The self-described “mischievous” Channel 4 News is a surprising underdog of viral content on Facebook. We dug into the data to find the secret formula.
We’re always on the lookout for publishers and brands who are using innovative storytelling methods on social.
When we looked at which news-focused Facebook Pages were driving the highest average engagements per post, Channel 4 News was a surprising addition to a list of familiar names.
For its 231 posts in February, the posts drove an average of nearly 14,400 likes, shares, reactions, and comments per post.
So what catapulted Channel 4 News onto this list, elbowing out other prominent names?
The publisher describes itself as “committed to challenging expectations with stories that reveal and inspire, innovatively produced – with just a touch of mischief. A passionate pursuit of the truth, a spotlight on injustice – News that’s on your side.”
This mission comes through in Channel 4 News’ Facebook content, and the data agrees too.
The publisher’s Facebook engagements have grown from last May, with some very noticeable spikes. It’s noteworthy when a publisher sustains such growth, especially when there’s more and more across social media platforms each day.
So what is in Channel 4 News’ magical formula? We investigated.
The stories are digestible.
The majority of posts to Channel 4 News’ Facebook Page are videos. Like NowThis, ATTN:, Upworthy, and others, Channel 4 News has embraced translating content into short, digestible clips for social.
These videos are tightly focused, concentrating on one easily tellable story, or an aspect of a bigger breaking news story through an interview or a specific angle.
Channel 4 News’ top videos vary from high level news to hyperlocal news, but each translates to a short video that teaches the viewer something new or provides them with an angle of a bigger story that might not have made it into the original story.
For example, this video about a Syrian newborn zooms in on the Syrian humanitarian crisis, and helps to make the story more human and understandable by telling it through the lens of a mother and her newborn child.
Channel 4 News provides context on videos like this, which can help continue the conversation, or prompt followers to other content. This is a tactic that we’ve seen successful for other publishers before. This helps keep the original content short and digestible, but also allows viewers to get additional information if they’re curious.
The stories are human
The stories go personal. Channel 4 News hones in on the stories that speak to the humanity of its followers — the universal experiences that everyone can relate to on some level.
The stories run the gauntlet of emotions, from tragedy and outrage to humor and joy. Many of these videos are focused on capturing one aspect of the human experience.
The stories that these videos focus on speak to the viewer’s empathy. These videos zoom in on the faces of the subjects, capturing each nuanced change in emotions that are more complex to get across in writing — trepidation, gratification, elation.
The stories connect to the world
What’s the bigger picture? Despite being a UK publisher, Channel 4 News’ stories often provide snapshots into other lives and parts of the world. Some of these are about important global events, such as the lives affected by the Syrian crisis.
But there are also stories that zero in on little corners of the world and what’s happening there. Most of these videos again connect to a bigger picture that speaks to people’s rights to basic human rights or happiness.
There are stories on New York being the first American state to offer free tuition, on girls’ education in Canada, on men in the Netherlands holding hands in solidarity for their LGBT peers.
Many of the top videos are about transcending hate and prejudice, such as this video of the Pope visiting a Muslim family in Milan.
The video has driven nearly 10.5 million views since its posting a month ago. Another story focused on a Baghdad student running a bookstore out of a truck. These little videos humanize bigger problems around the world, letting viewers feel connected to these individuals. Like we’ve seen for other publishers like LittleThings, positive content tends to be inherently engaging.
The stories are eye-catching
The stories Channel 4 News tells are a mixture of hard-hitting news stories, but also stories that are quirky. These are stories you wouldn’t see on the front page of a serious news paper, but stories that are empathetic, or just downright eccentric.
Amid the high level stories about Trump or Brexit, there are stories from Channel 4 News… about kids learning how to shoot and cook pigeons at a British state school. These more bizarre stories are eye-catching amid all the hard news.
Channel 4 News also saw high engagements for this story of a discovery in Canada. New discoveries or scientific findings do well on social, appealing perhaps to the innate explorers in all of us. We’ve seen similar success for publishers and brands like GE, NASA, and National Geographic.
The key here is showing viewers something they wouldn’t see everyday. Channel 4 News gives its followers stories that stand out in the news feed.
What to know
It’s clear Channel 4 News has a solid formula for producing video that appeals to its viewers’ empathy and curiosity, and the time they have available to consume content.
Facebook has announced a focus on longer video this year, so it will worth watching if Channel 4 News, and other publishers like NowThis and Upworthy, adapt their video output in tangent. At the heart of its content, Channel 4 News seems to have mastered certain qualities that may transcend duration.
For publishers and content creators looking to replicate its success, remember – be human, be succinct, connect to a bigger picture, and show your followers something new.
For a look into the videos going viral right now, check out NewsWhip Spike