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MTV Gets Social Media

One thing that stands out about this years MTV Video Music Awards is how much MTV gets social media. While music will always be a major part of teenage social life, the people running the industry are not necessarily savvy to social media and even antagonistic to new technology (giving them major headaches like piracy). In recent years, MTV has been quietly revamping their mtv.com property by adding more content, making it more usable and integrating a variety of social features. Before the famous user experience designer Dan Cederholm orchestrated the MTV.com reboot in 2007, MTV was a nightmare of a site almost coded entirely in Adobe Flash and lacking any useful content. News stories consisted of headlines and a teaser paragraph. There wasn’t much audio much less video aside from some choppy Real Media streams that only showed short clips.

Fast forward to today and they are the top online destination for music videos and leading a variety of initiatives that fully embrace social media. Reality TV shows like Jersey Shore are giving MTV ratings they haven’t seen in years. The cast of Jersey Shore are becoming a social phenomenon unto themselves, leveraging social media like Twitter and Facebook to extend their reach and keeping the personal touch. It is no wonder that MTV can easily push big events like the Video Music Awards and all the drama around it to the forefront of Twitter trends.

Kanye West at MTV VMA

Trial by Social Media

Last year’s VMA moment was definitely when Kanye West stormed Taylor Swift’s award speech to rant that Beyonce Knowles had the best video of all time. It was an embarrassing moment for Kanye that could have ended his career. He was widely criticized across blogs and social media to the point of warranting the famous “jackass” comment from President Obama (that was supposed to be off-the-record). After the incident Kanye issued some statements and largely stayed out of the spotlight while the paparazzi chased him around.

At the beginning of this month Kanye began addressing events from last year’s VMA directly by starting with an apology and making many impassioned pleas.

I’ve hurt, I’ve bled, I’ve learned. I only want to do good. I am passionate I am human I am real. I wish I could meet every hater

Twitter / Kanye West: I’ve hurt, I’ve bled, I’ve …

At this year’s VMA Taylor Swift performed a song titled “Innocent” that seems to address the Kanye incident. While most people lauded her performance there was also a considerable backlash on Twitter telling her to “grow up”, “get over it”, or criticizing the quality of her performance. Lyrics such as “32 is still growing up now … you’re still an innocent.” were seen as condescending by some.

Kanye West deliverd a solid performance of “Runaway” with lyrics like “let’s have a toast to the douchebags” that was both apologetic, honest but still cryptic. Although there’s nothing he can do change the past and some will hate him forever, he has definitely navigated past a situation that would have killed the career of anyone else not as talented or deft with social media.

Celebrities continue to dominate Twitter (Justin Bieber accounts for 3%). Social media is powerful and like anything so powerful it can be a double-edged sword. It’s tricky to navigate and any upcoming artist needs to savvy with it.