The Hashtag For This Article Will Be #hashtag

  • by October 2, 2012

On Sunday night’s Emmy Awards, host Jimmy Kimmel, “pranked” the unsuspecting Twitterverse with the following ruse: he got Tracey Morgan to come up from the audience (all spontaneous of course) and essentially play dead by lying on the floor of the stage (oh, the dignity). Then he encouraged hundreds of millions of viewers to Facebook or Tweet something to the effect of “OMG Tracey Morgan just passed out on stage at the Emmys. Turn ABC on now.”

According to EOnline, “the prank blew up online,” with “OMG Tracey Morgan” becoming a hot topic online, registering 54,000 tweets. (I searched their source, Topsy Free Analytics and found around 15,000 tweet.) It also registered an increase of 127,300% of Tracey Morgan mentions on Facebook at the exact moment Kimmel uttered his innovative breath.

So what did we learn? Tracey Morgan has a baseline level of conversation on Facebook at around zero!

To me, the real experiment was to test to what degree people were watching live versus time-shifting. Only the live watchers would have been participated, with their networks jumping on the Retweet bandwagon. By inference, those time shifting would have been avoiding Twitter -- to avoid spoilers.

So would this “stunt” drive tune in, which really is about the only thing anyone in the broadcast business should be concerned about? All the rest is nothing but noise or “clutter.”

May I have the envelope please: This year’s Emmy Awards registered 13.3 million viewers, up 6% from last year, but down 10% among adults 18-49, which tied a record low from 2008, when the show registered a record-low audience of 12.3 million. Some 4.9 million of them were 18-49. That’s an abysmal 37% of total viewers falling into the coveted demographic.

Even if the goal of the experiment was to gauge engagement, we’re talking about 0.4% of total viewers -- taking the higher tweet estimate and running on the assumption that every tweet was unique, which we know it wasn’t.

So, no. Not exactly the smash hit capable of catapulting this year’s Emmy’s into the Hall of Fame. At best, it's the tweet that saved the Emmy’s from catastrophe. Kimmel, who is terrific, should stick to his “viral” successes, which are less about innovative approaches to digital or social and more about producing great content, which today -- more than ever before -- are capable of being embraced, shared and distributed to every corner of the world in nanoseconds.

The Kimmel-Morgan prank is sadly just another example of how we’re trying to force fit our tired old ways into new forms and formats; how we’re incrementally tweaking an approach instead of blowing the whole thing up and making an exponential leap of educated faith.

Case in point is the plague of hashtags used in broadcast from #telljimmy Iovene on "American Idol" -- why? -- to Nancy Grace’s #CrockPotWifeKiller. Seriously?

Hashtags are truly an evolution in syntax and vernacular. From a function(al) standpoint, it’s a smart and efficient categorization taxonomy of conversation, which is easily searchable and findable. From a form standpoint, it’s a creative and colloquial way of self-expression: #justsayin #toomuchinformation

Hashtags really will change the way we communicate with each other. They already have. That said, we are in danger of poisoning the drinking waters with our overwhelming obsession to control, force and contrive every last bit of humanity out of what is still in its absolute infancy.

When I watch TV, I want to lean back and submit to a great story. It’s no surprise that these days, the only way to find great script is to go beyond the broadcast networks, which seem to be trying to cover as much of the screen as possible with #hashtags.

And for what purpose? Driving tune-in? If so, where’s the call-to-action, incentive or even Tracey Morgan cadaver? I’d like to challenge anyone working for the networks to share their vision, objective, method to the madness and/or metrics associated with their social media integration and use of hashtags.

While we’re waiting for their response, Tracey you can get up now and dust off your tux.

Dry cleaning is on ABC.

1 comment about "The Hashtag For This Article Will Be #hashtag".
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  1. Douglas Ferguson from College of Charleston, October 2, 2012 at 5:38 p.m.

    Hashtags are best referenced as folksonomy rather than taxonomy, because amateurs choose them without relying on professionals. They are yet another example of disintermediation.

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