Inside the BBC’s social distribution strategy for Brexit coverage

News publishers have been on overdrive since the Brexit news hit, and a lot of them continue to break internal traffic records.

Take the BBC. On June 24 attracted 21 million unique browsers — up from May’s average of 6 million, according to comScore. It generated 114 million page views the same day — double the traffic it got during the Paris attacks. That continued through the subsequent weekend, with 30 million unique browsers and 170 million page views.

Alongside its mobile apps and websites, the BBC went deeper with social tools like Facebook Live and Snapchat.

Digiday caught up with BBC News social media editor Mark Frankel, to hear more on its social distribution plans throughout its Brexit coverage.

Using Google Trends to shape Facebook Live editorial
The BBC has created an average of two Brexit-focused Facebook Live videos a day relating to the EU Referendum.

To stay focused on the topics people most cared about, it monitored Google Trends. Roving reporters then used those when interviewing across the country. That’s led to Facebook Live content including: “NHS in Somerset,” “What is Brexit in Liverpool,” “Immigration in Nottingham” and this example asking who can Vote in Edinburgh.

The BBC’s been testing different editorial formats for Facebook Live videos for the last seven months. The Brexit vote outcome left many Brits unclear on what the future holds.

The broadcaster tapped into that need, assigning a Reality Check Team: a group of experts assigned to answer all questions with hard facts relating to the Referendum.

FBLive teaser

They’ve featured in much of the BBC’s social content. The BBC teased some of its Live videos on Facebook, urging people to post questions for the Reality Check Team to answer via the Live stream later that day.

One of these videos, posted on June 30, reached 1.4 million, generated 78,000 views, and received more than 1,000 questions.

Other more typical broadcasting techniques have also worked well. BBC reporter Adam Fleming gathered reaction outside Westminster after the news that Tory politician and prime Leave campaigner Boris Johnson announced he was halting his bid to be the U.K. prime minister. The video, had accrued 106,000 views within 24 hours. All videos have had anywhere from ten, to hundreds of thousands of views.

“What we get from Facebook is some very interesting analytics around the level of views and number of people watching with the sound on or off, and how long they stay. What we’re still lacking and hope to get is more analysis on those that are returning, their gender, location, there’s lots more data we could get, which would be very useful,” said Frankel.

Crafting live Snapchat stories.
The BBC isn’t a Snapchat Discover partner, though the platform is still part of the mix. “Our approach through the Referendum was to get under the skin of the story when appropriate,” said Frankel.

SCsadiqIt published snaps on the nights of each of the big televised debates, which culminated in the “The Great Debate”, at Wembley Arena on June 21.

A producer was assigned to the platform and created a mix of images, emojis, and video all revealing behind-the-scenes details.

“We snapped throughout the buildup of the event, how it unfolded, and behind the scenes, so crafted a live story,” said Frankel. It then promoted the Snapchat content via its other platforms.

SCborisSnapchat data is hard to come by, though more is made available to Discover partners. “We get that some of our audience are very interested in that space. But we recognize there’s nothing we can link to, and there are limitations with it because we can’t feature it in a way that drives people back to BBC content,” said Frankel. “It’ll be interesting for us to see how the platform develops and evolves.”

Frankel is also confident the BBC isn’t cannibalizing its audience from other platforms, but attracting totally new audiences. “You don’t get a lot of analytics unless you’re a Discover partner, but you can see that the stories are being well watched.”

SCdebateSnapchat lends itself well to content that makes the reader feel they’re being given an exclusive, intimate look inside an event. Some of the BBC’s most popular snaps featured images and videos of those taking part in the debate while they were in the make-up room ahead of their stage appearance.

Twitter and YikYak 
Twitter has of course had a big role in the BBC’s coverage, although the broadcaster decided to automate a lot of its data updates via the platform so as to free up its resources to focus on other areas. The broadcaster set up a 24-hour account @BBCReferendum, which pulled in graphics relating to all the new updates and facts emerging in the aftermath of the vote. It generated just under 50,000 followers.

The BBC has also been experimenting with content on U.S. app YikYak since earlier this year. Here the Reality Check team has also come into play.

Similar to the Facebook Live videos, where people were encouraged to send in questions ahead of the Q&A, and then the Brexit-facts experts were armed with the answers. So far it’s done a handful of Q&As, with each generating hundreds of questions and comments, all from a college-age audience.

Images: courtesy of the BBC.

More in Media

NewFronts Briefing: Samsung, Condé Nast, Roku focus presentations on new ad formats and category-specific inventory

Day two of IAB’s NewFronts featured presentations from Samsung, Condé Nast and Roku, highlighting new partnerships, ad formats and inventory, as well as new AI capabilities.

The Athletic to raise ad prices as it paces to hit 3 million newsletter subscribers

The New York Times’ sports site The Athletic is about to hit 3 million total newsletter subscribers. It plans to raise ad prices as as a result of this nearly 20% year over year increase.

NewFronts Briefing: Google, Vizio and news publishers pitch marketers with new ad offerings and range of content categories

Day one of the 2024 IAB NewFronts featured presentations from Google and Vizio, as well as a spotlight on news publishers.