How the VMAs Shattered Fan Engagement Records in 2015

The numbers are staggering on their own: first, there’s 52.9 million, or the number of fans who Instagramed or Tweeted in support of Aussies 5 Seconds of Summer winning Song of the Summer with their anthem “She’s Kinda Hot.” (They narrowly edged out Fifth Harmony fans, who tweeted and ‘gramed with voices 51.3 million-strong in support of “Worth It”). There’s also 247,525 Tweets per minute, which is the volume tweets swelled to in the wake of Kanye’s presidential bid announcement.

The summation of these astronomical engagement numbers is quite straightforward: number one. This year’s MTV Video Music Awards broadcast was the most tweeted non-sports program since Nielson launched Twitter TV in 2011—in other words, the most tweeted non-sports program ever. That’s in addition, mind you, to it earning a spot as the number one awards show on cable this year, according to Nielson.

“Just a few years ago, in terms of social media leadership in the TV space, we were only talking about reach, about the fact that we had amassed this huge fan base,” says Sarah Iooss, Senior Vice-President for Velocity Products Group. “Now that we have a way to not only have a ton of fans at the table but see that scale in engagement, as well, it just shows how much forward movement there’s been from Viacom.” In total, there were nearly half a billion social interactions about the event, according to Spredfast’s Echo Social Graph, a social dashboard that allows Viacom to prove the value of branded campaigns to their sponsors.

Here are three reasons leading to that number one spot this year:

1. Fan Armies

Whether they’re Swifties (Taylor Swift fans), Beliebers (Justin Bieber fans) or a growing mass in support of the next-hottest artist we haven’t even heard of yet, fan participation in voting can drive record-breaking engagement numbers. In this case, 5 Seconds of Summer narrowly edged out Fifth Harmony, but it’s worth noting that Bieber, Demi Lovato, and Selena Gomez each also received at least a million Tweets or Instagram votes in support of their song. Voting via social hashtag is straightforward, free, and fun—why wouldn’t fans engage?

2. Talent Engagement

Also working in the VMAs favor is the substantial amount of talent engagement the show saw this year, largely from the 28 social influencers in attendance. When Kylie Jenner posted this lighthearted Instagram about her mood (and her lips), she tagged it #VMAs. When Selena Gomez posted a red-carpet pic with a gaggle of other influencers, she did the same. All of the real-time buzz from the talent then extends to their massive fan bases—to the tune of 35.1 million followers for Kylie Jenner and 43.2 million followers for Selena Gomez.

3. Kanye (always, right?)

Never one to miss the chance to rock the social media buzz boat in his favor, Kanye West also drove a significant portion of the VMAs conversation: Remember, fans and critics alike tweeted about his speech 247,525 times per minute. “Conversation definitely peaked during Kanye’s speech,” Iooss says. “It was a really big moment—but beyond that, we saw amazing engagement holistically, leading to content about our social stats that made headlines across our industry.”

All told, though 9.8 million people tuned in to the broadcast, it generated more than 103 million views across platforms. Broadcast has never been more social, and the #VMAs have never been bigger.

Jaime Netzer's picture

Jaime Netzer

Jaime Netzer is Content Marketing Strategist, leading content operations in marketing at Spredfast. A Lawrence, Kansas native, she traded seasons for breakfast tacos seven years ago and hasn't looked back since. Also a fiction writer and journalist, Jaime tweets semi-regularly.