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.


BBC Promo Film and i Paper Interview

This week we’ve had some lovely promotion for Step Inside My Head (aka My Mental Health In VR).

First we had a film made by BBC marketing to explain what we did and how which features me flapping my arms around in a green room. It’s a great overview of what we were hoping to achieve.

And today we also had a double page spread in the i newspaper focusing on Katy’s story and how we tried to get inside her head and present it to audiences. There is genuine interest in how VR can help with mental health issues and I’m a firm believer in its power to provide new perspectives.

Appearance on BBC Breakfast

Last week I appeared on BBC Breakfast News to talk about Step Inside My Head, a series of films I produced for BBC Three using virtual reality to explore mental health.

Charlie and Naga asked some good questions and I was really proud of my contributors James and Katy who were brilliant with very little preparation time. It was a fantastic opportunity to expose more people to the possibilities in VR and to talk about mental health in a new way.

That’s live TV off the bucket list at least.

My Mental Health In VR – BBC Three

For the past few months I’ve been making a short series of films that use virtual reality to help express mental health conditions for BBC Three.

The series combines powerful interviews with people with mental health experiences with innovative mixed reality filming using Google’s virtual reality painting tool Tilt Brush.

The project involved brokering deals with Google to use the Tilt Brush technology and YouTube Space London to use their state-of-the-art facilities, as well as taking advice from BBC R&D and mental health charities such as MIND.

The series is available to watch on BBC Three’s YouTube channel, Facebook page, and the BBC Three website.

I’ll be appearing on BBC Breakfast on Friday 22 September on BBC One to talk about the series, so tune in 8-9am!

Work With Me! Researcher Job At BBC Three

Are you hard-working, enthusiastic, and into making awesome social video? Want to work with me in Birmingham?

Well, BBC Three are looking for a researcher to join our development team in Birmingham. The role will involve helping to make powerful, issues-driven films that make you think and make you laugh.

The ideal candidate will have practical skills in finding stories and contributors, researching topics, filming, and editing, as well as having a passion for what’s possible in the world of social video.

You can apply for the job here:

Good luck!

7 Common Mistakes When Breaking Into TV

This week I got involved in assessing the new batch of BBC Production Apprentices hoping to start their career in media with the beeb. It was a fascinating couple of days, seeing a range of people hoping to get their first step on the ladder.

I saw some great talent and some real potential over the tasks we observed, but one thing has been nagging me since we wrapped up. The basic mistakes we saw over and again during the process of interviews and group assessments.

Here’s a quick list of 7 things I think are essentials that sadly, a lot of hopeful candidates lacked but needn’t have.

  1. Research. The volume of candidates that hadn’t looked up the channel/team they were aiming for was staggering. Do your homework!
  2. Smiling. Not appearing approachable is a problem when you’ll be working in teams and with the public. The very least you can do is smile.
  3. Passion. I get it, you want to appear ‘professional’, but the people who shone were the people who were enthusiastic and excited about working in TV.
  4. Engagement. Research alone isn’t always enough. Immersion and engagement with the content, subjects, and practices is really important.
  5. Experience. You’re not expected to have professional experience. But doing anything you can off your own back is key. Keep it simple and share it.
  6. Teamwork. In group assessments, you really have to be a team player and show it. That means building on others’ ideas, not just showing why you are great.
  7. Expectation. You’re starting at the bottom. That means being useful and flexible. You’re not Scorsese yet.

I don’t think any of the above is unachievable for someone at the start of their careers. You can forgive a lack of technical knowledge or high-level hands on experience – that’s expected – but the points above are basic errors that ultimately cost people places on these sought after schemes and may scupper a career in media altogether.

The good news is, they’re super easy to fix.

Wonder Woman Video Essay

I made a little film for BBC Three about women in film. It’s a mini video essay exploring female representation in movies in light of Wonder Woman’s success around the world.

It certainly stoked some debate as the comment demonstrate and has hit over 250k views which is nice. If anything, it’s highlighted the need for conversation around women’s ability and right to a fair shot in jobs traditionally dominated by men. Filmmaker is not a gendered role.

You can watch and share the video on Facebook here.