Cumbria is a rural county with some large towns and population spread across the county. Targeting Facebook pages and groups has become a successful way to reach people.
by Tom Gannon
At Cumbria County Council I lead the marketing activity for the recruitment of adopters and foster carers; part of our recruitment strategy involves running drop-in sessions and information events for prospective carers and adopters to come and meet our support team and carers and find out more. We use a number of online/digital comms tactics to promote these events, including both paid-for (targeted posts and boosts) and organic posts on Facebook. Cumbria is a big county, but it’s sparsely populated and predominantly rural so platforms like Facebook are often a really effective way to get messages out. Due to the spread-out geography of Cumbria and the limited resource we have campaigns are often run in districts and localities, coincidently this is how the Facebook pages and groups we use operate.
We use local ‘sell and seek’ and ‘spotted’ communities, some are groups which you join from your own personal Facebook account and some are pages which you can like as a business page. The reach figures are pretty impressive, here are a few examples:
- Spotted Carlisle - 25,000 likes (Adult pop of Carlisle is 87,000)
- Kendal Sell and Seek - 24,000 likes (Adult pop of South Lakeland is 85,000)
- Barrow in Furness Sell and Seek - 25,000 likes (Barrow adult pop is 54,000)
Cumbria Crack is another great example which has become a different beast altogether and now boasts 82,000 followers on Twitter and over 100,000 likes on Facebook, if you can blag a share or an RT it all helps. In fact, it was our biggest external referrer for website visits in a fostering campaign we ran last month.
The adult population of Cumbria is around 400,000 thousand so the above aren’t to be sniffed at, they offer an opportunity and tactic to get messages out into local communities (at very little effort and no cost). If you can time your posts right the potential reach can really help with promotion - people can then like, share, tag etc. further increasing this reach. When you’re looking for new community groups and pages sign up to them, turn on notifications and spend a few days monitoring when people post and engage – then use that knowledge.
Going back to fostering and adoption, it’s a pretty good example as it’s a sensitive subject and one many people have an opinion on. So from time to time there are negative comments, whether I post from a business page or from my own personal account. If I’m posting in a personal capacity I need to be extra careful not to express any bias, I’m simply promoting the fact the county council is looking for homes or families for children who in most cases have had a tough start in life. In the last year I’ve been using this tactic I’m yet to run into any difficulties with a group or page administrator. Like with any comms there are always risks, so consider what they might be and try to think in the shoes of the person on the receiving end. Remember most of the groups and pages have good engagement rates, so be ready to engage in conversations and to acknowledge comments and responses – you don’t own the channel so you have limited control over inappropriate responses.
Because I like/follow these groups from my personal Facebook account there’s even been times when I’ve seen people post ‘seeking’ information about fostering or adoption, so I’ve been able to comment and point them to our fostering and adoption service webpages on Cumbria.gov.uk.
On a personal level and in my spare time I used to run a blog - The Fitness Mad Foodie and found a great way to promote new posts and to drive traffic to the site was to use online groups and communities related to Health and Fitness, when I’d publish a new post I’d visit my favourite groups and post a link back to my site. Some of these groups even have dedicated threads for you to share content with other bloggers – it’s a great way to network and share content. I suppose the ‘dark social’ tactic sports brands like Adidas are using is similar.
Tom Gannon is communications officer at Cumbria County Council.
Picture credit: Documerica / Flickr