Sneak peek at MTV's extremely social plans for VMAs

By Natan Edelsburg Comment

MTV’s VMAs are set for this Thursday, September 6th, with a jazzed up Twitter Tracker and a new viral video category that will be decided by social votes. The network’s largest tent pole has always been an innovator when it comes to social TV and awards shows in general. The challenge they face now is how can they outdo themselves each year. We spoke with Colin Helms, SVP for Digital at MTV, who gave us a sneak peek of their massive social TV strategy for the big show.

Last year, the VMAs created an extremely advanced second screen experience that incorporated social visualizations, live streaming and more. During the show last year, Beyonce helped the network break a Twitter record and recently they decided to announce nominations via social.

MTV’s actually had a Twitter tracker since 2007, so it’s not surprising that five years later they’re doing more than just listing trends. In addition to adding social voting (like they tested during the Movie Awards, seen below) they will be ramping up their back stage live streaming of the show. They’re also working with CoverGirl on their Facebook activation.

Lost Remote: Looking back on 2007’s Twitter Tracker, how has the product changed the VMAs?

Colin Helms: The Twitter Tracker has continued to showcase the moments and topics being discussed most at the VMAs, acting as sort of a social indicator of the most important moments throughout each show.

LR: What will be new with the tracker this year? What aren’t you bringing back from last year?

Helms: Similar to the Tracker launched with the 2012 Movie Awards, the tracker is going to continue to tap into moments of the show in real-time. So while it will track Twitter activity related to different celebrities, performances, etc., it’s more about identifying the moments trending in real-time and encapsulating them into a stunning visualization across the various screens.

From a strategy perspective, the biggest differentiation in terms of how we’ve evolved the product is that we’re now building it with TV in mind first, and then mobile and web. As the Tracker continues to get more tightly integrated on-air, we didn’t want to be restricted with a web-quality product, so have focused on optimizing for every screen with different iterations of the product. For TV, we’ve made the design a lot bigger and bolder and it will showcase the top three trending moments happening in real-time from the show represented in various frames. The web version will also display trending moments, but below you’ll still see individual artists and celebrities being tweeted about the most. The web version will also have functionality to track terms, capturing what celebrities are saying in any given moment.

One of the online voting screens during the MTV Movie Awards earlier this year

LR: How will the social voting work?

Helms: Building on success we had with the Movie Awards, on August 28th, we’re going to roll out social voting for a new category: “The Most Share-Worthy Video” sponsored by Bing. The category honors artists with the most impactful music videos of the year defined by social shares and fan-made lipdubs, recreations and alternate versions of their music videos. Nominees include Carly Rae Jepsen, “Call Me Maybe,” Beyoncé, “Countdown,” Justin Bieber, “Boyfriend,” One Direction, “What Makes You Beautiful” and Goyte, “Somebody That I Used to Know.” It’s a fun way to get the different fan bases pitting against each other and rallying for their favorite artist with voting #’s viewed in real-time. The 2012 Movie Awards social voting received almost a million tweets for the category alone.

LR: How will you be working with CoverGirl on the Facebook part?

Helms: Holland Roden, from MTV’s hit series “Teen Wolf” will host “Timeline to the VMAs” (below) a series of web vignettes sponsored by Cover Girl that will debut online in the lead-up to the pre-show. The vignettes will document Holland as she preps for the “2012 Video Music Awards”. Fans will be able to have a hand in picking her final accessories to complete her look based on engagement around web vignettes on Facebook as measured by comments, shares and likes. Then at the pre-show, Holland will reveal the fan’s choice live on the red carpet. CoverGirl will be sponsoring the Facebook Timeline Tracker with multiple on-air integrations throughout the pre-show and during the live event.

LR: How will All Access be different/bigger from last year.

Helms: This year, we’ve focused on creating a more consistent All Access Live experience across our desktop, mobile and app extensions. Nine live cameras placed everywhere from backstage to the red carpet will give viewers an intimate, behind-the-scenes look at the VMAs.

LR: Will there be red carpet Instagramming? How many dedicated social media team members will be attending the show as part of production?

Helms: We’ll be Instagramming on the red carpet and we look at all our digital production team as content gatherers for behind-the-scenes content for Instagram, as well as other platforms like Twitter, Viddy, Pinterest and Tumblr.

LR: How will you be encouraging talent to share?

Helms: Our talent know their fans are hungry for meaningful interactions and that’s why they’re so active and celebrated on social platforms. Every year we continue to see attending talent more and more active on social and were constantly encouraging it. We work directly with all of the talent participating in the show to encourage them to share content with their fans across any and all platforms that make sense. We’ve also tailored our social products and tools to be conducive to sharing as well. For example, in our All Access Live experience, there is a built-in feature that allows fans to congratulate award winners via Twitter.