How the MTV Video Music Awards became a social media event

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Tonight’s the night. It’s the biggest event in the celebrity pop music calendar – The MTV Video Music Awards 2016 are here.

From Lady Gaga’s meat dress, Madonna kissing Britney to Kayne West interrupting Taylor Swift to tell her Beyonce had the best video of all time. We all have at least a few memories of the MTV juggernaut.

The first VMAs were at Radio City Music Hall on September 14, 1984. Dan Akroyd and Bette Midler hosted the show, and Michael Jackson won three awards, however Herbie Hancock took home five awards… Which can you remember more now though, eh?

Either way, it’s changed quite a lot since then.

kayne tayThe VMAs are now centred around the action taking place between the awards being given out.

Social media now plays a huge part in this, with VIP cameras, Snapchat take overs, Twitter Mirrors, and of course all of the celebrity backstage Instagram and tweet posts.

It’s key to note that the show itself has decreased in viewers nearly every year, however social media engagement has risen.


The 2015 VMAs pulled in a TV audience of 9.8 million, whilst 10.3 million viewers tuned in the year before in 2014. However, despite the dip in television viewership, the VMAs broke some impressive records on Twitter for live televised events.

2015’s VMAs generated 21.4 million Tweets, which reached nearly 12 million people. Facebook conversations were also huge with 16 million people creating 39 million Facebook interactions related to the awards show.

crowdtap-5 There’s not many other events which gain this amount of engagement, apart from the Super Bowl.

Nielsen revealed: “Over 2 million people sent 21.4 million Tweets about the VMAs in the United States, and roughly 11.8 million people saw those tweets a total of 676 million times (impressions). That’s up 69% from 2014, when there were 12.6 million tweets.”

Interestingly, insights platform Crowdtap also found out more details around how users are watching the show, and with what devices. It’s so important to know what devices your users are engaging on, especially if you’re looking to build a campaign that is mobile first.

crowdtap-3Second-screen usage (especially with a smartphone) went up with 78% of users using a smartphone; 43% using a PC/laptop and 37% using a tablet.

The vast majority of people who were using second screens were doing so to follow along on social. 62% say they actively participated in conversations with the most popular platforms for second-screen viewing were Facebook (78%); Twitter (59%) and SnapChat (24%).

gaga meatIsn’t it interesting that there would have been millions of readers on social who didn’t even watch the show?

With MTV desperate to slow the decreasing ratings, social media could be their only hope. With a millennial based audience, MTV know they have to push a strong social media voice and content during the pre, during and post event.

Twitter has already introduced custom stickers for the 2016 awards to try to boost their new offering. Stickers including Britney’s famous ‘snake’ moment, and stickers of Nick Jonas and the moonman award itself.

Facebook will also hope to plug their Live platform with a number of US media outlets offering red carpet feeds directly in users timelines.

Whilst there’s no direct team ups, it will be insightful to see how brands and celebrities alike use Instagram Stories during the night, especially over Snapchat. With the chance to upload photos from the camera roll Instagram could have the upper hand allowing famous faces to download photos provided from social media and MTV, and re-upload themselves.

Will you be tuning in, and if so – how, why and where? Let us know in the comments below…

(Stat sources: socialmediaweek.org)

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