As the late David Bowie once sang: “Ch-ch-ch-ch-changes, turn and face the strange.”
Almost five decade old lyrics that can help you navigate the ever changing ever evolving landscape of social media.
Facebook announced a change of direction a few days ago. It came in a blog post from Mark Zuckerburg and it has led to a fair degree of fear and uncertainty. It heralds a new direction for how people will consume content on the channel.
More than 50 per cent of the UK population have a Facebook account, Ofcom say, so an announcement on how your audience will use the channel is hugely important to everyone who wants to use the channel to reach them.
One thing is striking about this announcement. It is light on detail. It is vague in places. Frustratingly so. But after reading a stack of takes on the blog and giving this careful thought here’s a few things that public sector people need to know.
I’ll be talking about these points in more depth and coming up with solutions at SKILLS YOU WILL NEED FOR LIVE VIDEO in London on February 2 and at ESSENTIAL DIGITAL SKILLS FOR COMMS on January 26 in London, on February 15 in Leeds and Birmingham on February 27.
Facebook’s focus will be on friends and family not businesses, brands and organisations like the public sector. What your friends post is going to be dropped into your timeline more often. That’s at the expense of content from organisations. You can count the public sector in that.
Your Facebook page will reach fewer people unless your posts are genuinely engaging. As the squeeze on pages kicks in you’ll reach fewer people through organic posts. The broadcast content that ticks a box for someone? It’ll work even less. Reading what Zuckerburg it needs to be genuinely engaging. So, the Sandwell Council discussion on Snow Champions where people share pictures and discuss where salt can be got looks the best bet. This will need a re-think for many people. It’ll also mean you need to engage.
The public sector person who shares work content to their network will cut through. If friends and family are important to Facebook, the shared message from an employee who lives in the patch will be more important. Of course, this is a fraught area and one where HR have had a field day in recent years. Your policy may not be for people to share work content. You may not even let them during work hours. But the email to the 100 librarians about that library content you’ve posted for them on a Facebook page feels like a sensible thing to do.
The internal comms of social media feels more important. If friends and family are more important, internal comms as a discipline overlaps further with social media. Tapping into staff’s networks of friends and family feels like an optional bonus nice to have. It may only reach small numbers per person. But in a 1,000-strong workforce even half bringing 10 each may represent an audience.
Facebook Groups are more and more and more important. In 2018, your strategy for how you map, search and interact with groups will be mainstream if you want to use Facebook sensibly. This is something I’ve written on before and I’ve been carrying out some detailed research in the field. The Facebook group admin in your area are as important as journalists and other influencers. They have been for some time and the Facebook announcement is a klaxon wake-up to this. Make friends with them where you can. Think what content would work for them. Don’t spam them. The 500 members of the New Parents Facebook group are the right audience for new parent content. Join a group yourself and interact directly.
The new approach can be summarised in this short video. Although it is longer than Facebook’s optimum 21 seconds. But that’s fine.
Facebook Live video will be more important. Zuckerburg talks about the explosion of video as being significant and he’s especially keen on live video. Why? Simple. It carries more interactions. An encouraged route to your audience on pages is live video. This could be a Q&A, a behind the scenes tour. The body of experiment and case study is growing. Learn and add to it.
Facebook engagement rates will go down. That’s not just for the public sector, that’s right across Facebook. This is one of Zuckerburg’s clearest predictions. Lerss time but more valuably spent. So, as you see your stats dip remember that you are not alone, okay?
Facebook advertising feels more important. Advertising is not mentioned through the Zuckerburg post. As an organisation that is highly skilled at extracting cash from business, brands and organisation this is notable. The detail will follow, I’m sure, but I can’t imagine that Facebook won’t turn down the chance of allowing brands to beat the changes by advertising. As blogger Jon Loomer has speculated, this may lead to more competition to get into people’s timelines. This may lead to a spike in costs. Or it may not.
Drive your traffic to email. Greenpeace Unearthed sponsored a Facebook post to encourage people to sign-up to their email list as a way of combating the change. That’s a natty approach. Credit to Jo Walters in spotting that.
That’s not the end for your Facebook page. This may be the start of using it more creatively and using it as one element of your overall Facebook strategy that inckudes groups, pages and internal comms and a higher barrier for posting better content.
Picture credit: Trixi Skywalker / Flickr
When I started on a whim to blog #30daysofhumancomms it was to collect together some examples of human content that worked for me.
There were about half a dozen that had stuck in my memory and I’d hoped with a prevailing wind this could stretch to 30. Maybe.
But as I added more I spotted more and more people – thank you – came up with alternatives.
Over the course of the month a staggering 10,000 unique users came and read the content. Thank you for stopping by, for sharing and for coming up with suggestions.
I’ll continue the series
Not every day but because I keep finding things I’ll continue. Because they keep cropping up.
Why human comms?
The best content is the right thing in the right place at the right time. Yes, I get the need for evaluated calls to action. It’s not how many people see it. It’s what people did as a result of seeing it. So important. But if you don’t have an audience in the first place you’ve got nothing. If all your audience get are calls to actions you are not social. You are a pizza delivery company stuffing leaflets through the digital door. This is where the Paretto principle comms in in social media. If 80 per cent of your content is human and engaging this earns the right 20 per cent of the time to ask them to do something. It’s something I strongly believe in.
What have I learned blogging human comms for 30 days
Examples don’t take long to blog.
People respond to them.
They are the secret sauce that makes social media accounts work.
You know them when you see them.
They don’t just exist as a snappy tweet but can be a poster, a media comment, an interview or can be on Facebook too. Often they are not things thought up by comms at all.
What is striking seeing them together is seeing so many on Twitter and in the coming series I’ll look out for other channels, too.
31 days of human comms listed by subject area
- Hampshire Fire & Rescue’s rescued bench tweet. See here.
- Doncaster Council’s thread for their gritter World Cup. See here.
- London Fire Brigade remember the Kings Cross Fire. See here.
- Thames Valley Police’s drugs find. See here.
- Cardiff Council’s GIF traffic warning. See here.
- The Yorkshire motorway police officer and his wife. See here.
- The @farmersoftheuk Twitter account. See here.
- Lochaber & Skype Police talk to someone at risk of domestic abuse. See here.
- Kirklees Council’s GIF that reminds people that gritter drivers are human too. See here.
- London Midland sign-off. See here.
- The NHS Trust with a sense of humour. See here.
- Doncaster Council and Jake the sweet sweeper driver. See here.
- The basketball playing Gainesville Police officer. See here.
- Sandwell Council as car share for #ourday. See here.
- Burger King tackles the bullies. See here.
- Sefton Council’s message on a national subject. See here.
- Bath & North East Somersets singing food hygiene certificates. See here.
- A Welsh hardware shop’s Christmas advert. See here.
- Dorset police’s Christmas somg. See here.
- Sydney Ferries name their new boat Ferry McFerry Face. See here.
- Queensland Ambulance Service takes a dying patient to the ocean a final time. See here.
- A missing dog pic from New Forest District Council. See here.
- Edinburgh Council’s out-of-hours Twitter. See here.
- The human railway conductor’s announcements. See here.
Stopping your job to being human
- The busking police officer. See here.
- A newspaper interview with medics who treated Manchester bomb patients. See here.
- North West Ambulance Service’s response to a man abusing a paramedic. See here.
Posters and signs
- Dudley Council’s spoiled tea sign. See here.
- Welcome to Helsinki place marketing. See here.
- Virgin Trains’ new trains poster. See here.
- The BBC respond to The Sun newspaper. See here.
If you have a suggestion I’d love to hear from you. Drop a note in the comments or @danslee on Twitter.
I’ve often said that the secret to decent digital communications in being human.
What is being human? You recognise it when you see it. It can be sharp and witty. It’s not corporate speak and its not jargon.
Often when I’m training I’ll see a look of anguish on people’s faces. They’d like to be human. But they’re worried about what people would think.
Step forward, the @bbcpress Twitter which has been on fire of late. But rather than be a branch of the entertainment industry the account skilfully switches between the humorous to the rebuttal to the more measured. But that’s fine. Choosing which is what makes the account special and why it should be your new favourite corporate account.
If the BBC can you can
Often, people will be reluctant to be human because they are risk averse. That’s fine. The BBC has been a political football for decades. If they can you can.
The Alan Partridge announcement teaser
There’s a great scene where Alan Partridge tries to attract someone he knows from a distance away. It’s painful. So, the teaser is marvellous.
The Alan Partridge announcement with the Alan Partridge meme
There was a running gag in Alan Partidge’s first series about wanting a second series. Badly. Really badly. So desperately, you could smell it. So, of course an Alan Partridge meme to announce a new series is the way to go.
Our last commissioning meeting with Mr Partridge didn’t go as we’d have liked. pic.twitter.com/jPjtuGSCcw
— BBC Press Office (@bbcpress) August 24, 2017
The online rebuttal
The BBC have become bold at shooting down misinformation online.
A story that’s crass beyond belief… pic.twitter.com/nltTCx1YK6
— BBC Press Office (@bbcpress) August 24, 2017
The League of Gentleman announcement
A simple announcement wouldn’t have chimed quite so well as this that chimed with their dedicated fans.
And the more formal announcement
The decision to expand World Service was treated to a more straight bat. But that’s fine.
— BBC Press Office (@bbcpress) August 21, 2017
The measured tribute But it is not all fun and games. When the mood is sombre @bbcpress find the right gear too.
Tess Daly’s tribute to Sir Bruce Forsyth pic.twitter.com/zQfKBdlL6j
— BBC Press Office (@bbcpress) August 18, 2017
All this is content that for local government digital media pioneer Alastair Smith and the rest of the BBC Press Office team can share pride in. Good work well delivered in sometimes difficult circumstances.
Picture credit: Elliot Brown / Flickr
In the near future planning for #ourday will swing into view… a day when local government posts what it does in realtime across 24-hours.
What should a day of online activity look like?
Here are 14 ideas to make it more interesting
A couple of days on from the 5th commscamp in Birmingham and the dust has settled a little. I’m on a train reflecting.
Something rather marvellous happened on the train this morning.
Free coffee? WiFi that worked? No, I found that Facebook groups now have insights. Lots of them. And yes, I do know being the grinning man in the carriage sounds a bit sad. But bear with me.
Why is this marvellous? Because it shows that Facebook is taking them more seriously and if you haven’t already it is time to sit up and take notice.
As is reported, Mark Zuckerburg sees groups as central to the future of the platform. Why? They can offer more meaningful interactions. He’s right.
What are Facebook groups and why should you care?
Groups have long been a Cinderella corner of Facebook. Anyone can start a group. They’re a lot more democratic than pages. They are rallying points around a common theme. A village. A town. A football club. They can be big or small. There is a simple guide here.
Importantly, they don’t yet suffer from Facebook zero. You also get to see posts in chronological order.
You should care because they are quietly being used more and more by people. In my experience, an average sized borough of 250,000 can expect to have 2,000 Facebook groups and pages. That’s a serious set of numbers. I’ve blogged on this before.
What do the Facebook group analytics look like?
Data tracks back up to 60 days and logs new members, top contributors, comments, posts and reactions. The Public Sector Facebook Group that I started earlier in the year shows, for example, a staggering 7,500 interactions in the last 28 days.
Sure, they’re not as advanced as pages. You don’t get a age group breakdown. But you do find out what day of the week is busiest. For my group? 9pm on a Wednesday.
What groups are you in?
There’s a good chance you’ll be in a Facebook group. Me? I’m in a number. A Stone Roses fan group, one for the area I live, a Down’s Syndrome support group that my brother runs, a virtual reality video group, a freelance PR ghroup and others.
But what can communicators do with groups?
All this got me thinking. The trajectory of Facebook is projected to carry on rising with 41.3 million UK users by 2021. And with groups playing a key role they need to be taken as seriously as a press release or Facebook advertising.
- Community groups and pages
If you want to reach a sub-set of a community there is now a chance that a Facebook group is the best way to reach them. If you are in Birmingham and want to reach Poles this Facebook group may be part of the solution, for example. Similarly, local history and heritage in Telford have a group with 19,000 members. Those two are not one offs. The country is criss-crossed with groups around sub-areas.
You’re too busy to talk to all of them? Sure. I get that. But if you have content you want to put before one of these communities suddenly they are relevant.
- A support group
The Brain Tumour Charity have three Facebook groups depending on what you need. There’s a general one, one for parents and one for carers. What the organisation are doing is providing a space for people to talk and standing back. They don’t drive the content. People do.
- As a way of connecting the team
Facebook Workplace is coming down the track. This is the platform’s way of creating a company-wide way of talking to each other. For non-profits it is free but at $3 per user per month I’m not sure that the Public Sector can stretch to that. Actually, I am sure. It can’t. But re-creating the groups feature amongst a team on a project or a comms team may be useful.
- As a way of consulting
Sometimes, we need to listen to what people are saying. This may be to better shape a scheme or see what people think about budget cuts. If there is already a forum for this, then use that. If there isn’t, and if it can be updated regularly a group may be a way to keep people informed.
A different mindset
Fundamentally, Facebook groups are people coming together to talk about a common interest. That’s different to the traditional comms method of broadcasting. They’re not recepticles for all your content. They are about building a relationship with the group admin and the people in the group.
A different approach
Cumbria County Council have made friends with the admin of a group with 100,000 members and invite him to post content on their behalf. Tom Gannon has blogged on the subject here. This is brilliant. This is the way to go. A decent number like that has clear scale. But there will be times when you need to reach new mums, residents on an estate or the Polish community.
Nobody expects you to know all the 2,000 groups and pages in your area. But you can start by knowing the big ones and by making a search every time you post content.