Backstage at the most social Brit Awards

Campaign made it beyond the red carpet and the celebrity PRs at this year's Brit Awards to discover a global social media operation that had been half-a-year in the making.

A piercing scream rings out. It quickly gets louder as a chorus of excited teenagers join in. The pit of press photographers bursts into life, ready to blind everyone with their strobe flashes. It’s all because, down at the end of the long corridor, someone has spotted that Rihanna has arrived. 

Campaign is on the red carpet at the 2016 Brit Awards. 

The showbiz PRs are out in force, including Stuart Bell and Richard Dawes from DawBell, who oversee publicity for the event, and Ant & Dec’s handler Simon Jones. As are the screaming fans, journalists, serious-looking security and, thankfully, a few heaters. 

As celebrities including Adele, Alexa Chung and Kylie Minogue run the usual gauntlet, there is the new addition of Instagram and Facebook booths. Celebrities are being interviewed in the Facebook booth and proceedings are being broadcast globally live. 

This is one small part of what is being co-ordinated by Somethin’ Else. The content agency is in charge of social media operations for the Brits. It is an increasingly important medium for the event as it aims to connect with 15- to 24-year-olds in the UK and also to attract a global audience and reputation. 

Somethin’ Else’s main social hub back in the media centre is a more muted affair than the red carpet, but it is still buzzing. This is not just a couple of people in a corner sending out a few Tweets, it’s a 60-person hive of activity. It is what a modern social media campaign now looks like at an event. 

The main room is filled with rows of editors slicing and dicing the live performances, which are quickly converted into gifs, Vines and pictures. These are then posted on sites including Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and, for the first time this year, Snapchat. Approvals for posts have to come quickly and decisively. Clips are also sent to the artists’ managers to be seeded on their social channels. 

The walls are full of charts with detailed schedules for each person in the team. Some have watched the dress rehearsal to prepare content suggestions in advance. Lists of artists’ Twitter handles and the emojis that Twitter launched for the Brits this year are all close to hand. In a separate room is a studio where the YouTube stars Dan and Phil are broadcasting live. 

The social media preparatory work began six months ago. The key shift in strategy for 2016 is an increase in the live activity the team is producing, including the broadcast of the red carpet on Facebook and the posting of stories on Snapchat.

The Somethin’ Else executive producer on the project Tom Young says: "We set out from the start to give the audience the best seat in the house and give them all the perspectives of the Brits on offer."

For example, Dan and Phil deliver their performances live instead of using pre-recorded clips. This means the pair can react to what happens in the show and engage with the audience by reading out their Tweets. 

Twitter continued to host the vote for Best Video but, for the first time this year, it also hosted the vote for British Breakthrough Act. It was previously run through the Brits website. This is a key driver behind building a social community for the Brits.

Twitter also created emojis for each of the artists with the aim of connecting with different fan bases on social media. Their staggered release also led to consistent spikes of interest and boosted the total number of Tweets over the duration of the show to 7.5 million. 

Giuseppe De Cristofano, the head of digital for the Brits, says: "This year, the digital team was fully integrated with the TV team." He says this gave them better access to the artists and a richer experience on all social platforms. 

Back in the studio, the event is drawing to a close. But the Somethin’ Else team, many of whom have spent the past week at the venue, still have a long night ahead. They have to finish the editing process to ensure everything is online first thing in the morning. Perhaps Twitter could make them a screen-break emoji. They will definitely need it. 

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