How can broadcast brands break through on social media?

It’s no secret that the rulebook of broadcast branding has been ripped up. The shift from analogue to digital, the rise of on-demand content and disruption from streaming services has put pressure on broadcasters to adapt their brands to an ever-evolving landscape.
Johanna Drewe
Johanna Drewe
Associate Creative Director

The noisy world of social media plays a vital role for broadcasters to build and maintain equity. It starts and continues conversations, creates social currency and plays a dual role in growing awareness – both for the brands themselves and their own original productions. That’s not exactly news, but it’s surprising how many broadcasters are struggling to make the most of it. While once their sole aim was to build distinction around a single touchpoint – TV – there’s now a greater need for channel brands to flex across multiple platforms, content types and audiences.

One conclusion is that broadcasters are no longer ‘in-tune’ with a changing world, or audience behaviour. An abundance of data highlights shifting viewing habits and the importance of mobile. Even back in 2017, younger viewers were watching more non-broadcast content (2 hours 37 minutes per day) than broadcast content (2 hours 11 minutes) on average according to Ofcom. And Ericsson predicts that 50% of all TV and media viewing will be done via a mobile device by 2020. What the data doesn’t tell us is how broadcast brands can take advantage.

Achieving a strong social presence is difficult. With multiple channel brands and their own original content creating complexity, broadcast brands can feel like untameable beasts. So it’s no surprise that most are simply making-do with what they’ve got rather than looking at ways to mend.

Of course, broadcasters have made attempts to adapt – but from the outside looking in, it’s not happening effectively enough. The good news is that with no rule book to follow there’s an opportunity for broadcasters to write their own.

Achieving a strong social presence is difficult. With multiple channel brands and their own original content creating complexity, broadcast brands can feel like untameable beasts.”
One brand, many platforms

Each social platform has its own unique interface, which should be considered independently as well as part of the wider social strategy. It’s easy to rely on templates to do all the work, or think a logo is the only way to generate coherence across social content.

Spotify adapts its brand language effectively across the social mix. Rather than repeating the assets used in the digital product, each one is adapted to deliver maximum cut-through and engagement on social channels. The brand demonstrates that an intelligent, flexible design system still needs to be applied in a way that’s suitable for social environments.

Strike the right balance

For us, being able to adjust the ‘volume’ of brand language is key to getting this right. The most adaptive brands, with flexible design systems that can be dialled up and down, tend to make the most of their social presence.

Buzzfeed treats each piece of social content as an extension of the brand itself, so its visual language can be adapted seamlessly to strike an effective balance. Shareable and relatable ‘snack’ content requires less branding, to maintain engagement and ‘shareability’. Harder-edged journalism scoops are more ‘Buzzfeed-owned’, using louder brand language to bring credibility to their stories.

Buzzfeed shares unbranded ‘snackable’ content alongside more ownable flagship stories
Context is king

Adapting social content to fit the context of audience’s lives is an effective tactic for brands across multiple sectors. To retain reach, encourage engagement and deliver accessibility, brands on social media need to feel natural and unobtrusive.

This is something Netflix does well across its social channels. Playing on culture, moments, occasions and emotions, the brand is applied in a way that makes perfect sense for its audience. By using familiar context – and speaking its audience’s language – Netflix creates strong messaging that really resonates.

Netflix uses context to connect with its audience on social
Look who’s talking

Should the brand do the talking, or the content? Or a bit of both? Which voice is stronger? Who is more likely to strike the right chord with audiences? These are important questions for broadcasters to answer, especially in a complex space where content is often owned over multiple channels and shared by other platforms.

Our own work with BBC iPlayer had to solve this conundrum. With iPlayer hosting its own programming rather than making it, we developed a sliding scale between the voice of the brand and its content. This meant creating a unique voice for iPlayer: neither too edgy nor mainstream, and appropriate for all platforms, shows and audiences.

This new, flexible brand language could be dialled up and down, allowing iPlayer to take the lead when relevant or play a support role when the content itself takes over.

Our work for iPlayer flexes between the brand and its content

Just because a brand is strong on paper, on TV or in other digital environments, doesn’t automatically mean it’s a great fit for social channels. While it’s tricky to get right, the opportunity is there for broadcasters to do more with their social presence. The starting point is a flexible brand language that’s adaptable for social platforms, audiences and content types.

Output helps broadcast brands – including BBC iPlayer and BBC Three – thrive across social channels and beyond. If you’d like to find out more, please get in touch.

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