INSPIRING AIM: What Facebook’s big shift in its algorithm will mean for the public sector

Brace yourself for another big shift in the Facebook algorithm… and this time you may actually like it.

Right now, engagement is the big metric for driving what you see in your Facebook timeline.

The more people interact the more chance you’ll see it.

The more you interact with that group or page the more chance you’ll carry on seeing it.

However, Facebook in a company blog post have announced that there will be a new key factor in the algorithm and this centres on what you and others think of that content.

The way I’m seeing it is this:

If you have an amazing story of a nurse who has come out of retirement fronting a video to encourage you to take the jab and if people engage with it, that’s good.

But if people also mark it as ‘inspiring’ in feedback to Facebook then even more people will see it.

The whole aim is to find a way to highlight that story of the inspiring nurse over the punch-up about, say, potholes which is a story that raises hackles and therefore engagement but isn’t all that inspiring.

You’ll be asked your views more

You’ll be asked: ‘Is it inspirational?’

Look out for this type of pop-up:

New Feeds ranking product mock

You’ll also be asked what type of content you’ll like to see from friends, groups and pages.

So, if you love your Aunt very much but you’re not keen on her love of Steps then potentially you can opt out of the 90s pop act content but still get the other stuff.

Detail is vague right now with ‘cooking, sport and politics’ only given by Facebook as examples.

This part of Facebook will look like this:

In summary, Facebook describe it as:

Overall, we hope to show people more content they want to see and find valuable, and less of what they don’t. While engagement will continue to be one of many types of signals we use to rank posts in News Feed, we believe these additional insights can provide a more complete picture of the content people find valuable, and we’ll share more as we learn from these tests.

What it may mean for the public sector

As a rule, Facebook is a huge oil tanker that barely stops for big brands. Government and public sector doesn’t float their boat that much.

But it does raise the intriguing prospect that there may be less shouting on Facebook. If people don’t feel inspired by posts about dog mess and potholes they will be ranked down so they will be seen less.

It also means – and this is important – that you need to pay even more attention to the content you are creating if you want organic connection – eg without spending money on ads.

It absolutely means that the uninspiring clip art poster a middle manager is insisting be posted to Facebook is even more unlikely to go viral. You need to push back on this type of tumbleweed even more.

More than anything, it underlines the hard fact that if your audience is on Facebook you need to take what you post there even more seriously.

I try and stay across this because I deliver training which includes getting the most out of the algorithms for major social media platforms. What the algorithms say can affect how successful your content performs.

GOOD NOTES: Words of advice for local government comms teams preparing for a change of administration

We’re in the middle of the post-election period in local government when power shifts.

New brooms want to come in and make a mark and the old certainties have gone.

Often a new administration or new Leader is a time of turbulence for the council and none more so than for the head of comms and the comms team.

If its a change of administration, the opposition are now behind the chair in the Leader’s office.

This can be a tricky time as often the opposition have railed against the comms team for being ‘spin doctors’ or the ‘mouth piece’ of the administration.

Actually, local government communications is one of the most tightly regulated and scrutinised areas of communications anywhere in public relations.

They are not answerable to the Leader but to the Chief Executive. Their loyalty is to the council not the political party. Often their jobs will be politically restricted. So, they can be a member of a political party but they cannot campaign or make public shows of support.

The team will also be governed by the Code of Recommended Practice on Local Authority Publicity. The UK Government version governs England while a cut-and-paste near identical versions govern Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

It can be a tricky time, but it is not insurmountable.

As a senior local government communicator for eight years there was two changes of leadership, a new chief executive and an administration kept in power by the casting vote of the Mayor and the vote of an independent.

Words of advice

Here are some crowd-sourced words of advice.

Debra Savage:

Do a First Day Brief which emphasises your impartiality and what you can do for them, to get their message across.

Kate Pratt:

“Be prepared to prove yourself all over again. Prove you are non-political, prove you will give them the same service you have their predecessors, prove they can rely on you the same way any leadership could.

It takes time.

It isn’t something that happens overnight.

It can only happen by doing it.

Again and again and again.

Remember they don’t know you. They don’t know what you think, what makes you tick, what you believe or where your loyalties lie. Stress – and if necessary bluntly – that your loyalties lie with your organisation, that you work for and serve the public whoever makes up the political leadership.

Remember you do know what you are doing.

No matter what anyone says, or has said in the past. It is a new start and your job is to advise and help even if you think the new lead member for roads is a complete moron and only interested in driving fast in his brand new Range Rover when you are trying to promote cycling.

Along with this one is they are new. They will probably not know what they are doing. It is your job to help them know what they are doing (preferably without them realising they didn’t know before) even if you think they are as thick as two short planks and trying to explain communications policy is like trying to teach a two year old how to read.

Be prepared to have things you have done in the past rubbished.

They don’t mean it personally, they just want to show they are better and the first way to do that is to slag off what came before.

That favourite video you were so proud of, rubbish. That excellent campaign to promote cycling, rubbish.

And don’t expect them to come up with something better.

Their advice will probably be “just be less rubbish” until point 1 and 3 are covered and some time has gone past.

Smile and congratulate them (even if it makes you want to puke).

And if you can manage it, say you are looking forward to working with them. They have just been elected, they are on a high, they think they are demi-gods. Don’t be the one to burst that bubble. It will be burst soon enough by the realities of life.

Give yourself time to mourn.

A load of work, people, colleagues have just become less important in the grand scheme of things. It is OK to mourn that. It is OK to sit in your car and not want to go into work. It is OK that your morale is in the toilet and you can barely look anyone in the face without wanting to scream: “Aaaaaargh you don’t know what you are doing, why the hell are you in charge now?”

It is all OK.

But remember, it will get better over time.Ruth Fry:

Ruth Fry:

Have a written protocol that explains who you quote and when (eg portfolio lead for x) and who gets invited to photo calls (particularly in multi member wards – I found an ‘everyone is invited but the date is set so if you don’t show up we’re not rearranging’ policy best).

And if you can rustle up even a quick and dirty ‘annual report’ showing how that cycling campaign they’re slacking off actually reduced air pollution and saved money then that will help.

Know the rules

In addition to knowing the Code of Recommended Practice on Local Authority Publicity for your home country also take a look at your organisation’s constitution which sets out the elected member and officer relationship and a load of other things.

It’s useful to know the chapter and verse of what you can and can’t be expected to do.

You’ll need some skills as a diplomat to advise and guide them in the right direction.

Picture credit: US National Archives

NEW WORKSHOP: Why I’m launching the Essential Media Relations Skills workshop

Cue the fanfare… in response to popular demand, I’ve launched a new workshop that will make your future comms easier.

The title of the training is ESSENTIAL MEDIA RELATIONS SKILLS and the aim is to give the skills that are needed to do a specific task.

If you thought media relations was retro thing you’d be wrong.

Here’s why…

Some numbers on the importance of media relations

  • 75 per cent of under 24s get their COVID-19 news from traditional media, say Ofcom.
  • 22 million people a week consume content from regional newspapers.

The training

It’s not the only show in town but it remains an important show. In the last decade, news companies have been forced into sometimes painful re-invention.

Understanding that re-invention and how to create content for today’s re-invented journalist is a skill.

Dealing with a journalist on deadline is also a skill.

I was approached to create some training recently to help train public sector comms people in how to deal with the media. With the input from some current journalists I did. I was surprised that the essentials remain the same. News is news. Delivering the training was fun.

It dawned on me that there was a need for this.

Many teams have moved towards generalists rather than specialists and people who didn’t start their careers in newsrooms are being asked to pitch a story or pick up the phone to a reporter. Understandably, they’re not brimming with confidence and that’s a considerable risk.

The training is split into three sessions. Firstly, proactive, what you need to do to create content and ‘sell in’ a story. The second element is reactive. What happens when a media query comes in. For each, there is tried-and-tested strategies.

Thirdly, there will be a practical session. This gives some time to practice.

Lastly, do have a look at the detail of the workshop. It will be delivered online and I’m convinced it will be useful to you or someone in your team.

HIGH NUMBERS: The UK social media and messaging user data you need for 2021

God bless you, Ofcom. God bless your freely available data that helps to make the life of communicators better.

Ofcom’s Adults Media Use and Attitudes report has been published and a rich treasure trove of numbers it is too.

These statistics were gathered during the second and third UK lockdowns of late 2020 so reflect the turbulence of the first year of the pandemic.

TLDR: 2021 in summary

As a country, older people gravitate to Facebook and WhatsApp while younger people can be found on a wider array of platforms.

Messaging platforms like Messenger, WhatsApp and Skype collectively are more popular than social media accounts.

Every age demographic has its distinct preferences.

Surprisingly, 35 to 44 year olds are now narrowly the single biggest users of social media.

TikTok is climbing but hasn’t reached the top four for under 24s with 54 per cent using it.

Most favoured social platforms, source: Ofcom, 2021

What platforms do 16 to 24-year-olds use in the UK?

Instagram tops the list with Snapchat and YouTube following. TikTok hasn’t reached the top four. For messaging, its WhatsApp. A total of 88 per cent use social media and the same number with messaging.

Social media
  1. Instagram 69 per cent
  2. Snapchat 64 per cent
  3. YouTube 63 per cent
  4. Facebook 61 per cent
Messaging
  1. WhatsApp 69 per cent
  2. Messenger 54 per cent
  3. Discord 28 per cent

What platforms do 25 to 34-year-olds use in the UK?

For this age group, Facebook and WhatsApp with 90 per cent messaging use pipping 89 per cent social media.

Social media
  1. Facebook 72 per cent
  2. Instagram 68 per cent
  3. YouTube 48 per cebnt
  4. Snapchat 39 per cent
Messaging
  1. WhatsApp 78 per cent
  2. Messenger 65 per cent
  3. Skype 27 per cent

What platforms do 35 to 45-year-olds use in the UK?

This age group messages the most of all (93 per cent) and also uses social media the most (91 per cent).

Social media
  1. Facebook 75 per cent
  2. Instagram 57 per cent
  3. YouTube 47 per cent
  4. Twitter 37 per cent
Messaging
  1. WhatsApp 83 per cent
  2. Messenger 72 per cent
  3. Skype 31 per cent

What platforms do 46 to 54-year-olds use in the UK?

Facebook is used most by this demographic with 77 per cent.

Social media
  1. Facebook 77 per cent
  2. Instagram 41 per cent
  3. Twitter 33 per cent
  4. YouTube 33 per cent
Messaging
  1. WhatsApp 83 per cent
  2. Messenger 72 per cent
  3. Skype 26 per cent

What platforms do 55 to 64-year-olds use in the UK?

Almost three quarters use social media and messaging apps.

Social media
  1. Facebook 65 per cent
  2. Twitter 23 per cent
  3. Instagram 23 per cent
Messaging
  1. WhatsApp 62 per cent
  2. Messenger 55 per cent
  3. Skype 20 per cent

What platforms do over 65-year-olds use in the UK?

The majority of this age group use social and messaging platforms with 59 per cent and 64 per cent users. Facebook is favourite.

Social media
  1. Facebook 54 per cent
  2. YouTube 16 per cent
  3. Twitter 13 per cent
  4. Instagram 11 per cent
Messaging
  1. WhatsApp 44 per cent
  2. Messenger 43 per cent
  3. Skype 13 per cent

Conclusion

Wise communications and PR people will read this data and reflect on how it affects them day-to-day. This represents a subtle year-on-year shift. Ten years ago, the tide was showing signs digital comms was going to be important.

The tide has washed in the direction of social media but has also brought with it messaging apps which have now overtaken social as a way to keep in touch.

For public sector communicators, this data can be a powerful tool in your armoury.

Picture credit: istock.

POST DOWN: The full league tables on what platform takes down what

I’ve often spoken about the dangers of using a fake platform on Facebook.

It’s close neighbour is the stuff that they take down for breaching terms and conditions.

There’s two ways of looking at this. That companies are really sharp at taking stuff down. Or the glass half full version is that there’s a tsunami of crap out there.

Digital PR agency Reboot have published this league table of who takes down what and the numbers are eye-watering.

Facebook leads the way with 12 billion items, then YouTube with five billion, Instagram with 106 million, TikTok with 104 million and then Twitter on two million.

If anything, its Twitter that looks pretty small beer.

NEW DATES: Reflecting on the 23rd iteration of training to give the essential comms skills

It was the words of a frustrated comms person struggling with the changing landscape that stuck with me.

“It keeps bloody changing,” they said. “Can’t you just run a training course with everything I need to know. I’d come to that.”

Time went by and the comment stuck in my head. I’m pleased to say that this week marked the 23rd iteration of that idea. Getting on for 200 people have taken part from more than 50 organisations.

Huge thank you if you’ve come along.

I’ve long thought that its my job to know the landscape and how its changing and evolving. Like renowned newspaper Harold Evans I’ve long been intoxicated by the power and possibility of the internet. But it’s not just the next thing, its also some well worn principles like comms planning and evaluation that people also need.

Knowing Facebook groups, WhatsApp for Business, TikTok and Nextdoor, the media landscape are useful. But so is having strategies for when people shout at you online.

I was absolutely clear that people were too busy and didn’t want to sit on a Zoom call all day. So I chunked them into five hour-long sessions.

There’s some new dates up if you too like the frustrated comms person need everything you need to know.

May 4 programme #17 1pm

May 17 programme #18 11am

May 26 programme #19 9.30am

The ESSENTIAL COMMS SKILLS BOOSTER programme aims to give the knowledge you need in a changing landscape in hour-long chunks that fit into a busy day.

GUEST POST: Four things you might not have thought about that WILL help you pick a better social media management tool

Choosing a social media management tool can be one big headache. Matt Dunn, digital and creative comms lead at Wirral Council, shares lessons he learned from running his own platform beauty pageant.

We’ve all been there: that dawning realisation your social media management tool isn’t all it was cracked up to be. You reach out to your comms peers for recommendations, but there doesn’t seem to be much to choose between them. What now?

I’ve picked social media management platforms for public sector organisations for nine years and on a basic level most of these platforms do have the same features. Finding a single ‘best’ solution from there is entirely subjective but this piece isn’t really about comparing the obvious stuff.

Instead, I’m sharing four things you might not have thought about that WILL help you make a better decision.

But first: what were you up to in Jan 2018?

It’s a social media Stone Age ago but some social media managers learned they could now schedule and publish Instagram posts directly through their social media management tool, the same way they’d always done for Facebook and Twitter. Game changer!

Fast forward to the present day. Yes, there are still tools that can’t publish your Instagram posts without some fiddly workaround. Annoying.

Not all tools are created equal: future-proof yourself

So, if you want your social media management tool to keeps pace with the latest features from all the big social networks, dig into their relationship status. You’re looking for ‘Marketing Partner’ credentials displayed on their website. It’s a little badge that goes a long way to setting the great tools apart from the good.

If you can’t publish directly to Insta through your social media management tool yet, there’s a decent chance they don’t have Marketing Partner status, It’s not that they don’t know how to do it, it’s that they can’t. A glimmer of good news though: in February 2021 Instagram announced API changes that may finally bring these social media management tools in from the cold.

Check the spec list fine print

Not all headline features are equal and it’s important to sweat the small stuff too. You’ll want to check how regularly your social media management tool syncs data with Twitter, for example. It can be anything from the blink of an eye to hours and you might not even realise. If you rely on your tool to deliver efficient customer service, can you afford to wait an hour for your messages to filter through?

When you’re picking a new tool, make full use of free trials and pepper your sales rep with questions. Ask about their development roadmap to check what features they’re working on and gauge their commitment to keeping their product up to date.

Don’t underestimate the look and feel of the tool. A well thought-through design can be a breath of fresh air, speed up processes and make everyone a little more motivated to use it.

Keep your friends close, keep your Procurement team closer

If you’re limited to finding a provider from a procurement framework or through a tender exercise, you’re almost certain to eliminate some excellent and big-name options who won’t indulge form-filling requirements or a tender process.

To get the tool you want and not fall foul of contract rules you’re going to need to engage your procurement team early and make your case heard.

Value for money is vital so this is the time to re-think how many users will *really* need access to the new tool. You may find premium options suddenly become far more affordable.

I’d recommend structuring your research process: make a wish-list of the features YOU need from a social media management tool and compare your options against it. There are two big benefits to this: firstly, you are giving evidence to your procurement team that only one provider may meet your exact requirements. Secondly, a scoring exercise helps view your options objectively and removes any unconscious bias.

Plot twist: what if you don’t need a tool at all?

Social media management tools are a great way to centralise all our activity, but are they really the best way to manage your social media?

I’m not convinced they are the best way to manage content publishing. Yes, it saves time when you can write one post and publish it to Facebook, Linkedin Instagram and Twitter but you’d want to optimise your post for each platform anyway, right?

Posting natively (i.e directly on the platforms) takes more time but offers some compelling advantages including:

  1. More variety of post types and creative formats (hello, stories!)
  2. Direct access to new features as they become available. Waiting three years to schedule Insta posts? No chance
  3. More immersion in features like Facebook groups
  4. Less immersion in your own organisation ecosystem and more visibility of what else is happening on social that day

Matt Dunn is digital and creative lead for Wirral Council.

GUEST POST: A critical analysis of the comms of the doomed European Super League

The European Super League idea launched by 12-clubs started with fanfare but within days the six English teams involved quit. Chris Lepkowski who has worked as head of media and content at a Premier League club takes a critical eye at the comms of the sport’s Cuban missile crisis.

It barely lasted 48 hours.

11.11pm, Sunday April 18. “The Super League will open a new chapter for European football,” began the first of many ill-synchronised social media tweets.

By Tuesday 10.55pm, it was game over. Arsenal, one of English football’s gang of six, had stepped out of the confessional with its head bowed: “We made a mistake, and we apologise for it.”

At least they apologised. The others took their time. Liverpool’s John W Henry waited until Wednesday morning to post his 2.27minute mea culpa to ‘LFC’ staff and fans. Too little too late.

On reflection, this will be remembered as the most incredible 48 hours in modern football. This was sport’s Cuban Missile Crisis. It was a showcase of brinkmanship, a complete lack of awareness and of no appreciation for its paying audience. It was a public relations horror show.

The background

But first, the backstory. In short, continental club football in three countries effectively broke up on Sunday night – for a couple of days at least – to create The European Super League. Liverpool, Arsenal, Tottenham, Chelsea and the two Manchester clubs were ready to leave behind English football to join Italian giants Juventus, Inter and AC Milan. Accompanying them would be Barcelona, Real Madrid and Atletico Madrid. So far, so good. Sadly for them, their plans were derailed when Germany’s major clubs – including Bayern Munich – and Paris Saint-Germain opted out. Domestically, a furious fans’ back-lash followed.

This was sport’s Cuban Missile Crisis.

By Tuesday night, the English clubs began to opt back out. Manchester United announced their chief executive Ed Woodward would be leaving.

How did the Super League become the biggest PR own-goal since High Street jeweller Gerald Ratner referred to his low-cost silverware as ‘total crap’?

There were several flashing lights. Firstly, the brand. The Super League website looked worse than a Word Press blog. The logo looked like it had been designed using children’s Scratch Art.

Multiple comms teams

And then there was the make-up of the Communications. Clubs from the five countries – also including the aborted entry of the German and French clubs – were each represented by individual media partners. No Com France and No Com Spain represented the interests of their clubs, while Verini & Associati looked after the Italian clubs. B2P Communications were plotting the German PR assault, with iNHouse leading the media messaging on behalf of the English clubs. I should point out, these are all heavyweights of the communications world. We aren’t dealing with a bedroom-based PR wannabes here, but signposting you to major players in the international comms game with award-winning reputations.

Big-hitters signed-up

iNHouse may sound familiar. They should. They are run by former Downing Street advisor Katie Perrior, who was director of communications on Theresa May’s watch. Ms Perrior led the public relations campaign for Boris Johnson’s successful London Mayoral campaign in 2008, and also worked with Theresa May between September 2016 and April 2017.  The nuances of a heavyweight political landscape might be appropriate for swinging public opinion towards or against a faltering government, but football supporters are simplistic souls. We love our sport because of the colour, the sounds and the smells of the matchday experience. We love our club because it shapes our lives, our friendships, our relationships. The club is an extension of our family. We don’t always like our club; but we always love our club. We have no care for financial models or balance sheets. We treat outsiders with suspicion. The onus is on you, the club, to make us feel welcome. Especially during these times. That was totally lost.

English fans were forgotten

Yet iNHouse were immediately pitching the wrong message to the wrong audience – the tone was for a non-English, non-traditional audience. It was about capturing and harvesting new fans in different time zones, far away from football’s heartlands.

Furthermore, the social and digital media output was confused. The implication was the gang of 12 clubs would remain part of their domestic leagues while also contesting the European Super League. Fine, only Premier League rules don’t allow this. Were the clubs even aware they were under Premier League L9 they have to ‘obtain prior written approval of the Board’ before entering another competition? Seemingly not. If you want to play the game, learn the rules.

Then there was the timing: why 11pm on a Sunday night? One theory is that the clubs were trying to pre-empt Monday’s UEFA announcement of the revamped Champions League – a competition they were now effectively withdrawing from. Another potential reason was to capture interest in the Asian and American demographics – who were either waking up on Monday morning to news of this breakaway, or able to absorb it for the final few hours of Sunday. In any case, it wasn’t to suit the European audience – strange as it might seem for a European competition. It’s also entirely feasible the media leaks during the day prompted a hasty social media-loaded scattergun disclosure of the club’s intentions. It wasn’t so much coordinated, as shambolic.

But more so the communications became muddled because 12 clubs were being led by strands of strategic messaging in three separate countries – if you exclude the German and French interest, which never materialised. Not only did those strands need to be aligned, but they also needed to run hand-in-hand with the respective departments of each of the dozen clubs. In other words, a lot of different networks needed to be in sync. Is it any wonder the communications was so chaotic? Also, football cultures in England are different to those of Spain, which are not the same as those in Italy. Yet they were delivering in the same tone.

I’ve worked in communications for the private and public sector. I served as head of media for a Premier League football club, was communications manager for a politician and held the same role for a major privately-owned multi-national company. I’m fully aware that trying to keep senior executives and high profile individuals on message can be a major challenge. At best it can be a frustrating exercise in taming egos and calming people who aren’t used to being told ‘no’. At worst, you might as well be trying to herd 10 cats into a phone box. As much as I sympathise with communications managers and press officers, this is a crisis they had to own. They failed.

Above all else, the communications completely missed the target when it came to football’s main stakeholder: the supporters. We haven’t enjoyed the colours, smells or sounds of a football match since March 2020. Senses are heightened. Where we once stood on a terrace, we have now been forced to perch at the end of the laptop or on a handheld device, in the ‘spectator stand’ commonly known as social media. And that’s where the clubs got it badly wrong. The declarations to join the ESL came out and then…nothing. Silence. Between Sunday night and Monday lunchtime, there was barely any official follow-up. In short, they treated the supporter with disdain.

Money will come first

The following day Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp had to answer questions about his employers, rather than the usual soft-touch pre-match interviews. (That Liverpool were party to this announcement just a few days after the Hillsborough anniversary remains beyond comprehension). Pep Guardiola of Manchester City was also put on the media spot. Players were outraged. High profile employees had been hung out to dry. Supporters at Chelsea took to the streets with their own brand of messaging, splashed across home-made banners. By Tuesday night we went to bed wondering if the previous 48 hours had really happened. The European Super League departed as quickly as it arrived. But return it will. Because football will forever put money first.

Football has many lessons to learn from April 18-20, 2021. Likewise so does Comms; not least how it delivers key messaging and how it should target different stakeholders. 

As for this European Super League, as Ratner might say: actually it was ‘total crap’.

Chris Lepkowski is a sports journalism lecturer at Birmingham City University.

Picture credit: Bert Verhoeff / Anefo used under a creative commons licence.

GUEST POST: How connecting with Facebook groups boosted a page’s reach by 2,000 per cent

Connecting with Facebook groups to share a Facebook page’s content is transforming the reach and audience of one museum’s online presence Francesca Cox explains.

Like many people working in small museum, somehow I’ve ended up as the ‘social media person’ by default and it has just ended up being added to my growing to-do list. 

I had no real clue what I was doing but threw stuff out there regardless.  Some of it stuck, much of it didn’t.  It felt like an uphill battle that we weren’t winning.

Then came lockdown and we had to close our doors.  It was scary.  What could we offer our public? What could we offer them to let them know we were still there and had something to offer them?  That part of the job that I couldn’t have felt less confident in was suddenly our lifeline.

So I sat at home making content.  Doing step-by-step crafts for families locked inside with little to do using stuff they might have to hand.  It was tough to start with.  We didn’t have that many followers and the Facebook algorithms were a real problem.

The success was encouraging but when I experimented with other types of content that I thought would appeal to our older visitors, our fabulous archive of historic photographs, the result was tumbleweed. 

I was ready to throw in the towel and just accept that there was just no on-line audience for that type of thing.

Then the opportunity came along for some actual training and I grabbed it with both hands.  I had no idea if it would help but figured it was all good experience.  The Essential Comms Skills Booster sessions run by Dan Slee were hugely informative and very enjoyable and it was really interesting to exchange experiences with trained comms people who were struggling with their own social media issues in lockdown. 

But we’ve all been to training sessions where we’ve been fired up in the moment but weeks later it’s all fizzled away.  But some of the ideas were so do-able that I took the plunge and put them into practice. 

For me the hallelujah moment has been his advice to share content to Facebook groups.  I started tentatively at first, sharing the museum’s content with a group I’d long been a member of.  Straight away the results were obvious and the reach went up by 91 per cent.  Buoyed by this, I looked for other groups and picked out a couple that might hit a different target audience and found a couple that were based around sharing photographs of the area. 

I shared some more of our lovely photographs that before had sunk without trace.  The result was quite frankly astonishing.  Not only in the sheer numbers of people that we were reaching but in the reactions.  Hundreds of likes, hundreds of comments – real interactions with the public that museums dream of and a dramatic increase in followers 

People were sharing their stories, catching up with people they’d lost touch with and sharing their own photographs. 

Four posts reached over 42,000 people compared to four similar posts that managed a very dispiriting 1,835 in total – a rise of over 2,000 per cent.

As we come to the end of a full covid year, our total reach is up over 1,000 per cent on the previous year and I couldn’t be more pleased.  This terrible year has counted for something.  I feel so much more confident that the museum has something to build on.   So, does this expert stuff work?  You’re damn right it does.

Francesca Cox is Assistant Curator at Walsall Leather Museum. 

Learn more about the ESSENTIAL COMMS SKILLS BOOSTER sessions here.

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