Inside Oscars’ Social Media War Room: Followers, Ratings and the Ghost of Ellen’s Selfie

Ahead of Sunday’s Academy Awards, the show’s digital media chief talks year-long engagement efforts

Last Updated: February 20, 2015 @ 3:48 PM

Ellen DeGeneres‘ star-studded selfie from the 2014 Oscars is now the stuff of legend. But the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences is hoping the legend continues.

For the nearly four years that its digital media department has existed, the Academy has been playing a long game of social media interaction that aims to look beyond the hype of its annual awards show and engage film fans, industry players and the general public year round.

Josh Spector, Digital Media Director of AMPAS, spoke with TheWrap about the Academy’s exponential follower growth, tapping the galaxy of stars in its membership and how, if possible, to top that Ellen selfie.

TheWrap: There have been several reports that this year’s budget allocation for social media engagement is the highest in history. Can you talk about it why it’s a become such a priority?
Josh Spector
: I would say social has been a priority for us for several years, actually. I’ve been there for about four years and in that time the Academy has grown its following across social platforms like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram from 400,000 followers to 7 million. This is a day-in-day-out priority. We view social media as a part of everything that we do — it’s not a separate bucket. It’s part of our programs, our events, everything from a member screening all the way up to the Oscars.

Aside from the obvious benefit of increased followers, what other returns do you see from your efforts?
There are short-term benefits — we’ve had three straight years of ratings increases for the show. I think social media has partially played a role in that … I also think there are long-term benefits in terms of the Academy’s relationship with the public.

This year’s show producers Craig Zadan and Neil Meron are highly active on Twitter, and you broke so much news about performers and presenters on the platform. Did you have a specific partnership?
We didn’t have anything formal with Twitter, and for news [like] that we thought more about what made sense for the people involved. For Adam Levine … when we announced he was performing on Facebook it went on his page, his Twitter account, the band’s Twitter, the band’s Facebook page. For someone like a presenter, like Reese Witherspoon or Gwyneth [Paltrow], we had them engage with our handle and say something like, ‘I’m so excited to be presenting’ because those particular people are more active on that platform.

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It’s no secret the Academy’s membership skews older. Is there an internal push to familiarize them with social media?
I think there’s a huge misconception that social media is for younger people. Several years ago that may have been the case … but for us, there’s a lot of older people using social media as well. For us, it’s a way to connect and engage with our fans, with movie fans, with Oscar fans. We help inspire them, entertain them.

And about that Ellen selfie. Will you try to match it? Best it? Forget it entirely?
We didn’t set out last year to break twitter. What we really do is we create an environment that allows something really amazing to happen.

This year, you’ve curated a group of “Oscar Creators,” people with an artistic bent across social media platforms. They’re essentially artists in residence, how is it going? 
We like to do new things each year. The Academy is a very creative, artistic organization, so we love the idea of reaching out and bringing some of these incredibly talented people in for Oscar week, giving them access to some of the things that we have access to and really allowing them to share some of that excitement and fun through their eyes. It’s been good. They’ve been here for a few days getting a lot of stuff.

See Oscar Creator and Vine star Zack King at work below:

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