Social Media

Live events and the virtual audience

Posted by Tamara Littleton on January 11th, 2013 at 6:48 am

Nothing beats standing in a sold-out arena. Whether it’s watching your favourite baseball player hit a home run or singing along with thousands of other fans to Beyoncé’s latest hit, live events can be an exhilarating experience. Now social media has opened them up to a larger audience and fans from around the world can follow an event and feel like they are really participating.

Share the live experience

Social media can help bring the television audience closer to the event, and to each other, making them a greater part of the experience. In 2012 American Idol achieved this by creating a community website for its fans called Idol Nation, which acted as a kind of social media hub, gave a place for fans to come and talk to each other about the show, and highlighted popular community members.

It also launched a Twitter campaign, Flock to Unlock, which encouraged viewers to tweet to unlock exclusive content from sponsors and behind-the-scenes footage from the show. American Idol was so successful at augmenting viewer experience, that the finale reached a peak of almost 24,000 tweets per minute.

Later in the year, the 2012 MTV Europe Music Awards became one of the most social events ever. It used second screening, live backstage footage during commercial breaks, and a video wall featuring the MTV EMA Twitter Tracker. The award show recorded a massive 5.7 million tweets during the show.

Engage your audience

Both the Democrat and Republican Party made good use of social media during the 2012 election campaigns, with the Republican Party using its YouTube channel as the online stage for the RNC.

The social media activity around the conventions was frenetic. Clint Eastwood’s now famous ‘empty chair’ speech at the RNC, which spawned the hashtag #Eastwooding, elicited a Tweet in response from Obama’s social media team (This Seat’s Taken) which had 63.5k retweets. Social media continued to be a key battleground in the elections, with Obama’s election victory Tweet becoming the most retweeted tweet of all time with over 350,000 retweets by the end of Election Day.

Hold discussions

For events with the sharing and discussion of ideas at their core, expanding the reach of an event can be crucial to its success. TEDx is one live event that uses technology to forge a connection with virtual attendees. Creating a live stream of the event places the virtual participants right at the heart of things, and allows them to both contribute to, and share, the experience in a much more meaningful way.

Types of social media live events: it’s not just Twitter

Live chats such as the one used at the 2011 US Open, can provides a place where viewers can take advantage of the second screen, and interact with each other during the matches. Using this system, hosts can promote the best comments and guide the conversation along, or they can take a more hands off approach (although, the comment stream would still need to be moderated to ensure than nothing inappropriate was published).

Q&A sessions can also be beneficial, but often require more management and entail greater participant expectations (why haven’t you answered my question?!)  To find examples of successful Q&As, look no further than President Obama’s Google+ Hangout. More than 133,000 questions were submitted and voted on by YouTube users before Google selected the ones that would be answered by the President.

Events don’t need to be broadcast (or live-streamed) to include the social media audience successfully. Organisers need only set up and promote the event hashtag and collate the day’s tweets in a Storify of the day. They could also encourage attendees to live-blog.

Preparation and Moderation

For events such as Q&As and live chats, where user generated content will be published within the event’s own space, organisers need to establish user guidelines. Participants have to know what rules they are to abide by (no off-topic comments, spamming or swearing for example), and they need to be given a realistic picture of what they can expect. Not everyone gets their question answered in a live Q&A, or their Tweet publicised on the Twitter wall.

Stringent moderation will need to be in place during the event. You can’t prevent the event hashtag from being hijacked on Twitter, but you can stop any off-topic messages from appearing on your Twitter wall.

This post is based on eModeration’s latest publication: ‘Managing Social Media Around Live Events’.

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