‘What can we learn from RT’s social media re-enactment of the Russian revolution?’

Dr Rhys Crilley, The Open University

Conference of International Broadcasters’ Audience Research Services, Bonn, Germany, 15-18 April 2018.

International broadcasters constantly experiment with audience engagement strategies. Recently, novel uses of real-time reconstructions of historical events via participatory social media projects have gained a certain popularity – perhaps as an antidote to the instantaneity and present-day preoccupations of social media? Reconstructions of the 1914 Irish Easter Uprisings on Irish social media, for example, preceded and influenced RT’s commemoration of the centenary of the 1917 Russian Revolution in November last year. Over 90 revolution-era characters tweeted the revolution in ‘real time’ ‘as if’ it were happening today. Based on an analysis of a strategically selected corpus of tweets and focus group interviews with user-participants, we assess the extent to which RTs audience engagement strategy was successful and we reflect on what counts as success beyond ratings. We show how RT’s 1917LIVE project engaged users in unique ways through its participatory and immersive experiences and highlight the implications of such projects for international broadcasters.