spambots) what they ate for lunch, others are using it for some incredible achievements, including news, social change, politics, and fundraising. The public nominates their favorite Twitter user in numerous categories, and the top six vote-getters are the finalists, from which a winner is selected based on review by the "Real-Time Academy," who are Twitter users described as "leaders in technology, journalism, business and culture."

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Greg Galant, co-founder of the Shorty Awards
We tossed a few questions via email to Shorty Awards co-founder Greg Galant of Sawhorse Media to find out his thoughts on the state of the Tweet around the globe, what makes for a Twitter "best practice," and what the heck "Mad Men" has to do with all this. And, yes: We gave him more than 140 characters' worth of space for his answers.LAist: They've been called the "Oscars of Twitter," and, yes, we can look at the "about" page, but, seriously, how do you explain The Shorty Awards to the uninitiated?
Greg Galant: The Shorty Awards actually celebrate the top content producers on all the major social media platforms. We honor the best of Twitter, Facebook, Foursquare, YouTube, Tumblr, Quora and more. The best way to explain what the Shortys are in a nutshell to the uninitiated are that for the first time in history there's a major Hollywood-type awards show that actually uses one of the mediums its honoring as part of the nomination process. Whether you just have a Facebook page, have dabbled in Twitter or seeing some #hashtags on TV, it's clear that social media is affecting pop culture the same way television and the movies have. Now there's a major awards show honoring the best.

This is the 4th year--how have the Awards, and Twitter, changed since you started out?
The awards have experience tremendous growth. This year alone, we had over 1.5 million tweet-nominations! Participation by our nominees and their fans have really come along way. We know offer the Shorty Interview and campaign tools that include the opportunity to embed a video, embed badges and more to really help each nominee promote their work. Twitter's grown has definitely help ShortyAwards.com grow and the fact that other social platforms, like Quora, have built their own niche as well, has given us an opportunity to widen our reach.

How do you select the members of the "Real Time Academy"?
Members of the Real-Time Academy are selected because of various reasons, whether being thought leaders or pioneers in the realm of social media, or through the impact they may have had because of their use of various platforms.

The big reveal of the inaugural awards was that PR rep Carri Bugbee had been Tweeting as Peggy Olson from "Mad Men." Now that the long-awaited 5th season of the show is premiering (right around the same time, hmm!) do you think that kind of campaign has had an impact on how the entertainment industry and PR use a social media platform like Twitter?
Definitely do! Along with the Shorty Awards, we also have the Shorty Industry Awards, which honor the best industry professionals, agencies, and brands that are behind the best social media channels, viral campaigns, websites, games, and applications! It's funny how you mention Carri Bugbee tweeting as Peggy Olson from "Mad Men", as one of our new Industry Awards this year includes Spredfast's Best Social Media Manager Award. We believe brands have begun to recognize the impact social media can have with their consumers, which is why we've launched new awards like the Spredfast Social Media Manager Industry Award. Luckily for Mad Men, @PeggyOlson didn't take a 1.5 year hiatus as well.

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How do you determine what the Shorty categories are? What categories are new this year?
The Shorty categories are crowdsourced - There were over 10,000 user generated categories during our nomination process, and from there, we picked what we found to be the most interesting! A couple of great categories that are new for the Shortys this year include the #LifeSavingHero (Presented by @WeatherChannel), and the #SocialFitness (Presented by @HealthJoinIn)!

Do you think everyone should use social media? When shouldn't someone?
Everyone is on social media whether they like it are not. Their friends are posting photos of them to Facebook. People are already talking about what you do on Twitter. It's just a question of if you want to be a part of it.

Musician Amanda Palmer performs a medley of the best Tweets of 2011 on ukulele at the 3rd annual Shorty Awards:

Do you see differences in how different communities use Twitter? Are there global variations? Industry variations?
We definitely see differences in how difference communities use our voting technology, which is built on top of Twitter's API. One of the most interesting communities we learned about this year was through our @HealthJoinIn #SocialFitness Award, which will honor an individual that's using social media to influence others to live healthier lives. The nominees ended up being extremely diverse in backgrounds, professions, etc. What tied them together was the idea of #SocialFitness and the fact that each of them were using social media in a powerful way to spread positive messages about living a healthier life. We even learned a great deal real life heroes through The Weather Channel's #LifeSavingHero Shorty Award.

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Since the Shortys honor "best practices," what would you say are a few of those "best practices" for those who want to up their Twitter game?
Be funny, be consistent, don't take Twitter too seriously but at the same time recognize that when you click, it remains "in ink" to quote a recent movie. From a brand's perspective you should check out the amazing gallery of submissions we received.

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Conan O'Brien accepts his 2011 "Lifetime Achievement" Shorty
How does Twitter enhance the experience of watching an event like the Grammys, the Oscars...The Shortys?
I don't like to comment on our largest competitors, but what I can say is that they should feel lucky that we're honoring the top content producers on Twitter, Facebook, Foursquare, YouTube, Tumblr, Quora and more so they have influencers to reach out to, two write, tweet and cover their awards shows. We even have an Awards Show Industry category this year.What can we expect from this year's Awards event? What are you most looking forward to?
It's hard to say because we have such amazing hosts and presenters. We expect the unexpected.

This year's Shorty Awards are hosted by Samantha Bee and Jason Jones of The Daily Show, and will include presenters like Tiffani Thiessen, Aasif Mandvi, Chef Roblé, and Miss USA. Watch it live online, or, if you're in NYC and want to be there in person, grab a ticket. Follow @ShortyAwards and Greg Galant (@Gregory) on Twitter.