Kate Bulkley, Media Analyst.

Social media award goes to...

By Kate Bulkley

Broadcast News

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For Broadcast November 10, 2011

EMAs were a success for audience engagement, says Kate Bulkley.

Once upon a time, the MTV European Music Awards was just another television show. OK, it was always a pretty decent gig for headline bands, but these days it’s a lot more.

It had a TV audience of 1.2 billion watching in more than 100 countries on Sunday night, but in the age of social media, that is just one part of how owner Viacom now calculates the success of the event.

The suits want to know that Lady Gaga (15m Twitter followers), Justin Bieber (14m Twitter followers) and even myself (just broke 500 followers) were tweeting away in Belfast, where MTV entertained 6,500 guests at the Odyssey Arena.

Having Bieber’s girlfriend, Selena Gomez, as the awards host, a scripted appearance of a (very fit, I might add) male streaker and the ever-controversial Lady Gaga mooning the audience after one of her songs creates a reason for a conflagration of social media activity.

Bieber’s win of the Best Male award drove the most re-tweets during the show (5,087) and Lady Gaga’s outfit – which was topped with the satellite-dish shaped hat – had the most comments on Facebook.

There were iPhone and iPad apps and a group voting feature that led 158 million music fans to cast votes, a 236% increase over last year.

And MTV made the whole thing more global by inventing a new award – Best Worldwide Act – which went to a five-piece Korean boy band called Big Bang. That meant much of Asia was tuned in via TV and, just as importantly, via social media as well.

Big Bang’s win was in the top three most retweeted moments, right up there with Lady Gaga’s sartorial choices and the naked guy.

It’s all about an ‘integrated strategy’ of television with social media, where the latter leverages the former. And although there is still little direct monetisation of social media beyond Zynga’s Farmville, for TV companies such as MTV, making social media sing is an elixir for sponsors and advertisers alike.

The social bit speaks their language because it’s about engagement with the audience and building a relationship that (hopefully) goes beyond the time spent watching the TV show.

MTV’s awards site was available in 19 languages and gamification was added for the first time, rewarding fans with points and badges, resulting in a 100% increase in the time spent on mtvema.com – where, of course, the sponsors figure prominently.

So maybe this year’s MTV EMAs is more proof that TV channels are beginning to understand social media.

It’s more subtle than squeezing a few micro-pennies from an app or tracking the number of click-throughs; in this new socialised world, it’s about keeping your profile high and maintaining a more direct relationship with your audience – then, hopefully, your audience will do a lot of the rest.

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