At Fanscape we create and monitor conversations about our clients that take place in the social media sphere. One of our clients, MTV, recently gained quite a bit of additional exposure as a result of its 2009 Video Music Awards, when a notoriously controversial Kanye West decided to steal the spotlight from one of MTV’s cherished up-and-coming artists, Taylor Swift. Here’s a personal account of how social media and devoted music fans created a digital uproar during the awards show and the benefits, or consequences, of the immediacy of social media.
I found myself Sunday night with no television or adequate wireless connection to catch the MTV Video Music Awards. It was a sad state of affairs, especially when I received a text message from my sister back east (consequently three hours ahead of me on Pacific Time). The text read: “Omg, did you just see what Kanye did to Taylor Swift?!” Although the VMA’s weren’t airing locally for a few more hours, I scampered to my laptop eager for a video clip.
I frantically logged into Facebook and Twitter to see if any of my friends had posted Kanye’s recent cringe worthy, PR nightmare moment. There it was, on the Twitter trending topics and status updates: Kanye West had hijacked Taylor Swift’s acceptance of the Best Female Pop Video award and after taking her microphone, preached to the crowd that Beyoncé had in fact made the best video of all time with her “Single Ladies” nomination in the same category. The backlash was instant.
Team Kanye never had a chance. Taylor Swift is a majorly successful country-pop singer with a passionate fan base. Beyoncé, quick to adapt to this potential PR crisis, forfeited her stage time when she won Pop Video of the Year for “Single Ladies” and allowed Taylor her moment to shine. Kanye was removed from the event and the night went on as planned. All of this information was gathered strictly from Twitter and Facebook updates, and as I write this a few days after the original airing, Kanye West is still the second highest trending topic on Twitter.
After digesting one of the best moments in VMA history, I realized how much has changed since social media allowed viewers to create a universal conversation with friends and internet acquaintances. Those of us on Pacific Time eagerly awaited our chance to see the VMAs, if only for the need to tweet about it ourselves. There were many winners in this scenario: Taylor Swift, Beyoncé and MTV. Even Pink and Kelly Clarkson received excellent press for casting their Twitter and blog ballot for Team Taylor, instantly making them appeal as big sister types who look out for their own.
Kanye is clearly the loser in this situation, and since Sunday night he has released many apologies to Taylor, one of which she accepted on Tuesday’s The View. Social media is still buzzing with Kanye, Taylor and Beyoncé comments and feedback. To think there was a time when Kanye’s outburst would have been limited to the VMA viewers who happened not to walk into the kitchen for a snack during Taylor’s acceptance speech. It’s a tribute to how quickly Taylor Swift’s fans defended her honor and will continue to do so with rabid purchasing of concert tickets and albums.
And who does Taylor Swift thank for her success? Once Beyoncé gave her the chance to speak, she thanked “all of the fans on Twitter and MySpace.” Looks like Taylor could show Kanye a thing or two about good PR.