For members of the Grammys' in-house social media team, Grammy night actually started Sunday morning. Long before the red carpet was unfurled, five social media pros piled into a suite behind the stage at Los Angeles' Staples Center, sipped on Starbucks and settled in for the long haul. The first tweets were to go out at 11 a.m., and there wouldn't be downtime until the East Coast broadcast came to a close at 9 that night.
The Recording Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences put its full weight behind a social media-driven marketing campaign for this year's ceremony, going so far as to make the official slogan of the event a hashtag (#theworldislistening). These efforts paid off with year-over-year growth-though how much depends on who you ask. Twitter claims significant increases, while other data providers note more modest gains. But what's clear is that there were between 12.8 million and 14 million Grammy-related tweets during the broadcast.
"It tells us that fans have an increasing appetite for music and for a shared experience around music, and our goal is to feed that," Recording Academy chief marketing officer Evan Greene says of the response. "The social numbers are increasingly important."
With broadcast ratings down 28% this year compared with 2012, a positive trend in social numbers, however modest, is music to the Academy's ears. (Although the modest growth doesn't keep pace with overall social trends, which have risen 19.2% in the last year, according to eMarketer.) Nothing could replicate the palpable buzz surrounding last year's awards, when the death of Whitney Houston the night before left viewers seeking a response. But a high-wattage bill of performing acts, including a resurgent Justin Timberlake, combined with the Academy's concerted social efforts kept audiences engaged at home.
Not all the reviews were glowing. Many questioned the Academy's decision to have host LL Cool J repeatedly instruct viewers on which hashtags to use during the broadcast. As for whether similar tactics will be used next year, Greene says the Academy is still evaluating this year's event.
"We're doing a postmortem on what went well and what needs to be tightened or potentially improved upon moving forward," he says. "But integrating social in a meaningful way into the body of the telecast only helps, and only makes the show more relevant and more engaging for people that are experiencing it with a first, second and third screen."
According to Twitter's Tweets Per Minute metric, the most talked-about moment of the broadcast occurred during Jay-Z, the-Dream and Frank Ocean's acceptance speech for best rap/sung collaboration. A tuxedoed Jay-Z's off-the-cuff crack about the-Dream's hat looking like it came from a swap meet inspired a peak of 116,400 TPM.
Rihanna's soulful, stripped-down performance of her single "Stay" also brought in torrents of tweets. Part of that moment's 114,800 TPM were likely due to questions about her surprise duet partner Mikky Ekko, who co-wrote "Stay." The evening's other highly tweeted moments were Prince announcing record of the year (109,400) and fun. winning best new artist (100,600).
With regards to on-air performances, Rihanna's was the most discussed of the night, followed by the Bob Marley tribute (featuring Rihanna, Sting, Bruno Mars, and Damian and Ziggy Marley), Carrie Underwood's performance of "Blown Away," Maroon 5 and Alicia Keys' collaboration on "Girl on Fire" and Justin Timberlake's renditions of "Suit & Tie" and "Pusher Love Girl."
The 2013 Grammys was the second-most-tweeted event of the young year, falling behind the Super Bowl's superlative 24 million. Most of the online chatter took place during the East Coast broadcast, and its effect on West Coast viewership isn't clear.
While Twitter has emerged as the gold standard for measuring the social success of live TV broadcasts, other platforms like Shazam and Get Glue are also an important part of the social TV experience for fans.
Shazam measures sound tags, and the most-tagged moments of the 2013 Grammys all revolved around vocal-heavy performances during the show--Ed Sheeran's performance was the most tagged, followed by Rihanna and Ekko's duet, then Miguel and Wiz Khalifa's collaboration. All told, more than half a million tags were completed during the showtimes on both coasts.
Get Glue measures activity within its platform (check-ins and engagement with a broadcast), and the top moment of the night was Taylor Swift's opening slot-likely due to all the viewers tuning in for the big kickoff. Zac Brown Band's win also caused a spike in activity.
LL Cool J's hashtag flogging, while sometimes appearing forced, may have been effective. Data from social analytics company Trendrr shows that the official #grammys hashtag that appeared onscreen was used 2,625,894 times during the broadcast, while the unofficial #grammy hashtag was used only 213,274 times, a difference of 1,231%.
"If you look across all our platforms, there was consistency," Greene says. "Consistency in tone, consistency in message. And so, across the board, there was a consistent conversation about the Grammys, and that was an important factor in the success we saw."
This year, the Grammys introduced a "Twitter Mirror" for performers and presenters-a first for Twitter-and stationed a team backstage to teach celebrities how to tweet and share photos while on their way on- or offstage. Such stars as Miguel, Sting, Swift, Underwood, Keys, Zac Brown Band and Elton John participated in the new initiative, which reflected both the Academy's commitment to breaking new ground in the social space and Twitter's importance as a platform for artists.
"It seems that when it comes to big awards shows, it's no longer a question of 'if' stars will tweet but rather 'what' they will tweet," says Twitter head of music relations Tatiana Simonian, who was backstage at the awards.
The Academy cast a wide net to drive conversation around the Grammys on as many platforms as possible. Next year, Greene says, it will be just as aggressive, but will look for ways to fine-tune its efforts.
"The next phase for us is to become more adept at data measurement and micro-target the programs that worked well and identify the ones that didn't," he says, noting that there's no "standardized evaluation metric" for social. "We're going to be looking at our strategy on any one platform-whether it's Facebook, or Twitter, or Spotify, or Tumblr, or Pinterest-and ask, 'Does that strategy have room for improvement?'"
In the suite behind the stage at the Staples Center, affectionately dubbed "the Social Media Command Center," the Recording Academy's social media pros hovered around two large, glowing monitors: one showing a live feed of the broadcast, the other providing real-time analytics. For the Academy, too, the second screen is increasingly the one that counts.