COVID COMMS #30: For community Facebook success think community

I’ve taken another look at how COVID-19 is playing out on Facebook things have changed.

At the start of the pandemic, the emergency was wall-to-wall as people shared advice, clapped the NHS and volunteered to help.

Seven months on on Facebook we’ve become bored of the topic. It’s an infrequent subject in groups and even public sector pages have scaled back their content.

I’ve mapped the last 10 pieces of content from 22 Facebook groups in the Black Country as well as the last 10 posts from NHS and council in the four Black Country boroughs of Wolverhampton, Sandwell, Dudley and Walsall.

Here’s what I found.

Groups: COVID-19 content is the minority

It appears as though people have had enough of reading, watching or hearing about COVID-19. Facebook groups have tired of the subject after seven months.

That’s hardly a surprise.

This can only mean that communicators need to be more creative as they shape their response.

Groups: news content continues to outscore the public sector

What’s still striking is that COVID-19 links and images from traditional news websites continues to outrank public sector content.

This again chimes with national data which shows less trust on the broad description ‘social media’ but more trust around traditional news.

Here, Reach’s news brands Birmingham Live and Black Country Live outscored the competition with the BBC 3rd and Express & Star a distant fourth.

Again, media relations matters.

But media relations that has an eye on visual digital content.

Groups: No, your content doesn’t necessarily end-up in groups

I’ve heard it said that public sector content always ends up in the groups they serve. That’s inaccurate and lazy.

What the data does underline is the need to roll your sleeves up and place the relevant content you have in the relevant groups. If truly life saving advice isn’t making it into groups then your press release about a library initiative sure as heck isn’t going to feature without you helping it.

Local content works: share the local data

On a positive note, content which maps COVID-19 hotspots in an area is connecting with people. If it paints a picture of the community they live in people will connect.

Or in other words, local content for local people.

Groups: Conspiracy theories crop up in comments

What does shine through is that people in groups are not STARTING conversations directly with a conspiracy theory. However, they ARE questioning the content that is posted which is leading to heated conversations.

As talk of an inoculation ramp-up, the battle to win over the anti-maskers will be replaced with winning over anti-vaxxers.

Groups: Discussion still starts with content

Just 1.8 per cent of COVID-19 discussions start with someone typing in a text comment. On this subject, people need content to start the discussion. The clear lesson remains for the public sector to be creating sharable informative content but with a local flavour.

Pages: COVID-19 is getting sparser

Of the eight public sector pages, almost half of all content was COVID-19 related. There’s a strong sense of business as usual returning.

Pages: People overall are more likely to share a COVID-19 update

In the study, pandemic content taken overall marginally outgunned non-pandemic posts in the Facebook metrics of reactions, comments and shares. This gives an insight that people are happy to engage with it.

However, the data was boosted by Dudley Council’s innovative firework display to celebrate the work of the NHS which prompted an overwhelmingly positive response from residents.

On average, pandemic posts got 61.1 reactions each compared to 57.6 for non-pandemic with 16.7 comments versus 12.5 and are shared 24.6 against 16.6 for a regular post.

Pages: People will still celebrate frontline workers

Rather than have one large borough bonfire to celebrate Bonfire Night on November 5, Dudley Council instead had six firework displays at secret locations where people could look out from their doorsteps across the borough safely to see the display.

Posts marking the firework celebration of paramedics, doctors and nurses on the Dudley NHS and council pages proved to be the most popular content.

The bonfire – Light Up Dudley – shows that people are still happy to celebrate the work of those working to keep people safe during the pandemic. More than 1,300 liked an NHS post celebrating their staff and the bonfire celebration.

Pages: UK Government content is now a welcome rarity

Just three of the 80 public sector posts logged were from a national campaign. This reflects the lack of cut through from their peak in March. We know hands, space, face. It’s no longer connecting on its own.

In summary

Local content for local groups works. It takes longer to do but it works. It’s better to have two well crafted local posts on COVID-19 a week than to repeat a UK Government message on the hour. Translate that national theme into a local voice and keep people updated.

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