The First Facebook Oscars: Enthusiasm and Baby Steps

Sunday’s 82nd annual Oscars movie awards has taken a cue from the Grammys and tried to incorporate social media into its marketing package, a move to make itself more relevant to online audiences.

There’s an official Oscars presence on Facebook, on the Celebs and The Academy Pages, in conjunction with ABC which will broadcast the red carpet arrivals before the show Sunday from 3 to 5 p.m. Pacific Time and livestream it via Facebook Connect. Facebook fans can also submit questions and comments in real time. The 10 movies nominated for best picture also have Facebook Pages and the Celebs Page includes a livestream tab for the Oscars, as does The Academy Page but neither Page goes out of its way to promote it. There’ s also the Official 2010 Oscars iPhone application, allowing users to predict winners, view trailers, get extra information on each film and make predictions then share them on Facebook or Twitter.

Most actors nominated for best actor or actress don’t appear to have sanctioned Facebook Pages, with the exception of Gabourey Sidibe, perhaps an indicator of the disconnect between social media and the Oscars. As far as the movie Pages themselves, it seems that different studios are taking different approaches to how to handle the hype surrounding their best picture nominees.

Sony Pictures produced two best picture nominees, “District 9” and “An Education,” and has heavily promoted both on their respective Facebook pages. Status updates have been very frequent on both Pages and gushingly enthusiastic, several on “An Education” had words written in all caps. What’s more, “District 9’s” Page lands on an Oscar Noms! tab that lists the nominations the film received and the info box on the main page announces the nominations as well.

Some of the other nominees showed their excitement primarily with many, many ebullient status updates and news/reviews of all kinds, as was the case with Summit Entertainment’s “The Hurt Locker,” Lionsgate’s “Precious,” and The Weinstein Company’s “Inglorious Basterds.

Other Pages were more sedate about the nominations, such as Warner Brothers’ “The Blind Side” announcing the film’s nomination and Sandra Bullock’s on a status update, Paramount Pictures’ “Up in the Air” providing some information about the nominations and Focus Features’ “A Serious Man” also highlighting the nominations via status updates.

Then there was 20th Century Fox’s smash hit “Avatar,” one of our Top 20 Facebook Pages for several weeks in a row — it didn’t mention the Oscar noms at all.

AdAge reported that this is the first year that the Oscars are getting a social media push, mostly in an effort to save ratings (13% decrease last year) and reach younger audiences, as last year’s viewer averaged 49.5 years old. Part of this push for younger viewers was reflected by expanding the list of best picture nominees to 10 and including films like “Avatar,” “Up,” “The Blind Side,” and “District 9,” and the other part is the willingness to use social media, such as the live stream of the nominations announcements, watched by more than 170,000 people on The Academy Facebook Page.

Given that this is the Oscars’ first Facebook experience, it’s understandable that there’s an element of caution in its implementation. There’s so much more content available on Oscars’ web site that could be transferred to Facebook in meaningful ways that simply hasn’t been done. There are photo galleries of past red carpet outfits, winners, party photos, there’s a video of how the statuettes are made, nominee Q&As, extra content from the nominee luncheon and much more.

Why is none of this content available on Facebook?

It’s an interesting question to ponder, although given the newness of this medium to this traditional event, it’s not surprising. Applications, games and polls are another area that have yet to be exploited by the Oscars this year (not counting the iPhone app); something as simple as being able to superimpose your face over that of an actress wearing your favorite gown could be both relevant and interactive.

Hopefully The Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences will learn some good social media lessons this year so that the 2011 Oscars will continue to improve the Facebook experience for fans.