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

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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

Facebook video – enjoy it while you can

We have all seen organic reach falling on Facebook, but I’ve had remarkable success with Facebook videos recently.

This video of Victorian tunnels in Bradford reached over 50,000 people, being shared 300+ times, within its first five days:

That video didn’t take long to put together. I filmed it on an iPhone and edited it on an iPad. It was online within a couple of hours of me donning a hard hat to enter the tunnels.

To put the 50,000+ reach of that video into some sort of context, Bradford Council’s Facebook page has fewer than 2,000 likes, and other recent posts have an average reach of just a few hundred people. The tunnels video has been by far the most successful Facebook post Bradford Council has ever published.

But even before that freakish success, I had observed a trend, with videos on our Facebook page outperforming other post types:

Another recent video that did well was one announcing the sudden closure of one of our customer service centres due to wind damage. It was a far from brilliant video, but that didn’t matter. It seems that using Facebook video for news items is working well.

Continue reading Facebook video – enjoy it while you can

Vine and Instagram videos in local government

I had wanted to experiment with Vine and Instagram videos for a while. I wanted to see if they could be an effective way of engaging people with local government and promoting council services. The need to promote the Bradford Council app was an ideal time to try.

I chose to highlight just one feature of the app – the alert which reminds people of their bin collections. It only takes a few seconds to say how the app can help people remember their bin day, so short form videos seemed a good option. Here are our two creations, first on Instagram and then on Vine:

Never forget your bin day – download the Bradford Council app. #localgov #app

A post shared by Bradford Council (@bradfordmdc) on

Although Bradford Council doesn’t currently have many followers on Vine or Instagram, my hope is that people will appreciate these videos and will share them via Twitter and Facebook respectively, where we have a greater chance of reaching our customers. Continue reading Vine and Instagram videos in local government

Videos to help with Council benefits

Customers who receive Bradford Council benefits often contact us with questions about notification letters. As well as FAQs (which included both text and images), this year we have also made two videos.

These videos replicate, as far as possible, the experience of a customer service advisor talking through a benefit notification.

I wrote the scripts together with face-to-face staff, who knew the types of queries they got and how best to answer them. While writing the scripts, a colleague showed me an online video bill for her digital TV subscription. This both confirmed that we were onto a good idea, and also amazed me.

Continue reading Videos to help with Council benefits