What the 2014 Brit Awards tell us about how social media works
Posted by laracaine
The Brit Awards had a spell where crazy things would happen. Whether it was Jarvis Cocker upstaging the questionable King of Pop Michael Jackson, Chumbawamba showing New Labour exactly what they thought of them or Cat Deeley riding a champagne bottle, the awards show has always had a streak allied to the nature of British rock n roll. It has been exciting, edgy, a bit ridiculous and a bit of fun. There was a spell where the producers got quite edgy about the show, minimising the amount of alcohol on offer to guests and delaying TV coverage for a night. These actions were about as un-rock n roll as you can get but in recent times, there has been a loosening of those controls. Okay, One Direction are about as far removed from the firebrand political slogans of Chumbawamba as someone sitting in the back row of 1D concert is to the band but at least the Brit Awards has been taking steps in the right direction.
Nowadays the “rock n roll” is found in the moment and in the engagement of people in the instant. With social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube, there has never been a better opportunity to immediately connect with people and this is something that the organisers of the event have been keen to do. In the run-up to the event, hosted by James Corden, there was an announcement that the host would unveil a special hashtag for the event that people could use on Twitter and cast their vote for the Social Vote Award for British Video. What a great idea to get people involved and to make everyone feel part of the event, right? Wrong!
It is almost as if people organising hashtag events have never examined the results or outcomes of any previous hashtag event. Twitter is a fantastic medium and there is a genuine opportunity for people to connect and engage in the real-time. Any business or company that is keen to explore what their target audience is thinking in a pure and concise manner, Twitter is one of the best platforms they will ever find. However, a business or organisation looking to foist a hashtag trend onto people and then expecting to obtain genuine and usable responses back is pretty misguided.
By sheer volume of fans and intensity of their actions, this award was a guarantee for One Direction. The boys may not make great music but when it comes to shifting units and being popular they are huge and you can argue that they deserve to win an award. Music, as an art form, is fairly subjective but you would have to be subjectively out of your head to suggest that One Direction deserve to be winning any sort of award for creativity, talent, skill or anything else which should generally be rewarded and applauded in the music industry. In this regard, the event organisers pulled off an excellent result. They got the band to appear, they guaranteed them an award, their fans were hooked, viewing figures were great, the social media response from their fans was positive and the most important thing was that the sponsors and commercial backers were happy. In that regard, which was the most important regard for the organisers, this campaign was a success. Music lovers would argue otherwise but it has been a long time since music lovers were a relevant factor to people organising music award shows.
Even before the event started there was uproar on Twitter about MasterCard giving out tickets to journalists on the condition of positive tweets promoting the event being sent out. Some journalists were more than happy to do this; after all, it got them tickets to an event where they could be within 1 mile of Kylie Minogue and Beyonce, so why wouldn’t you do this? Of course, some journalists actually remember what their role means and decided to flag this up on social media sites. Once the cat was out of the bag, the hashtag #PricelessSurprises was very quickly trending, but not in the positive manner that the organisers had hoped for.
You shouldn’t go away from the Brit Awards 2014 thinking that Twitter wasn’t highly involved though. You only had to look at the trending topic of #scottishBowie after The Thin White Duke, via Kate Moss, let slip that he thought Scotland should stick with Great Britain rather than looking for independence. This led to people immediately taking to social media to debate this and, of course, Bowie song titles, albums and phrases were immediately given a Scottish twist. The Man Who Fell To Perth, Fife Years, The Spiders From Deep Fried Mars Bars and Jean Jeanie came from the minds of people looking to engage with others.
It may not have been in the way the organisers intended but the 2014 Brit Awards showed that Twitter can be utilised in a highly effective and immediate way.