VIDEO VIEW: Using effective TikTok as an NHS Trust

TikTok, isn’t that just teenagers dancing? Not really, no. As Pete Orton shows this is an opportunity for the NHS to reach new audiences.

by Pete Orton

You know TikTok… it’s that dodgy Chinese state-owned video app that’s corrupting our children and stealing our data, right? Well for us at Worcestershire Acute Hospitals NHS Trust it’s our most followed and most watched social media channel.

There are so many myths and misconceptions about TikTok, with many believing the app is somehow worse or more sinister than any of the other social media that we happily use every day. But I simply don’t believe this is true.

Yes, TikTok is used to spread misinformation. Yes, it hosts inappropriate content. And yes, it’s incredibly addictive. But you can’t tell me that Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Instagram don’t do all these things and more – and that doesn’t stop us using these as channels for sharing public sector messages and content.

Why some people don’t get TikTok

I think a bigger reason is that many people just don’t fully get it yet, so let me explain.

TikTok is an app for making and sharing videos, displayed as an endless roll of full screen videos in vertical format – therefore taking up all of your attention for that moment, unlike almost all other social media channels.

Users have access to editing tools and filters as well as the ability to add sounds or songs, including an enormous free library of the latest trending or chart music (and some of those old masterpieces too!).

Videos can range from five seconds up to three minutes in length and can either be created within the app or uploaded to the app and amended or timed to something from the comprehensive music library.

Something else different about TikTok is the default homepage view. It’s not necessarily those people that you choose to follow whose videos you are shown, instead you get a personalised “For You” feed.

This feed is created by the true jewel in TikTok’s crown – it’s algorithm. Thanks to the complex and closely-guarded algorithm, the TikTok “For You” feed is the most intuitive and fastest-learning of any social media platform.

Within just a few minutes of joining and choosing to watch, interact with, or scroll past different videos, you start to get served up content that you might be interested in, gradually filtering out the stuff you’re not. The algorithm gets more intuitive the more you consume and engage on the app, allowing you to consistently discover new people and interests.

Accounts with fewer followers are not punished either, content and engagement take primacy over the follower count of the user, in theory giving anyone the equal chance to go viral – given the content is good enough.

But why should we care about TikTok?

Well for starters it’s the fastest growing social media site in the world. And it’s not just another short-term fad, TikTok was the world’s most downloaded app last year.

In the UK alone, it was downloaded 22 million times in 2020 – that’s more than Zoom, Teams or the NHS Covid-19 App – with latest figures showing almost 14 million of those are regular active users (at least monthly). It’s not just young people on there either. Spend a bit of time on the app and you’ll quickly see content aimed at your age group or from likeminded individuals.

In fact, its competitors are so worried about it they’re queueing up to steal the concept. YouTube recently launched YouTube Shorts, Facebook brought Reels to Instagram and is now encouraging users to post short, vertical videos on Facebook itself.

With TikTok recently allowing videos of up to 3 minutes long, (and reportedly even testing video lengths of up to 10 minutes) its dominance and influence of the social media landscape is only increasing.

The time that users spend on the app too is far greater than that of Facebook, Twitter or Instagram. It’s safe to say that TikTok is not going away anytime soon.

So how could you use it?

To be clear, TikTok is not the answer to all our public sector comms problems. I don’t believe it’s the place to consistently run awareness campaigns or achieve some of our behaviour-change goals.

But want to tell a compelling or heart-warming story to potentially millions of people? Then TikTok is the perfect place. People go to TikTok to laugh, to learn, to join in and to escape.

The video quality doesn’t even need to be that high, an old iPhone will do – but it’s all about the content. That’s not to say you don’t need to put a lot of thought and effort into it, but it does mean you don’t necessarily need to use the latest high-end equipment to get good results.

One creator called Khaby.lame has amassed 107 million followers without ever saying a word. His brief skits sarcastically pointing out when people needlessly overcomplicate simple tasks frequently receive tens of millions of views.

To put it into some context, your NHS Chief Exec introducing the latest patient safety initiative isn’t going to go viral, but a video of a real person who has been through a treatment journey and is now back doing what they love just might.

Your latest local bin collection scheme won’t turn into a big hit, but a clip of a bin man building a bond with someone on their round might well do.

The point I’m making is, don’t think of TikTok as a local solution to local issues – your video won’t just be shown to people in your area. Think of it as a platform to tell your story to the world in a compelling and succinct way to show off what your organisation is all about.

How have we used it at Worcestershire Acute Hospitals NHS Trust?

We decided to first join TikTok as a Trust back in December 2019 – at the time we were the first NHS organisation we could find on there.

We place a lot of value on our social media content, finding it is now often a much more effective way to reach audiences than more traditional media. We also felt that TikTok was well-suited to engage with audiences using the more relaxed, friendly and sociable ‘tone of voice’ we’d carefully been cultivating across our social channels.

As an NHS Trust caring for hundreds of thousands of people every year, and employing thousands of wonderful, compassionate people, we always have a story to tell. If you strip everything else back, the NHS is really just people caring for people. This notion has huge potential on TikTok.

Whenever we have a message to share, we will always try to tell it with a story, and deliver it in an entertaining or emotionally powerful way – making it as relevant as possible to a particular audience. Sometimes that means trying new things or going to where a new audience might be.

So I wanted to use try using TikTok to share some of these positive or touching human stories, and the channel leant itself perfectly to video creation for this, with moving stories able to be set to emotional or trending music.

I’ve seen TikTok perfectly described as a place where you aim “to get the most ‘ooo’s’, ‘ahh’s’ and ‘ha-ha’s’ per second”. Well so many stories from our hospitals are full of these ‘ooo’ and ‘ahh’ moments, so why not show them off – you might just influence a few attitudes of what we’re really all about.

Our early steps

We posted our first videos in January 2020, initially using content that we’d previously shared on our other channels that I re-edited and repurposed for TikTok. I’m sure every public sector organisation will have some of this type of video already – hard-hitting, emotionally relevant and engaging. Look at what’s already performed well on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and think about how it could be repurposed or re-edited for TikTok.

The first few videos we did performed OK for a new channel, but didn’t initially gain loads of traction. But after coming up with more ideas and covering more stories on the channel, we began to get some real cut-through.

Something I noticed once we’d started posting on TikTok, was how high the engagement rate was, this is something that sets it apart from Facebook and Twitter, etc. We were seeing at least 25 per cent of all those who had seen the post, either liking, commenting or sharing the video. On Facebook this is typically more like 5% – 10% and even lower on Twitter.

I assume this is mainly because of TikTok’s attention grabbing display, with the whole screen of the app showing your video with no other posts poking out directly above or below. Therefore, it’s easy to argue that this means the effort you put into producing your content is more worthwhile.

Getting the hang of it

We then began to get a couple of videos hitting 40 to 50,000 views (which was generally better than we were getting on Facebook or Twitter before Covid), before a couple started breaking the 100,000 views mark. There seemed to be a real appetite for this kind of emotional, positive patient story, as a break from a lot of the more light-hearted content on the channel.

TikTok is known as a ‘viral’ video app, whereby if a video performs well in the algorithm it can really take off and be shown to huge audiences. We got our first taste of this virality on a couple of videos of some of our cancer patients ringing the ‘end of treatment bell’. These often perform well on our other platforms but on TikTok they were viewed hundreds of thousands of times and received huge engagement, including feedback from local patients.

These successful videos reinforced how different the TikTok algorithm and way of displaying videos to users is. With Twitter, Facebook and Instagram, posts have a very short ‘afterlife’ (the time when posts are actually shown to users in their timeline), but on TikTok if a post begins to prove successful, it can be shown for weeks or even months after it was first posted.

Last summer, after receiving a phone call from the nursing team on a ward to come along and capture a wedding that was taking place on the ward for an end of life patient, I immediately realised we had an incredibly moving story to tell. The couple involved were really keen to share their special moment “as far and as wide as possible” and thanks to TikTok we did just that.

After cutting up the video (which was solely shot on my iPhone) using the Kinemaster app, and storyboarding the clips, we had a video that was pulling at my heart strings. But being able to time the video to a popular, emotional song really gave it something extra. With a few captions added on TikTok, the video was posted and immediately took off.

You can see the video here.

Within 12 hours of posting it, the video had been watched over 1 million times and just kept growing. The video has been seen over 5 million times on our TikTok channel alone, has had over 1 million ‘likes’, received 18,000 comments and been shared more than 30,000 times.

This video showed the true power of TikTok, as this was something we didn’t send a traditional press release out for, but because of the success of the video we ended up receiving international TV and news coverage.

Various viral sharing accounts on TikTok and Instagram contacted us for permission to share the video on their own channels which we allowed with credit. To date across these different accounts, the video has had over 10 million views on TikTok, over 5 million views on Instagram, and over 2 million views on Facebook, as well as appearing on TV news in USA, Australia and beyond.

I understand that not every public sector body has access to this kind of story on a regular basis, but where and how you tell a story is often more important than the actual story itself.

We really struggled to find the time and headspace during the second wave of Covid in our hospitals to create content for TikTok, but we plan to continue using the channel to make the most of our stories. Another positive of TikTok is, it doesn’t seem to hurt your performance by not posting for long periods of time, providing when you do, it’s good content.

What is next for the Trust and TikTok

We now have nearly 45,000 followers on TikTok which is more than our Facebook and Twitter pages combined, proving it’s possible for an NHS Trust to build a reasonable following on the platform.

Every type of interest, hobby or occupation has a place on TikTok. Whether we use TikTok or not, the NHS (or your local area) is being talked about on there. A lot. There are well over 1 billion videos on the app with the hashtag #NHS. And both #ThankYouNHS and #ClapForOurCarers were some of the most popular topics on the app in the UK during the first national lockdown.

Most importantly for comms professionals, it’s about getting the most out of the time and effort you put into producing content in the first place. If you go to an event or come across a great story, if you can repurpose the same content to make it flourish on a number of channels, that’s the best we can hope for.

We don’t all have to love TikTok or use it in a personal capacity, but as Comms professionals I feel we have a duty to understand it in the same way we do with other social media.

If you want to use TikTok for your organisation, my advice would be to get on the app and spend some time on it to properly understand it for yourself. If you want any inspiration you can find us on TikTok (or any social media) @WorcsAcuteNHS

There are plenty of great public sector accounts on TikTok already. I’d definitely recommend checking out Lancashire Police @lancspolice; Liverpool City Council @lpoolcouncil; and the British Army Guards @the_guards.

And of course, if you truly have the capacity to commit resource to it, just see what the Black Country Living Museum have done, whose characters even have their own fanbases!

Thanks for reading and I hope I’ve encouraged some of you to look again at using TikTok for your organisation.

Worcestershire Acute Hospitals NHS Trust can be found across social media on TikTok, Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.

Pete Orton is Communications and Content Specialist at Worcestershire Acute Hospitals NHS Trust.

LONG READ: STRESS, ABUSE AND LIFESAVING RESULTS. The impact of the pandemic on the UK public sector country-by-country and sector-by-stress

So far across the UK, 130,000 people have died and millions of lives have been affected.

It is a story is still being written and the heroes who will populate the story will include doctors, nurses, police and paramedics.

However, through it all public sector communicators have played a massive role from warning and informing to encouraging 90 per cent of the country’s adults to have the COVID-19 jab.

From June 2020, I’ve been running a tracker survey on how the pandemic has been affecting public sector communicators across the UK.

In this post, I’ve taken the chance to go through 19,920 individual responses from 1,660 communicators over a 12-month period.

A tracker survey was run in June and October 2020 and again in January and June 2021. What the data has reveals is a sector that is paying a shocking price for living as a public sector communicator in the biggest pandemic in a hundred years.

Mental and physical health has been damaged by individuals who have gone the extra yard for days, weeks, months and now a timeline that can be measured in years.

Employers, managers and heads of comms should not underestimate the impact of the pandemic on teams. Behind the wall of black windows on a Teams call are people who have performed heroically and some have paid a high price.

This survey hopes to track their successes as well as the prtice they’ve paid.

If you work in the sector scroll down and look sector by sector as well as country by country. While many experiences of working in a pandemic have been shared others have not.

For example, Scotland and Wales have enjoyed a clear sense of direction from their home government. England and Northern Ireland have not.

Police communicators have faced a remorseless barrage of abuse and stress – the highest of any sector.

What is striking is the sense that a sense of working for the common good never collapsed during lockdown 1.0, the summer of eat out to help out, the dark days of lockdown 2.0 and then the easing of measures in Spring and summer 2021.

COUNTRY BY COUNTRY

If the pandemic blighted all parts of the UK it had a different effect for public sector comms in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

In England and Northern Ireland there was a marked feeling of a lack of leadership in the home government. In Ulster, this issue never dropped below 71 per cent while in England the rate was about half.

However, in the devolved administrations of Wales and Scotland there was a clear sense of leadership from their governments. By summer of 2021, just 2.2 per cent complained that the Welsh Assembly had no sense of direction compared to 11.1 per cent in Scotland.

fig 1. A lack of leadership from my home government

ENGLAND: the high sense of a lack of leadership from home government

In England, communicators reported the highest rates issues with home schooling – 43.9 per cent had this as a problem in January 2021. Isolation rates also peaked at this time with 48.1 per cent saying they felt more3 isolated.

Comms teams in England also reported the highest sense of being short staffed peaking at four in ten reporting this in Autumn 2020.

However, a sens eof working for the common good has been maintained at around 70 per cent with a sense of working as a team level at around 50 per cent.

Fig 1: A sense of working for the common good, June 2020 to June 2021 sector by sector

England also reported the worst single rate of worse mental health – 69.5 per cent saying it had deteriorated – in Autumn 2020.

Racist abuse was seen by around 10 per cent of people every week. While the abuse of high-profile footballers leads to a well-deserved campaign and a crackdown by police the same abuse elsewhere online thrives.

SCOTLAND: Most stress, spiralling targeted abuse but a strong sense of working for the common good

Despite a clarity of leadership from devolved Government communicators in the country reported the highest rates of stress and isolation.

Eight in ten by summer 2021 felt more stressed and 61.1 felt more isolated.

That these figures come through when the worst of the pandemic death rate is over suggests a long tail for mental health that deserves to be taken seriously.

Physical health has also been worst amongst comms people in Scotland by summer 2021 with 61 per cent reporting it was worse than before the pandemic.

Racist abuse was lowest in Scotland and never higher than 4.1 per cent of people seeing it aimed at their own organisation. However, around four in 10 in Scotland saw general abuse aimed at their organisation every week. Targeted abuse has risen in Scotland from 2.7 per cent reporting it in summer 2020 compared to 30.5 per cent 12-months on.

What has pulled through comms people from north of the border is a clear sense that they are working for the common good. An impressive 83.3 per cent felt this – 14 points up on England.

Home schooling in Scotland was the most complained about in the UK with a peak of 52.7 per cent raising it as an issue in June 2021.

Leadership from home government was strong with as low as one in 20 complaining of a lack of leadership in June 2020 – compared to a consistent one in every two communicators in England.

WALES: Strong teamwork and a clear sense of direction

Communicators in Wales have been hard hit by the pendemic but the physical impact has been less than other parts of the UK.

The surveys show 37.7 per cent report a worse physical condition amongst comms people from the Principality. Home schooling complaints were registered by around a third a shade lower than other parts of the UK.

There has been a strong sense of leadership from the Welsh Assembly and the best rates of leadership in the UK from people’s organisation.

Teams have generally felt well staffed with the lowest sense of being short staffed at less than a fifth early in the pandemic.

Comms teams in Wales had the strongest sense of teamwork across the UK with as many as two thirds buying into this ethos.

NORTHERN IRELAND: Poor national leadership

The worst guidance of any UK home government is reported loud and clear.

Complaints about this lack of stretegic direction shine through with never less than seven in ten complaining about it throughout the four surveys.

This is hardly surprising given that until early 2021 there was no devolved government.

As a result, Ulster public sector communicators had the lowest sense of working as a team with the figure dwindling to less than a third by summer 2021. By the same point in time, almost eight in 10 said that working in the pandemic was harder than before.

However, Northern Ireland fire, police, local and central government communicators had the lowest sense of isolation amongst comms people with two thirds not reporting it as a problem.

Despite everything, a sense of working for the common good was highest in this country and stands at 85.7 per cent in summer 2021 – 14 per cent ahead of England.

Also a postive, mental health rates were the best in the UK at 57.1 per cent the same as before – almost double that of England and Wales.

SECTOR BY SECTOR

NHS: communicators are most likely to feel they were working for the common good

Communicators in the NHS were the most likely to say they felt they were working from the common good.

From Summer 2020, 81.3 per cent shared this attitude which maintained through the winter before dipping to 73.6 per cent – the highest figures across the public sector.

Fig 1: NHS communicators attitudes through the pandemic

However, stress levels in NHS comms have been the highest in the public sector. In January 2021, 85.3 per cent said they felt more stressed than before the pandemic.

The health sector was also been the most likely to say that it was short staffed. Less than a third felt this at the start and building to almost half of people sharing this view by June 2020.

However, NHS comms people did not report they felt more of a team than other sectors – the level stayed constant at around 50 per cent.

For abuse, the NHS comms team have consistentlty had to deal with the lowest rates of targeted abuse. Never more than seven per cent of staff saw this targeted abuse weekly. They also saw the least racist abuse of the public sector with the peak of 7.8 per cent seeing something weekly coming in January 2021.

Winter saw the toughest time for abuse with 31.2 per cent seeing incoming abuse – the third highest level.

A lack of leadership from the organisation maintained as an issue by around a fifth.

LOCAL GOVERNMENT: communicators were most likely to face abuse

Pity the council comms team as they presented the Public Health face of the pandemic locally.

Theirs has been a thankless task in delivering the messages at a local level and reporting COVID-19 infection rates.

Stress rates have been endemic starting at 67.3 per cent of respondents reporting it in June 2020 before peaking at 85.3 per cent in January the following year.

Isolation has also been reported by nearly half of respondents.

However, the sense of working for the common good has maintained despite it all with around eight out of 10 consistently feeling this sentiment

Fig 2 Local government communicators attitudes during the pandemic

However, abuse has been a problem. The highest rates of abuse were reported in local government during gthe pandemic with around 40 per cent of comms people seeing abuse aimed at the council weekly through the period.

Racist abuse was highest in this sector with a peak of 16.4 per cent seeing such abuse weekly in the autumn of 2020.

CENTRAL GOVERNMENT: comms saw the least racist abuse

Less than one in ten Government communicators saw racist abuse while the sense of working for the common good – at about 60 per cent throughout – was the lowest.

Perhaps, these are unsurprising figures for an organisation which works on more strategic levels.

Fig 2 Central government communicators attitudes during the pandemic

A sense of teamwork was the highest anywhere in the public sector in autumn 2020 with 62.5 per cent agreeing with this sentiment.

However, physical health suffered with around half reporting worse condition and even by summer 2021 60 per cent were still reporting worse mental health.

The worst month for abuse at central government accounts was October 2020 with a spike of 37.5 per cent seeing abuse.

FIRE AND RESCUE: Comms saw the least abuse but stress high

A pandemic has a focus on health which saw fire and rescue comms people stand away from the eye of the storm.

Fire and rescue comms saw the lowest incoming abuse with no reports of abuse aimed at individuals for three surveys. An average of seven per cent of staff saw general abuse aimed at the organisation – an eighth of that facing councils, for example.

Perhaps surprisingly, this sector has seen the worst effect on mental health across 2021 with more than 60 per cent of team members reporting a deterioration.

fig 3: Fire and Rescue comms attitudes during the pandemic

However, this sector did not escape stress. A pandemic affects all parts of society and stress levels were in line with other sectors. Around 60 per cent found their mental health worsening.

POLICE: comms took the brunt during enforcement in stress and abuse

While the NHS may have got the applause in the early months of lockdown 1.0 it fell to police to enforce regulations.

That has proved to be a singularly difficult time to be in law and order.

Police comms have faced the worst abuse online, reported the most stress, felt the most short handed and felt the worst sense of a lack of local leadership from their organisation.

Police also complained of the worst sense of poor leadership from national government with 57.1 agreeing with this sentiment in January 2021.

On top of this they hace the lowest rate of working for the common good – hovering at about 60 per cent through the pandemic.

Almost a third saw abuse weekly – the peak being in January and June 2021 with around 29 per cent seeing it with almost 30 per cent seeing racist abuse weekly from October 2020 to June 2021. That’s four times the amount directed at the NHS.

The numbers are hard reading.

A total of 1,660 responses to surveys in June and October 2020 and January and June 2021 shape the results of this analysis. The study will be continued for as long as the pandemic lasts.

2021 NUMBERS: Ofcom media & stats for the UK

Portrait

If you look at a glacier while drinking a cup of coffee you’ll think there’s no such thing as global warming.

Compare snapshots of the same ice over time and you’ll see how much has changed.

During the turbulence of 2020 we could all hear the cracks of ice moving below our feet. We knew something was happening but not what. In the media landscape Ofcom are the scientists analysing the data to see what the changes.

Online Nation published in June 2021 gives a picture of how much has changed. Want a two word summary?

‘Changed lots.’

But the real value is going to the report and spending time reading it yourself.

Why? Because you’ll find data more relevant to you.

Until you do, here’s bitesize summaries.

The headline figures for UK over 18s

94 per cent are online.

82 per cent use social media.

82 per cent was the increase in food and drink sales online in 2020.

91 per cent of over 65s online use Facebook.

62 per cent play games online.

On average they spend three hours thirty seven minutes online.

On average they spend one hour twenty one minutes watching video on demand sites like Netflix or BBC iplayer.

Zoom soared from 200,000 users peaking at 13.7 million users in March 2020 falling to 10.4 million at the start of 2021.

88 per cent receive or send email.

Age dictates how much time is spent online. For over 55s, this is two hours 46 minutes a day while for 18-to-24-year-olds it rises to four hours 31 minutes a day.

Headlines for children

Gaming and video dominate how under 18s use the internet.

Children spend three hours 48 minutes online a day.

More than 95 per cent of children use video sharing platforms.

55 per cent of under 18s have had a negative experience online.

Boys prefer YouTube for social video.

Girls prefer TikTok for social video.

40 per cent of 13 to 17-year-olds post video content.

Of five to seven-year-olds, 30 per cent use social media, 37 per cent use messaging and 95 per cent watch video

Of eight to 11-year-olds, 44 per cent use social media, 64 per cent messaging and 96 per cent watch video.

For 12 to 15-year-olds 87 per cent use social media, 91 per cent messaging apps and 99 per cent watch video.

Social video

We watch a lot of short videos of 10 minutes or less.

The most popular trends of what to watch in 2020 were music video followed by home exercise with campaigns on hot topics like black lives matter in third place.

31 per cent of over 18s post video.

Social media users

The age demographics show a different pattern of platform use.

Facebook is strong across older age groups while 16 to 24-year-olds like a range of apps from YouTube, TikTok, Pinterest, Snapchat and Instagram.

News consumption

More than half of adults go online with news as a reason for switching on their web-enabled devices.

But trust is low for what people read and watch online with just 16 per cent trusting something from social media – almost a third of those who distrust it.

64 per cent look at online headlines weekly.

35 per cent get their news from social media.

News and information sites in the UK

There’s a useful breakdown of news and info sites.

Local news is important with Reach plc – formerly Trinity Mirror – topping the charts.

  1. Reach plc 41.4 million
  2. News UK 40.4 million
  3. Mail online / Daily Mail 37.4 million
  4. BBC 37.0 million
  5. gov.uk 25.9 million
  6. Wikipedia 24.8 million
  7. Independent / London Evening Standard 24.6 million
  8. NHS 23.4 million
  9. USA Today 20.6 million
  10. Immediate Media 20.4 million

Access to online v print

Print remains strong amongst the older generation while it is a minority pursuit for those under 55. However, online news is strong.

Age / Print news consumption / Online news consumption

15 to 24-yers-old / 21 / 61

25 to 24-years-old / 19 / 57

35 to 44-years-old / 22 / 63

45 to 54-years-old / 44 / 56

55 to 64-years-old / 51 / 46

65-years-old / 76 / 26

The post popular UK sites by minutes-a-day

  1. Google 52 minutes
  2. Facebook 29 minutes
  3. TikTok 26 minutes
  4. Netflix 16 minutes
  5. Spotify 15 minutes
  6. Snapchat 8 minutes
  7. Twitter 5 minutes
  8. Roblox 5 minutes
  9. Verizon 5 minutes
  10. Microsoft 4 minutes

The most popular messaging apps by users

  1. WhatsApp 31.4 million
  2. Messenger 21.1 million

Nextdoor makes an appearance

The US-owned firm has started to have cut through in the UK with 3.9 million users declared.

The platform is overwhelmingly used by older users with 54 per cent of users over 54-years-old. Just two per cent are aged 18 to 24.

Audio is starting to make a mark

Clubhouse has pioneered audio chat on social media but has failed to make a lasting mark.

Just 130,000 people use the invite-only is app with Twitter launching ‘Spaces’ and Facebook experimenting with their equivalent ‘hotline.’

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.

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.

OPEN UP: What steps to make Facebook public groups more open will mean for public sector comms

When Mark Zuckerburg stood up seven months ago and promised nice new shiny toys for Facebook groups people paid attention.

One of the biggest shiniest toys is about to drop and its worth being on your radar

You probably know you can have two basic types of Facebook groups. Closed and open.

You have to be a member of a closed groups to see what people are talking about and be able to post in them yourself. Eighty per cent of community groups are closed,

Then you’ve got open groups where anyone can see what’s being debated.

As part of the change, groups that are open will allow people aren’t members of the group to comment and take part. How will they find them? You’ll see in your own timeline content from groups you aren’t a member of.

How?

Because the algorithm will point things your way based on the things you talk about and like.

So, if you talk about the Boothen End at Stoke City there’s a chance you’ll see something from an open Stoke City Facebook group where people are talking about how great the Boothen End was.

This video explains it…

You may have heard me banging on about the importance of local community Facebook groups.

Giving open Facebook groups even more reach makes them even more influential in the community. It makes them even more attractive places to post content.

That’s important.

DIGITAL VIEW: No,TikTok ads aren’t a shortcut to reach young people and crack a new platform

“We’re trying to get our heads around TikTok,” someone asked the other day. “Wouldn’t it be far simpler to advertise to reach an audience?

On the face of its a really straight forward potentially bright idea.

TikTok is hot with more than 11 milliuon UK users and mainly from the hard-to-reach U24 demographic.

Can’t you just get your credit card out and magic yourself in front of an audience?

For the purposes of reaching a younger audience in a local lockdown it feels like a magic bullet.

But I wouldn’t for these reasons

Until you’ve got to know your platform you don’t really know what good content looks like. Like chucking cash at a badly designed pdf, anything you did put money behind you may well be wasting.

Not only that, in summer 2020 TikTok advertising is very high level. You can have the UK. You can even have Wales, Northern Ireland, Scotland or England. But you can’t select your town, city or borough.

If you’re a national agency that becomes an option. If you’re Birmingham City Council it doesn’t.

For TikTok, get to know the platform

If you are sold on TikTok then spend time with the platform to see how it works so you can create something of value. Then create something of value.

Or you can advertise on YouTube

There is more than one route up the mountain. If you are trying to find a younger demographic you may want to advertise via YouTube instead.

You can select the geographic location.

And you can sort out the demographic.

Enjoy.

Picture credit: Flickr / Documerica.

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BEING HUMAN: The first 30 days of human comms… and what I’ve learned

castle-gate

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

Twitter update

  1. Hampshire Fire & Rescue’s rescued bench tweet. See here.
  2. Doncaster Council’s thread for their gritter World Cup. See here.
  3. London Fire Brigade remember the Kings Cross Fire. See here.
  4. Thames Valley Police’s drugs find. See here.
  5. Cardiff Council’s GIF traffic warning. See here.
  6. The Yorkshire motorway police officer and his wife. See here.
  7. The @farmersoftheuk Twitter account. See here.
  8. Lochaber & Skype Police talk to someone at risk of domestic abuse. See here.
  9. Kirklees Council’s GIF that reminds people that gritter drivers are human too. See here.
  10. London Midland sign-off. See here.
  11. The NHS Trust with a sense of humour. See here.

Video

  1. Doncaster Council and Jake the sweet sweeper driver. See here.
  2. The basketball playing Gainesville Police officer. See here.
  3. Sandwell Council as car share for #ourday. See here.
  4. Burger King tackles the bullies. See here.
  5. Sefton Council’s message on a national subject. See here.
  6. Bath & North East Somersets singing food hygiene certificates. See here.
  7. A Welsh hardware shop’s Christmas advert. See here.
  8. Dorset police’s Christmas somg. See here.

Facebook update

  1. Sydney Ferries name their new boat Ferry McFerry Face. See here.
  2. Queensland Ambulance Service takes a dying patient to the ocean a final time. See here.
  3. A missing dog pic from New Forest District Council. See here.

Customer service

  1. Edinburgh Council’s out-of-hours Twitter. See here.
  2. The human railway conductor’s announcements. See here.

Stopping your job to being human

  1. The busking police officer. See here.

Media interviews

  1. A newspaper interview with medics who treated Manchester bomb patients. See here.

Media comment

  1. North West Ambulance Service’s response to a man abusing a paramedic. See here.

Posters and signs

  1. Dudley Council’s spoiled tea sign. See here.
  2. Welcome to Helsinki place marketing. See here.
  3. Virgin Trains’ new trains poster. See here.

Rebuttal

  1. 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.

NICE, NICE BABY: Seven examples of good icy weather comms

twittergritter.jpg

Oh, the weather outside is frightful… and its the time to baton down the hatches.

If local government can get icy weather comms right they can keep people happy.

Here is a round-up of some content that worked well:

The myth-busting web page

There is a regular set of moans. You weren’t out. You didn’t grit. You didn’t grit enough. Having a web page like this is an excellent resource to have at your finger-tips. You can see it here.

rochdale

The video from the cab of the gritter

It’s a video that is the perfect length to work on Twitter. Less than 20 seconds and shoots down the allegation that there were no gritters out. Great work.

The snowman post

This post from the Mayor of Walsall asks people to chip in with their snowmen pics. It prompted people to respond with images from across the borough.

The video of the gritters heading out

This is perfect. Gritters loaded up and heading for the exit at the gritting depot. Evidence that the work is taking place.

The shared hashtag and the conversational response

The #wmgrit hashtag works in the West Midlands as a 20 minute journey can cut through two or three council areas. So 10 councils have joined together to share the searchable hashtag.

The news jacking of the big event

Ahead of the Merseyside derby Liverpool Council were telling people of the work that is going to take place to keep the game running smoothly. It fills a vacuum and was well shared.

Getting the message out early

With cold weather ahead this tweet to ask people to look after each other was well recieved.

Thanks to Viki Harris, Andrew Napier, Liz Grieve, Kelly Thompson, Paul Johnston and Dawn McGuigan.

30 days of human comms: #28 A newspaper interview with medics who treated Manchester bomb patients

davenport

So far in the round-up of human comms we’ve looked at digital content that the organisation has shaped itself. But it doesn’t have to be digital to be human.

More than 20 people were killed in the Manchester Arena bomb earlier this year.

Manchester as a city rallied and there was an outpouring of pride and determination.

Leading all that was the public sector across the city with police, paramedics, hospital staff, fire and the Mayor’s office.

In the very front line in all this were the paramedics and the hospital staff.

In the weeks after the bombing, the Press attention turned from the immediate impact to the stories of survival and recovery. Requests for interviews were made. But not all requests for granted.

Careful handling by Salford Royal hospital’s comms team led to a set of interviews and pictures with the local newspaper the Manchester Evening News. You can see the full story here.

Human comms is not just what you create but also what the Press can create with you.

Be more human. Like the A&S staff of Salford Royal.

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