This always-on campaign was delivered against a background of local authority budget cuts to deliver real efficiency savings as a direct result. Following a thorough research phase and a small pilot, the team had to get senior management to buy-in to this unproven approach to major stakeholder communication which is no small challenge. The team should be commended for their commitment to staff training and the legacy of upskilling a wide number of employees to deliver content. On-going oversight and evaluation of data enabled them to adapt throughout the delivery. The judges were highly impressed by the levels of engagement with what can often be dry or factual content by using a mix of staff, contractors, partners and members of the public.

Finalists:

  • Alfred
    Making it #AllAboutMama for QuilityApp
  • Beattie Communications Group
    6 Steps to Potty Success for HUGGIES Pull-Ups
  • British Heart Foundation
    #RestartaHeart
  • NHS England
    Celebrating the NHS through the @NHS account
  • University of Sheffield
    Aisha’s Letter

Entry:

Brief and objectives:

We have revolutionised the way in which we use social media to inform and engage with Newcastle residents.

Our social media strategy had four goals.

To build an audience online and to use this audience to build a new relationship based on trust and a clear understanding of what the council offers with the people of Newcastle.

To ‘democratise’ content creation by pioneering the use of short videos filmed on a smartphone, allowing any member of staff to reach out to that audience.

To push forward ‘channel shift’, where online communication with the council becomes the first recourse for people in the city.

  1. To build an online audience
  2. To increase digital engagement
  3. To democratise content creation
  4. To push forward ‘channel shift’.

 

Rationale behind campaign, including research and planning:

The strategic concept at the heart of the campaign was to present the council as being ‘like’ the people we were addressing – to say: “We are like you.”

We wanted to create for the council an online ‘voice’ which was friendly, familiar, and engaging.

Anecdotal evidence showed the council was not liked, respected, or trusted – and that people did not really understand what the council did or how it worked.

If we could show the council was made up of people working on the frontline to bring them the best possible service in straitened times, we would go some way to building this relationship of trust.

 

Strategy and tactics, including the types and variety of social media utilised, creativity and innovation:

Research showed we needed to shift our social media focus to Facebook and to provide attention grabbing content favoured both by the people of Newcastle and by Facebook’s own algorithms – and more of it.

Until January 2016, our social media policy had been to use Twitter to signpost council events or services, and to respond to customer services enquiries. We used Facebook intermittently and YouTube less so.

But for our local news providers, Facebook had become by far the most significant audience driver to their website, with top stories gaining more than 100K views in less than 24 hours.

We needed to build a Facebook audience built on the newspaper model, but using content unique to us that would resonate with our users.

Using online data, we identified which people were using our social media channels and the way in which they did so.

The data showed Facebook and Twitter were for the council the most important platforms – and that despite our far greater Twitter following, Facebook delivered more in terms of engagement.

Our Facebook users were in the most part women aged between 25 and 44, who accessed our Facebook content on their mobile telephones.

Our research showed short videos tailored to the mobile telephone and posted natively to Facebook could be designed to ‘play’ the Facebook algorithm – which measures the social media value of a post – in order that it was disseminated far and wide across the social media network.

This would maximise reach (which is the number of people to see a post online) and engagement (which is the number of interactions including comments, likes, and shares) to that post.

 

Implementation of tactics:

Phase 1 – Adapt Facebook page using video, as an example to staff and to begin to build audience.

Phase 2 – Train up communications and policy team in how best to use social media to get our message across, including video training.

Phase 3 – Publish according to a schedule to provide a flow of content.

Phase 4 – Analyse data and adapt to what works best.

Phase 5 – Use data to identify ways in which we can continually adapt and improve our social media content, to increase engagement with the audience captured online.

Newcastle City Council’s new approach to social media began on January 4 and has since that date seen our social media followers on Facebook more than double and our reach and engagement go through the roof – they are now on average 500 times better than they were in December 2015.

This means on a quiet day our social media posts reach more than 15K people.

A single impactful post can reach more than 100K people.

Before this, the average reach for a day on social media was in the low 100s.

 

Measurement and evaluation:

The online data is reviewed daily to help us improve and adapt the social media service we offer.

It is a way of working which has meant continuing radical change to the way we do things.

Channel shift – by which we refer more people to the city council’s website – is the true measure of the campaign’s success.

Google analytics shows we have increased visits to the city council’s website by 253 per cent.

We have increased page views on the city council’s website by 584 per cent.

And we have increased pages viewed per session by 63 per cent.

2015 2016 Percentage increase:

  • Social media referrals: 2015: 23,344, 2016: 82,614, Percentage increase: 253%
  • Page views from social media referrals: 2015: 40,141, 2016: 274,755, Percentage increase: 584%
  • Pages per session from social media referrals: 2015: 1.86, 2016: 3.04, Percentage increase: 63%
  • Facebook reach: 2015: 682,000, 2016: 11,100,000, Percentage increase 1,527%.

 

Budget and cost effectiveness:

The budget for the campaign has so far been a zero cost to the council.

For this we have delivered what we consider to be the most innovative and forward thinking social media offering of any council in the country.

Our social media posts cover issues as wide ranging as the introduction of new road traffic cameras, the provision places for children at community nurseries, controversial road works schemes, volunteering, community and infant health, and have supported campaigns for fostering, litter prevention, against child abuse, and to promote social workers and social care.

In 2015 we achieved a social media reach of 682K – our posts describing issues affecting the people who live in our city had been seen 682K times.

By the end of December 2016 our social media reach for that year was 11.1m.