When Tina Fey and Amy Poehler hosted the Golden Globes for the first time two years ago, their opening monologue featured many an LOL moment, but it wasn’t a joke that immortalized their gig. It was a high-five. “Ang Lee’s been nominated for Best Director for the Life of Pi…,” Poehler said, “…which is what I’m gonna call the six weeks after I take this dress off!” Then, with a perfect blend of irony and genuine glee, the two slapped hands, and it almost immediately became the enduring memory of the 2013 show—not who was nominated, not who won (like Jennifer Lawrence beating out Meryl Streep for Best Actress), but rather this one little gesture. The next day, few remembered who wore what, but the high-five GIF lived on in social feeds forevermore.
This likely happened for two reasons: First, people will make GIFs of almost anything and post them ad infinitum. Second, Fey and Poehler are two of the Internet’s most beloved broads, and when you pair them with the bloodsport that is live-reacting to event television, it’s only natural that their high-five would go viral (along with tweeted quotes, Lawrence’s “I beat Meryl” acceptance speech, and other oddities). “I worked on 30 Rock for many years and then worked on Parks and Rec, so I know how popular these two are with this [online] audience,” says Jared Goldsmith, NBC Entertainment’s head of digital marketing. “They’re able to convey a sensibility that’s in line with how people at home are watching.” But regardless of hosting brilliance, this kind of social potential exists any time average folk—armed with laptops, smartphones, and opinions—watch rich beautiful people get awards. Like the Oscars or the Olympics or the World Cup, many millions of people watch the Golden Globes, and many of them are simultaneously snarking about it on Twitter and posting the highlights on Tumblr.
The Globes went on to peak at 19,886 tweets per minute that night, up from a high of nearly 7,472 TPM the year before. During last year’s telecast—also hosted, just like tomorrow night’s installment, by Poehler and Fey—that number went up again, to 28,117 tweets per minute (the TPM peaked when Breaking Bad won the award for best drama on TV). There were 2.4 million tweets total about the Globes telecast in 2014—a 39 percent increase over the year prior—and the volume of tweets (not to mention Facebook posts, Tumblr’d GIFs, and Instagram “likes”) will likely be even higher this weekend. Goldsmith anticipates it will be the “most social Golden Globes ever.”
The Hollywood Foreign Press Association, the nonprofit organization that hands out the Globes, knows this well. Five years ago the HFPA asked Michael Carter, then the chief information officer at the California Institute of the Arts (he’s now COO), to help with social media. In 2010, he covered the Globes by himself, armed only with a smartphone and a laptop; “it was quite a task,” he says. This year he has a team of five helping him. And in addition to their constant output from the event, the HFPA has forged partnerships with Instagram (to have fashion photographer Ellen von Unwerth post pics of winners), Facebook (for a “Facebook Lounge” where celebs can answer online questions), and Twitter, which will host a “GIF Mirror” among other things. (They’re also bringing a “Kick Cam” to capture celeb shoes—a move that prevents Elisabeth Moss flipping Twitter the bird like she did E! on their red carpet “Mani Cam” last year.)
The goal for the Globes’ social media endeavors, Carter says, is to show the audience things they can’t see on TV—but this year he’s also making sure those watching on their second screen will have video content as well. “We’ll be sharing live video from the actual show as it happens,” he says. “So, if there’s a cool moment during the show, you’ll be able to watch it online as well.” In other words, if Tina and Amy do something hysterical, you no longer have to wait for some friendly netizen to rip the clip and put it on YouTube.
But at the same time, waiting to see what the Internet will seize on is part of the fun. Does being hand-fed the night’s memes by companies—whose sole aim is, as Goldsmith says, to “extend the couch”—take away their luster? Things go viral organically, after all, not because they came from any official feed. Tweeting and Facebooking during televised live events became the new hotness because those things served as backchannels, a way to talk about the gowns and glamor without being a correspondent from E! Will there come a time when @GoldenGlobes tweeting the most popular Vine of the night make it feel like that moment your mom friended you on Facebook?
Perhaps, but not if Carter and his team have anything to do with it. For one, he acknowledges that they’re just trying to keep up with the online conversation like everyone else. (There’s a monitor in the social team’s “war room” just for this purpose.) And, like the best friend of a celeb who gets a last-minute invite to the ceremony, they’re also just happy to be there. “The chatter online about the Golden Globes is amazing,” he says. “It would happen without us—but it’s fun to be a part of it.”