One of my absolute favorite things about working in social media is that you never know who you might connect with. In a recent webinar, I was fortunate enough to connect with Jenny Driessen. She is the Social Media Manager for the Academy of Country Music and was gracious enough to answer a few questions about one of the biggest country music events of the year, the Academy of Country Music Awards.
Q: For those who might not know, tell us a little bit about the ACM Awards.
A: The Academy of Country Music (ACM) Awards showcase the biggest names and upcoming talent in the country music industry, and it’s more of a concert than an Awards show – we often have cross-genre guests like Steven Tyler performing with Carrie Underwood, Rihanna performing with Sugarland, etc. It’s basically a live party from Las Vegas! Our 48th Annual ACM Awards show on April 7th is hosted by Blake Shelton and Luke Bryan. Our show is produced by dick clark productions (American Music Awards, Dick Clark’s New Year’s Rockin’ Eve, Golden Globes) and airs on CBS.
Q: What are some of the exciting things happening this year at the ACM Awards?
A: I am always excited to see what performances and collaborations the producers put on the show. They take pride in providing the best entertainment possible and showing off the talent in country music and I have to sometimes pinch myself about the entire show itself. My favorite moments in years past have always been those rare performances that you don’t get to see every day - those one-of-a-kind moments. This year promises to be the same so we will have to watch and see!
In addition to the telecast, the Academy does a lot of events around Las Vegas leading up to the show. We call it The Week Vegas Goes Country® and everyone within the industry floods Sin City, it’s kind of like Spring Break for the industry. We host a music festival, a golf tournament, a fan Expo, free concerts on Fremont Street and much more – we have a lot of fans who plan their vacations around the Awards and all the events we offer, which is so amazing.
Q: Can you tell us about the social strategy for promoting the ACM Awards this year?
A: The social strategy for the show is multi-leveled and we are supported by our partners at CBS and dick clark productions. I was lucky to be the person chosen for the Academy’s social media staff position created last year, and I came into it focused on building a strong foundation as much for the ACM brand as for the Awards. We wanted to create a consistent voice for the Academy, we had some conversations about what that voice should sound like—what words do we consider offensive? What topics do we avoid?—but it’s not terribly calculated. I am a country fan first, and I have a sense of humor so that is the basis for every conversation. The fans have responded because it’s authentic. Actually, the initiatives we focused on last year for the 2012 ACM Awards just earned us a finalist spot for PR News’ Social Media Icon Awards in the “Twitter: PR Campaign” category. We intend to build and expand on that foundation.
In terms of strategy, our focus will always be fan-based. How can we provide an added level of experience for both the fans on-site in Vegas and the fans who will be participating from home? For the past two years, we’ve started our campaigns off with a social media bang: We announce our final nominees through a digital press conference via our social media channels. It gives our fans a chance to watch the nominees being announced at the same time media can. This year, Sheryl Crow, The Band Perry, 2 Broke Girls’ star Beth Behrs, Little Big Town, Scotty McCreery, Ryan Seacrest, The Talk’s Julie Chen, Sarah Gilbert, Sharon Osbourne, Aisha Tyler, and Sheryl Underwood, plus Entertainment Tonight co-anchors Nancy O’Dell and Rob Marciano all helped us with video posts to announce the nominees. We could have never engaged that many celebrities in a traditional press conference.
The digital press conference allows us to establish our official hashtag for the show early in the campaign. The goal is to make it short and easy for fans to remember, which is why we chose #ACMs. Not only is that the nickname that fans and industry call our show, but it gives people extra characters for their tweets. With the awareness of our hashtag, we can all connect and chat about the show in a community setting online and build that buzz prior to the show we are looking for!
We also look to leverage key influencers on social media, find new and inventive ways to be a part of the online conversation, make sure the show trends online, get artists and talent excited and eager to participate online, etc. There are strategies to effectively maximize social media comments, posts and conversation. I am a huge fan of GetGlue, so of course we want to encourage users to check-in to the show – and then hopefully spread their conversation to their other social media channels. We integrate fan tweets into the telecast. We create the ACM Social Splash page, which is what I describe as our “one-stop shop” for all the ways fans can participate online or interact with us and the show. Look at me… I could ramble and talk about all of the different social media elements forever – it’s my passion.
Q: The ACM Awards Twitter account has almost reached 100,000 followers, can you tell us a little about what it takes to build that kind of following on Twitter?
A: I’m proud of how far our Twitter account has come since January 2012. My focus? Talking with the fans, building relationships, having conversations, being on Twitter as much as possible. I know that almost sounds basic, but just like in anything, fundamentals are KEY. A lot of companies new to social media approach it as a 9am to 5pm, Monday through Friday only task, which is a huge mistake. Fans are online and engaged 24/7, even during holidays. Every time I check my personal Twitter account, I automatically check the ACM account.
One weekend, I asked a question because I was curious, something like “If you could have dinner with only 3 country stars dead or alive, who would it be?” and the response was amazing. I tried to reply to everyone who responded… and then Twitter cut me off because I was tweeting too much and reached the maximum amount of tweets for a time period! Haha!
We make it a point to reply to everyone who tweets us. I may miss a few tweets on show day, during the telecast or when there is a huge influx of mentions, but I try my absolute best to go back and respond. Even if I don’t know the answer – I am honest with them and let them know that. They appreciate us taking the time to respond. I think our followers can attest to this.
We hope we get to the six-digit figure before the show, but ultimately it’s the quality of our followers that makes me proud of our Twitter account. They are all amazing and have a great sense of humor. That allows us to have some fun with them. I feel I know a lot of them and I get to be sassy with them! It’s a good time for everyone.
Q: The ACM Awards Facebook page seems to be getting a lot of engagement. Why do you think your page is so engaged?
I’m excited about the way our Facebook is growing! We are constantly analyzing and reviewing data from our Facebook Page and Facebook Insights trying to figure out what’s best for our brand. Insights at the page level, insights at the post level, negative feedback, percentages of negative feedback compared to the reach of the posts, the types of posts, the ever-changing algorithm of Facebook’s EdgeRank – you name it, I have cross-examined it with every variable imaginable. I do this quite often because as our audience grows and as the way consumer behaviors evolve, so do these Facebook variables and results. It’s something we stay on top of.
It’s interesting that with our fans, the amount of times we post a day does not matter to them. This obviously varies between any brand and their audience but I think it’s telling that our audience doesn’t get fatigued by more communication than less. It’s liberating because we don’t have to be afraid that our fans will disown us on Facebook for over-posting! I tailor our content to them which is crucial – we aren’t out there spamming them with messages that sound like a sales pitch.
I love seeing our engagement on Facebook because we don’t beg our fans to ‘Like’ a post, they just do it. We don’t ask for comments, they just WANT to share their opinions with us and the country music community. It’s real engagement. It’s quality. It’s real social media. And that is what I am most proud of.
Q: What are some challenges that you face when trying to build buzz about the awards this year?
A: We want people to watch our show live, so I think our challenges are similar to any other major televised event. We are competing not only with other offerings on TV, but with life itself – some parts of the country have Spring Break during the week we air, so we’ll automatically miss anyone taking vacation at that time. We are also a genre-specific award show which presents challenges since not everyone identifies themselves as a country music fan. We’re well positioned because country music is so mainstream right now – five of the top 10 albums of 2012 were by country music artists.
At the end of the day, we focus on what we can control. Come April 7th, when people sit down in their living rooms, we want them planning to watch. Their reminder alarm for the ACM Awards better be buzzing! Ha! So much is happening on social media all the time. We are inundated with information in 140-character spurts. We just have to make our 140-characters and the buzz about our show THAT much more compelling.
Q: Do you use any tools to track conversation leading up to and during the show?
A: We do have quite a few different tools we use prior to the show including Crowdbooster, Hootsuite, Cision, Topsy, etc. During the show, we will add the likes of Trendrr and Bluefin to the list – particularly for reporting. Though nothing beats being immersed within your social networks and actually monitoring from the trenches. It’s the best way to see what is going on.
Q: Who is your personal favorite country artist to follow and why?
Haha. Oh man…that’s hard! And it definitely depends, it’s almost like asking my favorite movie. If you did that, you have to break it down: best story, drama, romantic comedy, comedy, etc. But let’s see…
Our co-host, Blake Shelton (@BlakeShelton) has always been a social media pioneer – look at his Twitter account. I mean, he gets it. He runs it. He is 100% himself, no filter, a great guy and he is hilarious! He connects with his fans and it’s great to watch that interaction.
Carrie Underwood (@CarrieUnderwood) has really blasted into the social scene too – and she is such a funny, sweet gem of a human being as well. I love seeing her humor come out in tweets and now she’s rockin’ Instagram like nobody’s business.
And let’s not forget the ever-mysterious “Cake Bowen,” aka @NotJakeOwen. This person or people who run that account, no one knows who they are. There are no words to describe it. Anyone with a sense a humor who loves country music needs to follow this parody account.
As you can see, the Academy of Country music gets it right when it comes to social! We would like to thank Jenny Driessen and all of the great folks at the Awards for taking the time to give us some insight as to what it takes to successfully make a major country music event more social. As soon as you are done reading this, please thank them for sharing on Facebook, Twitter, Google+, Instagram and Tumblr.
We are very excited to tune in on April 7th to watch it all of the excitement. Don’t miss it!