Plunkett on TV: how broadcasters are using social media
If there’s a single tweet that captures the clever ways in which broadcasters can use social media, then it was this one from the Channel 4 Twitter account a few months back.
Almost 29 years ago, Sergeant Al Powell helped save dozens of lives after being sent to investigate a prank call at Nakatomi Plaza.— Channel 4 (@Channel4) December 11, 2017
As we do every year, we honour his bravery by showing the documentary Die Hard, this Sunday at 10pm pic.twitter.com/hfUscMFmyw
Essentially a plug for another showing of Bruce Willis movie Die Hard, it was funny, clever, self-deprecating and eminently shareable because it required just the right amount of inside knowledge to understand it.
It also helped reflect those qualities back onto the main Channel 4 brand while pulling in a few extra viewers at the same time, all in 230 characters. To slightly abbreviate John McClane, 'Yippee ki-yay!'
"We use social media as a marketing tool," says Harry Dromey, deputy head of marketing at Channel 4. "Like any other media channel it helps us get in front of loads of people multiple times and keeps us front of mind when they are thinking about what they want to watch on TV."
Twitter is best for quick hits, amplifying buzz around broadcaster's linear channels and capturing viewers' reactions to what they are seeing on screen.
Facebook is more about building longer term awareness. Tailored almost entirely towards video, the social network is a huge opportunity for UK broadcasters which spent a collective £7.3bn on network content in 2016.
"Video is absolutely king and it's our job to find the social media gold in the programmes we make and serve them up in a way that has the best chance of going viral," says Dromey.
Like this brilliant Anchorman spoof, from Channel 4's Friday night comedy show, The Last Leg.
Or this moment from Countdown which (trust me) really does have to be seen to be believed.
Justine Bower, director of communications, consumer & social for UKTV's 11 channel, brands, says: "Social media can help broadcasters engage with audiences in a way that simply wasn’t possible before.
"Three-quarters of the British population use a connected device while watching TV and that jumps to 93% among under-25s so social media is hugely important to a broadcaster. There is a job of sign-posting to be done, but we also want to have a broader conversation and bring the channel to life."
UKTV's Really channel has a closed Facebook group, Bump in the Night for its burgeoning paranormal fan base while another UKTV channel, Dave, hid Taskmaster's Alex Horne in a shed and encouraged fans to find him, all on Facebook Live.
On Twitter, meanwhile, Dave posted this picture of how the office 'reacted' when channel perennial Top Gear was (temporarily) shelved by the BBC.
Top Gear halted indefinitely.— Dave (@davechannel) March 11, 2015
Meanwhile, in the Dave office... pic.twitter.com/HVgT8hqJnb
Like Channel 4's Die Hard tweet, it connected with people because it was funny and evidence that the channel didn't take itself too seriously.
"The social content should reflect the channel brand," adds Bower. "Most evenings Twitter is alive with people talking about TV shows, and it’s a rich topic of conversation where viewers and critics interact and compare notes.
"People go into Twitter to essentially watch with other people and watching with other people heightens emotional engagement with the show. For some people Twitter trends serves as a social EPG."
ITV2's Love Island goes one step further, using viewers' responses and discussions on social media to inform the narrative of the reality show and where producers take it next.
When Stormzy tweeted about the contestants on last year's show it was incorporated into the show with the grime artist even appearing on screen, resulting in this fabulously awkward moment.
The clip in turn went viral (viewed 1.4 million times) completing the perfect social media circle.
Janine Smith, ITV's head of digital entertainment, comedy & drama, says social media helps drive a seven days a week conversation around shows which might only air once a week, including the successful return of Dancing on Ice.
"Our social media producers captured and published content throughout the week, building to the Sunday broadcast where Twitter fans could interact with the celebrities and skaters and ask questions via the social media slot in the live show," she says.
ITV daytime shows such as Good Morning Britain and This Morning are also a growing presence in people's Facebook and Twitter feeds, with clips of the most talked about moments of the day.
Like when this happened.
Jaine Sykes, head of digital, daytime, factual & sport, says: "Daytime generates huge amounts of engagement across social media - combined the four live daytime shows generate on average one engagement (like, comment, share) every second of the day on Facebook." And yet for all its benefits, says Channel 4's Dromey, the power of social media has to be kept in some perspective.
"It's a great weapon to have in your armoury but it is still absolutely dwarfed by the power of putting promos for shows on Channel 4 and the rest of your network. That is still a much more powerful marketing tool in terms of time spent and quality of experience."
Last word, then, to Channel 4.
BREAKING: The world's problems will not be solved by arguing with strangers on Twitter. We'll update you when we have more on this story.— Channel 4 (@Channel4) September 13, 2017