Shares And Shareability

In 2017, videos I’ve produced for BBC Three have been viewed around 5.5 million times and shared around 6,500 times on Facebook. I’m pretty pleased with that, but there’s always room for improvement and self-reflection.

So I’ve been doing quite a bit of thinking about shareability. What makes people share? What makes something shareable? And what trends there are in highly-shared content? It is, after all, a large part of my job. But the answer is not as simple as psychology or platform optimisation.

Looking back on those videos, and looking at the wealth of video content we publish on Facebook at Three, I’ve been aiming to find some correlation between content and shareability to improve what comes next.

One factor that feels like something tangible to put into practice is simplicity.

Of the content I reviewed, a defining factor was the specificity of the format on offer and the clarity of the opening few seconds. The formats that got shared and viewed the most, in my opinion, were the videos that told you everything you needed to know about the series from the title, the opening gambit, and perhaps also the thumbnail. They offered the ‘promise’ of good content and a clear story, and then delivered on that promise.

I’ve heard several times that ‘subtlety doesn’t work for us’, and I agree. It’s for this reason that formats, especially new ones, need to do what they say on the tin and vice-versa. That’s not to say subtleties won’t emerge or be communicated through the content, but the topline sell should be simple, clear and honest.

Another aspect I’ve noticed as a result of my review, is the vantage point from which a story is told.

A big thing I’ve learned this year is to take a big step back from my content and look at the broader strokes of the story I wanted to tell. Sometimes you need to take a different position to tell the overall arc of a story, rather than the individual stories within it in order to communicate it effectively.

For example, the VR films I made around mental health were a labour of love and I’m really pleased I got to make them. They did well, with over 2,900 shares and 1.5m views across all versions. But in hindsight I should have made an opening film about the bigger picture in broader strokes – how we were using VR, why we were doing it, how the contributors felt about using it – instead of diving into their individual stories in a new medium from their perspective. Hindsight is wonderful is this regard!

Some proof for this is the overview film BBC masterbrand made about the series which took this approach. It performed very well – better than the individual films in fact – because it simplified the story being told for an audience unfamiliar with the process. It connected because it introduced the story as something new and different, not something you should accept and understand on your own as you watch.

So, although it’s not quite the end of the year it felt like a good time to reflect and feed into what I develop next. Concentrating on simplicity and reviewing the vantage point for my story feel like actionable things to take into my next phase of content making. Much better, in my opinion, than trying to divine content strategies purely from analytics and recently-received wisdom.