LONG READ: Where WhatsApp sits in the media landscape and how public sector communicators can use it

We’ve reached the point where it is more of a risk NOT using WhatsApp as a comms tool than use it.

That’s the firm conclusion I’ve reached sifting through the evidence, data and research.

I’ll take you through all that and then I’ll talk about how you can negotiate the pitfalls and risk.

The data low-down on WhatsApp

Firstly, what is WhatsApp? It’s a US-based Facebook-owned messaging service founded in 2009 to connect mobile phone numbers to the internet by sending messages, video, calls and location. You can also use it on the web so long as your mobile device is switched on and connected to the internet.

In the UK, Ofcom say that 30.7 million people use it. That’s around half the population. It’s the most popular app in the UK in 2019 and 2020, according to Audience Insights. And all ages use it. It’s as close to being the all demographic magic bullet.

The numbers are incredible. Ofcom say that between seven and eight out of 10 of ALL under 54s use it and almost half over 65s. They are astounding numbers.

Why communicators are hesitant

There’s a few reasons why comms people are not charging full tilt at using it. Firstly, they’ve got plenty on already using the channels they are.

Secondly, buried in WhatsApp’s terms and conditions is the news that you are not supposed to use WhatsApp as a business tool. You’re supposed to use WhatsApp for Business which is their gateway for business to reach the 1.2 billion global users. If you’re a private company this could mean using the WhatsApp API as companies like KLM have done. Anecdotally, this route isn’t open to the public sector in the UK.

The evidence in favour of using WhatsApp is overwhelming.

So, what can you do?

Well, you can’t have two WhatsApp accounts on the same phone. This basically means buying a cheap mobile phone to download WhatsApp for Business account. So long as this is charged up and connectged tyo the internet you can download a dashboard top your laptop.

The next problem is our old p[al GDPR. You can’t just shovel phone numbers into your new WhatsApp for Business account and crack on. You can sign people up through your Facebook page if its linked to your WhatsApp for Business or you can point people to the QR code or URL. If you put some terms of use when people sign-up you should be fine for GDPR.

On top of all this, the analytics for WhatsApp right now are poor. Your message disappears into WhatsApp and you don’t see how much engagement there is. It’s a Facebook platform so this will change, I’m sure but there’s examples of people changing behaviour in part influenced by WhatsApp.

What does a WhatsApp for Business broadcast list do?

The place you want people to sign-up to is the WhatsApp for Business broadcast list.

What does this mean?

Basically, this means you can send one-way broadcast messages to up to 256 contacts and those contacts don’t see everyone else’s phone numbers and names as they would do in a WhatsApp group. You also don’t have the conversation hijacked by someone looking to undermine your message. So, Coke messages would not be diluted by someone sharing a Pepsi promotion. Or a vaccine message wouldn’t be undone by a 5G conspiracy theorist.

But the 256-contact limit is less of a sticking point than you’d think.

The 256-limit is a red herring

Of course, it would be great if WhatsApp was  a kind of mailchimp substitute where you hoovered-up phone numbers and blasted them messages. The fact it isn’t makes it virgin territory for marketeers and if you can get your messages onto the network there’s more chance of it landing.

The best use of WhatsApp I’ve seen has come from a political pressure group who asked recipients to sign-up advised who to vote for in internal elections and then – this is the killer – asked them to forward the message onto other Party members.

So, in other words, if you get 10 people signed-up and they forward them onto another 10 you can get to 100 very easily.

Of course, it depends on the message that you are sending but the truth is you don’t need big numbers to start to reach people. Think of it as a Ponzi scheme for social good. You get a message and you pass it on.

It’s how Hackney Council used WhatsApp in the first weeks of lockdown to reach the observant Jewish population who didn’t use the internet. They listened to the Jewish community and understood that WhatsApp was the preferred method of keeping in touch. So they created content with WhatsApp in mind and people in the community did the rest.

Why WhatsApp is so powerful

Aside from the numbers, there’s another reason why WhatsApp is so powerful. It’s called ‘social normative theory’.

This basically means that you are more likely to be receptive to a message from your peers. Oner NHS person during a training session where we were looking at WhatsApp complained that she’d feel as though a message from the NHS on WhatsApp would be intrusive. She’s right. It would be. But that’s just it. Social normative theory means that it’s a message not from the NHS but from your brother Andy, your Mum or Dad or maybe Joanne who you work with. It flies under the radar and it’s beautiful.

Research shows that there is more misinformation on messenger platforms that across the open web. When it comes to something COVID-19 that means you can’t not be there.

Ways to use WhatsApp

There’s a range of ways to use WhatsApp. If I was working in the public sector the first thing I’d do is create a WhatsApp broadcast list for that town, city or borough’s COVID-19 news. I’d ask people in the organisation to sign-up then I’d extend it to community leaders and anyone who fancied signing up. Then I’d send them messages.

Or, it maybe that you are looking carefully at the data and you spot that the Yemeni population aren’t responding to Public Health messages and they tell you that WhatsApp is a favoured channel. At this point, it makes sense to buy a cheap £20 mobile phone to send a message to this group. You’d spend more on a display ad in the local paper or a boosted Facebook ad.

One thing to note is that if you are looking to send a video or picture plus words you need to send two separate messages.

The difference WhatsApp makes

In Singapore, the Government WhatsApp channel for COVID-19 gives out official information in four different languages. You can pick which one you’d like.

Such is the reach of the channel that around 10 per cent of the population have signed-up. Chances are those one-in-ten are forwarding the messages on to others in the population.

Researchers Liv & Tong in their research p[aper ‘Demographic data influencing the Impact of coronavirus-related misinformation on WhatsApp’ showed that severe mental health incidents were reduced by 7.9 per cent. At a time when health services are being stretched to breaking point this has real value.

This is why, dear reader, that it is more risk NOT using it than using it.

Research I carried out in May 2021 showed that just six per cent of communicators were using WhatsAopp as a communications channel. Of those that weren’t, 26 per cent said they were likely to use to use it and 26 per cent were unlikely. Almost half were undecided.

There is a small but growing user base of communicators who are experimenting with the platform. The innovators include Public Health Wales, Hackney Council, Watford Council and Sandwell & West Birmingham NHS Trust.

The evidence for using WhatsApp is overwhelming.

What you waiting for?

You can learn more about WhatsApp and other emerging channels as part of the ESSENTIAL COMMS SKILLS BOOSTER workshops I run.

CATCH-UP: My five most clicked on posts and links of 2020 you may have missed

Here you go.

Here’s my five most clicked on posts and five most clicked links from my weekly email.

Clipped: I watched the 100 best TikTok videos to find the optimum length of a post

Here’s a weird one. I couldn’t find a clip talking about optimum video length for TikTok so I did the research myself in early 2020. It’s still generating traffic.

TikTok used to be a maximum of 15 seconds but has increased to 60 seconds.

The results?

The average length of the top 100 was just over 15.6 seconds – rounded up to 16 seconds.

While creators are able to make longer video the optimum length would appear to be shorter.

You can read the post here.

High numbers: The UK social media and messaging user data you need for 2021

Here’s a round-up of data for communicators in 2021 from the extensive and rather handy Ofcom data.

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.

You can read the post here.

2021 numbers: Ofcom media & stats for the UK

Another round of data for communicators crunched.

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

‘Changed lots.’

You can read the post here.

Like practice. How do I practice a Facebook Live without anyone seeing it?

Here’s another that was created several years ago but Google search has pushed it high up the rankings.

I get it. You like the idea of Facebook Live but you just don’t like the idea of looking stupid in front of your friends. Well relax. This is for you.

You can read the post here.

Guest post. Learning how to better communicate with diverse communities during COVID-19

Polly Czoik from Hackney Council’s astonishingly helpful post on reachuing diverse communities.

Each phase of the pandemic has unwrapped new challenges. Now we have a vaccine, why aren’t people coming forward to take it? Polly Cziok talks about the groundbreaking work the London Borough of Hackney have been involved with to map their diverse communities, listen to them, create bespoke content for them and then refine it. People want to be informed not manipulated. It’s an approach that is starting to work.

You can read the post here.

Popular links

Tweets as images of text

Madeline Sugden’s post chimed with people. It maps why social contact can often be inaccessible to a chunk of people.

Now a year on, the issue of inaccessible information in text graphics continues. Over the last few days, we’ve again seen organisations choosing to respond to issues with a statement in a graphic with no other way of reading it. 

We can’t let this be the norm and let it go unchallenged. Social media needs to be a place which is accessible to everyone. We all need to do our bit. Being busy or not thinking about it is not an excuse.

You can read it here.

Only Your Boss Can Cure Your Burnout

Here’s a sign of the times. The Atlantic’s post on overwork was one of the most popular links of the year.

There’s also been burnout creep recently—people might talk about “midlife-crisis burnout” or being “burned out on Pilates.” But at its core, burnout is a work problem. Though wellness influencers might suggest various life hacks to help push through pandemic torpor, actual burnout experts say that tips and tricks are not the best way to treat the condition.

You can read it here.

Facebook advertising in 2021: 6 most valuable tips for beginners

This practical guide proved to be useful.

It’s not 2016 anymore – the era of a relatively easy organic reach is long gone. There have been lots of updates on the Facebook algorithm during the last couple of years. Most important of them being the way posts appear in the feed.

You can read the post here.

How to tell stories with maps

The story of Dr John Snow plotting cholera deaths and working out it was coming from an infected pump is a thing of wonder.

The result was the famous Cholera Map, which proved that infections were concentrated around a specific water pump — which was itself connected to a local cholera-ridden cesspit.

John Snow’s findings transformed how public authorities responded to the disease. They also contributed to the revolution in sanitation infrastructure in London — and other cities around the world — in decades to come.

You can read more here.

Cumbria County Council’s home COOVID-19 test video

Abi, the daughter of a comms person, starred in this video which came at a time when we were trying to work out how testing worked.

Secondary pupils will do regular COVID-19 tests when they go back to school and many are anxious about it. To help, Abi offered to demonstrate what doing a test involves. She was pretty nervous herself but now she knows it’ll be OK. Please share with your children if they are worried and you think it will help.

You can watch it here.

PRESENT TIP: The universal truth of Mums, Dads and Aunts and Uncles and good sharable content

Let me tell you a secret.

The single truth that works just as well today as it did on my first day in a newsroom is this…

‘News is people.’

Back then, I was told to put people in photographs that would appear in the paper so Mums, Dads and aunts and uncles would buy extra copies of the paper and maybe a photographic print.

Today, I want people in the social content because they’ll share it online and so will Mums, dads and aunts and uncles.

Put people in your content.

I train communications people to be better communicators. You can find out more here.

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.

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.

NUMBERS: I’ve read the global web index social media report 2021 so you don’t have to

Data is always good to take a look at as it shows an ever changing landscape.

Here, the Global Web Index report gives some useful social media data that’s relevant for 2021. You can download your own copy of the report here.

The impact of the pandemic

When the pandemic started, social media bucked a trend and became more social. People turned from passive consumers back to creating content and talking to each other.

Keeping in touch with loved ones has become the most important reason for using social media.

In the UK, we spend one hour 46 minutes a day on social media.

We don’t always trust them but we rely on them

Social media, the report says, doesn’t have large amounts of trust but we have come to rely on it for news. connecting and entertainment.

But social media causes anxiety

In the UK

Facebook remains the UK’s favourite with 22 per cent naming it as their most favoured platform.

Globally, Instagram is tops with under 24s, Messenger with Millennials (24 to 37-year-olds), WhatsApp with 38 to 56-year-olds who are also known as Generation X with those older favouring Facebook.

Augmented Reality in social media has become a trend

No doubt becaise of the pandemic, but Augmented Reality – AR – has emerged as a comnsistent trend. AR gives people the flavouir of beinbg somewhere else. With people confined to the house for long stretches in 2020 no wonder this has emergeed.

Public sector chums may be looking enviously at Pepsi’s AR marketing where QR codes on bottles unlocked video. But as with all trends they will become affordable and achievable.

Livestreaming has come of age

Interestingly, live feeds have become increasingly important globally with more than 90 per cent of TikTok users live streaming and almost 50 per cent of Facebook users watching a live feed.

Each platform has a purpose

One thing I really liked about the GWI report was the classification of each platform into its purpose. It’s rue. They do different things.

Facebook / Messenger

  1. Messeage friends and family.
  2. Post and share photos and videos.
  3. Keep up to date with news and the world.

Instagram

  1. Post and share photos and video.
  2. Find funny or emntertaining content.
  3. Follow or find infio on brands.

LinkedIn

  1. Keep up to date with news and the world.
  2. Find funny or entertaining content.
  3. Post and share photos or video.

Twitter

  1. Keep up to date with news and the world.
  2. Find funny entertaining content.
  3. Follow or find info about products or brands.

Snapchat

  1. Post or share photos or video.
  2. Find funny or entertaining content.
  3. Message friends and family.

TikTok

  1. Find funny entertaining content.
  2. Post and share photos or video.
  3. Keep up to date with news and the world.

Stories are sticking

Many people I’ve spoken to have scratched their heads with stories. They are the shortlived upright streams tacked onto the main social channels. But the GWI report does show people are engaging with them.

On Snapchat more than 90 per cent use them while on Instagram the figure is above 70 per cent which is marginally ahead of Facebook.

If brands want their audience to know something, they should wrap exciting, memorable content around that something and repeat, repeat, repeat.

GWI Social Media report, 2021

Conclusions

As with all global studies that have a UK element, the data is there to be used not for sharp corrections of direction but like a fishing boat captain an eye on the horizon for sunshine and black clouds.

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.

NO COMMENT: Facebook may allow you to ban comments on posts… but is this a good idea?

Can it be true…? Facebook look as though they are bringing in the ability to ban comments on updates to pages.

The widely reported move looks as though it is being introduced after a court ruling in Australia which found that page admins were legally responsible for comments.

Understandably, some admins will be responding with glee at this news.

It must be tough to switch on the laptop at 8am and we faced with a wall of crap from anti-vaxxers. people complaining about potholes, too many bins, not enough bins and a load of other things beside.

So, switch off comments as default?

Some will undoubtedbly say ‘yes please!’ to this news.

But it got me thinking to how this may impact on the delivery of your message.

Blocking comments will undoubtedly see less interactions with a post. There’ll be no too-ing and frow-ing of conversation and debate either in support or against.

So what?

Well, trouble is, comments and discussion scores really well with the Facebook algorithm that enables your post to float higher organically into more people’s timelines. No comments? No algorythmic brownie points.

There’s the argument, and I’ve some time for that, that says that organic reach is so blunted these days anyway it probably won’t make loads of difference.

You’ve also got the additional issue is the accusation that your organisation are acting against he spirit of democracy. Look, everyone! It’s cancel culture! You bunch of snowflakes! There may be something in this but this kind of shouting sort of underlines the need to remove comments in the first place.

Besides, Twitter did something like this recently when they gave the ability to limit who replies to posts and the sky didn’t fall in.

Besu

Besides from organic reach you do have two other ways to boost your reach. You have boosted posts that involve you spending money and you also have the steps you take to drop the post into a Facebook group, too.

The bottom, line in all of this is that blocking comments isn’t without impact on your communications.

You’ll need to balance that on a case-by-case basis before you post.

TALES OF COVID: Public sector communication: How was your COVID-19? Tell us, so we can record the stories, content and recollections.

We are launching an independent project for public sector communicators to record their stories and experiences of working to communicate COVID-19. The independent ‘Tales of Covid’ project is being launched to record memories, highs, lows and content during a tough chapter of all our lives. You can contribute.  Kerry Sheehan, UK Government Communication Service, CIPR Board Director and Public Services Group Chair and Dan Slee, digital communications consultant explain how.

The Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic is the biggest global story in generations.

A year ago, as UK national lockdown restrictions were being put on us all, public sector communicators did not know how it would unfold.

12-months later, the public sector communication profession in the UK has been a key component, continually showing its value to the ongoing national, local and regional response day, in, day out.

Communicators undertook the most important and biggest reaching work of their professional lives. The profession further elevated its value and status with decision makers.

To mark the enormous contribution public sector communicators have made to the UK’s national response, nationally, regionally, locally, across government, local government, health, emergency services and agencies – supporting to fight the pandemic on the ground – we would like to put together a collection of anecdotes and stories from UK public service communicators.

The collection, Tales of COVID, will form a commemorative book to mark the year of those first national lockdown restrictions, which would catapult our profession into the front line like never before. A time when there wasn’t a playbook and a time when our profession came together as collaborative partners like never before.

Tales of COVID will also serve as an historic record on the vital part public sector communicators have all played in the UK’s national response.

We truly believe it is important to document our experiences as communicators, those who threw all their mite behind fighting the virus whilst the world was brought to a standstill.

Furthermore, it is also important for the PR profession to have an historical record of one of the biggest crisis communication undertakings we have seen.

The book will also enable the profession to reflect on the momentous, tough, turbulent year it has been for our own, truly a year like no other.

The collection will be shaped by the contributions we receive, so it is by the public sector communication profession for the profession.

If you would like to feature, please send us your 250-word summaries of anything you would like us to consider for inclusion. Items can include your reflections, memories, something you had to overcome at pace, new ways of working, any tough situations, and how you felt as the enormity of the pandemic took over our work and our lives.

You can contribute to Tales of Covid through this Google Form here.

We would like this to be an account of how it actually was for our public sector communicators rather than glossing over the not so good and really tough parts.

It is your lived history, it is what you did, how you felt, how you coped – or didn’t – what you were proud of or what your lowest point was. It is part content guide, part social history and part honest reflection while the campaign is still ongoing.

Please do not contribute anything deemed officially sensitive. We would like this collection to be a raw account about how you, as public sector communicators, have got through working on the pandemic at continued pace for the past 12 months with many twists and turns along the way.

You may also have some funny anecdotes you’d like to submit or some nice stories of how you pulled together as a team, citing ‘you’re on mute’ and waving at colleagues through the screen. We’d like to tell COVID as it has been for our profession.

Once we have a good selection of summaries, from all four UK nations, we’ll put in place a Tales of Covid Editorial Group. We will put out a call for this at a later date and members will support going through submissions. We may then come back to you for a longer piece.

We would also like to include a roll call of all UK public sector communicators who have worked on the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, no matter how big or small to recognise your amazing contribution.

At a later date, we plan to hold a series of Tales of COVID launch events – either virtually or who knows one day in person – across the UK where we hope public sector communicators will drop in to so we can say ‘thank you’ and reflect together on an historic time for our profession and how we all became the best collaborative partners we’ve ever been.

If you would like to be included in Tales of COVID, please submit a 250-word summary account with your name, job title and organisation by Friday April 30.

Alternatively, you can just submit your name, job title and organisation to be included in the roll call of UK public sector communicators who supported to fight COVID-19.

Kerry Sheehan, UK Government Communication Service, CIPR Board Director and Public Services Group Chair and Dan Slee is a digital communications consultant. The project is independent of any communications group or body.

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