When your show sells thousands of branded water bottles, it has to be doing something right. In 2017, social buzz and a plethora of meme-able moments and teasers helped ITV2 score the TV smash hit of the summer with the third series of reality show Love Island.
The five-person social media team for the third series was led by ITV senior digital producers Kenny England and Chris Younie, who took turns spending a month out in Mallorca to oversee activity each day.
They created content together for the finale in the show's ninth week, with activity at the time running across Snapchat, Twitter and Instagram; resulted in the team winning at The Drum Content Awards for their work.
For 2018, however, the broadcaster's social media team are being more pragmatic about the platforms they're using to interact with viewers; decoupling from Snapchat to crack on with Instagram Stories instead.
Series Three ended up recruiting over a million new viewers, attracting a core audience of 16-24-year olds. Previews posted on Snapchat of the upcoming episodes saw the platform become the its largest social media channel but it has since chosen not to continue activity on the platform, having seen audience numbers drop "significantly," revealed England – who added that it's Snapchat audience has "vanished" compared to last season.
"We tried doing a couple of bits, but the numbers were so small compared to what we were getting last year, so we made a very early decision to focus our attention and take the tone we were putting into Snapchat and put it into Instagram," he told The Drum.
As a result, in the first month alone Love Island's official account has "nearly doubled" its Instagram audience. The page has been using Instagram's Stories product to direct fans to quizzes, divulge teaser soundbites and share its popular 'The First Look' video, which gives viewers a two-minute daily preview of the upcoming episode.
"We've gone over 1.85m in the space of five weeks,” England explained.
The producer said he believed ITV 2's Snapchat issue weren't due to a sudden decline in interest of Love Island, but that the dip was platform-specific, and in part due to the app's poorly-received redesign.
In 2017, Love Island's drew in a Snapchat following that was around "five-or-six-times" the size of other shows ITV had promoted on the channel. This year, England said the team was looking forward to experimenting further, but over the course of 12 months users have grown to be "frustrated with the platform" and it's translated into a "significant" drop in numbers for the show.
"So we chose to focus our attention on increasing activity on our Instagram. We’ve seen bigger numbers than what we saw on Snapchat with our Instagram Stories, so the decision has been right and that's really pushed us as a business as well," he continued.
Giving fans The First Look
While it is pulling away from Snapchat, the show is still investing a lot of resource in Twitter, which England said gives fans a platform to discuss the show, especially its "watercooler moments" in real-time.
"Love Island has become so important to Twitter that the company took out a cover-wrap of the Metro on the day of the first episode, just to remind people to use it while watching the show," he added.
England also revealed that while there wasn't much of a change in strategy between Series Two and Series Three, that the show and the accompanying social buzz simply “hit its stride” last year.
He said The First Look was viewed on average 1.6m times each day last year across all platforms.
In 2017, engagement through Twitter also delivered six-times the previous number of likes, while the use of Instagram to offer behind-the-scenes exclusive content led to the account tripling its following.
“It really was First Look that elevated the show and we’ve seen that more and more with Series Four. We have had conversations around whether there was any proof that it drove viewers, but this year our biggest show came off the back of our biggest First Look.
“That’s not saying that it’s First Look that drives all the viewers, that’s still the story, but it’s getting the story out there in front of people in advance, so they know they need to sit and watch the show that night. We’ve seen a flurry of messages generated by people saying that they need to cancel their plans to stay in and watch an episode.
"I knew we would hit a record off the back of the buzz from the reaction we got to one, and lo-and-behold we got something like 3.5 million viewers that night,” England explains.
Of the platforms Series Four is using, England described Instagram as the ‘perfect‘ one. The visual tone of it, he noted, matches the show's own attention to visual perfection, which affects everything from set backdrops to the contestants themselves.
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This year, the team has grown to a total of six people, not including England and Younie, made up of an editorial team of four and two producers who focus on requirements of commercial partners.
Exploring post-Island opportunities for brands
The social team don’t deal directly with brand conversations, England explained, instead they seek out opportunities from the content and try to give each of the commercial partners a space of their own.
For instance Missguided, the show's fashion partner, is allowed to gift islanders clothing which viewers can then seek out via social media links. Lucozade run ads around The First Look videos and Domino’s run ads around videos from the show, which are amplified through Twitter.
“We specifically try to carve out different spaces for them to own effectively," England asserted.
”This year is more intense, and with the requirements to have commercial digital producers we are looking for more avenues that we can explore commercially. There are opportunities we have never been able to do due to the size of our team.
"For instance with islanders when they leave the Villa, what kind of content can we create there that will appeal to the audience and our commercial partners? What do we do when there are challenges? Do we get more photos and create galleries, are those valuable? So there are other things that we are able to look at now that we have the time.”
This expansion is allowing Love Island's team to achieve more for their audiences, and for commercial partners to explore new engagement avenues. It could lead to larger audiences, and a few more accolades along the way.
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