How we are using Facebook events at Bradford Council

We have had some success with Facebook events at Bradford Council recently. I’d like to share with you what we’ve been doing and some of the things that we’ve learnt.

For several years I had mostly disregarded Facebook events. The number of people ‘going to’ a Facebook event rarely translated into people turning up to the actual event, and a lot of people ignored all invites anyway.

But Facebook events have quietly become more relevant again. Events have become so useful for our City Park Facebook Page that we have refocused our content priorities in favour of events. Facebook events now account for three quarters of all our posts on the City Park Facebook Page.

While you can create events as an individual, or in a Facebook Group, all our recent events have started life on Facebook Pages. Here are a few things we’ve done that you might like to try.

Encourage people to subscribe to event alerts

As the admin of a Facebook Page, you can’t invite people who like your Page to an event. But you can encourage people to subscribe to your Page’s events. If someone subscribes to your Facebook events, they will get a notification every time you add a new one near them.

The Facebook Page for Bradford’s City Park has 10,000 likes, but just as importantly it has 1,000 event subscribers. That’s 1,000 people who will get a notification whenever a new event is added.

Considering how hard it can be to get organic Facebook content into people’s newsfeeds, it is a real advantage to be able to notify people every time an event is created.

We have also stopped automatically publishing new events to our timeline and to our followers’ newsfeeds. Our event subscribers will get an immediate alert for new events, but we have control over the scheduling of how new events are shared publicly to people who like the Page. This helps us spread out our Page posts, but also adds an extra incentive for people to subscribe to our events alerts. Subscribers will find out about new events a day or two earlier than people who simply like our Facebook Page.

How to change whether new Events will be published to your Page timeline
How to change whether new events will be published to your Page timeline

You can also use other channels to encourage people to subscribe to your Facebook events. You could include a subscription link in newsletters, blog posts or on Twitter. Our City Park Twitter account has this Tweet pinned to the top of our profile:

As well as promoting events subscriptions through other channels, we have also promoted specific Facebook events in other channels too. For example, our blog post about events remembering the Battle of the Somme included links to several Facebook events. Continue reading How we are using Facebook events at Bradford Council

Telling stories with Snapchat and Instagram

During the 2016 Bradford Festival I experimented with Snapchat Stories to share a behind-the-scenes account of the festival. It was a successful pilot, and I feel that both Snapchat, and Instagram’s new Stories feature, have potential for more storytelling by organisations.

Imperfect sharing and capturing the spirit of an event

Stories on Snapchat or Instagram are an ideal way to capture the spirit of an event, with a chronological narrative of how the event unfolds. Both types of Story are made up of photos and short videos that stay online for 24 hours and then disappear from your Story. So when we used our Snapchat Story at Bradford Festival, at any one point during the festival, followers could see the last 24 hours worth of snaps. Then once the festival had passed, so did our Story.

The ephemeral nature of Snapchat and Instagram Stories makes them ideal for imperfect sharing, where capturing a moment, and telling a story, is more important than quality of shot. The transient content on your Story can help bring an experience to life while your carefully crafted material is shared on your permanent Instagram feed, on Twitter and Facebook.

Snapchat is largely used by young people, and a local cultural festival is an ideal opportunity to reach out to a younger audience. This is why I chose to pilot it at Bradford Festival.

How we promoted and used our new Snapchat account

We shared our snapcode on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram in the build up to the festival to publicise our new account.  Discoverability of new accounts and audience growth is still a bit of a problem on Snapchat. About 30 people added us that weekend, which wasn’t bad given that we had only just announced our new channel. Snapchat will show you who has seen each snap in your Story, and most of those 30 people who added us went on to view our Story, so we had a pretty good engagement rate.

Our Snapchat Story for Bradford Festival included:

  • footage of the stage being set up before the festival started
  • footage from the side of the stage while artists set up gear and while they performed
  • an exclusive video message from a local performer
  • the stage being taken down the day after the festival ended.

Using Snapchat Geofilters

Snapchat’s stickers and filters add life to your content, with Geofilters helping to localise your snaps. Geofilters are pre-existing graphics or text that you can overlay on top of your snaps. Not only did I find that there are several Geofilters for Bradford, but there is also a Geofilter for City Park, the exact location of Bradford Festival. It is likely that if you use Snapchat you will also find several options for local Geofilters. Perhaps you could also encourage people in your local community to submit Geofilters to Snapchat.

Snapchat Memories changed the rules

As luck would have it, Snapchat launched its Memories feature in the UK on the weekend of Bradford Festival. This gave me the opportunity to save all of the snaps from our Story within our Snapchat acount, and even save a replica of the story itself. While we can now reshare individual snaps from our Memories, the Story itself now only exists on my phone.

One game changing feature that Memories has introduced is the ability to upload snaps edited elsewhere into a Story. Some organisations have already started to take advantage of this new storytelling method. See for example, BBC News on Snapchat, who have developed Stories specifically edited for Snapchat’s vertical display.

Making stories more of a shared experience

One potential problem with Stories is that it is quite a one-way communication, with not much in the way of open engagement. Snapchat does have a feature called Live Stories which broadens the process out from simply broadcast to participation. With Live Stories, everybody at an event can submit a snap to a collaborative Story. To use this feature at local festivals would be brilliant, but unfortunately this feature is only currently available at events Snapchat endorses.

Instagram’s clone of Snapchat Stories

Instagram’s Stories is largely a copy of Snapchat Stories, mimicking a lot of its features, although there are some key differences. I’ve seen Instagram Stories described as ‘Snapchat for adults’, but I think that’s perhaps an oversimplification of what is still largely an untested medium.

It’s certainly true that the content you share to each network should be based on what is relevant to each audience. Always consider your own unique audience, whatever the channel. Think about what is relevant to share in a Story, rather than what is technically possible to share, or what you want to share.

Instagram Stories is very intuitive to use.  Many people new to Snapchat find they way it works to be unfamiliar and difficult to get used to. Also, the placement of new Stories from at the top of the news feed means Stories are likely to be seen. The flip-side to that, however, is that as Snapchat and Instagram Stories become more used, the crowded space in both apps doesn’t lend itself to scrolling beyond the first few visible.

Always stay relevant

Also, although content in Stories can have a low quality threshold, I still feel there needs to be a high relevance threshold before sharing content. What you add to your Story should add value to your narrative and not slip into just talking about yourself. I felt the same when live streaming took off in 2015.

I’d love to know if your organisation has embraced Snapchat or Instagram Stories. Let me know in the comments below, or you can catch me on Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat or Facebook Messenger.

This post was first published on Comms2point0.

Periscope vs Facebook Live: a comparison

As Periscope or Facebook Live become more dominant in live streaming, it’s sometimes hard to know which to use.  Tap into your Twitter audience with Periscope, or just broadcast to your Facebook audience?

During two recent events in Bradford we used both Periscope and Facebook Live at the same time. This helped us reach different audiences, and was a good opportunity to directly compare the two platforms. Here’s what happened and what I have concluded from the experiments.

The Queen’s 90th birthday celebration event in Bradford


Duration: 15:20

Live viewers: 183

Replay viewers: 106

Offensive comments: 4

Facebook Live

Duration: 33:00

Total views: 2,600

Reach: 6,046

Maximum concurrent viewers: 12*

Vigil for the victims of the Orlando shooting


Duration: 48:50

Live viewers: 641

Replay viewers: 233

Offensive comments: 12

Facebook Live

Duration: 48:00

Total views: 2,100

Reach: 15,400

Maximum concurrent viewers: 15*



With my two experiments I found that Periscope (linked with Twitter) was particularly good at reaching an audience specfic for an event, sometimes people in different parts of the world who had no prior relationship with our accounts.  Whereas Facebook Live is good at reaching a large number of people in an existing audience and their friends.

Continue reading Periscope vs Facebook Live: a comparison

Reflections on #localgovcamp 2016

As I have now come to expect, this year’s LocalGovCamp was brim full of opportunities to learn and share. Here are a few of my reflections after the event.

I decided not to pitch a session this time. I have led sessions at the past few unconferences I’ve been to, but this time I wanted the flexibility that comes with not being committed to any particular room at a particular time. Plus Commscamp is just a month away and I can pitch my session ideas there.

Data maturity models

The first session I went to was Ben Proctor’s session on data maturity models. I went to this one because:

  1. I didn’t know what Ben meant by data maturity models
  2. I felt I should know what Ben meant by data maturity models

We were a small group in this session, but I felt it was productive. I learnt a lot from Ben, Esko Reinikainen and Lucy Knight, who summarised the session in a Google Doc.

I knew what data was but, as I admitted in the session, I didn’t fully understand how, when and why the word should be used.

It sometimes feels to me that data is the longest short word in the English language. A writer or speaker can convey an impression of authority simply by using the word data instead of softer words like information or statistics.

What I now understand is that data, in its truest form, is real, valid and of sound quality, and is used as evidence to inform reasoned decisions. Why has nobody told me that before? Perhaps because I hadn’t felt comfortable enough to ask what might be perceived as a naive question.

And with data maturity comes an understanding of how valuable data is, how it should be used, and how it can be presented.

For example, data presented in the form of a dial on a live dashboard is more useful than data sitting in a spreadsheet. And data sets that are linked and analysed together can be more valuable than a dataset analysed in isolation.

There is more to it than that (see the above Google doc) but they were my key learning points. From a personal perspective, my objective in attending that session was well and truly met.

Satori – personal reflection

Esko’s ‘satori’ session took me on a journey I wasn’t anticipating at the start of the day. Satori, we learnt, is a Japanese word meaning the moment at which you see your true nature. I knew I was in the right session as soon as Esko said that.

Esko began with the diagram you can see at the top of this post. The purpose of this was to illustrate that our personal potential is often stifled by our job description and the organisation we work for.

Inspired by Da Vinci’s 100 questions technique, Esko asked us to write down a short list of questions that were meaningful and pertinent to both ourselves and our working lives.

There then followed a discussion in which those of us willing to do so opened up some of our questions to the group. I won’t share what we talked about here, but it was amazingly refreshing how honest people were with their questions and also how we all responded to each other.

Sessions I missed

It is inevitable at an uconference that there will be sessions I wished I had been able to attend. This time, I would have liked to be at the session is about making local elections better, underused public space, the death of the Council newsletter, the waste standards, “dark value”, and the session on localism / increasing the talent pool. Thankfully, there are Google Docs summaries for some of these to catch up with.

The non-session bits

As ever, some of the most productive conversations to place in the courtyard between sessions. My one regret is not saying hello to more people, but that is mostly because I was already having so many useful conversations. Not a bad problem to have. Thanks to Esko, Lizzie Standing, Sharon Dale, Phil Rumens, Dyfrig Williams, Alison Hook, Ian Graham and several others for some good chats.

The next steps

So that the experience of the 2016 LocalGovCamp is not lost once I have remembered just how much I have to do at work when I get back there tomorrow, here are several things I promise myself I will do:

  1. Think more about data I have access to and how we can benefit from it
  2. Write more self reflection questions, think about them and discuss them
  3. Read blog posts and session notes from sessions I didn’t attend
  4. Share the above with colleagues

The day I met George Martin

I had the honour of meeting the late George Martin about 20 years ago, and I’ll never forget it. He was the patron of the popular music degree that I studied at the University of Salford.

One day he came in to speak to us students in the lecture theatre. After talking for a while, he turned to the students, looked at me and asked what I wanted to do when I had graduated. Quickly catching breath after an initial feeling of “oh my God, George Martin just asked me a question!” I replied that I wanted to be a rock ‘n’ roll star.

I never fulfilled that ambition, but I’m content with life, and the fact that I made George Martin smile is good enough for me.


Future Leaders at Bradford Council – reflections on my first week

Throughout this year, myself and 39 other staff at Bradford Council are undertaking the council’s Future Leaders Programme. We are the chosen ones from a pool of over 100 applicants, and I’m delighted to have a place. A schedule of learning has been set out to help us become, as the title suggests, leaders of the future. We are now one week into the programme, and here are my reflections of these early days.

Things were kicked off a week ago with a morning of talks to set the context and give us an idea of what we will be doing and what will be expected of us. I was impressed with the way Kersten England (our chief executive) spoke, incorporating our New Deal objectives into all that she said without over-emphasising the four specific New Deal work streams. Those work streams underpin the fabric of all that we do, and that came across in the way Kersten spoke.

Two things in particular from Kersten’s talk really struck me:

  • A quote from an economist who believes we are closer to the next recession then we are to the last recession.
  • Due to the unprecedented nature of the shift in funding for local government, there is no guarantee that by 2020 the Council will still directly provide any services.

When taken together, those two things highlight how important strong leadership will be over the coming years. What form that leadership will take, and where it will come from – well, that is to be seen, and is partly why we’re on this programme.

Things I learnt during that opening event include:

  • I’m capable of succeeding
  • we have a large degree of autonomy about how we progress
  • there are big inequalities both in the Council and in the district
  • I need commercial and strategic awareness
  • we need to look to tomorrow. Today has already gone. (and I don’t mean we should procrastinate!)
  • the Future Leaders Programme is not simply a receipt of information
  • I need to pay more attention to what those around me think and feel
  • I’m going to be busy!

Continue reading Future Leaders at Bradford Council – reflections on my first week

Breaking down silos

A recent episode of the Natteron podcast included a discussion about how people who work in different services, or different departments, within large public sector organisations can communicate and collaborate better and more openly. Or in other words, how to break down silos.

Team-messaging app Slack was mentioned, and Ben Proctor made a bold assertion:

“By the end of this year you’ll be able to classify local authorities as good or bad according to whether they use Slack or not.”

I followed this up on Twitter, which led to further insights from both Ben and Esko Reinikainen. I was still thinking about this when the 2016 UKGovcamp came along, so I pitched a session on breaking down those silos.

It turned out to be my favourite session at UKGovcamp. And I don’t say that because it was ‘my’ session. I didn’t have to do much other than light the fuse and make sure everyone who wanted to had the chance to contribute to the discussion. In fact, that’s what made it such a good session. That so many people had something to say, and it was such a varied debate.

Most of the excellent discussion is summarised in the live Google doc from the session and in the tweets in this Storify story.

These are a few of my take aways from the session: Continue reading Breaking down silos

My shortlisted video in the Comms2point0 #UnAwards15

I nearly changed my mind and didn’t enter the 2015 UnAwards. More on why later. I did enter in the end, and I’m glad I did so. I submitted my after-school cooking club video, which got shortlisted in the ‘best use of video’ category.

The video took just 24 hours to make. I shot it on my iPhone (using a RØDE SmartLav+ microphone for the interviews) and edited it the next day using iMovie on an iPad. While I have included the YouTube version in this blog, I made the video primarily for Bradford Council’s Facebook audience, which includes a lot of parents of school age children. The success of the video on Facebook was the main reason I chose to submit it for the UnAwards.

I have written before on this blog about video and how important it has become as a communications channel. I have also written for comms2point0 about how there is far more to video now then simply YouTube. If you want to make better videos, I can highly recommend the comms2point0 video skills workshops. My after-school cooking club video wouldn’t have been as good had I not attended one of the sessions.

Being shortlisted in the UnAwards was a nice pat on the back, and I’m glad it gave me the opportunity to look back at my work. There were some terrific videos shortlisted, and it’s good to see such creative work happening in the public sector.

The reason I had a swerve and nearly didn’t enter the UnAwards was evaluation. I need to be better at it. I produce a lot of content I am proud of, and frequently succeed in engaging residents. But I need to get better at measuring the value of my work and illustrating how my work helps Bradford Council achieve outcomes. Continue reading My shortlisted video in the Comms2point0 #UnAwards15