A social media whirlwind, but a good one

Yesterday was the busiest social media day I can remember in my 15 months heading up the team here.

Labour market statistics were announced in the morning which is always a big ticket publication. In the afternoon our Director General, Glen Watson, was interviewed on Steve Wright’s Radio 2 show to generally promote ONS and also reel off some ‘factoids’.

Radio 2’s ‘factoids’ are a daily feature on the show and facts are obviously something we have loads of. The Twitterati were quick to point out the definition of a factoid being ‘an insignificant or trivial fact’, which is a fair point and one we sought to clarify quickly, as you should in these situations.

To capitalise on the interview, we tweeted and Facebooked some of the facts – with images – throughout. This was a little more lighthearted than our usual stuff and predictably, it got shared around very quickly. It was helped along by Radio 2 and QI’s social media editors too.
ONS factoids shared by Radio 2 and QI

On Twitter, all images were 220×440 pixels to ensure the whole content could be viewed in preview. That ratio doesn’t work for Facebook because the way images are presented in a user’s newsfeed varies by device and platform. So we adjusted a handful of the images into squares, a common format across social, namely Instagram, which Facebook owns. (If it’s of interest, here’s a handy guide to dimensions on several platforms.)

Overall the campaign went down well, although I think it’s fair to say the content didn’t resonate as well for our core audience. But it did reach new folk. Our Twitter channel got a jump of 862 new followers (12x the daily average) and Facebook got 214 new likers (26x the daily average – admittedly Facebook isn’t a channel that works brilliantly for us, though it is improving). More importantly, engagement on Twitter was 7x the average and Facebook was 6x the average.

We Storified our posts and some user responses so that the content can live on.

(My blog republished from ONS Digital Publishing’s blog.)


Another day, another Storify

Not a week goes by it seems without us using Storify. It works really well to house our social content as it builds over time.

This Monday and last, Mind the Gap: London vs. the Rest aired on BBC Two, and a lot of our stats were used. It seemed too good an opportunity not to re-publish some of our content in real time, and it went down well. We saw a good amount of comments, questions and retweets, though not on the same scale as the factoids whirlwind a few weeks ago.

Kate Davies also hosted a Q&A session on Twitter around the recent Retail Sales Index release. Whilst we’ve done these before, this was the first one to be fronted by a statistician. Again, it was successful in engaging users and something we should roll out with our other tweeting statisticians and work hard to reach bigger numbers.

At the end of last year, we tweeted to ask what content users would like to see in an upcoming publication on young people in the labour market. This was the most responded to piece of content we’ve ever put out (either by reply or direct post to us), and all suggestions were really constructive. That eventual content was published last week (along with a graduates publication not long before) and Storify worked nicely to close the loop to show how we asked, users said and we did. Again, this is something we should do more of.

Until the next one…

(My blog republished from ONS Digital Publishing Blog.)

Writing for social media @ONS

The social media team tries to edit content supplied from all corners of the organisation in to one of three copy formats. On Monday we were able to share this with statisticians and the like in an all day training session looking at best practice, user personas, copy formats and writing exercises.

Setting the scene

The objective was obviously to improve everyone’s writing skills but longer-term, the outcome has to be evidencing better engagement off-site, more traffic to the site and more time on the site compared to a user coming to it by other means.

(By the way, I find that outcome stuff really exciting and going back to my post about the magnificent #MeasureFest, I look forward to drawing some workable insight now we tag all our social media urls.)

I started the day by setting the scene a little, showing that more and more people are talking about us in social media and that our content is seeing better engagement levels.

Life in the newsroom

Then Mark Frankel, Assistant Editor of BBC Social News, gave us insight into life in the newsroom and their approach to social media editorial. The bulk of his presentation was spoken, although he did show us a video on how they do the do, and he pointed to their practices and guidelines.

Best practice

Next up, Catherine Toole from Sticky Content walked us through digital copywriting best practice.


ONS users and copy formats

Our own Head of Insight, Alison Saunders, gave the first outing of our new user personas which no doubt will be blogged about more here. I then ran through our three copy formats for social media:

  1. Headline. Subject, number and link. No messing about. Example
  2. Nugget. Did you know? (without asking it). Example
  3. Draws you in. Makes users *want* to click as the content’s so profound, emotional or sticky. Example

The rest of the day was spent practising rewriting social media content that was once published, but now following this process (I appreciate this isn’t particularly groundbreaking, but it’s amazing how often (the royal) we miss the basics):

  • Write for a user persona
  • Pick the most suitable format
  • Write the message in 100 characters
  • Frontload it. The first two words are most important

Now what?

Feedback was really positive and a day later all participants received a parcel in internal post (made on a shoestring) with the most important dozen slides from the day and an invite for a coffee next week to discuss ‘them and social media @ONS’.

Invitations after writing for social media course

As much as better writing (and as a result better user engagement / referrals) is a measure of the day’s success, I think response to the coffee invites are as well. It’s a bit of a call to arms I suppose. I’d like to recruit more ‘HootSuiters’ and do lots more campaigning whilst we continue to see engagement and referrals go up.

(My blog republished from ONS Digital Publishing blog.)