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Red Carpet Repost: Award Shows Are Big Winners on Social Media

5 minute read | March 2019

Despite the plethora of content available to audiences at any time and any place, the allure of tuning in to live TV specials like award shows is thriving. One component of the live TV special experience today is social media, where TV audiences and content creators alike can react and engage as if they were all sitting in the same living room. With their glitz, glamour and cultural relevance, award shows in particular provide the unique ingredients to marry content with conversation.


Discussions around award shows in particular are thriving on social media feeds, allowing fans, celebrities and businesses to gush about the winners, gaffes and viral moments that only live TV specials can provide. Not to mention, viewers can do this all in real-time, on platforms that encourage high-volume engagement that has the entire internet in on the conversation.

Nielsen Social Content Ratings® analyzed not only which award shows generated the most buzz throughout the TV-season, but it also dove into what—and who—helped make them successful across the major social media publishers.


Strategic social media posts from accounts officially associated with the program (network, talent, etc.), as well as naturally occuring TV moments that spark viral frenzies, can yield expansive activity and resonate with audiences. For networks and celebrities alike, wielding their social media influence through engaging, timely social content can broaden their impact on live tentpole events like award shows.

For instance, Cardi B’s animated Instagram shout out after winning her Grammy sparked 1.6 million engagements in the linear window—which is more social engagements than some shows generate across all of their official accounts combined. In comparison, the most social Oscars-related post came from talent Angela Bassett, including an image of her in formal attire beside Courtney B. Vance, with over 515,000 engagements on Instagram.

Furthermore, when there are compelling moments during the broadcast, viewers may react feverently, creating spikes in social activity. Grammy host and performer Alicia Keys sparked a spike in the social conversation when she played across two pianos at once in her tribute to pianist Hazel Scott. This was the most social moment of the night, inciting close to 80,000 interactions, such as Tweets or Retweets, on Twitter. Immediately before the tribute, Keys posted a video to social media encouraging audiences to tune into the performance and garnered over 116,000 owned engagements. In the minutes following the post and during the performance, viewership toward the Grammys even saw some lift, with overall ratings experiencing upward of a 10% increase compared to the telecast’s average rating.

Similarly, Oscars Twitter activity saw a peak in conversation with over 69,000 Twitter interactions as fans reacted to Lady Gaga and Bradley Cooper’s live performance of “Shallow.”  The original song—which sold about 56,000 downloads from Oscars Sunday to the day after according to Nielsen Music (more than the sales of the other four Best Original Song nominees combined)—and its performance highlight the benefits of a multiplatform marketing strategy.


Having visibility into the types of social content, like text or video, and where it comes from, can provide context as to how award show programs generate buzz on social media. Each account and media type has its own unique capabilities and strengths. Properly leveraging and blending these characteristics is vital to successfully generating social buzz.

When looking at the Grammys, for instance, the telecast’s No. 1 social ranking was bolstered by talent accounts associated with the program. In contrast, the origin of the VMA’s social engagement was more evenly split among network and talent accounts. Similarly, the Oscars had a relatively even split of fan engagement generated from its program and talent accounts. All three of the awards shows favored image based-posts to promote the festivities of the night.


Not only is there outsized social buzz for awards shows, brands associated with these special programs can also benefit from increased social activity. Awards shows or talent brandish advertisers and product placements on their live broadcast—cue Camila Cabello’s MasterCard ad during the Grammys, Lady Gaga sporting the Tiffany diamond at the Oscars, and Taco Bell’s sponsorship of the Best New Artist award at the VMAs.

These associations can also carry into the social realm. When looking at the brands that each of these program audiences Tweeted about, MasterCard, Tiffany and Taco Bell were the most talked-about among fans during their respective awards shows. Each brand experienced a significant “Social Effect” lift in activity on the day of the event compared to their average activity by program authors (those who Tweeted about the brand AND the awards show) in the days leading up to the program. Furthermore, for each awards show and brand, the program author’s lift in brand activity outpaces that of non-program authors, suggesting that the show association spurred more earned media for the brand.

When harnessed correctly, social media is a dynamic tool at the disposal of those who wield it. For audiences, it’s an organic way to interact with favorite celebrities, shows, and brands in real-time. For talent, brands and networks, it’s an expansive, accessible platform that can integrate advertising, generate interest, and grow fanbases. This season, award shows have once again demonstrated their distinct ability to capture the attention of large audiences and promote engagement for themselves and others through their representation on social media.

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