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Special Project

Special Project
From the 8th Annual Shorty Awards

KQED Arts Social Video

Entered in Non-Profit


At a time of immense change for the San Francisco Bay Area, the dedicated arts unit of SF-based public media organization KQED sought to showcase the region's vibrant, diverse, changing cultural scene using its award-winning video production capabilities. The mission: to take the audience beyond the traditional media narratives of the Bay Area arts scene -- beyond just "San Francisco" and into the often-overlooked, often-typecast East, South and North Bay areas, to explore issues of gentrification, communities of color and LGBTQ artistry, unexpected cultural histories and the struggle to keep traditions alive in an ever-changing economic landscape. In-house social media expertise would then be leveraged to spread those stories far and wide… on a public media budget. Online audiences were to be offered a new kind of "up-close" arts video experience using social media -- specifically, Facebook -- in line with KQED's public media mission to bring the arts to everyone, spark community dialogue and engage audiences to share their own stories. From a branding perspective, the campaign was also intended to establish KQED in general as a trusted source of authentic, socially-conscious storytelling that would resonate across social media to connect with local audiences -- and also communicate compelling cultural stories to the wider online community outside the Bay Area by reaching audiences not traditionally connected to public media.

Strategy and Execution

The strategy: to utilize KQED's production capabilities, award-winning journalism and social media expertise – on a public media budget – to tell cultural stories of local, frequently hyperlocal relevance, at a time when skyrocketing prices and gentrification place the Bay Area's art scene at risk forever.

The campaign hinged on three key components: high-quality production that would distinguish itself in the social media medium; the selection of compelling narratives; and a social-first approach to dissemination online. KQED Arts worked to make these videos unique in their approach to telling complex, nuanced stories in short-form format for digital and social media consumption, in a video landscape full of minute-long, eye-catching "snackable" content – KQED's competition.

A small, nimble team of 16 journalists, videographers, directors and producers worked to create a portfolio of 53 videos from Jan through Dec 2015, each ranging between 2 and 9 mins. Identifying the "right" content collaborations with local arts organizations and figures to co-produce online video content -- from San Francisco's MOMA and NPR Tiny Desk Concert winner Fantastic Negrito to local hip-hop dancers -- was a key method of leveraging local arts expertise and resources while building new audiences via social media channels by baking in access to these organization's pre-existing followings.

Social media optimization was baked into every aspect of production, from ensuring an engaging first 3 seconds without long pre-roll to visually stunning cinematography and eye-catching editing. Each video was developed to contain a unique angle or insight to encourage audience comment and conversation.

KQED Arts' videos were disseminated primarily from the distinct KQED and KQED Arts Facebook accounts, with support on Twitter and Instagram. The favourable contemporary landscape for Facebook native video was leveraged to its full, with every KQED Arts video being uploaded in its entirety to the platform, rather than as an edited teaser. This approach was chosen not only to maximise reach and impressions, but also to remove all obstacles to audience consumption. Where possible, KQED's limited promotional budget was judiciously applied to sponsoring these posts, in order to reach new, less-traditional audiences on Facebook through the use of focused, ambitious targeting.Over on Twitter, YouTube card embeds and visually-striking GIFs were employed as a source of traction and native engagement.

In line with KQED's overarching strategy around social media, and in the spirit of meeting the audience "where they are," the KQED Arts video campaign explicitly recognized the value and importance of audiences consuming and engaging with content natively on social media – particularly new audiences unfamiliar with KQED and public media in general. As such click-through and urges to become a fan/follower of KQED Arts and KQED were only a small, nuanced part of this campaign's strategic thinking. Encouragement to natively share was, accordingly, an important pillar of this campaign, incorporated into the production (creating "share-worthy" local stories) and as a tactic for social fan and follower-building, in the absence of a large promotional budget.


This collection of 53 KQED Arts videos produced in 2015 were viewed more than 2.64 million times on Facebook via KQED Arts' and KQED's Facebook accounts, generating over 20 million impressions and reaching 10.74 million Facebook users. 9% of those views were almost to the video's end (95% complete.) The videos generated a total of 166.89k Likes, Comments and Shares on Facebook, sparking dialogue with 21.23k comments and encouraging 32.29k Shares. KQED Arts saw its Facebook fan-base grow by 61% from Dec 2014 to Dec 2015, and in the same period the Page's Reach rose 405% to 2.77m users, and engagement metrics grew by 336%. At a time when many media pages saw drops in Reach and Engagement due to Facebook's shifting algorithms, this growth appears at least in part directly attributable to the concurrent growth in video. The series connected directly with audiences new and old, resulting like comments like "...really defines what making art is", "A wonderful example of blended cultures and histories that are often hidden, ignored, not told" and "This short video captured the heart - cora of our people." Over on YouTube, these videos accumulated a total of 352,000 lifetime views. The success of these videos on social media and the ensuing engagement contributed to a 114% leap in social referrals to KQED Arts' web pages, which made up 41% of total sessions in 2015 (up from 33% in 2014.)


Video for KQED Arts Social Video

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