MTV drives buzz by announcing VMA nominations via social

By Natan Edelsburg 

The VMAs are approaching again, and we’re on the lookout for how they’ll be able to outdo themselves this year in social TV. MTV is way beyond experimenting with social. They’ve hit 100 million plus likes and even the president of the network understands how important their social footprint is. They’re also selling social to brands in big ways, and they’re testing new waters in social by announcing the nominees and performers online to fuel digital sales and buzz.

“[By] leveraging our digital screens to initially announce nominees and the first performers (there was no television nomination special), we generated several worldwide trending topics and helped push sales and social numbers for several of the nominees, especially nominees in our new EDM (Electronic Dance Music) category… a strong indicator of MTV/ VMAs multiplatform ability to connect artists with new fans,” the network told Lost Remote.

Here are the highlights of their success followed by an interview with two key people from the network who made this happen – Amy Doyle, MTV’s head of music and talent strategy and Tina Exarhos, the network’s EVP of Marketing.

  • Best EDM video nominated artist Avicii saw Facebook likes increase 100K. Twitter followers went up 15K
  • Best EDM video nominated artist Calvin Harris’ Feel So Close saw approximately 30% sales bump
  • Best Rock video nominated artists Imagine Dragons saw EP sales of “Continued Silence” went from #80 to #58 (up 12%). Also jumped up the iTunes Main Album Chart to #6, and #3 on the iTunes Alternative Album Chart
  • Best EDM nominated artists Duck Sauce and Skrillex both saw upticks in social #s

Lost Remote: What’s your role with MTV, how do you create talent strategy?

Amy Doyle: My role is to guide MTV’s overarching music strategy, as well as oversee industry, artist and celebrity talent relations. That’s a pretty wide net which includes overseeing music programming and development, creative music integration, and our Hype division, in which we market the music of unsigned artists and bands for commercials, television shows and movies, as well as serving as an executive producer on our tent poll events like the VMAs and mtvU Woodies.

With the VMAs specifically, I lead an amazing team whose job it is to work with the artists to help build an eclectic show that’s filled with the most amazing live performances of the year. We work tirelessly with each artist to help bring their vision to life on stage. Over the years that’s included findings hundreds of Eminems to invade Radio City Music Hall, figuring out how to help Pink sing upside down, or let Taylor Swift perform on a subway car. No idea is off limits.

In addition, my team leads the charge in booking the host, and lining up all the presenters and surprise guests.

LR: How does social media become a part of the strategy? How was the social part become larger/different in the past?

Doyle: The VMAs were the first award show to truly embrace and implement social media across all screens, including the actual show. Over the years, we’ve arguably led the industry in leveraging social to amplify the show’s narrative. Last year, we even set a Twitter record at the time for most Tweeted about single moment ever. We have remarkable social, marketing and digital teams that continually iterate and raise the bar each year. I can’t wait for you to see what they’ve got up their sleeves.

My team works with artists and talent to have them leverage their own social accounts to announce their nominations, that they are performing or presenting. Increasingly, we’re also having them live tweet and update during the event to help spur on conversation and audience reaction in real time. This has become standard practice, not only for the VMAs and other award shows, as well as for video premieres, live stream concerts and interviews.

Social media gives us the option of alternative creative strategies too…like how we announced our host this year. Kevin Hart, Kim Kardashian and Kanye’ all tweeted out a comedic short video which spread like wild fire and became Kevin’s host announcement.

LR: Is it as valuable for you to get talent to share on social media as it is to show up to an event like the VMAs?

Doyle: The emphasis is to create a memorable show and then leverage all of our screens, including social, to make the show moments as big as we can.

LR: Why was the recent announcement so successful?

Doyle: We saw a tremendous reaction when we announced the nominees and that One Direction and Alicia Keys are performing. We saw an uptick in web traffic, generated 7 trending topics and generated more than 10 million fan votes. It also helps when artists activate their social like One Direction did once they were announced.

In addition, we were pleased to see that the nominations helped spike both sales and social followings for many of our nominees. To us, this is a strong indicator that fans are looking at the VMAs to discover and embrace new artists… which we love.

LR: How did the recent nominations announcements help market the VMAs?

Tina Exarhos: The marketing group works closely with the show, digital and press teams to coordinate ho, when and where we announce every bit of information we have. That includes video content we’ve produced as well . We try to leverage all relevant media – from our own MTV platforms to external news organizations, social platforms, as well as talent followings, to help amplify every message we release. It’s actually really fun trying to figure out how to best take advantage of all the great content and information we have for a show like the VMAs.

LR: Any thoughts on the age-old, can social drive ratings?

Exarhos: I think it really depends on the show. For an event like the VMAs, creating and re-fueling the social fire has been a key component to the show’s continued growth and success. From a marketing standpoint, successfully activating fans and ensuring they show up at 8pm on September 6th means a combination of tactics. Social is a top priority, but it works in concert with a variety of marketing tactics.

LR: What part of your marketing strategy for the VMAs are you most excited about?

Exarhos: Personally, I love seeing how our promo campaigns develop in the months leading up to the show, and how they evolve based on talent involvement and input. But even better is then seeing how the audience reacts to those campaigns. The spots showcase the spirit of the show – and seeing how fans react – like they have this week with the KimYeKev spot, is beyond exciting.