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Good things really do come in streamlined packages…

Our Social Media Manager, Carol Naylor, has been busy supporting teams around the UK to update and streamline our regional Facebook pages. Carol discusses how the project manages to slim the total down from over 30 to just 13 regional accounts. 

It comes to us all eventually.  One day you’ve got a stable of active Facebook accounts all happily chatting to their target audiences and then gradually demographics shift, projects reach the end of their shelf life, teams get rearranged and suddenly you notice a few of the smaller pages simply have tumbleweed rolling through them.

It’s unavoidable, no matter how strict you make the rules about futureproofing, sustainability, and resourcing. Things change and you can’t anticipate them all.

That’s the challenge we faced at the start of last year. Macmillan’s 33 regional Facebook pages needed a new approach. The organisation of the teams managing them had changed and we needed to adapt to this.  Staff were still eager to use social media but content was harder to plan and page management was getting frustrating. The growth in followers was stalling. It was time to update our Facebook network.

Fortunately, Facebook lets you merge pages.

That wasn’t the whole solution though. We wanted a new arrangement that would be intuitive and accessible for audiences and yet still be manageable within our internal structure. So, we sat down with the regional team heads and a humungous map of the UK and threatened to lock the doors until a solution was found after a lot of head-scratching and cups of tea we came up with a new map of regional pages. It didn’t exactly match our internal structure but that wasn’t the point. It would make sense to our supporters.

Next, we defined the project principles (and drank more tea):

Rationalisation – a more logical organization for accounts and a clear naming structure will make our accounts more accessible to followers.

Consistency – all pages will deliver a clear standard of service, appearance, and content.

Customer Expectations – ensuring that followers can find accounts easily and have a clear idea of what support each kind of account can offer.

One Team – anyone following our Facebook pages will see not only how Macmillan raises funds in their area but also what it does with those funds to support them locally.

Delivering Results – “build it and they will come” is long past. The new pages will have clearly defined KPIs and objectives that go beyond just audience sizes.

Page management was the next hurdle.  But we were starting out with just two pilot pages so we could experiment safely.  A few more pots of coffee (we got bored with tea) and we had a rota that assigned daily management of the page to different teams on a weekly basis. This was overseen by a core editorial team who managed content strategy. This gave everyone the chance to get hands-on experience of managing a Facebook page and avoided the danger of everything falling on the shoulders of a few enthusiastic individuals.

Naturally the new page managers needed plenty of support. So we produced FAQs on how to handle enquiries and complaints, provided sample text to use in the ‘About Us’ sections of each page and produced new branded profile images for all the pages so that they all had a common style. We also set up a page admins group on our intranet for sharing best (and worst) practice.  Doing page merges in groups rather than all at once meant that we had a growing pool of experienced admins who could help any worried rookies.

Initially we were very apprehensive about how the planned changes would be received by the communities following the existing pages. Would they be territorial and resist the idea of combining with other local audiences? Would the appearance of a post from a long-dormant page in their newsfeed simply prompt them to unfollow?  So, we gave followers plenty of notice on each page and started posting content relevant to the whole new patch on pages even before the merges took place. We wanted audiences from the merged pages to feel at home.

Once the pilot groups got going, they got imaginative. They involved local Macmillan professionals, they experimented with strategically sharing content with neighbouring pages, they tried out ‘themed’ weeks with all content related to a specific topic like Volunteering or Corporate Partnerships. They also shifted the focus of the pages away from fundraising to a more holistic view of our work and tried to balance fundraising content with awareness raising information and news about services.

Here is one of our active pages, raising awareness about our live Q&A session on benefits:

Our East of England Facebook page

By the end of the three-month pilots, they had a wealth of experience to share. At that point we took stock and learned some interesting lessons:

  • Audiences were OK about pages being merged.  We’d explained the advantages to them and they understood.  By the end of the project we’d done 10 merges and not one supporter complained about any of them.
  • An established page management team and content plan was critical. One page which wasn’t directly involved in the merge process tripled its follower growth rate after putting these in place.
  • The demographics of our audiences didn’t change despite the shift in content focus. However, once given the choice, they demonstrated a greater appetite for information about Macmillan’s work than for news about fundraising events.
  • Engagement for the combined audiences considerably exceeded the sum of the original wholes.  We assumed at first that the novelty value of a new page might be responsible for this but engagement levels stayed consistent even after the novelty had worn off.
  • One of the reasons for this was that the quality of content got pushed up.  For example, instead of 5 teams needing to find content for 5 pages, they were competing with each other for space on just one page. And since they only had to run the page for one week in five, they had the luxury of time to think about what they *really* wanted to post.

The process we’d established got tweaked with each subsequent merge – some teams had a designated social media person, others all wanted to have a go – but the principles remained the same.

The biggest headache came with the final merges when we lost our contact at Facebook and discovered that the Facebook help pages and community were not as useful as we’d hoped.

Tip – if you’re advertising on Facebook, ask your agency to help find someone who can help you at Facebook, it’s the only way.

And, just over a year after we started, you can see for yourself how it’s all working out:

Stop by sometime and say Hi.

 
 

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