A turbulent few years have beset Facebook where data and privacy crises have contributed to a drop in user numbers but the social network is still a titan online and a vital part of many a public sector comms strategy – but how do you get the most from the platform and does the best practice of last year still hold up today?
Who’s using Facebook in 2019?
A series of scandals around data and privacy may have led to a drop in the number of active users on Facebook over the last few years with penetration of internet users (if a worse phrase than this can be uttered, do let me know) down from 95% to 88% (Online World Report 2019).
However, even this drop doesn’t diminish the sheer scale of audience Facebook is holding – and the number is on the rise again (OfCom – opens a PDF). OfCom also reports 65% of the UK are regular Facebook users so not only is the audience growing again but they’re frequently logging on to the social network.
What does this mean? It means public sector communicators can’t afford to ignore the platform, but they’re also missing opportunities to serve their audience well if they don’t keep up to date with best practice on the platform.
We’ve got a Page so we’re done here, right?
Far from it – in fact if you’re only thinking about a Facebook Page you’re likely to be harming your efforts rather than finding success on the platform.
Facebook has been moving away from Pages for a while and at their developer conference F8 earlier this year they made it clear their future was in prioritising private conversations (Messenger and What’sApp), promoting friends and family in your news feed over companies and organisations, and – vitally – putting Groups centre stage. These means the diminishing return you’ve seen on posting to your Page is only likely to continue and if you’re not reviewing your approach on Facebook right now you’re going to find yourself left behind.
So what do you need to do? That review of your approach is a good place to start but in order to get value from the platform right now and start to work with rather than against the algorithm and the direction of travel for communication on Facebook here’s five ways as a public sector communicator you can get greater value right now.
5 ways to get greater value from Facebook for public sector communicators
1.Engage with existing Groups
Groups have been on the rise for a while and Facebook is making no secret that they see them as a key part of the platform in the future. All about conversation around a shared interest Groups are plentiful in most areas and are a good way to engage with people, without having to convince them to like your Page or rely on the algorithm to show them your posts. Group admins can be as valuable to you as a local reporter, so reaching out and asking them to share relevant messages, or joining a Group (and the conversations within it) are a few more rewarding use of time on Facebook than persisting only with posting to a Page.
2.Create your own community space
While engaging existing Groups is the best first step you can also create a Group from your Page too, allowing you to host a community space around certain services or areas. The key thing here is that if a vibrant Group already exists don’t try to duplicate but find other ways to engage, if there’s a gap work out how to host and be a part of (rather than an authority to) the community which gathers.
3.Make more of video
Like Groups Facebook has been prioritising video for a while with a recent change recommending videos of 3 minutes to grab attention, with the first 3 seconds being paramount. However, you can publish videos up to 240 minutes on the platform. Videos which are directly uploaded, tell a story, emotionally resonate and have captions for that crucial scroll without sound will do well on Facebook.
4.Know your insights and your audience
Knowing the overall stats for Facebook is just the start of gaining insight from the data out there – it’s time to start regularly digging into what you know about who you’re engaging with and what content is appealing to them the best. This doesn’t just have to be reach, but can be about behaviour around your Page. What time of day is your audience most active (check which timezone your Page is set to), which days of the week, do longer posts or shorter do better with them. It’s also worth keeping an eye on what other Pages like you are doing and what’s performing well for them – you can watch a number of pages of your choosing and see their topline stats in your Insights for comparison.
5.Reach your audience with Ads
While budgets are generally tight (at the very least) some advertising by public sector orgs is happening. There is a certain amount of complexity to wade through to get the return on investment. Boosting posts straight from a Page may up reach on relevant content but Ads Manager is the way to go where you want to drive action (driving people to a website, signing up to a mailing list, or booking on to events). Spending time setting up ads with tighter targeting, optimised copy and testing options against each other is well spent, and budgets don’t have to be huge when your audience is well defined – together this helps reach the people that count.
Want a refresh on your Vital Facebook Skills?
Dan Slee and I have put together a full day workshop to help you brush up on your Facebook skills and get an update on everything from the algorithm to getting the most bang for your buck with advertising. Whether you’re wondering how to engage with Groups, worried about reach and engagement on your Page posts or have been asked for a Messenger chatbot then this course is for you.
- Last few places available for Vital Facebook Skill Manchester on 10 June – details and tickets
- Vital Facebook Skills Edinburgh on 20 June – details and tickets
- Vital Facebook Skills London on 18 July – details and tickets
Need a hand?
If you need some help with content, communications or getting yourself and your team up to date on latest social media, analytics and digital skills get in touch and see how I can help.