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How South Yorkshire used Facebook groups to get results

When we set about planning our International Women’s Day (IWD) campaign, one thing we wanted to be mindful of was the recent changes Facebook had made to its algorithms earlier this year. The changes signified a turning point for Facebook, prioritising content from family, friends and groups and ensuring posts from businesses, brands and media were less prominent.

Whilst the exact changes to our news feeds are not yet known, there are certainly ways that we can work with the new algorithm to continue to reach our desired audiences with meaningful content and messages. One of the most effective ways this can be done is through the use of Facebook groups. This means identifying where your target audiences are talking about what you want to talk about and asking to be a part of it.

Our campaign focused on raising awareness of firefighting as a career amongst girls and young women, with the ultimate aim of encouraging more females to consider a job as a firefighter. We knew we had to be really targeted in our approach, as only a small proportion of our audiences following our online channels meet this very specific audience. Our plan was to take our content where we knew the people we were trying to reach spent their time online- which for us included special interest Facebook groups and online forums, such as women’s fitness and parenting groups.

We contacted 14 Facebook pages and groups in total, using our personal accounts, to see if we could generate some support in raising awareness of the campaign. By directly reaching out to the individuals who acted as admin for each group, we were able to introduce ourselves and provide a little bit of background information about the campaign.  Not surprisingly, some didn’t reply, but with just under half of those we contacted responding, we were positive we’d built some important relationships in support of the campaign.

Three groups and two pages shared the video using either their own accounts or directly from the page itself. Those that did were also able to provide further detail to others about the campaign as a result of their direct communication with us.  These networks helped us to reach more than 1,400 people who exactly matched our target audience.

In the two weeks following the launch, 59 women registered their interest in a career as a firefighter. That’s almost four times the number of registrations received (15) during the two weeks prior to the video launch. It’s also an increase on the number of registrations received during the whole of the month of February (43 registrations). Almost all of those who registered said they had heard about recruitment as a result of the video or our associated activity around it.

As one of the first times we have realistically considered Facebook groups as part of an external campaign, albeit on a relatively small scale, the results have highlighted that this new side to Facebook is one we can’t afford to overlook.

Emma Wright, South Yorkshire Fire & Rescue.


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