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How do BBC Radio use social media to tell musical stories?

This post originally appeared on socialmedialondon.co.uk.

We listen to the radio in the office everyday, and are especially big fans of BBC Radio 1. One of my favourite elements of their brand is their social output, and we were lucky enough to have Brett Spencer (Editor of Digital at BBC Radio 1, 1Xtra, Radio 2, 6 Music and BBC Asian Network) and Rowan Collinson (Senior Digital Producer for BBC Radio 2 and 6 Music) at #smlondon LIVE! 2015.

They covered Radio 2, 6 Music and whether radio is the future of social storytelling.

Go big or go home

One of the main points that the BBC Radio digital team are proud of is they either try big, or don’t bother – and this comes across in their brand assets:


One such example is their radio play Darkside. The script was written by Sir Tom Stoppard, and was to feature the artwork of Pink Floyd however, neither of them wanted the script or the artwork to be used.

The digital team approached Aardman Animations with no budget, and luckily there was a Pink Floyd fan in the office – so they agreed to do it!

The play went live on Radio 2 on the 26th August 2013 and was accompanied by strong content pieces:

ON AIR NOW; #darkside – based on @pinkfloyd's Dark Side Of The Moon. LISTEN and WATCH -> http://t.co/Ibl3ZnDvrt pic.twitter.com/QOiVP8tTVl

— BBC Radio 2 (@BBCRadio2) August 26, 2013

The play went down a storm!

BBC Radio 2 Country:

Another major digital project the team have worked on is BBC Radio 2 Country – but why did the BBC want to launch Radio 2 Country?

  • They wanted to increase digital listening to Radio 2 or encourage listeners to sample the station for the first time.

  • They hoped to provide ‘more Radio 2’ on a different platform, adding greater value and choice (and not just a new station).

  • As it was running alongside the Country 2 Country Festival, they wanted to add to that experience too.

  • They also hoped to promote country music as a genre in the UK, and UK country acts.

The BBC Radio 2 Country station launched in March 2015, to coincide with the C2C event, and while they were on air they received 13 tweets per minute.

Finally! Launch day of @BBCR2Country! Am never turning it off.

— Laura Bradley (@retro_blonde) March 5, 2015

The social campaign for the launch began in January, and included features such as #nocowboyshats. It ran alongside cross-promotion across TV and other radio stations:

#nocowboyhats rule enacted for the @BBCRadio2 Country social media launch. It didn't quite work. #smlondon

— Tamsin Fox-Davies (@tamsinfd) November 11, 2015

It also brought in the main partnerships for the station – artists, presenters and events. Bob Harris is one of the main presenters (and the most social), and he was updating about the launch to his thousands of followers:

Getting ready to launch @BBCR2Country at noon! pic.twitter.com/WmiyKV3axB

— Bob Harris Country (@BHarrisCountry) March 5, 2015

Alongside the social efforts, the digital team created infographics and content pieces, this added to the massive results: on the launch day, the social engagement was greater than that of Radio 2, 3, 4, 5 Live and BBC One. All in all, the launch was a massive success!


Radio 1 and 2 are rich on their original content pieces – with one of the innovative pieces being the Instapiano (#EltonsPiano). Before some radio programmes, guests on the station get the chance to play a piano donated to the station by Elton. The video is then posted to Instagram:

'EVERYBODY!' Anybody?! Paddy McGuinness is warming up for Steve Wright at #EltonsPiano.

A video posted by @bbcradio2 on May 19, 2015 at 6:17am PDT


As well as creating their own content, the BBC have partnered with both Facebook and Twitter at their major events:

Love the Facebook Infinity Booth created with the BBC! #smlondon …it's all about collaboration! pic.twitter.com/TDbHyVLawu

— Tom Grocott (@tomgrocott) November 11, 2015

They’ve included both the Facebook Infinity Booth and the Twitter mirror at their Hyde Park events:

Always live your dreams  @JessieJ #HydeParkLive #TwitterMirror #Heartbeats pic.twitter.com/XKo3zLXVVd

— BBC Radio 2 (@BBCRadio2) September 8, 2013

This allows the content to be published by artists (and reach their audience as well as the followers of the Radio 2 account).

6 Music:

Rowan outlined a few pieces of content which worked well for 6 Music and were one thing: shareable.

The first was a poem by Scroobius Pip that was broadcast on the radio early in the morning at 5am. They felt it would work well as a digital piece, and a lyric video was turned round in a matter of hours:

It did extremely well on social:

Brilliant piece promoting the value of the public library from Scroobius Pip http://t.co/u9KPJpA92E – via @savelincslibs and @BBC6Music

— Mick Fortune (@mickfortune) November 20, 2014

…and went down well at LIVE!:

Loving @Scroobiuspipyo's library poem and @BBC6Music's musical map of Newcastle. Great, easily shareable content @rowanc #SMLondon

— Dan Smyth (@dansmythphoto) November 11, 2015

The second was a map of the bands of the North East – and goes with their subject of regional identity (they’ve also created similar infographics for Sheffield, Manchester, Liverpool and Newcastle).

Bands of the North East courtesy of @BBC6Music festival pic.twitter.com/U4SV5o6FLK

— Dr Katy Shaw (@DrKatyShaw) February 24, 2015

All in all, for 6 Music, there are 4 main values when it comes to the key drivers on social sharing:

  1. Nostalgia

  2. Regional identity

  3. Empathy

  4. On brand content

Alongside these values, it’s important that you don’t use social media as a broadcast channel – you need to engage too:

Engage – it's not a broadcast channel. Wonder if clients will listen to the guys from the bbc? Probably not #smlondon @brettsr @rowanc

— Emily Milsom (@EmilyHaynes2468) November 11, 2015


The talk outlined five main takeaways and learnings from working on digital at BBC Radio:

  1. Go big or go home: do things to impress and make a mark.

  2. Partnerships: set up agreements with other networks, acts and events.

  3. Know your outcomes: what’s the goal from this campaign or project?

  4. Engage: social media is not just a broadcast challenge.

  5. Review: analyse your stats and learn from your fails.

"Remember it's not broadcast." So true. Listening and engaging is what social is for! #smlondon #bbc pic.twitter.com/47CA6I4VRN

— PositivelySocial (@PosSocial) November 11, 2015

Thanks again to Rowan and Brett for speaking. You can check out their deck below – or feel free to follow them on @brettsr or @rowanc: