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CommsCamp15 – engagement using WhatsApp

WhatsApp logo - a green circle with a white speech bubble design and a white phone icon in the middle, WhatsApp written underneath

This session was led by Geoff Coleman who can be found on Twitter @ColeBagski

  • Birmingham City Council (BCC) trialled using WhatsApp during the 2015 General and Local Elections
  • people were encouraged to sign-up to receive information throughout the elections
  • bought a £30 pay as you go Android phone, loaded WhatsApp and synced it to work desktop PC using WhatsApp Web, no cost apart for this as long as the phone is linked to a wifi network
  • used desktop WhatsApp Broadcast lists (up to 256 people per list) which act like an email blind carbon copy list – everyone on the list can see what you’ve sent out but not who else has received it, individuals can also send back messages to the broadcaster and no-one else will see them
  • WhatsApp can be a little shaky so less suitable for time-sensitive news
  • if you wanted everyone to see all of the messages back and forth you could use the group chat function instead, but this would make everyone’s details available – perhaps best for discrete internal groups with clear parameters
  • BCC asked local online influencer to help spread the word as well as using their own channels
  • just under 600 people signed up to the service – how to opt out was also made clear and easy- and attracted a younger profile than other social media audiences who weren’t necessarily following the Council’s Twitter or Facebook accounts
  • as it was an opt-in service, the majority of interactions were polite and productive, with good inquiries that help shape content, as interactions are not public less trolling or showboating as there’s no external audience
  • the BCC team sent out information and updates using text, video and graphics as well as updates from the election count as quickly as possible – hard to keep up on any channel when results are coming in thick and fast though
  • after the election users were asked for feedback which was positive overall
  • had support from chief executive Mark Rogers who was filmed to get across key messages – videos were short, shot on an iPhone and edited in iMovie
  • a few people did try to call or text the WhatsApp phone but were helped to sign up to the service
  • using WhatsApp did create more work over the election campaign but it was high quality engagement
  • which other services could use WhatsApp and deliver added value to publics? Suggestions included:
    • roadworks
    • arts and culture updates
    • adoption and fostering groups to put people in touch with each other and to share news and advice
    • virtual focus groups allowing people to contribute in a group setting but without the dynamics of a face-to-face group where quieter people can be overwhelmed
    • community forums and discussions
    • groups such as tenants and sheltered housing residents
    • first responder groups in an emergency or to potentially ask the public for incoming information
  • the application works well for niche campaigns, wouldn’t work as well for time-sensitive news – if you’re interested in X sign up here and we’ll send you Y as and when
  • Project WIP at Shropshire County Council has trialled using WhatsApp for residents to contact Councillors
  • are there other social messaging apps that could be used? Kik, Snapchat and YikYak were all mentioned but “why would you want to go into that space and would you be welcomed?” was a point made by one delegate

Image: downloaded from the WhatsApp media library

CommsCamp15 – is Facebook dead?

Facebook thumbs-up icon with meh written next to itThis session was led by David Worsell who you can find on Twitter @dworsell with some input from me asking how can we reach younger people as their social media use diversifies?

  • Is Facebook dead? No, but it’s no longer all-pervasive and, like all channels, its effectiveness depends on the type of audience you are trying to reach
  • Facebook’s advertising capabilities had been used by a range of people in the room who found it useful for targeting demographically and geographically – much more targetable than the classic ‘ad on the side of a bus’
  • according to one delegate, one in seven people use adblockers online, but adblocks don’t apply to Facebook
  • interesting facts and figures about media usage in the Ofcoms’s Adults’ media use and attitudes Report 2015 (as linked to by Neil Spencer include that across all age groups 66% of internet users use social media weekly, rising to 90% in the 16 to 24 years old age group
  • many felt that they originally signed up for a community network and that more was being pushed into their feed from corporate pages and through advertising, the community feel has gone although groups – geographical or interest-based – have increased in popularity
  • social media channels give different experiences and the diversification amongst them is fragmenting audiences
  • the profile of Facebook users seems to have shifted from early adopters to older people, as covered in this blog from the Government Digital Service (GDS) about social media trends in 2015
  • what you post on Facebook of course has an effect on who sees, likes, comments and shares on it – one council’s most popular post was a lost dog photo
  • Streetlife was cited as a local postcode-based social network which one delegate in healthcare had dipped their toe into, it may be that councils and other governmental organisations may be able to access wider areas: find out how Suffolk County Council have trialled using it

Where are all the young people?

  • the GDS social media trends blog post cited earlier, states: “Most importantly for Facebook it is the teen market who appear to be leaving the platform completely, or accessing it less. This could potentially have a snowball effect; if one teen stops using Facebook, soon their friends could follow to new platforms to maintain their communication.”
  • the feeling was that teenagers want to go where adults aren’t, and it doesn’t necessarily follow that organisations trying to reach young people will be welcome in these new spaces
  • Ofcom’s Children’s media lives report following eighteen 8 to 15 year olds was published in June 2015
    • it states: “Most of the children with Facebook accounts claimed not to be using them, and younger children showed minimal interest in joining the network.”
    • one 14 year old explains: “I don’t actually use Facebook any more because, I don’t know, no one’s really on it. I have Facebook Messenger because you can have a massive group all talking to each other but without actually going on Facebook.”
    • Facebook and Twitter were seen as “part of the adult world”, “slightly outdated” and “not targeted at younger people”
    • the report goes on to say that Instagram and Snapchat are popular with young people, the latter partly because of its perceived privacy
    • YouTube is the site most go to for both videos and searching, and vloggers are popular across the age range
  • James Cattell pointed people to a teenager’s view on social media, one view, but food for thought

Photo: Facebook Meh Button by Sam Michel via Flickr