From jamaican olympians to artsfest: social media for the uk's second city

It can be varied looking after Birmingham City Council's social media events covering everything from artsfest to the visit of the Jamaican London 2012 Olympic Games team.

by Guy Evans

I am the full time social media officer for Birmingham City Council (UK), this involves looking after the corporate facebook, twitter and google+ accounts which have been up and running since January this year.

It is on any given day, exciting, challenging and rewarding, as we come to terms with social media becoming a front line tool for engagement and a channel for customer enquiries.

Top tip - use the Michael Grimes (aka citizensheep) flowchart taken from the US Air Force and redesigned for public sector UK as a standard for handling online criticism and responding. Endorsed by LG Communications and available in their guidelines for social media.

I also look after various social media accounts for council events.

We have a number of facebook pages for events which I admin, the best established of these is the Birmingham Frankfurt Christmas Market with over 18,500 followers since 2009. We literally have a worldwide following, exporting the brand of the Market (and the city council) across the globe.

One of the reasons it’s been so successful is because we allow people to post directly to the timeline (all our events pages allow you to do this). This means people have conversations between themselves, on what, where and when etc. all we’re doing is giving the public the platform to communicate with each other. Some of the pages we have are run by service areas themselves, I just keep an eye on them and advise on best practice.

One of the best is Birmingham Nature Centre which is a lovely little resource in the heart of Birmingham and well worth a visit. Because the content is really visual, the page works really well and we find visitors sharing their photos of the animals with us.

I’m also ‘Birmingham Culture’ which supports, well, culture in Brum, not just our own events, but the city’s arts in general. I’m interested in using as many online channels to do this as possible, check out our facebook, twitter, flickr, pinterest, YouTube and n0tice accounts.

The people who ‘like’ us on Facebook are different to the people who ‘follow’ us on twitter, flickr and pinterest are different again. By sharing images and messages across lots of platforms we interact with lots of different groups of people spreading the culture of the city.

Our YouTube channel was really useful for promoting the USA and Jamaican Track and Field Teams who trained in the city prior to the Olympics.

We recorded quick one take interviews with athletes, uploaded these and shared them on twitter often by making links to the athletes themselves, who then shared with their followers. We’ve had over 10,000 views worldwide – the most popular featuring Tyson Gay.

For one weekend of the year I am artsfestUK on twitter (helping out our Events team who normally manage the account). Artsfest is one of the biggest free arts festivals in the UK and brings over 200,000 people into the city. With hundreds of events and thousands of performers it generates lots of interest online.

I use a combination of Twitter accounts including artsfestUK to spread news of headline events and retweet what other people are saying. Between us we generated 1,580,687 impressions on twitter reaching 403,263 individual accounts.

That’s an awful lot of people talking about our event.

We also have a facebook page and a public flickr group which we invite people to join and my brilliant colleague Simon Gray live streamed some events through twitter using bambuser.

There’s no doubt using social media to promote events works a treat. And it’s free. It also allows us to listen to what the public think of the events we put on, and this helps us plan better events for the people of Birmingham. I really rate Sarah Lay’s presentation “Magic Numbers” which sets out how to evaluate social media for local government and learn how to do it better.

You can a view list of facebook and twitter accounts for Birmingham City Council, plus some other stuff here

Find me on twitter as @aguyinbrum or

Guy Evans is social media communications officer at Birmingham Cit Council.

Picture credit.

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