Over the past six weeks, a social media sensation has sprung upon the unsuspecting British public. The ‘trash’ TV show Love Island has recently become an immense source of fascination as people try and decipher the key to its uber-popularity, but it is not merely the content which has got people hooked: ITV have managed to create a social media phenomenon, with the marketing team skilfully exploiting a multitude of online platforms to ensure the show is inescapable, leading to ever-increasing viewing figures and fans across the nation.
At the heart of this relentless campaign of organic online marketing is the massive audience that Love Island has the potential to reach. The official Love Island Facebook page already has over 600,000 followers, the Twitter over 500,000, and the Instagram nearly a million; even those who do not actually like the page will likely see their posts as a result of their friends interacting with them, and the number of people following these various pages is only increasing. Every page on every platform has a steady, on-brand stream of photos and quotes from recent and upcoming episodes, ensuring that the show is constantly being refreshed in the mind of both the regular and the prospective viewer. The ‘First Look’ feature is easily the most successful of these various updates, consisting of brief, cleverly edited clips that provide a dramatic, tantalising preview of that night’s episode, often amassing over a million views on Facebook alone. That over a million people watch these videos, with approximately 2.5 million tuning into the actual show, reveals that nearly half of viewers are avid enough fans that they cannot wait to get a new glimpse of a show that is on almost daily.
The Love Island app broadcasts similar content as the pages, but is has the added feature of polls for its users to participate in. The results of these are often shown at the start and end of adbreaks in the live shows, encouraging viewers to download the app and get involved themselves. The audience can also vote for free through the app, and decide who stays and who goes, adding an interactive element that gives the viewers a sense of power that is lacking in other reality TV shows, like The Only Way is Essex (which has viewing figures significantly lower than Love Island’s). The app also alerts users when the ‘First Look’ video is up and when the show is about to start, emphasising the programme’s place as a daily part of life for many throughout its’ run.
There are also a myriad of Love Island meme pages that have emerged on social media, and although they are apparently created and managed by fans, they still add to the show’s omnipresence online. The largest of these pages, Love Island Reactions, has more Facebook likes than the show itself, and although the official page does not share these memes, their ubiquity on social media certainly helps rather than hinder Love Island’s sensational status.
It is also interesting to note the impact that the show can have on the social media presence of the cast themselves. Occasionally members of the cast will already have massive online followings, but even those who do not often emerge from the villa to the revelation that hundreds of thousands of people now follow them on social media. Montana Brown, voted the most popular girl, has amassed over half a million followers on Instagram in her time on the show, with friends running her profiles in her absence. Caroline Flack, the occasional presenter, also uses her personal social media to promote the show: she regularly posts tweets hinting at drama in the upcoming episodes to generate even more intrigue.
Love Island is one of the first shows to insert itself so fully and successfully into our nation’s digital conscious; many people who have never before succumbed to watching reality TV, myself included, find themselves hooked. This seemingly inexplicable British addiction is the result of surprisingly captivating content, combined with a social media strategy that repeatedly and relentlessly grips the co