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

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

Video subtitles are essential, not just an optional extra

We all know how video is taking over the Internet, and this is opening up lots of exciting possibilities. But sadly, closed captions (or subtitles) are often thought of as an optional extra, if they are thought of at all. The truth is very different.  Unless your video makes perfect sense without sound, you really must add captions.

Think of a deaf person, or someone without a working soundcard, or someone looking at their phone on a noisy bus. Adding captions instantly makes your videos more accessible to more people. And those people will thank you for it. In fact, if you work in the public sector, it is illegal to make services online inaccessible to disabled users..

How to add subtitles on YouTube and Facebook

There are several ways to add subtitles to a YouTube video. The most fiddly, but the way I recommend, is to create and upload an SRT file.  I say “fiddly”, but it is not difficult, and is worth the effort. You can make an SRT file using a text editor like Notepad.

If you have the patience to do it this way you will actually be saving time, because you can then reuse the same subtitles file elsewhere, such as for Facebook video captions. By the way, you are publishing your videos directly to Facebook as well as YouTube, aren’t you?

If you don’t add your own captions to YouTube, they have software that “listens” to the audio and this makes a pretty good attempt at adding captions to your videos.  But these automatic captions are nearly always littered with errors. Not only is this a problem for people who rely on captions, but inaccurate subtitles will also make you look unprofessional, or even a little foolish. For example, count the errors on this by Nestlé:

Going back to our friend sat on a noisy bus, Facebook has clearly given this person some thought too.  If you are using Facebook’s mobile app and a native video crops up in your newsfeed, subtitles will automatically be shown. That’s a simple, yet very smart move by Facebook.

Continue reading Video subtitles are essential, not just an optional extra

Harkive: the 6 ways I heard music today

For the past couple of years I have contributed to the annual Harkive research day, sharing my listening habits during the course of one day. Last year I was even lucky enough to win a delightful bundle of music on Static Caravan Records for my efforts.

There are a number of different ways that I listen to music at the moment. I didn’t employ them all today, but I did use almost as many ways of documenting my listening as I did actually doing the listening itself.

I now realise I was a little too objective in describing my listening habits today. So I will add a bit of context now.

I’m not sure if the first one really counts. I do often wake with a song in my head, and today’s was one of my favourite songs from the new Wilful Missing album.

Listening on my way to work helps me get an early fix of music and I also find it helps to focus my mind.

I use SoundCloud like a musical Twitter at the moment. I follow various record labels and artists to find out what new music is on the horizon. That’s how I come across gems like this one:

Continue reading Harkive: the 6 ways I heard music today