I LIKE: How Local Government can do Facebook

Heard the one about the council Facebook group with two friends?

It’s up there with forgetting the rings on your own wedding day for how not to do it.

Back in the day you had to be a fan of a council if you wanted to see what your council was doing on Facebook. Thing is, not everyone did.

As a platform, it’s a behemoth. Theres 500 million registered globally and more than 20 million in the UK.

Today there’s some brilliant examples of how Local Government can use it.

If you believe in the argument that you go where the debate is – and everyone sensible does – then Facebook is a must.

How to do it well as an organisation?  Go to Coventry. They do it brilliantly. Look, observe and learn.

The story of just how they do it is well covered in this blog by Steve Woodward from a talk given by Ally Hook at the Coventry and Warwickshire Social Media Cafe. There’s also this natty video of her talk if you want it direct.

Ally Hook is one of the good people on Twitter. I’d spoken to her before launching our own council’s Facebook fan page.

What’s her secret? Simple. The main messages I took are:

  1. Use the language of the platform.
  2. Be laid back.
  3. Don’t call yourself  ‘Council.’ Call yourself  after the area you represent, if you can.
  4. Don’t have a logo. They switch people off.  Have a nice picture of the place you represent.
  5. Don’t update too much. People will get bored and stop ‘liking’ you.
  6. You can delete abusive posts.
  7. Use a fan page not a Facebook group. You’ll get a breakdown of amazing stats on people who like you.
  8. Interact. Talk to people. They’ll talk back.

Coventry went from 300 to 11,000 in weeks when they started to use Facebook as an outlet for school closure updates.

There are other examples of good work too. Check out this exhaustive study by Ben Proctor . Belfast City Council do good things, as Ben quite rightly points out.

Should this be the only way Local Government uses Facebook? Of course not.

For venues and events it works brilliantly. Anywhere where there is a community it can work. People respond strongly to bricks and mortar far more than they do to institutions. Have a look at the Warwick Arts Centre, New York Public library or Solihull libraries.

Enjoy…

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11 Comments

  1. Dan – Great post, as always

    We’ve consider Facebook long and hard and decided not to have a corporate fan page, but to run pages for specific services/amenities.

    We did have a campaign page as part of local govt reorganisation back in 2008. It was a partial success. We got a good number of supporters, but virtually all the content was produced by us. That’s not how Facebook should work.

    Last year we were going to run a page linked to the youth games, but we ran out of time preparing a risk assessment – essential as it was aimed at under 18s.

    Buidling on that experience, we’ve also looked at what others have done; what’s been successful; what’s been a damp squib. We’ve also looked at local FB fan pages to get an idea of what interests people and what they may (or may not) think of the council.

    Within the last few weeks, we have kicked off the Barnstaple Pannier Market page – http://www.facebook.com/BarnstaplePannierMarket – which I am quietly confident will be more of a success. The market is very popular and, as you will see, we’ve already had a trickle of fans.

    I have to admit that it is part of a marketing strategy, but in the case of the market I don’t think that is such a bad thing.

    We are pushing out a regular stream of content, based partially on local press stories. But, obviously, we’ll need others to join in the conversation.

    You’ll notice our logo being used. Well, that was a bit of a compromise. Senior management wanted it made clear that we manage the market. I’m already thinking about modifying our avatar to give it a less corporate feel.

    Watch this space.

    Pete
    North Devon Council
    (and other things)

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