12th May 2014

Rise Like A Phoenix… above the social media doubters

Unless you opted to switch off from the world of broadcast entertainment and social media on Saturday night, you will no doubt have been swept up in the annual entertainment fiasco which is the Eurovision Song Contest.

And it seems that many of us swapped a night on the tiles for a night on the tablet as more than 5.3 million tweets were posted on the night – up dramatically from last year’s 3.76 million posts – with activity peaking at 47,136 tweets per minute.

What got everyone talking? Well, besides general chatter and views on each contending country’s entrants, the show’s eventual winner was single-handedly responsible for much of the online conversation.

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Austria’s Conchita Wurst – the drag alter-ego of Thomas Neuwirth – stole the show with her Bond-esque ‘Rise Like A Phoenix’ performance. The rousing hit won plaudits from Eurovision fans around the world and struck a fighting blow against those who had targeted Conchita in the run-up to the show taking offence to her ‘bearded lady’ look.

The trolls were out in all their finery (ahem) to throw stones and a shed-load of homophobic abuse at Austria’s songstress ahead of show-time but their perceived ‘glory’ was short-lived as Tweeters and power brands alike rallied from around the world to show their support for Austria’s entrant.

Top British comedian John Bishop was quick to praise Conchita, stating his delight that ‘talent can overcome prejudice and ignorance’ while BBC One touted Conchita to record the next James Bond theme, claiming ‘she has a licence to thrill’.

Russell Brand urged his 7.78m Twitter followers to ‘vote for me #Austria’ following the Twittersphere going crazy with suggestions of celebrities Conchita resembled – from famed personalities to the lovechild of celebrity couplings like Cheryl and Ashley Cole.

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While Mr Brand certainly tickled a few funny bones, Conchita Wurst certainly had the last laugh… and so much more than that besides. Graciously accepting her award, she pledged to promote tolerance: “This will remain an issue for a long time and I fear I won’t see the end of it in my lifetime. It will be my life’s worth and I gladly take it on.”

So Conchita may have divided opinion among viewers but she has taught us a fine Twitter lesson. The instantaneous nature of this channel is what makes it so attractive to those who want to shower abuse but, likewise, it is also a vehicle for us to channel positive messages and take others on that journey with us.

Take that Twitter trolls and doubters; the Eurovision has quieted sceptics for now and given us an inspiring new perspective with which to view the show. Our respect for Conchita has risen as we champion her courage through adversity and Twitter has benefited with its rise to prominence as the main media discussion forum.

We may never get another UK win (bring back Bucks Fizz) but we can be part of the winner’s story thanks to the opportunity offered by Twitter to be a social commentator and to support those who dare to challenge the ‘norm’.

Not had enough of Conchita just yet? Check out BuzzFeed to see how she captured the hearts of a global audience.

By Emma Cameron, Consumer Account Director