Finding the right social media platform for a story means more than adapting content to work across the board, delegates at news:rewired 'video focus' heard yesterday.

Panelists from BBC World Service, NowThis Media and the Guardian shared how their organisations rise to the challenge, emphasising that experimentation and learning from failure are the hallmarks of any successful strategy.

For all three organisations, success on social means customising content to fit the medium. But BBC World Service’s global audience posed a different challenge for digital consultant Esra Doğramaci: learning what different regional audiences want to see, even across the same platform.

“We never wanted to make the assumption that all of the audiences are watching the same thing,” Doğramaci said.

BBC World Service has been able to use analytics to figure out how to target audiences across its coverage zones. In Turkey, for example, archival footage and quirky news bites tend to snare the most viewers, whereas BBC’s Vietnamese channel sees huge turnout for its hour-long political hangouts.

Doğramaci said BBC World Service editors also had to sideline conventional wisdom on what apps work best for production and distribution. She implemented a Google-inspired “Creative Friday” to encourage the team to find technologies that work for them — most importantly, editing apps that allow right-to-left text over video footage.

“If you don’t create a space to step back and play with these apps, then everyone else is going to be overtaking you,” Doğramaci said. “The reason I think that’s important is because traditional media simply don’t have the resources to compete with Amazon, Netflix and Snapchat. So how are you going to beat these new people at their game?”

For Ashish Patel, senior vice president of social media at NowThis, winning the game means changing the rules. He said getting social right is all about taking risks — as long as those risks are backed by analytics.

The future of NowThis is in its data-driven feedback processes, he said. Building on an internal content management system called Switchboard, the organisation hopes to use predictive analysis to drive projects in the future. By using APIs to flag trends and push content while also tapping into an archive of historical performance data, Switchboard could potentially tell producers what features a video story needs to optimise views.

“The human is still so key,” Patel said, “but we’re trying to make that producer a lot smarter.”

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At the Guardian, optimising distributed video means experimenting with older and more established social platforms.

Christian Bennett, global head of audio and video, said that big personalities and curated content have received positive feedback.

“You need to build an audience on each platform you put a video onto,” Bennett said. “Never assume your reputation precedes you.”

Bennett said it’s important that organisations do not put all of their eggs in one basket when it comes to social.

Both he and Patel agreed that trying to make a viral video is a poor strategy. Instead, they encouraged their audience to learn from their failures.

By paying attention to the bottom 25 per cent, organisations can raise the floor on video distribution — while still hoping for that big viral hit.

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