Channel four creates a real-time actuality present solely for Instagram

Sindysplace group photo from You Do You. All images and video: Channel 4

The ways in which we digest content and watch TV programmes has shifted over the years, especially now with online streaming becoming the norm. While TV shows often have a presence on social media, Channel 4 has decided to tweak our viewing further by creating a real-time reality series told through Instagram, airing exclusively on the platform.

Launched on November 14, the series is called You Do You and follows the lives of a group of young creatives based in Manchester, who go by the collective name of Sindysplace. They use Instagram to document their lives and explore who they are by connecting with others. Across the series viewers will be introduced to Sindysman, a 23-year-old music student and rapper; China-Lilly, a 23-year-old singer/songwriter and student; and Maisie, a 22-year-old fashion designer. 

By partnering with Instagram, the ten-minute episodes form part of its new global platform and brand campaign Yours To Make, a 360 multi-platform marketing campaign supported by print, targeted digital and video ads, and a brand partnership with Dazed. 

You Do You is a show which needed to live on a platform that allowed Channel 4 to create the first real-time social reality series. One that spoke to the audience in the way they wanted to be spoken to and importantly through the platform they were spending their time on,” Joe Churchill, C4 digital commissioning executive, and Jodie Miles, group content manager at 4Studio, tell CR.

“Instagram’s functionality was fundamental to our ambition for this series as it allowed us to give a real sense of the story playing out in multiple styles, aesthetics and media formats all at once. From Stories, where our audience will see the unfiltered everyday experiences of our collective, to Reels where they are expressing their personalities, to watching the full series on IG Video each Sunday. The platform gave us the variety that was needed within the content and importantly that our audience would want to see.” 

For the ambitious project, the team had to create a bespoke production plan as social reality is not just an evolution of reality TV but a new genre in itself. A highly experienced production company who understood reality was essential so we brought Interstellar on board to help flesh out the creative approach and bring their casting expertise,” say Churchill and Miles. “We were working to a very tight timeline where we would be shooting, editing, and publishing all at the same time so their experience has been invaluable.” 

To capture all the assets for the show the team had two crews working in tandem, one focused on the dramatic storytelling and another devoted to managing the social assets the cast were creating and posting as the story progressed. “Then in the edit we brought these two strands together. We also created a complex production/edit/publishing schedule that set a cadence for telling the story across the platform, while timing the posting of reels, stories, stills and video to enrich and deepen the narrative,” they say.

Channel 4 is the home of many established reality-based TV shows, and while they are turned around fairly quickly, Churchill and Miles say that telling a story through social media has meant audiences expect even more immediacy and authenticity. “Trends move so quickly that there simply isn’t time to spend months filming and editing a show – you have to be agile and responsive and in a world that reflects the audience’s real lives,” they explain. “Of course, we can still explore aspirational worlds, but aspiration doesn’t have to mean polished elitism. It can mean creativity, fun and unfiltered everyday experiences

“It’s also incredibly liberating to not be beholden to slot times and linear scheduling, and this gave us the freedom to experiment with where and when we seeded out particular reels or stories to maximise the drama – something that wouldn’t be possible on a traditional linear TV show.” 

Channel 4 has committed itself to digital growth and with 4Studio helping the channel reach its goals, You Do You could be a sign of things to come from other broadcasters as well.

“It’s fair to say that social media has become an intrinsic part of all our lives, and as more people spend more time on social, Channel 4 is meeting its audience where they’re at with premium quality content,” say Churchill and Miles. “Social media offers incredible opportunities for innovative storytelling, something we’re always excited to explore.” 

To watch You Do You in full, head to Channel 4’s Instagram;