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.

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

Periscope and the rise of live streaming

Live streaming isn’t new, but since the launch of Meerkat and then Periscope it has suddenly become the big talking point in social media.

I’ve had the Periscope app for about a week. It is far from perfect, and I’m sure there will be several iterations over the coming months.

Think twice before live streaming

Periscope’s simple point-and-stream interface partly explains why live streaming has suddenly taken off.  However, if we are going to live stream more, we need to be a little more circumspect about when we do so. Particularly as Periscope sends an alert any time someone you follow starts a new live stream.

I was never that bothered about seeing a photo of your meal. I certainly don’t want to watch you eating it.

I haven’t broadcast anything on Periscope yet. Being able to do a thing doesn’t automatically make that thing interesting.

Then there are the ethics of when to live stream, and whether we should be watching. There are times when logic and compassion should override the individual’s desire for a dopamine rush.

The vertical vice

Periscope currently only works in portrait mode. Until recently I felt strongly that shooting vertical video was a heinous act. Our eyes are side by side and we see the world in landscape. TV and film is always widescreen, so our own videos should be too. However, I am softening my stance on this.

Continue reading Periscope and the rise of live streaming

If you start a Tweet with a @username, few people will see it

There is a little-known rule on Twitter that stops some of your Tweets from being seen by all your followers.

If you start a Tweet by mentioning another user (your Tweet begins with the @ symbol) only a fraction of your followers will see this Tweet. Only the people who follow both you and the account you mention will be able to see this Tweet in their home timeline. For example, let’s say @bradfordmdc Tweeted this:

“@CityParkBD will be plunged into semi-darkness tonight as BBC Stargazing Live comes to Bradford. “

Approximately one third of @bradfordmdc’s Twitter followers also follow @CityParkBD. It is only those mutual followers who would be able to see the above Tweet in their timeline. In other instances (comparing two accounts that are not so closely related) this figure could be much lower. Continue reading If you start a Tweet with a @username, few people will see it

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