It’s not news that people love to be on social media during big awards presentations like the Emmys/Grammys/Oscars/VMAs/etc, etc, etc. Witness the number of people who changed the Facebook and Twitter cover images to Beyoncé standing in front of the word “feminist” last night, or the Tweet heard ’round the world in Ellen Degeneres’ Oscar selfie. But merely being the platform that people use to discuss these events as they happen in real-time isn’t enough for Facebook and Twitter: The twin powerhouses of social media are both pushing for new ways to reach people who might not already be talking about the Emmys tonight.
Each platform is taking different approaches to officially increasing their presence at the Emmys. Facebook is using a “Mentions Box” that Access Hollywood host Billy Bush will carry with him as he roams the red carpet (the looks kind of like a giant tablet). The “Mentions Box,” built by iStrategyLabs, will connect fans who have questions for various stars at the event with the star in question–Bush will hand the celebrities the box, they’ll shake it like a Magic 8-Ball, and then they’ll answer the randomly-selected question using the device’s camera.
iStrategyLabs CMO and managing director DJ Saul says the brief from Facebook was to create a tool that brings fans closer to celebrities during live events. “Especially as celebrities typically have short windows of time to engage on the red carpet, how can we bridge the gap with their fans in a unique/fun way?” says Saul “We went back and forth on several concepts, playing off of existing mediums people already know and enjoy (some nostalgic, like the Magic 8 Ball). Ultimately we landed on a custom interface that would allow celebrities to view real-time questions posed to them on event Facebook Pages, and record a video response right back.”
Saul says the box uses a custom mobile application pulling directly from the Facebook API. The hardware is a 10” tablet enclosed in polycarbonate “with a luxury car finish (housing the tablet, a backup battery, foam inserts and wiring ). The tablet’s accelerometer triggers the shaking effect, surfacing the next question, giving the celebrity the option to record a video response straight back to the device.”
Twitter, meanwhile, is going a different route to engage users: Namely, they’re going overhead by using a zip-line over the red carpet to provide unique footage of the event. That’s just the beginning of the company’s plans, though: They’ve spared fans the arduous task of making their own GIFs of various celebrity reactions to the awards, and are instead using a GIF booth backstage to create them instantaneously. All of that is cool technology that highlights the ever-growing potential of social media, but perhaps the best idea Twitter has for how to engage users at the event is to do what it does best: They’ve brought on comedian Retta (Parks and Recreation), perhaps the best livetweeter in the game, to capture the evening from the red carpet down to the ceremony, in 140 character bursts. Sometimes, when looking for how to engage an audience, the classics (that didn’t exist eight years ago) never go out of style.