In January 2017, the team at LBC decided to go back to the drawing board and spend one month experimenting with the way they produced videos for social platforms to expand the reach of their radio programming.

LBC had already been producing video regularly, clipping the most interesting soundbites from its radio shows and sharing them as livestreams or on-demand videos on its website and social media, but the aim was to find and test new formats to engage their audience.

Throughout January, the LBC team, which includes producers and three digital editors, experimented with: presenter-led videos, where the presenter would be in a green screen studio, facing the camera, to present an argument on a given topic; videos, with or without a presenter, which explored both side of one argument; and explainer videos on more evergreen topics, such as road safety, education or health.

In March, LBC drove more than two and a half million monthly UK listeners to its website, which was revamped in September to recognise that 80 per cent of its audience now comes from mobile. LBC also reached a combined audience of 126 million on Facebook and Twitter and gathered 18 million video views on social media.

Steve Wilson-Beales, head of editorial for Global, LBC's parent company, explained the team's approach in a recent podcast:

Have a limited time for experimentation and use data to guide you

LBC's audience research, with both light and heavy listeners, and those who only engage with its content on social media, has shown that people come to LBC to hear a variety of opinions, and because they experience a personal connection with its various presenters.

"We wanted to invest a bit more time to create more opportunities with our presenters in the green screen studios, and we also looked at the top trending videos by other organisations," Wilson-Beales said.

"We learned a lot – it was really interesting to have a fixed period for a team to experiment and then use real-time data to make quick decisions on whether a particular format works, on whether we should change the script or maybe move on from that format altogether.

"A fixed time period and being data-driven is absolutely core to any experiment project."

Keep things simple and consider a video's ending, as well as its beginning

Before trying out new formats, LBC's videos were often "quite complex" in the way they presented an argument, which meant viewers were less likely to watch until the end, so the team "stripped everything back and kept things down to their simplest form".

They also started paying more attention to how a video on social ended, not just how it began, as that can have influence whether people decided to share it after watching it.

"Quite often when we're looking at why someone would share a video, we look at what the end point was - why would you not share that video? That was more our line.

"If we take a two minute clip from a presenter in a studio, we don't want it to fade out after a few minutes. We want it to end on a bang, not a whimper, so it makes you feel compelled to share it."

Highlight your content across platforms and engage people in conversation

One of the reasons people go to LBC is because it provides a variety of opinions from different presenters in an accessible format, explained Wilson-Beales. LBC audiences may only interact with the content on one platform, or listen only to their favourite presenter, so the team is constantly pointing out what conversations are happening on its website and on other channels to get people to experience more, and to actively participate.

"At LBC we like to say that our callers are our hit records. We really rely on those callers jumping on board, being part of the argument and quite often, as a consequence of that, apart from creating a great radio experience, we can create these viral moments.

"Audiences may have seen clips of James O'Brien holding his hands up almost in despair, responding to a caller phoning in about which EU laws they would like to veto. On social, a clip like that, served up on social but driving people back to our website, had something like 600,000 streams."

LBC is also careful not to overwhelm people on Facebook, as it can become repetitive to see multiple videos of the same presenter, or different presenters sat in the same studio, showing up in your newsfeed.

Out of the roughly 168 hours of content LBC produces each week, the team clips around 0.5 per cent for the website and social, so from a three-hour radio show, between one and three minutes of audio will be shared on Facebook or Twitter.

Often, the soundbites are clipped and turned into videos in real-time, while other times they can be saved and shared after the radio show has ended.

"During a show, a producer will also have a screen to look at the comments coming in on Facebook and Twitter and they will be feeding that back to the presenter.

"Our digital team is constantly in connection with the radio show producers, picking the top comments, which are most likely to be featured in the next show with that same presenter."

Don't be afraid of reviewing and changing your approach

LBC has now gone back into a period of audience research and user experience testing to find out how it can improve its digital offering in the run up to the UK general election on 8 June.

"If you don't constantly review what you're doing, you can end up being trapped in a cycle of creating video which is fairly similar to your competitors' so you need to be brave enough to hit the stop button and review.

"It was useful to go through that journey of experimentation to learn what to do and not to do and how we can optimise our videos going forward, as we approach the election.

"How are we going to be there in your feeds, with you, to talk about the topics you really feel are important? That's our aim in the months ahead," Wilson-Beales said.

  • Want to find out more about LBC and Global's strategy for audio on social media? Charles Ubaghs, head of social media at Global, will be speaking on a panel at our upcoming newsrewired event on 19 July. Find out more here.

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