A version of this post first appeared as my column for the Lancaster Guardian
If you’ve been on Facebook lately you might have been surprised to see David Cameron popping up in your news-feed. Don’t worry the government haven’t hacked your Facebook account and added David as a friend. His marketing team have cottoned on to the fact that Facebook is a very inexpensive way to get in front of a large audience.
For a small amount of money you can get your information put in front of thousands of people. So much cheaper, more efficient and more effective than flyers, for example, which so often go straight into the recycling bin anyway. The Labour party also used Facebook in July for a very popular NHS 66th birthday campaign.
I’m really hoping that this means we will now see Facebook used more by the public sector. Imagine a message that you need to get out there, such as how to deal with a gastric flu outbreak (yes people do check Facebook while they are ill in bed), or letting people know that they will no longer have a paper tax disc, or that bins won’t be emptied this week….
Public sector communications really do need to move with the times and get savvier about using the new tools available when it comes to communicating with us.
Last Saturday I was rather alarmed to see that the council had blocked the exit from my side of Galgate to the A6. That meant that those of us heading to the motorway had a 4 mile detour. Not the end of the world of course, but it would have been nice to have known in advance so we could set out earlier. Apparently there was a notice on an A4 piece of paper, on a lamp post outside Spar! A £5 promoted post on Facebook, targeted at Galgate, would have got that information in front of more than 1000 Galgate residents, who would then have shared it and let each other know. Or even cheaper still, they could have just shared something on one of Galgate’s community pages and we have done the rest for them.
In the marketing world it’s said that we have to see something 5 times before it becomes familiar. There is a poster campaign all round the Royal Lancaster Infirmary, about washing our hands, that has been a great example of this. Now what if campaigns like that went into people’s homes, on the media that they are familiar with? We know that many people are checking their social media sites whilst watching TV. It’s a captive audience that will then pass that information on, by liking, commenting and sharing.
I understand that there’s some reluctance on the part of the public sector to use these new tools, or to spend money on social media, possibly because of public opinion and a fear of being criticised, but hopefully this recent use by our politicians will make it more acceptable. After all there’s clear evidence that it can actually save a lot of money.
Watch this space!
What do you think? Would you support the public sector making better use of social media to communicate with us? Please leave your comments below.
You may also enjoy this post Should GP surgeries be using social media to communicate with their community?
If you would like to talk to Jane about working with your organisation, please drop her an email – email@example.com