TV’s Twitter MVPs of 2014

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Everyone is tweeting about Rick and Co. , according to Twitter.
Image: AMC

It’s been a great year for TV lovers on Twitter.

This year more than ever, die-hard TV fans who help their favorite shows RT and favorite their way into trending topics have seen networks embrace the hunger for interaction and deliver closer connections to the programs they love.

At least, that’s what Andrew Adashek, the head of TV at Twitter, has seen, and, he tells Mashable, he couldn’t be happier about it.

With 2015 already underway in some parts of the world, Adashek looks back and forward in the Q&A below.

MASHABLE: When it comes to Twitter’s relationship with television, what would you say was the biggest success in 2014?
Andrew Adashek, head of TV at Twitter: There’s general successes but then there’s also sort of more nuanced or specific stuff. In general, the things I’m seeing that are really compelling and interesting are that there are a lot of partners that are taking the things that they’ve learned over the last couple years and really applying them and doing some really innovative stuff. Whether it’s scripted series like The Walking Dead, Pretty Little Liars, American Horror Story, Game of Thrones, or Scandal — those shows that are taking the things that they’ve learned and really applying them and doing just amazing things with bringing the audience closer to the cast, closer to the executive producers, and really using Twitter to be the ultimate companion to their content. That’s really exciting to me because that’s sort of a… good step forward over the past few years of working with all of these partners.

And then I look at certain shows and partners that are doing stuff that is also really innovative. The Voice with the “Voice save” continues to really be a really powerful moment on TV generally, with TV and Twitter together. But this year The Voice hashtag set the record for a single episode for a TV series conversation and also let the most tweeted series of all of 2014, surpassing even the Super Bowl with 310,000 tweets at 8:59 p.m. alone. And for me personally, that was a really exciting thing. The concept of the show in real time leveraging one of the platform’s great strengths, which is that we’re real-time, public, and conversational, and leveraging that to tell a great story is the perfect — not to be cheesy about it — but a symbiotic relationship.

And then of course, the year started out with one of the high water marks which is the most retweeted tweet of all time, or of the year, with the Ellen [DeGeneres selfie] tweet from the Oscars which was sort of just staggering with the impact that had. And I’ve traveled around the world a lot this year to meet with other countries that are getting started with television, and everybody everywhere you go knows that tweet.

What would you say was the biggest surprise about 2014?
Adashek: I wouldn’t say the biggest surprise, [but] what’s happening faster than I thought is the way that people are embracing Twitter as the real-time platform. It’s so up and down, from the biggest shows to every major show that you see on broadcast or cable, the way that they’ve embraced Twitter as the way to have a real-time conversation is incredible and how fast everybody is moving toward that. And then also people have historically said that reality [TV shows] get the big amount of attention, but then you look at something like The Walking Dead and how powerful the conversation on Twitter has been around those shows. And you look at American Horror Story and the shows I mentioned earlier like Scandal and #TGIT. You look at how these franchises and partners may have not gotten the attention in the past, but they’re using the same best practices, and they’re creating this torrent of conversation between the shows and audiences. That’s also something that I think has come on very strong this year, which is really exciting.

I think that looking forward, it’s gonna be really amazing. And six of the Top 10 shows were scripted as far as conversation with shows. I wouldn’t say surprising, but I would say it’s a great thing to see happening — a great trend.

Looking at that list of the Top 10, it’s such a varied group of shows. Like you mentioned, you have The Walking Dead, Pretty Little Liars, and The Voice. Have you looked into what they do have in common since they do look so different on the surface?
Adashek: I think it’s sort of television in general. There are shows that just know how to strike the chord and I think that first off, I would say that genuinely these shows all use what I would call best practices. They’re engaged, they have their audience, there’s live tweeting — they all have talent that is constantly involved. And genuinely, #TGIT and Scandal, they’re passionate fans, and The Walking Dead has equally done amazing things with how they have live-tweeted the episodes and how the pull off such a wide group of the talent on the show together to really make these programs into something even more involved and more intimate with the audience.

And then you look at things like Pretty Little Liars where they live-tweet the shows and you get behind-the-scenes looks as well. You’re just seeing all of these partners embracing the real-time conversation and also working hard to tie it into the story and to be genuinely connected to what they’re talking about. They also do a really good job of capturing that.

Among those best practices — you’ve mentioned engagement — are there any others you feel that these top-performing shows hit on particularly well?
Adashek: Definitely the talent live-tweeting is amazing, because the conversation that comes with that is fantastic. We’re seeing people use a lot more photos, native photos, which are really strong. We’re seeing a lot of rich media things that are being used — rich media content being used by these partners. But also really importantly, they’re also doing things in a very timely matter.

So some of our partners, many of our partners, are using a tool Snappy TV, which allows partners in real time to grab the clips of the show, find moments when people start talking about things in the show, and moments in the show are literally buzzing. They can use Snappy to quickly grab those clips, send them out to the world using the video or the GIF, and create these instant sort of moments. So you’ve got more people using that to leverage the second screen, which is really impressive.

You already mentioned the most retweeted tweet of all time, how do you see the Oscars topping that in 2015? What would you advice be to the next Oscar host, Neil Patrick Harris, on how to top that?
Adashek: I don’t think you want to try and say, ‘what’s the next selfie?’ That thing came together working with the Academy, and Josh Spector is someone at the Academy I have amazing respect for. And he’s been really driving a lot of innovation on that team. What Josh was really great at — and what we had the chance to do in partnership with him last year — was to set the scene and environment that allowed the selfie to happen. I can’t say that I came up with the selfie idea, obviously, but I can say we worked with them to make all of the stakeholders comfortable with the concept of doing something in real time on the show.

Josh was really smart to get ahead and work with everyone internally and say, ‘Look. If this opportunity presents itself, let’s be prepared, and let’s be ready to let it happen and encourage it to happen.’ But also when Twitter went down — or they “broke Twitter,” as they say — they immediately retweeted another tweet that had the Twitter’s down photo and said, ‘Oops. Our bad.’ They were immediately participating in the conversation and every moment of that they were ready to support it and make sure everyone was aware about what happened and no one was caught off-guard. They were prepared.

This year, I think Neil Patrick Harris, the best thing that he can do — and what Neil is great at — is he’ll do his own thing. He’ll tell his own story, he’ll have his own way of doing the Oscars, and I think for him, what I would say is what I say to pretty much everybody: I don’t want to see Twitter for Twitter’s sake. I want you to use Twitter to help tell your story. If we can help tell a better joke or entertain the audience or bring them closer to what’s happening or be part of the natural experience that Neil Patrick Harris is going to have with the Oscars, then that’s what I think he should do. And it’s not just topping the Ellen photo, it’s not just about raw numbers, but it’s about the moment. Can you create just as great of a moment and use Twitter to amplify it? Absolutely. He’s a brilliant entertainer, and I’m sure if he does what he’s going to do for the show and uses Twitter as one of the tools in his tool kit, it will be a great success.

This interview has been edited and condensed.

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