Went to the Coventry and Warwickshire Social Media Cafe the other day, and heard a great presentation from Alison Hook from Coventry City Council on their use of Facebook, which won the Digital and Social Media gold award at the LGComms Reputation Awards.

Here are my notes, but if you want it straight from the source, Steve Rumsby also recorded Ally’s presentation using Qik – it runs to about 27 minutes.

Starting out

  • Deliberately called it Coventry – (“who would become a fan of Coventry City Council? About 5 people”)
  • Also allows them to put out press releases from partner organisations (like the Herbert Art Gallery)
  • Started November 2009 as a pilot experiment, let’s see what happens
  • Started out putting out the same press releases as on the website
  • Got 500 fans in 2 months

The snow…

  • Then came the snow, had a bit of a warning that it was coming
  • Had this automated system for putting the information on the website for headteachers to log in and notify people, which was great until lots and lots of people tried to access it at the same time
  • Went to manual system, because of the load, put the schools closures stuff in. Thought, let’s see what happens if we put it on Twitter and Facebook
  • Ended up pushing people to Facebook, saving the server load on the main website
  • People were commenting on the closures and helping each other too
  • As well as getting official information from headteachers, also from parents
  • Some kids persuaded the local media that their school was shut, Ally & team checked – it wasn’t, and put that message out through Twitter and Facebook
  • Local media were watching Twitter and Facebook, and referencing it
  • Went from 500 to 2000 users the day after the snow, and over 10,000 fans after the snow
  • Ally would warn other councils; this was all done manually. If you do it, you’ve got to follow it through
  • People did really appreciate it, lots of nice messages

The stats

Ally showed the Facebook statistics page, which gives a impressive breakdown of the sort of people that are following your page.

Age range:

  • 13-17 years  =  23%
  • 18-24 years  = 29%

…so seen as being a good way to get to young people. Fans count currently goes up at about 40 a week. It’s mostly people from Coventry, then Birmingham second. Oddly, there are 52 fans in Slough, 400-ish fans in Maidenhead.


How are you handling bad news?

  • Good example – the bins [there was much criticism of the City Council's rubbish collections during and directly after the snow]
  • If there was swearing = deletion (people don’t seem to equate swearing with abusive language…)
  • Only rebut if factually untrue
  • Often the public will join in, and there’s an element of self-moderation
  • Nice turning point when someone said “i’m fed up with all the negativity”, and it’s been a lot more positive since then

When was it set up?

  • Set up November 2009. Went from zero to 500 fans without any publicity

How were you going to get fans if you didn’t get the snow?

  • Word-of-mouth will get the message round

Where do you advertise that you’ve got a Facebook page?

  • Facebook page is linked to from the council homepage
  • Put it in the staff magazine
  • Facebook itself helps (it’s designed to help spread groups around) – “so and so has become a fan of this”
  • Facebook page is mentioned in email signatures
  • No paid-for advertising

Have numbers increased steadily since then [the snow]?

  • About 40-50 a week
  • If you put too much stuff out in a week, people will unsubscribe
  • Sometimes the team tweak the press releases for the Facebook feed
  • Writing for the web – include lots of headings
  • People won’t always read the whole piece before commenting

What guidelines do you have for posting?

  • If people are spamming, the post will be deleted
  • Blatent adverts are deleted
  • They also have a standard disclaimer on the homepage (“We reserve the right to remove, without notice, any disruptive, offensive or abusive posts. This includes posts that contain swearing or libellous statements.”)

What are your internal social media rules?

I struggled to summarise this one, but essentially it’s all bound up with their usual ICT code of conduct stuff.

Final advice

…oh and use pages rather than groups.