Tuesday, 10 September 2013

Facebook: The good, the bad and the ugly!

I am writing this blog just after running a competition on our Facebook page, and it was quite successful on one hand and a bit of a hassle on the other!

Our Facebook page started back in 2011. I was incredibly lucky to be able to push it forward with supportive senior management who love social media, use it regularly and wanted the organisation to embrace it. Our information services and human resources departments were concerned but after ironing out the lumps and bumps we were all of a sudden pushed into the world of social media. It wasn’t just new for the organisation but new for me too. I hadn’t done this before, what if my confidence backfired and something really really bad happened?

Helen Reynolds from Monmouthshire Council came to the rescue. I met her at CHC’s PR Network. She filled me with confidence and advice and her success spurred me on to think that I could do it too.

The first step was to ensure that all our staff had access to social media. Our remote workers enjoy keeping up with daily happenings as do staff that are on maternity leave, sabbaticals or maybe those that have left for pastures new. It also meant there were more people to help me!

Tenants can ask us anything and everything on Facebook. I sometimes find that I am a housing officer, maintenance officer, police officer, community worker and any other officer you can think of all in one! This means that staff across the whole organisation need to be involved or at least aware of queries coming through Facebook just like any other letter, email or phone call.

Staff across each department have been trained on the use of Facebook. Although we may need to increase their confidence, they are very much aware of its importance as a communication tool and the need to combine it with other methods of communication. This hasn’t been a quick process as it does take time to get political buy-in.

Up until this year, I hadn’t had a real problem on Facebook. I hadn’t had foul language posted, hadn’t really had abusive comments directed at staff and hadn’t had a persistent barrage of messages demanding a reply a second after posting it. However, we have this year. This means that you have to be on the ball. When a message is posted, check it, do something about it and reply in a timely manner suitable to the query. And if you have to delete it, make sure you explain why. Perhaps it’s because of the recession or because people aren’t hibernating this summer, or perhaps because more people are aware of our page, but this year not all our messages have been 100% positive. BUT we have also had lovely comments. At the end of the day, Facebook is a public method of voicing an opinion. It isn’t plain sailing and you need to spend time on it. However, it has benefited us greatly.

Tenants on Facebook helped us to choose our new logo. Tenants from Newtown have socialised with tenants from Pontypridd but have never met. Tenants have helped fight crime by reporting information to the police after seeing our Facebook page. Young tenants tag themselves in hundreds of pictures where they are abseiling, climbing and canoeing. Facebook has enabled us to access those who are isolated. Perhaps that is the main reason for being on social media, to help those that are isolated to feel part of a community.

Back to our competition... we ran a competition asking tenants to ‘like’ our Facebook page and write ‘I want to win’ on our ‘wall’ to win an overnight stay at a hotel. Although it was a popular competition, it took quite a while to get a competition winner that was actually free on the night! The tenants that finally stayed at the hotel had a wonderful evening and their reaction when they found out was priceless. The massive increase of traffic to our page and quite a few extra ‘likes’ helped too. We may not choose an overnight stay as a prize again, or maybe simply getting them to choose the date and location of the stay could have been easier!


Mared Elenid Williams
Marketing and Communications Coordinator
Newydd Housing Association

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