Just moments after her name was called and the Bert Park’s rendition of “There She Is” played, Cara Mund performed her first act as Miss America — she took a selfie.
The selfie was posted to the official Miss America Twitter account — which has more than 78,000 followers — and was quickly liked, retweeted, shared and commented upon.
The nearly 100-year-old Miss America competition, which faces the perennial criticisms of being antiquated and out-of-date, is making efforts to grab an audience it consistently has lost.
For the past three years, the Miss America Competition’s broadcast ratings have steadily dropped. This year’s competition, which aired Sept. 10 on ABC networks, drew 5.6 million viewers. While the Miss America Organization could still boast it was the “number one rated non-sports broadcast in the 9 p.m. to 11 p.m. time slot,” the viewer numbers paled in comparison to the night’s other programming, including the first week of Sunday Night Football, which had 24 million viewers.
But Miss America is taking another route.
With the rise of social media, livestreaming and Twitter, Miss America was a top trending topic of the night. The 2018 competition saw an increase in social media presence than years past, with live-tweeted video clips and GIFs from the broadcast show. Moments such as Miss Louisiana’s yodeling-ventriloquism talent and Miss Texas’ answer to the judge’s question on Charlottesville were retweeted more than 1,000 times, making the competition and its highlights something that people were talking about online.
“The Miss America Organization has embraced the digital age, especially when it comes to social media,” the organization said in a statement.
Miss America’s role has changed from end-of-summer bathing beauty to an advocate for scholarship and social outreach. And catching a glimpse of Miss America, once limited to public appearances and hometown parades, now takes the opening of an app to see the woman who wears the crown in action.
“Social media has provided a platform for each Miss America to showcase her journey throughout her year of service,” public relations coordinator Chelsea Mineur said on behalf of the organization.
Mund has documented several events during her first two months as Miss America 2018, including meetings with lawmakers, USO appearances and visits to Children’s Miracle Network hospitals across the country. The interaction on social media seems to give fans a perspective on the previously unseen full-time career that is Miss America.
“It’s basically rewritten the job description,” Miss New Jersey Kaitlyn Schoeffel said. “Honestly, I was surprised to find out how big a deal it is after I became Miss New Jersey.”
Schoeffel said she created a Facebook account when she was crowned Miss New Jersey’s Outstanding Teen in 2007, but hardly used it. Ten years later, when she won Miss New Jersey 2017, Schoeffel assumed more than 15,000 followers combined on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
After winning the state title, the outgoing state representative hands over more than a crown and flower bouquet. The former Miss gives the new one the passwords to the branded social media accounts. An active social media presence is the key to getting sponsors and spreading awareness of the contestant’s platform, Schoeffel said.
Sponsorships are nothing new in the pageant circuit, but social media has opened titleholders to providing sponsored ad content for MOA partners such as It’s a 10 Haircare, Sherri Hill evening wear and the Atlantic City’s Casino Reinvestment Development Authority with the hashtag #DOAC.
In 2008, the Miss America Organization introduced the America’s Choice online voting contest. Voting occurred through the Miss America website, but contestants were responsible for their own campaigning.
During the competition’s orientation week, which occurs in late July, the 51 contestants have film and photo shoots for web-specific content to promote America’s Choice. The contestants also received a a social media calendar from the organization with required posts and livestreams they had to make every day, according to Schoeffel. For the two weeks in Atlantic City before the competition got underway, it was rare to see a contestant without her cellphone in hand.
While social media often presents the opportunity for controversy and scandal, many contestants have successfully started social media trends and spread positive messages. The Miss America Organization said it encourages contestants to express themselves through social media. Miss America 2017 Savvy Shields often used Instagram for livestream Q&A videos with fans, and has used the hashtag #Savvychoices to promote healthy eating.
Social media intern Landon Chapman, who helmed his own @LandonTheIntern accounts, as well as the Miss America branded social platforms, gave behind-the-scenes looks during the two-week competition lead up and on the final night.
“Our broad social media presence has been greatly beneficial to all levels of the Miss America Organization and we will continue to use it as part of our promotional efforts,” according to the Miss America Organization.