The Great British Bake Off & The Power Of Social Media

At the end of August I did something that I’ve never done before in my life: I sat down to watch my first ever episode of The Great British Bake Off. I did this for one reason and one reason only: Noel Fielding (for whom I have a long-standing love).

Now, I know that to die-hard Bake Off fans the above admission is sacrilege.
The announcement of the show’s move to Channel 4- and the subsequent loss of Mel, Sue and Mary Berry- saw many fans threaten to switch off rather than decide to tune in. So I’m aware I may be swimming against the tide on this one.

When the changes were first announced, social media was flooded with a tidal wave of despair and outrage, particularly in regard to the new presenters (and especially Noel Fielding). But what these loyal Bake Off fans perhaps didn’t realise as they were venting their fury and threatening to switch off, was that every time they made their contribution to the conversation (using the hashtag #GBBO) they were actually playing a part in keeping the show going.

Despite the fact that the reaction was largely negative, the publicity that the move to Channel 4 (and the new presenters) generated was so great that there was no promotion required for the new series: everyone’s attention was already peaked. A great case in point is me: as someone who had never been interested in the show, I would have been very unlikely to engage in any social media conversation about a new series starting. However, even I couldn’t avoid the furore that kicked up ahead of series 8 (and I certainly didn’t miss the fact that Noel Fielding would be hosting it). And guess what? I checked when it was starting, and for the first time ever, I decided the watch it. And it seems that I wasn’t the only one: an average of 6.5 million viewers tuned in to week 1 (well above the numbers Channel 4 stated they need in order to make the show a commercial success.)

It’s quite ironic that in taking to social media to express their dissatisfaction, fans actually highlighted how social media can help sustain interest, and as a result, contribute to the show’s enduring popularity.

Social media has always played a big part in the success of GBBO. We’re in the age of ‘multi-screening’, with around 87% of viewers admitting to scrolling through their phones while watching TV, often to access live information about the programme they’re currently watching.
The BBC recognised that social media can be invaluable in terms of creating awareness and increasing popularity, and as a result set up dedicated GBBO social accounts with people employed to manage all social media posts and mentions. By curating an official social media strategy that incorporated authentic, amusing, and shareable content, the BBC ensured that social media contributed to the growth of the show itself.

Channel 4 now has the opportunity to build on the strong social media presence the BBC achieved. So, how can they do it?

Statistics from Brand Watch revealed that in Week One, Flo was the most mentioned contestant on the show (despite not being crowned Star Baker or the baker sent home). Flo simply seems to be a popular lady!

Channel 4 seem to have noticed this, and during Week Two’s episode the GBBO social accounts capitalised on the “Flo Effect”, with the likes of these tweets:

In fact, out of 104 tweets and retweets sent from the official GBBO Twitter account on the 5th September (the date of episode 2), 12 of them featured photos, gifs or quotes about Flo. In comparison, there was an accumulated total of just 20 tweets referencing the other 10 contestants: so out of 32 contestant-centric tweets, Flo featured in 12 of them, making her by far the most-mentioned contestant. This was despite Flo (again) not being Star Baker or the one to leave. In fact, Star Baker Steven was only mentioned twice: once in the weekly Star Baker tweet, and once in regard to his biscuit show stopper.

It certainly seems that Channel 4 is capitalising on the popularity of its most talked-about contestant to help maintain and grow interest in the show via social media.

The same could be said for the most-mentioned host: Noel Fielding (it seems I’m not the only fan!)
In week 1, Noel accounted for 53% of social media mentions amongst the hosts and judges, with fellow host Sandi accounting for just 12%.

Again, Channel 4 seemed to capitalise on this popularity, with 14 of the tweets on the 5th September referencing Noel by way of an image, gif or quote. In comparison, just 6 tweets mentioned Sandi.

It’s quite interesting to think that the person who was by far the most vilified on social media when the new hosts were announced now seems to be one of the reasons that people are tuning in (if social media mentions are anything to go by).

Channel 4 has also demonstrated that, like the BBC, their social media strategy will continue to be amusing and relatable, and as a result, shareable. There are plenty of references to the show’s reputation for innuendo, as well as topical (yet light-hearted) political references, and fun nods to viewers’ lives in general:

Another thing that the official GBBO social accounts are really good at is interacting with the show’s audience. GBBO fans love to talk about the show (at least, they certainly do in our office!). Social media is a chance for fans to join the narrative “live” whilst watching the program, and Channel 4 capitalises on this by making the audience feel “welcome” with retweets and comments. It all helps to build brand loyalty and maintain existing viewers whist creating an accessible space for new ones too:

It’ll be interesting the see whether Channel 4 can maintain the kind of viewing figures it attracted in Week 1 for the duration of the series. What is clear is that social media can play a big part in nurturing and maintaining the audience, whether that’s by interacting with viewers, amusing them with authentic, relatable content, or by capitalising on popular contestants and hosts.

With week 2 viewing figures estimated at 6 million it certainly seems that Channel 4 are doing something right so far, and a strong social media presence can only be contributing to this.

Or, of course, it could all be down to Noel Fielding.

Give us a call today to see how we can add sweetness to your social accounts, and then watch your audience rise like a lovely loaf of bread.


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