mtvvmaWhether you follow pop music or not, MTV’s Video Music Awards has a little something for everyone – from the inspiring to the laughable, and every emotion in between. But how would those emotions translate into social data?

We wanted to know so we ran our LivePulse leading up to and during the VMAs. Here are OUR awards for the night:

Most Buzz Heading Into the Night – Taylor Swift

With 500k mentions and 89% net sentiment, Swift was the one people were talking about leading into the broadcast. The big question was, would she maintain that positive buzz? (Spoiler alert: She did.)

Most Trending Emerging Topics for One Artist – Kanye West

His nearly 15-minute acceptance speech (the first two minutes of which was just applause) for the Video Vanguard award (presented by Taylor Swift), coupled with a 2020 presidential-run announcement, pushed traffic to over 1.7 million mentions per hour and led to him trending on three fronts: “Kanye West,” “Kanye stage” (as in “get off the”) and #KanyeWestWing.

People Trending Who Weren’t Named Kanye – Multiple

Nicki Minaj and Taylor Swift both started the night trending with their shared opening performance. As the show continued they each trended again for different reasons – Minaj for calling out Miley Cyrus about their feud (“Miley, what’s good?”) and Swift for her new video debut and Video of the Year award. Justin’s “Beliebers” sent him to the top of the emerging trends list as well after his emotional performance.

The Maybe You Were Right Award – Miley Cyrus

Cyrus had joked at the start of the show that the VMAs would return to the past two years’ host-less format after her turn at the mike. High mentions (498k by show’s end) offset by only slightly positive sentiment that continued to fall (from 33% to 1% by the end of the night) could help that prediction come true.

What’s notable about these numbers is the way they illustrate the importance of tracking sentiment. Mentions alone put Swift, Beyonce, Minaj and Cyrus in the top four in the pre-show period. By the end of the broadcast Cyrus had overtaken Beyonce moving into the third place slot.

Sounds good right?

Unfortunately, though the conversation was resoundingly positive for Swift both pre- and post-show (as well as for Minaj and Bey), Cyrus’ net sentiment remained in the technically positive realm by only a hair, after falling all night – proving that mentions alone don’t tell you much about your social picture.

The VMAs themselves suffered from this same paradox. Though mentions hit 1.7 million during the hour of Kanye West’s Vanguard Award acceptance, and were high throughout the show overall (200k more mentions that the peak of the GOP convention), sentiment fell from 78 to 26 percent over the course of the night.

In fact from the first award (Mark Ronson/Bruno Mars for Uptown Funk), people were tweeting about tuning in for the first time in years and finding an MTV they no longer recognized. Sentiment at that point dropped from 78 to 74 percent… and kept on dropping.


Living, breathing social

The disconnect continued after the first hour as traffic increased to over 1.5 million mentions per hour, but sentiment dropped 34 points to 58 percent. People were watching and talking, but they weren’t exactly loving the show.

Which is another important lesson: Social data is fluid, so “resting” on good numbers doesn’t mean they’ll stay good. You’ve got to pay attention and course correct as things change.

In the case of a live event like the VMAs there’s not much they can do – beyond hiring new writers and going back to a host-less format next year. Luckily brands have a lot more power when they have the right knowledge in front of them.

Sentiment is that knowledge. Understanding how consumers feel – and how strongly – puts brands in the driver’s seat. Which means they can do something about customers’ disappointment before they “change the channel.”

Too bad it’s not that simple for MTV. If they’re lucky, the VMAs are something people “love to hate.” We’ll have to tune in next year and see.

Reach out to learn how LivePulse can help you make real-time decisions for your brand!

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