Here are some top tips from the person behind one of the best council Facebook pages around
1. Allow people to post on your page – It's good for interaction and gets people talking. It’s also much easier to monitor. Disabling posts on your page means people can only ask you something by commenting on one of your posts - it's easy to miss these comments.
2. Respond to questions – You can't reply to every single comment and question, especially during very busy times (we had hundreds of comments a day on the Sandwell page during the snow earlier this year). But do reply to people who post on your wall – don’t ignore them. Responding, even if it’s just by liking their post, will make them feel acknowledged and encourage them back to your page in future.
3. Get rid of the recommendations box – People often mistake it for the option to post on a page, and you can't reply to them. Often they’re asking a question or making a complaint, and you can’t respond or help them. To get rid of the recommendations box you need to lose your page’s map, but I think it’s a fair trade off. Go to Edit Page > Update Info. Uncheck the box below the map that says "Show this map on the page". Tada!
4. Ask yourself - do you really need the new “Reply to comments function”? – Personally, I find it difficult to follow comments on a page that uses this function. As an admin, I also found it made it harder to monitor my pages as people’s comments were no longer in chronological order – and users often didn’t use the Reply button as it was intended - which makes things a bit jumbled. Check if you’re using this option unwittingly – if you don’t want it and you want comments shown chronologically (like they used to be), go to Manage Permissions and uncheck the “Allow replies to comments on my Page” box.
5. Monitor your page – We tend to sign off on a Friday afternoon to tell people we’ll be back on Monday because we don’t often post over the weekend. But we do keep an eye on the page outside office hours just in case something needs responding to urgently, or if there is an emergency.
6. Get your camera out – Photos are more likely to be liked or shared than links – which means they will be seen by more people. When you share a photo or video and a link at the same time, create a friendly URL if you can eg www.sandwell.gov.uk/holidays so people know where they are going when they click it. It also means the link doesn’t sprawl all over your photo – particularly important for the new newsfeed view currently being rolled out.
7. Post on other pages from your page – Interacting with other pages gets your name out there. Like other local or relevant pages and look out to see if you can add to their conversations. Share posts from other pages too, and ask if they will do the same for you.
8. Be human - There’s nothing that will turn people off your page quicker than warning people about “inclement weather” when what you really mean is snow. And say “I” or “we” rather than “the council”. It reminds people there's a human being updating your Facebook page. Use smiley faces where appropriate J
9. Plan when you’re going to post – If you post several times in quick succession you run the risk of a) boring people, or b) people not seeing all of your updates. Three updates maximum spread out through the day seems to work for me, with more in times of emergency or if there's something specific going on (such as bad weather, or a big event). And if you don’t post some days, then that’s fine too.
10. Don't think of Facebook as being like Lord of the Rings - It's not one to rule them all. Have one for the org but have others to connect to places, like a museum or a park.
11. Don't call it something dull - Think of something that would appeal to those out there and not what the organisation calls it. So, that Oxdown Council Draft Unitary Development Plan Facebook Page should stay sleeping with the fishes.
Claire Bustin is Press Officer at Sandwell Council