Written by Emma Vetriano • Published 15th September 2011

Throughout the digital age, several television shows aim to enhance viewer figures by integrating new technology as part of the TV experience and giving viewers a voice. The 2011 Video Music Awards, aired on Sunday, August 28th in the USA, is one example of this.

Although the live award show itself was the main focus for viewers, the social media devices for the occasion were considered to provide an ‘additive experience’.

This year, the VMA’s astounded social media specialists by producing record-breaking figures on the Sunday night alone. Sites like Facebook and Twitter raked in close to 5.6 million mentions. Similarly, Twitter confirmed that at the time Beyonce revealed her pregnancy, there was a record-breaking 8,868 tweets being typed per second!

It is reported that Twitter was the most-used network in relation to the VMA’s, with around 5.4 million mentions, while Facebook generating around 66,000 VMA mentions. Following this, a mobile device was used by 48% of viewers to talk about the show, while 23% discussed the VMA’s at home.

Perhaps the most significant question to ask is, why? What is it about the VMA digital content that created such a social media frenzy? Below are three key factors for why I think the MTV digital campaign was so successful….

Immediacy of content delivery:

The crux of MTV’s digital success lies in providing ‘immediate accessibility’. MTV digital provided both Live Streaming and the  ‘sharing it first feature’. Rather then viewers accessing YouTube accounts to view footage, MTV viewers  ‘shared’ information via sites like Facebook and Twitter. This meant that when Beyonce announced her pregnancy, MTV captured substantial real-time traffic around the time that it might have been previously shared by outsiders on YouTube.
Similarly, the show had a photographer to shoot red carpet photos; these pictures were shared immediately on the @MTV Twitter account. This meant that MTV were sharing images faster than any other traditional media services online.

Online Tracking and Interactivity:

Another useful feature of MTV’s online VMA content is the Twitter Tracker. By tracking the running total of tweets- viewers could measure the popularity of topics on Twitter, and reply to them. This not only allowed for access to the latest gossip reliably and immediately- but it also created online interaction between viewers and those involved!

Interactive Multiple Connections-

Following this, MTV set up multiple ways for fans to connect with their favourite celebrities through social media. On Twitter and Facebook, viewers were given access to frequently updated videos and pictures at the time of and in preparation for the VMAs. Similarly, viewers were able to track what celebrities tweeted about, based on their seats in the theatre. Most remarkably viewers were informed where celebrities sat, where they tweeted and at what time. The result was an inclusive experience- making viewers feel they were really there! It is predicted that this cunning device will have a profound effect on the digital future of large-scale celebrity events.

With thanks to Duane Bryce & son for cover image, flickr.com