FACEBOOK: Not One Big Page Please, But Lots of Little Ones

A few days ago I had something of a Eureka moment.

We were looking at how a leisure centre could best use Facebook. In the room with me was a colleague and the centre manager himself.

“Maybe we should just have the one Facebook page for leisure centres right across the borough.”

Hmmm. That didn’t feel right.

“Or how about one for a leisure centre?”

Better. Much better. But that still didn’t quite feel totally there. We spoke about the centre user and what they may want.

“So, what if someone loved zumba and didn’t want to be bothered with gym opening times?”

We searched for zumba and Walsall on Facebook. That’s the borough we were in. Just to see what is there.

We found an zumba instructor and a rather magnificent 1,400 people liking her page.


Suddenly, it became quite clear.

Would a zumba enthusiast be more likely to sign-up for zumba updates? Or zumba floating in amongst gym, badminton, squash, swimming, weight lifting and judo?

Or to ask another question, when you look for information on a council website, would you want it straight away or would you want to have to go through six other services before you got the lollipop?

That’s a simple question. You want the one. 

So, maybe, what we need is not just one big Facebook page. Or even an oligarchy of pages based on services. What we need are lots of little ones for each class, group or community.

Look at New York City. They have 5,000 people liking their City Council Facebook page and a similar number on Twitter. But they have 400,000 following @metmuseum as well as 1,300 liking an AIDS initiative.

Or look at the Scottish Island of Orkney. On Twitter 2,000 follow the council, 4,000 like their library, 400 the story telling festival and 80 sign-up for the jobs feed. So in other words, twice as many like things the council does rather than the council itself.

Look even at Walsall Council. 4,000 like the council Twitter while 800 sign up for @walsallwildlife a countryside ranger’s tweets about bats, birds and wildlife and 160 getting environmental health updates.

So, it’s not about having one medium size official presence jealously guarded by a comms person.

It’s actually about having scores of engaged little ones that together add up to a better connected, better informed population.

The Public Sector Forum and Comms2point0 Facebook for the Public Sector takes place on March 14 at Birmingham City Football Club. You can find out more here and do come over and say hello.

First posted on Comms2point0.


Mark Zuckerburg: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:MarkZuckerberg.jpg

New York skyline: http://www.flickr.com/photos/29624656@N08/3735314426/sizes/l/in/photostream/

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  1. Great post Dan and an approach that seems to be working well for us at Kirklees – our most popular facebook pages are for specific parks or big events where as our ‘generic’ page is growing, but at a more modest rate. Whilst it’s the comms team who look after our generic page, the individual pages work the best when there’s someone on the ground running them – as is the case with one of our park pages, which has an informal tone of voice that draws great responses and is clearly done by someone who’s working at the park – https://www.facebook.com/pages/Greenhead-Park/161013317283083

    1. Oh, that’s a really good Facebook page, Viki. Thanks for sharing!

  2. Thanks Dan, this is really useful. Our Social Media User Group has been discussing this very issue. Clearly it needs to be balanced against having the resource, in terms of time and skillset, to be able to run a greater number of pages. It’s also about changing the culture a bit – moving away from the old centralised command and control approach to a model whereby people who actually run the services are empowered – and trusted – to get on with it.

  3. Agree with you here Dan. That’s why I have two twitter accounds, my main one and one for my beer posts (not that I’ve done any of them for a while) Of course we’re not talking about setting up different social media accounts for different things just for the sake of it, but indiviual projects and sections would benefit greatly from their own presence on facebook etc rather than being drowned in a sea of corporate messages..

  4. Whilst I don’t disagree with Dan, I think there is also something to be said for the potential of a well followed, multi – themed, site to inform people about things they wouldn’t otherwise have known and also to unite disparate factions in a common cause (even if it is hating the new recycling service!)

    1. Hi Mel. Yes, I think there’s space for a corporate page that tries to give a broad flavour. The problem is that people broadly just aren’t interested. We may want them to be but they’re just simply not.

      I tend to think of the messages that get squeezed onto Facebook because it ticks a box as ‘bran.’ It’s stuff we’d like people to read because it’s good for them.

      In reality, people want to have updates on the bit of the council they’re interested in. The library, the museum or the park. They don’t want to hear of a change to swimming times at a leisure centre, a draft planning document or a social services initiative. To them that’s just noise.

      All of that is no different to navigating to the council’s website or using Google. We’d like the information we’re after and not that that someone else wants us to have.

      1. I’m not so sure that’s true Dan. http://www.facebook.com/WolverhamptonToday has grown from zero to almost 9,000 followers since November 2011. We’re posting a broad range of information on new initiatives as well as answering peoples questions and trying to support community initiatives.

        Memorable events such as last weeks fire at Carvers saw people using the site to gain up to date information as well as to share their own thoughts. experiences, questions and pictures/videos.

        We see the site as being a whole community resource not simply another channel and the evidence seems to suggest the site visitors see it in exactly the same way. We have had many messages thanking us for being there and the level of ‘unlikes is very low’.

        Just to be clear, I’m in no way against single issue pages but I do think there’s a good argument for a more general presence and that people actually are interested in a wide range of information.

      2. Cheers for the comment, Mel. Always good value to hear your thoughts.

        Getting 9,000 likes on a corporate Facebook page is a great achievement. Am I right in thinking you had lots of offline effort too? Seem to recall a colleague who has a child at a Wolverhampton school talking about messages being sent home with children. That’s well worth a case study on its own and hats off. Trouble is, it’s also quite rare. Fancy writing something for Comms2point0? : )

  5. I put this on facebook, but thought I’d put the comment on here as well.

    I really liked this post and all that was said in it. For a long time I’ve been an advocate of smaller pages, but the following must be observed:

    There must be enough content for each page. There’s no point having a zumba page if all it is going to do is post a timetable once a term. It needs to be as buzzy as the community centre page itself…if it can’t be, it should be an event on the community centre page itself

    Don’t loose sight of umbrella pages. Building up large groups of followers for large scale places is still important. For many councils, especially those in areas where I don’t live, I’m unlikely to follow a little page for little things, but I will follow a big page to keep me up to speed. The big page can just be a conversation pointing to little pages and dealing with general issues – but it is needed.

    We touched on this subject at #localgovcampnw. Obviously, staff need to be trusted to run these pages and, let’s face it, front line community staff already talk to the public, often far more effectively than comms, without moderation. However, thought around reputation does need to be put in and I don’t think this is a a question we’ve fully answered yet – what do you think Dan?

    Be very interested to see examples of smaller and umbrella pages too,

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