7 social media lessons from the Grammys for organizers of other events

The awards show offers some good examples of how to use social media.

Sree Sreenivasan
Sree, who teaches digital media at Columbia, is the university's first chief digital officer.
Sree Sreenivasan
5 min read
@LLCoolJ promoting the #Grammys hashtag during the 2013 ceremony.

It's awards season in the U.S., with the focus primarily on the upcoming Oscars and Sunday night's Grammys.

Last year, I wrote about how the Oscars missed an opportunity to use hashtags the right way on TV, and I look forward to seeing if the organizers learned anything from this year's Grammys. (Note: CNET parent company CBS owns the broadcasting rights to the Grammys, but I am writing this unprompted and on my own).

Here are six things the Grammys did right on social this year -- plus one they didn't -- and what folks who run other events, especially conferences, can learn from the awards show:

1. Be semi-obnoxious: The Grammys did what I say to anyone trying to promote their use of social media: be semi-obnoxious, telling people what your hashtags and handles are, and what platforms you are on. You can't be shy about it. You need to, more than once, tell them how and where to follow you. For a conference, be sure to print the hashtags and handles on the official program and even the invitation, if possible.

2. Tell your audience what they will get for following you on social media: On at least four occasions, host LL Cool J (@llcoolj) was on camera talking up the night's official hashtag -- #grammys -- and reminding viewers to tweet to the official handle. He also told the audience that he and @TheGrammys were posting behind-the-scenes photos and other exclusive content on Twitter.

3. Let people know you are listening: Just as importantly, he appeared to read select tweets on the air, giving the impression that he -- or at least some on the Grammys social media team -- was browsing the tweets. Letting it be known that there's someone reading tweets is a great way to trigger more tweets. At a conference, the emcee or moderator can read out selected tweets.

4. Spell it out: Before going to some of the commercial breaks, there were promos for social media channels, as you can see from this Tout video of the broadcast, urging people to look at Grammy.com as well as Twitter.com/thegrammys, Facebook.com/thegrammys and GetGlue.com/thegrammys:

At a conference you can remind the audience, from the podium, what the handles and hashtags are and, during breaks, run a tweet wall on the main screen. You can use VisibleTweets or Tweetbeam to run tweets, but best to do it only during breaks so that the audience isn't distracted as the tweets rush by behind the speakers.

5. Be active on social media during your event: The various Grammy platforms were active throughout the broadcast. At a conference, it's important to have active official accounts to direct, guide, and enhance the conversation, so you aren't just relying on attendee participation.

The official Grammys account tweets about the Bob Marley tribute by Sting, Bruno Mars and some of the Marley children.
A promo poster for The Grammys featuring Rihanna.
6. Think about social media long before the event: The Grammys were promoting the ceremony on various platforms and not waiting for the last minute. Even the playful "#The World is Listening" campaign of posters featuring Rihanna, Linkin Park, Taylor Swift, and others hinted at the social aspects of the show. (Thankfully, the producers didn't actually use what would have been the world's worst hashtag.) For a conference, think about adding the handles and hashtag to the invitations, reminder e-mails, etc.

7. Use social media to help the viewer keep up: On every awards show, it's hard to keep straight who's on stage. Between the introducers of the performers to the performers to the winners, it's easy to lose track of who you are watching at any moment. And even if you know who is on stage, trying to tweet about him or her often means having to look up the person's Twitter handle. This is the one area where future Grammys shows could use some improvement. While the Grammys tweeted about who was on stage, the on-air titles could easily have shown some of the relevant handles, thus helping viewers stay on top of things -- especially for people like me who don't keep up with popular music.

At conferences, make sure the slides announcing a panel or keynote have the relevant handles on them. Or have the moderator or emcee mention ways in which attendees can connect with the speakers, and do it multiple times. Another idea: Every nametag should have printed on it the conference's hashtag and the attendee's Twitter handle, if available.

The Grammys social efforts seemed to have paid off, as Grammy-related hashtags were trending around the world and continued to do so hours after the show ended. According to stats provided by Twitter to Mashable, there were about 13.2 million tweets during the show and these were the top three tweets-per-minute moments:

• Jay-Z, Kanye West, Frank Ocean and The-Dream win best rap collaboration: 116,400

• Prince announces Gotye winning record of the year: 109,400

• Fun. wins best new artist: 100,600

I will be taking a lot of this advice this week as I host the third annual Social Media Weekend at Columbia Journalism School. Of course, our team is tiny and budget is minuscule compared with the Grammy extravaganza, but thanks to fabulous volunteers, we will be in the game. Even if you can't make it, thanks to my being semi-obnoxious (or worse) about getting people to tweet, you can follow the action before, during, and after via #smwknd. We are also giving away some fabulous tweet-based prizes (including career counseling and social-media makeovers) that anyone can win.

If you haven't seen them, Twitter's official best practices for hashtags are here. Consolidate and Be #Obvious are two of the tips there.

Update on 7:30 p.m. PT February 11: I got the following stats from Dave Struzzi of Networked Insights, a social media analytics company:

Grammy tweeting stats from Networked Insights.

Grammy tweeting stats from Networked Insights.

I asked Struzzi why the NI stats tracked eight million tweets, while the Twitter stats mentioned in the Mashable article above tracked 13 million tweets.

His answer, via email: "Here's the answer from our lead TV analyst:

"Twitter's number likely includes the total number of Tweets from viewers about all of the celebrities who were at the Grammys. Our analysis focused primarily on social activity from people talking about the Grammys show and celebs that were either performing, presenting, nominated, or winning an award."

Clarification at 5:50 a.m PT February 11: The relationship between CBS and the Grammys has been clarified. CBS owns the broadcasting rights to the Grammys.

Your turn: What did you think of the Grammys and social media? What social tips do you have for conference organizers? Post your comments below or tweet me @sree.