How Bravo New Zealand turned the #RHOAKL into a truly Social Media experience

Despite being focused on just six women living in Auckland, The Real Housewives of Auckland became a major talking point across the country as people couldn’t keep their eyes away from the drama unravelling on screen. Even those living under rocks are sure to have heard some references to the champagne lady, ‘wang dang doodle’ or extravagant amounts of cash as #RHOAKL (Real Housewives of Auckland) became the number one trending topic on Twitter during the broadcast of all 10 episodes.

And feeding that conversation was a stream of images, GIFs and videos Backchat Media created for the Bravo New Zealand’s social media, which seems almost as important as what went on the TV.

Mel Lee, strategic director at Backchat Media, says it’s very unlikely that in 2016, a brand like Bravo would launch without social media. We live in a time where Kiwis use their mobile devices as a second screen when watching TV to access supplementary content or conversations, and social media is the natural home for that discussion.

“There’s always a lot of social media conversation around TV shows and that is where people go to find other people who are interested in the content, so the thought of launching the show without a social media presence was never really considered.”

Bravo hit New Zealand TV screens on 3 July, but its social media activity began in May, with the intention being to build up hype for the launch. Since then, it’s acquired 50,000 Facebook fans and over 14,000 on Instagram.

A major focus of the activity was the announcement of The Real Housewives of Auckland, which went to air on 22 August, but also made its first appearance on social media in May. While that may seem early, Lee says it gave Bravo New Zealand the opportunity to localise the otherwise American-skewed channel and introduce Kiwis to the stars of the channel known as, wait for it, ‘Bravolebrities’.

Backchat Media spent a day with the housewives in April to produce social content that could be rolled out prior to the programme going to air, and were then able to watch each episode in advance once the programme went to air. That allowed time to pull out content to share across Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and Snapchat, with each offering a different method of engagement.

Facebook opened up a two-way conversation between Bravo and its audience; Instagram and Facebook were used to connect with a mass audience and allow people to discover the channel and its shows through both paid and organic content; Twitter encouraged conversation during the broadcast of episodes; and Snapchat gave an exclusive behind-the-scenes experience for Bravo New Zealand superfans.

Backchat Media then took the strategy a step further and applied careful consideration to what to post and when. Lee gives an example when talking about posting #RHOAKL content on a Wednesday morning, following the previous night’s episode, because the first thing many people do when they wake up is check their newsfeed.

She also says it would post video content in the evenings in line with social media trends of consuming video content when people are most likely to have a WiFi connection.

These steps meant Backchat could use the social media algorithms to their advantage, and when supported with digital advertising, the content quickly gained momentum with the New Zealand audience.

And while it had access to the content going to air, Lee says it tried to create as much bespoke content for social as it could, including images, GIFs and videos from a mix of heated and funny moments.

“Quality of content was important and content that resonated with the right people, not content for content’s sake, so a lot of time and planning went into that content,” she says.

One of those moments it chose to share was Anne Batley Burton’s ‘Wang Dang Doodle’ statement, which caused a stir as both the housewives and the audience tried to interpret what she meant.

Another, bigger, moment was when Gilda Kirkpatrick responded to an insulting rumour with: “Do you know what I’ve heard about you? Not a F***ing thing”.

That line came in episode two and since then, the GIF, which has received over 1,000 reactions, 214 comments and been shared 102 times, continues to get a reaction. Lee calls the content almost “iconic”, because even superfans of The Real Housewives from around the world picked it up and shared it, making Gilda Kirkpatrick one of the most popular Housewives on the show.

Also among the most popular posts were videos of episode sneak peaks that were shared exclusively on social media to bring value to the members of the Bravo community.

“People want to feel like they have a reason to be there,” Lee says. “And that’s what we worked really hard to deliver for the Bravo audience on social.”

While photos, GIFs and videos have become all too familiar when scrolling through the newsfeed, Backchat Media decided to mix up the Bravo New Zealand content stream with Facebook Live events—something it hadn’t seen used regularly in New Zealand.

The agency orchestrated five Facebook Live interviews with the housewives straight after episodes, with The Edge radio DJ Jay-Jay Harvey or TV Personality Dom Bowden hosting the broadcast.

Because the interviews were live, those who tuned in could react in real time with reactions, comments and questions, which would be answered live by the housewives.

Lee says the interaction helped the audience build a relationship with the housewives, because not only did they get to see them in the context of the programme, they also got to interact with them immediately after the broadcast, in real time.

“Being able to do something slightly different and to be able to continue the viewer experience into the social media space and to turn what is a one-way broadcast into a two-way conversation that lives on into people’s newsfeeds after the show was kind of a no brainer,” Lee says.  

“It was great to see the audience use Facebook Reactions with seas of love hearts or angry faces drifting across the screen depending on who was being interviewed at the time.”

Those Facebook Live events remain on the Bravo New Zealand Facebook page for fans to watch at their leisure.

Across the five Facebook live events, Backchat Media generated over 39,000 reactions and 400,745 unique views, reaching a total of 908,429 people.

Encouraging two-way communication between Bravo New Zealand and fans allowed for deeper, relationship building engagement, but that doesn’t come without risk, and the controversial and eyebrow-raising moments on The Real Housewives of Auckland left both the housewives and Bravo New Zealand vulnerable to criticism.

However, it seemed of little concern to Lee, as she says the Backchat Media team was prepared for it and knew how to deal with it.

“There will always be a risk of that and there will always be people who do that online,” she says. “The main thing is you have a really robust moderation strategy in place and that was one of our core roles being the partner agency for the project.”

Despite this, Lee says the sentiment around the programme and the housewives on social media was largely positive, a testament, she says, to the way Bravo New Zealand localised the brand and the housewives’ social activity.

She says they were very active on social media and knew how to laugh at themselves and have a joke, engaging with fans directly to further break down the fourth wall.

One more sleep and the hell breaks lose! ? #RHOAKL #bravonz @bravonewzealand

A photo posted by Gilda Kirkpatrick (@gilda_kirkpatrick) on

To launch The Real Housewives of Auckland, Backchat Media threw an exclusive launch party, attended by all of the housewives as well as a number of social media influencers including Colin Mathura-Jefree, Amelia Finlayson, Pebbles Hooper and Loic Quedec who posted about the event to their followers.

At the Bravo launch last night of the real housewives of Auckland I accidentally fell into the line up…no one knew until someone asked who that plus sized- hairy- bearded- hazel eyed- gorgeous- illegal immigrant- Indian was…that’s ME! They all hated me. But I got my gifted (though unsigned) Angela Stones style guide & fought them off with it…wearing Natalie Chan. It was a who’s who of TV3 most infamous TV influencers…Naz nearly got a good tongue lashing from me ? #rhoakl #launch #richladies #lineup #Bravo #LIFEINTHEFASTLANE #ColinMathuraJeffree #happiness #beardedmenofinstagram #Ihadsomuchfun #celebrity #influencer #AucklandDays I LOVED the show. I’m desperate for episode 2…I laughed so much my funny bone grew larger.

A photo posted by Colin Mathura-Jeffree (@colinmathurajeffree) on

Also on hand to launch both the channel and programme was The Real Housewives of New York star Ramona Singer, who attended the channel’s launch party where she tweeted about being with the housewives.

Me and #realhousewivesofauckland

A photo posted by Ramona Singer (@ramonasinger) on

However, there’s a new group of housewives stirring up drama for Singer to get amongst, as Bravo New Zealand launched The Real Housewives of Melbourne following the local version coming to an end. But that’s not to say the Kiwi housewives were banished from Bravo New Zealand social media. Bravo New Zealand continued to engage fans for over a week by asking them to share their favourite moments from the programme and enter a competition to win Angela Stone’s book.

Lee is calling the strategy behind the social media activity a “a recipe for success” but who knows what it will look like if The Real Housewives of Auckland return for round two.

“I don’t believe in the ‘one size fits all’ approach to managing social media. There’s a great opportunity for businesses to connect with their audience by growing great ideas and making them digital,” Lee says.

  • Mel Lee founded Backchat Media in New Zealand in August 2014. In 2015, it opened an office in Melbourne, Australia.
  • The story is brought to you as part of a content partnership between StopPress and NBC Universal. 

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