Note: This post originally appeared on the Voce Nation blog.
Did you watch “Grease: Live” last night? Follow-up question: Did you watch it on TV or on Twitter?
As an almost painfully avid musical fan (you may have caught my recent writeup on the incredible social media potency of Hamilton), “Grease: Live” was a Big Deal for me, and constantly refreshing my Twitter timeline throughout the broadcast was a vital part of the experience. I agree with Walt Mossberg’s recent assessment that Twitter has become “secret handshake” software, a tool bogged down by arcane rules and norms. That said, occasions like “Grease: Live” are the times when (for me at least) knowing the secret handshake pays off. While Instagram photos are carefully manicured and Facebook updates are filtered and shuffled out of order, on Twitter, it’s still OK to be verbose and overexcited and just plain weird. Better yet, that weirdness is a shared experience, exploding all over your Twitter feed without any algorithms to get you down.
— Jarett Wieselman (@JarettSays) February 1, 2016
Clearly, Fox was savvy to all this, because the network took steps to streamline the “Grease: Live” social media experience. Official social media channels shared looks “backstage” throughout the broadcast. (Marty’s double tearaway costume!) Meanwhile, GIFs from the broadcast appeared on Giphy with impressive speed and were promptly shared by everyone from Vulture to Broadway.com, multiplying the reach of #GreaseLive conversation even further. So even if you weren’t watching “Grease: Live,” there’s a good chance that you were still “watching” it through friends and publishers all over social media.
— Vulture (@vulture) February 1, 2016
This isn’t the first time we’ve seen GIFs dominate real-time conversation around a TV event, and Fox was smart to anticipate it. It’s a testament to the power of strategy even in real-time scenarios. Fox couldn’t prepare GIFs of its live broadcast ahead of time, but its streamlined approach to turning around real-time conversation fodder as quickly as possible paid dividends, taking a typical TV broadcast far beyond the typical scope of TV.
Note: Hat tip to Chris Thilk for teeing up the concept for this post and giving me an excuse to look at Aaron Tveit GIFs, you know, for work.