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MTV Uses Social Media for Global Audience Involvement

The power of live television and social media is helping to drive MTV Intl.’s global footprint and maximize opportunities for advertisers.

Between the beginning of June and Aug. 16, the cabler produced eight live music events — from Durban, South Africa, to Italy to Malaysia — sparking sky-high levels of social-media engagement and drawing millions of TV viewers. Philip Bourchier O’Ferrall, head of digital media at MTV parent Viacom Intl., maintains that the network is “in the sweet spot” when it comes to the convergence of TV and digital.

That claim is borne out by research firm eMarketer, which projects MTV to have a global social-media audience of 2.55 billion active users by 2017. It’s a particularly important trend for advertisers trying to reach young consumers, allowing them to connect their brands through live shows using Twitter, Instagram and other social media. This year, MTV U.K. and Ireland launched an advertising tool called Boost in order to maximize online inventory for sponsors.

MTV knows that live concerts and awards shows, like sports, are a must-see in real time for fans, and can inspire viewing across platforms. “People have this personal need and desire to say: ‘I’m going to an event, I’ve seen my favorite artist, I’ve voted for my favorite act,” O’Ferrall says.

MTV’s global summer schedule kicked off June 7 in Durban with the MTV Africa Music Awards — known as the Mamas — revived after a three-year hiatus, and hosted by Marlon Wayans.

Aired live in 48 countries, including for the first time across sub-Saharan Africa on multiplatform network MTV Base, the Mamas trended globally, including in the U.S., on Twitter, and generated more than 1 million page views on the MTV Base website, a 192% increase in unique visitors year to year.

MTV Base’s Facebook community increased by more than 80,000 in May, a 79% increase compared with the previous month. Its Twitter followers rose by 11,550, a 38% improvement month over month, with most users coming from South Africa, Nigeria, Ghana and Kenya.

Still, Alex Okosi, who heads Viacom Intl.’s pan-African operations, says the Mamas are not specific to the continent. “This is not an event that we do with just a pan-African audience in mind,” he notes. “We leverage it to be able to spill over beyond borders.”

Also on the rise, the Italian MTV  Music Awards, held in Florence on June 21, drew 19 million social-media votes, a staggering number in a country with roughly 22 million TV households and a population of 60 million.

The massive results are comparable with last summer’s U.K. MTV event, “Hottest Summer Superstar,” during which it launched #MTVHottest, through which fans could vote for their favorite artist of the season. That generated 166 million tweets, and led to a 22% increase in viewers across MTV U.K.’s music channels.

The network is doing the stunt again this year, with 2013 winners One Direction once more sitting in the top spot; voting ended Aug. 27.

But it’s the European Music Awards, in which fans around the world pick winners, that show the extent of MTV’s mastery of social media. Held in November, they are aired live globally on more than 60 channels with a reach of almost 700 million TV households.

Four or five years ago, MTV’s level of interaction with social media was rudimentary, O’Ferrall says.

“Microsoft Instant Messenger was going straight through to VJs,” he notes. The most recent EMAs, held November 2013 in Amsterdam,  generated 323 million online votes and 59 million social-media mentions, a 600%-plus year-on-year increase in social-media engagement, driven by games and music stunts as well as by Facebook, Snapchat, Instagram and MTV’s Twitter Amplify partnership, which provides buzzy content to Twitter followers. The next EMAs are set for Nov. 9 in Glasgow.

MTV Intl. is even using social media to revive the kind of content that gave the network its start: musicvideos. In July it announced the launch of Your MTV Top 20, a weekly musicvideo chart that’s determined by fan interaction via social and digital media. The chart website, http://www.yourmtvtop20.com, is accessible in English, German, Italian, Spanish and French, with more languages to follow.

Certainly, though, the international language will be social.

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