Shay Carl Gives the Finalists a Tutorial in Viral Videos [Interview]

By: Sarah De Heer

Photo by: Eddy Chen ©2014, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved.

Eddy Chen, 2014, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved.

In an age where everything seems to be available online, Food Network Stars also have to have a presence on the Web — it's a one-stop shop to talk with fans and share everyday activities, photos and Post-its.

This week's episode of Star challenged the finalists with two different social tasks: Create a behind-the-scenes video on the set of Food Star Kitchen, and film a viral marketing video at YouTube Space LA. No stranger to vlogging and creating viral videos, Shay Carl was brought in to help guide the contestants. Shay certainly had the resume for the job. He is undoubtedly a very popular and successful YouTube personality, with five channels of his own (two of them with more than 1 million subscribers each).

We caught up with Shay on location at YouTube Space LA to chat about his time on Star.

Star Talk: What's the one thing you really wanted to convey to the finalists?

Shay Carl: See, I had to be really careful because the director told me that they have to be responsible for their own videos. So I couldn't come in there and be like, "I think you guys should do this." And I don't want to do that (in case they get sent home and say, "Well that was Shay Carl's idea!" So it was tough because I'm a very opinionated guy. I just wanted to steer them in the path that they were already going down, without influencing their decisions too much. I was just there to give some tips and tricks, and help them with their training wheels. Imagine they're like a little child on a bike and this is their first YouTube round, and we're going down the cul-de-sac and I'm like: "Yup, that's good! You did it! Good job!"

What lessons learned (from your own personal experience) did you share with the remaining finalists?

SC: Well there's a few different things. In order for a video to go viral, it needs a good thumbnail and title. That’s like when you first meet somebody and you kind of judge them by their appearance. A video, thumbnail and title could be huge. In fact, when I was first starting out five years ago, some people made whole careers out of good thumbnails. Besides that (since the finalists are most likely not attaching thumbnails to these), I gave them some ideas with content. I gave them some tips and some pointers, and to be honest, they had some great ideas already banked — they all seem like they're very creative. In the small time I worked with them, they were all very enthusiastic people.

In creating a video, what do you not do?

SC: This goes without saying: You can't be boring. I always say to people, "If your mom and your friends won't watch it, what makes you think other people will?" Show it to your parents, go show it to your family and friends, and if they're like, "OK, are you done now?" there's something wrong. It has to be engaging and it has to be exciting. A lot of "ums" and breaths are bad. I tend to cut out any breaths that I have when I'm talking in the vlogs that I make. This is such a short-attention-span generation where people want it quick — so it has to be fast, in your face, fun, awesome and hilarious.

Each team had a different setup: classroom, lab and the apartment. Do setups really matter? Did any one team have an advantage?

SC: No. It all depended on their idea — the setting doesn't matter.

In a day and age where these finalists are really preparing for a future potential TV show, why are these Web videos so important?

SC: Sure, one of these finalists will receive a TV show if they win. But they still have to know how to do things online. If they're going to create a show and be a leader of that show, then they're going to need to know how to produce these things — they're going to have to come up with ideas off the top of their heads. This is great training for their future if they win. If you lose, well, you just go back to cutting cucumbers or something.

Bobby Flay mentioned that when he started at Food Network, he didn't really have to worry about these types of videos and social media like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. But now he does.

SC: That's right. And now, it' a full-time job, but these chefs are becoming personalities outside of their shows on these platforms. They have their Facebook, Twitter and Instagram accounts, and they constantly need to feed — I mean, that's why they call it social media, you know, you have to be social. So somebody who is more closed off or introspective, they probably won't do as well.

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