As an Internet maven, Wendy Shepherd spends the bulk of her day online.
Shepherd is the creator of Officallypluggedin.com, a site that gives celebrities a chance to make their own “official” place in cyberspace. She was introduced to the net in the mid-1990s by her father-in-law, and from there was hooked. Blast recently caught up with this full-time mother and entrepreneur, chatting about everything from Twitter to Twilight.
BLAST: In 2001 you created studio matrix, a website design, banner creation, online promotion company that also provides an outlet for business press releases and articles as well. How were you inspired to create this website? What kinds of business/projects do you promote? Are there any businesses/projects you refuse to be involved with?
WENDY SHEPHERD: Studio Matrix evolved out of requests for help by others who needed their own website put up and/or promoting it. I first started helping moms by making them graphic banners to use for advertising their small home businesses online. It all started on a small scale, and then grew, so I became more serious about it. I went through a couple of website names, but finally settled on Studio Matrix.
My focus was on moms in the beginning, because I was a mother myself. Over time, I have taken on all types of projects from real estate to movies. Now I seem to be in the entertainment business mostly.
I would definitely not get involved in gambling or â€˜adult material’ projects. I need to make sure I present a business I can be proud to share with my children and family members.
BLAST: Have you started to teach your children the importance and dangers of the Internet?
WS: Yes, ever since my three boys have had access to the Internet, I have been teaching them about Internet safety. New things are always coming up and we communicate constantly about those topics.
BLAST: Where do you see social media growing as part of our culture? Say, 10 years from now?
WS: Right now, social media is a speedy way to move news along the grape vine. It’s instant, so it’s faster than offline word of mouth, because the Internet is accessible 24 hours a day by anyone in the world! Post one thing on a social media network and a lot of activity happens within a few moments. New people hop on board social networks each day.
It’s known that some companies need to get their act together when it comes to customer service. The social networks are making it too easy for people to spread their love and/or discontent about a company’s service or products. Instant mobs can form online against a company. Therefore, it’s best all businesses get out there and converse with people where customers hang out with their family and friends … and that’s on the social networks.
People who are used to the offline marketing world now will have to learn the ins and outs and advantages of social media or they will lose business. Fans are tapping into companies who know how to associate through social media and actually help these companies to grow.
In 10 years, social media will be faster and more refined. You may find that if a person doesn’t have an online profile of some kind, they will be faced with a look of shocked disbelief.
BLAST: What are your thoughts on today’s society’s obsession with celebrity?
WS: Did you just ask me a loaded question?! Haha! I think everyone is obsessed by someone or something at different times in his or her life. It can be a person or even a product. It can be a healthy or unhealthy obsessionâ€¦ but it is a focal point for a person for whatever reason.
With celebrities, I think it can be many things; glitz and glamour that a person doesn’t have in their every day life, inspiration to follow their dreams like a celebrity did by following their own dreams, fascination with how someone looks, uncovering the mystery of who the person is behind a character, and so much more.
The Internet feeds that passion or obsession. Fans don’t have to wait for a monthly magazine to find out the latest news about their favorite celebrity. Fans can now hope to be tapped into a source where the actual celebrity is talking to the world themselves, not just through their marketing/publicity team, but directly. Having a publicist may be more important now than ever, since consulting a celebrity is needed about what would be appropriate to share and not share with fans. A celebrity is a person, but they are also a brand.
BLAST: You have several other websites. Which is the most popular and why?
My most popular website is a little free printables website called ChartJungle.com. The website gets over 100,000 visits a month and has over 30,000 newsletter subscribers. I create printables whenever I have an idea or receive a request for a chart that would be useful.
Officallypluggedin.com showcases actors, producers, writers etc. with mini videos. How do you acquire these videos?
The person, or a friend of theirs creates the videos, and then the raw file is sent over to me. Many people have gotten creative with their videos and made them fun for people to watch.
BLAST: How do you get these people to sign up?
WS: I’ve been able to get people to sign up by inviting them to be showcased. Friends of mine as well as people who have been showcased have also invited other people to sign up. So many people believe in the idea behind the site and want to keep their family, friends, and fans safe online. One person who cheers me on most often is my actor friend, Paul J Alessi (Knuckle Draggers, Desire, The Amazing Race).
BLAST: Who is the most well known person you’ve had sign up for officiallypluggedin.com?
WS: I would say it depends on whom you talk to that visits the website. In general, the most well known people on the website I would say are Sean Patrick Flanery (The Boondock Saints I & II, Powder (as Powder), Young Indiana Jones) and Clifton Collins Jr. (Capote, Star Trek, Extract, Boondock Saints II). The website was started with Sean Patrick Flanery as the first video showcase, due to the experience I had with some of his fans not believing his social profiles were really his until I had him create the video.
BLAST: What kinds of people visit your site?
Fans aren’t the only ones who visit the website. Many different people do, including the showcased people.
BLAST: What have been the biggest challenges in the development of the site?
The biggest challenge has been getting people to send in their videos. I realized a long time ago that people were trying to prove they were real by putting up a photo of themselves holding a sign. Those pictures could be photo shopped, and have been, so now fans don’t believe photos anymore. There has to be a video of the person stating it on television or on a video that they create.
It’s an effort to make a video, but once it’s done, it is a valuable tool. I’ve used Sean and Clifton’s video to verify them with MySpace and other places, including media sources that do interviews with them.
People come to find a video verified and showcased person, where links to their official site and social networks are posted on the page. People come to also network with each other, to meet, hire, interview, or whatever they need, as they can see and hear the people on the video.
BLAST: Who is the ultimate celebrity you dream of signing up?
WS: Must I choose just one? Haha. Well, I’d be happy with any talented person who is in the public eye that signs up to be showcased. It would be cool to have say Johnny Depp, Angelina Jolie or Brad Pitt on the website. They are a few of the celebrities that have the biggest amount of fake/poser accounts on social networks. Actually, let me add that I would love to sign up Peter Facinelli, Dr. Carlisle Cullen from Twilight. He seems to care a lot about his fans.
BLAST: Facebook or Twitter?
WS: I don’t think I can choose. I like them both for different reasons.
BLAST: How do you feel about Barack Obama having a Twitter account?
WS: I think it’s a signal that verifies the importance of social media and its impact on the world when our own president is involved.