Channeling Broadcast Social

Molly Jones
November 13, 2023

We’ve been talking about the rise of Broadcast Social for over a year at Sparkloft Media.Today, Broadcast Social dominates the social media landscape. Brands that adapt to the changes Broadcast Social brings can unlock an unprecedented opportunity to achieve TV advertising results within a social media budget.

First, if you’re new to the term, find a quick primer on Broadcast Social our blog, or download our Future of Social report to learn how the phenomenon fits into a moment of dramatic change for the future of internet communication. 

Here’s the TL;DR: Because their algorithms are built around users’ personal interests instead of posts from friends, Broadcast Social platforms like TikTok, Reels, and YouTube Shorts function more like entertainment streaming services than traditional social networks. Users treat Broadcast Social as a way to binge content like they would on a streaming platform like Netflix, rather than a space to engage and connect with friends.

This shift has propelled social media to new heights in the larger media ecosystem, where it now rivals traditional entertainment channels on a level it never has before.

This summer, we began to see signs that streaming is replacing cable, and now, Broadcast Social has begun to eat into streaming. Based on time spent per user, YouTube, TikTok, and Instagram are now the top video entertainment apps, with Netflix coming in fourth. 

That’s bad news if you’re a TV network, but great news if you’re an advertiser. Brands now have the potential to achieve the reach and impact of a traditional broadcast TV spot, but with significantly smaller media and production budgets. 

For an especially dramatic example, just look at ad results from last year’s Super Bowl, typically the most expensive advertising event of the year. State Farm chose to partner with TikTok’s most popular creator, Khaby Lame, on a paid campaign on TikTok. By the end of the Big Game, the original TikTok video received over 220 million views, outperforming viewership of the entire game— and even the viewership of the Super Bowl’s most-watched game of all time (114.5 million views in 2015).

@khaby.lame Win a chance to be in a TikTok with me! All you have to do is 1) guess how many times "State Farm Stadium" could be mentioned during the Big Game in the comments below and 2) follow @jakefromstatefarm to find out who wins! #statefarmstadiumchallenge Rules: #Ad ♬ original sound - Khabane lame

Khaby Lame does have an especially massive following, but when a single TikTok video attracts more eyes than a TV spot that costs $7 million just to air, the potential of Broadcast Social is undeniable. 

Even without that star power, the unpolished, low-cost production style that often thrives on Broadcast Social platforms is making TV broadcast results more accessible within a social media budget.

But does that mean you can hand off your social media accounts to an intern with an iPhone and expect Duolingo results? Probably not. 

Brands are hiring TikTok agencies of record for a reason: success is tough to replicate without audience research, strategy, and social expertise. (Besides, even Duolingo has had its share of brand safety mishaps as a result of their “unhinged social media manager” approach.)

Broadcast Social marks a huge change in the social media landscape, and brands will need to reevaluate their approach accordingly.

If you’re wondering where to start, consider these six tips:

  1. Review your social media strategy. When adapting to the new social landscape that Broadcast Social represents, an updated social strategy is the most crucial first step. Audiences behave very differently in a Broadcast Social context, which changes how brands’ social efforts can best support their marketing goals. This will likely require a shift in how you approach social objectives, KPI metrics, audience targeting, channel tactics, and content creation. Starting with an updated social media strategy helps brands achieve success more efficiently and consistently, saving valuable time and resources as they test new things.
  1. Think of yourself less like an advertiser and more like an entertainer. Users treat TikTok, Reels, and Shorts more like Netflix than a social network — they’re there to binge entertaining content. To compete with the highly personalized entertainment in users’ feeds, brands need to spend less time selling and instead offer entertaining content that will hold user attention long enough to be remembered. 
  1. Don’t mimic a trend template wholesale — make it your own.Tapping into trends on Broadcast Social platforms can be an effective way for brands to show they speak the language of the platform and earn rapport with their audiences. But the nature of these trends is that they’re a collaborative conversation, in which each person who interacts with the trend contributes their own unique take. If you jump on a trend, make sure it says something specific to your brand — it should be something that no other brand but yours could have posted. 
  1. You can have nimble, trending content, or you can have high-production episodic storytelling, but don’t try to do both within a single post. Broadcast Social content doesn’t have to be scrappy or messy to resonate with audiences. Users have just as much appetite for high-production entertainment in their feeds, and plenty of brands successfully use traditional production methods to strike the entertaining tone audiences seek on this platform. But brands that want to jump into a trending conversation will need to be more nimble, relaxing the production workflows they may be used to, if they want to get topical content live before the trend expires. 
  1. Know what platform subcultures your audience is a part of and tailor your messages accordingly.  A key strength of Broadcast Social platforms is that their interest-based algorithms are designed to serve content to the individual’s niche interests. Broadcast Social thus requires a more nuanced understanding of an audience’s individual tastes than traditional mass-market broadcast media, so finding platform-appropriate messaging demands an upfront investment in research hours, as well as ongoing monitoring to test and tweak what’s working — the speed of social is only accelerating. 
  1. Don’t be afraid to include creators in your content creation and distribution. The most successful Broadcast Social channels have hooked their users by investing heavily in cultivating the organic, peer-to-peer credibility that creators can offer. Their parasocial relationships can be a powerful asset to brands, especially among younger audiences, who look to peers, including creators, to guide their purchase decisions. Used appropriately, creators can be a strong addition to a brand’s distribution plan. 
For a deeper look download our report:
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