Selling Bradford through Social Media – any ideas?

I am not an expert. I know very little. If I am wrong or you have a better idea, please, leave a comment here because I wouldn’t want to have started some hard working people down the wrong track, particularly when it’s me paying them and they could be ignoring me and spending my taxes much more wisely.

Sometimes, talking is great. I was sticking up for someone whom I follow on Twitter the other day, or rather I was justifying my reasons for following them. You see, this person doesn’t share my politics. I explained that I really, genuinely enjoy seeing this person’s arguments and train of thought because it helps me to question and crystalise my own. I read the Guardian (actually, I subscribe to the app) and many people on my twitter feed post links from the app, and I’ll follow some of those links because I’ve missed the story. So, most of the people I follow get most of their information from the same source as me, and in choosing that source, it shows we’ll have quite similar political leanings, levels of education and cultural touchstones. By following someone who espouses right-wing thought and ideology, argues against trades unions & for lower taxation of the rich, and, horror of horrors, pus up links to The Daily (Hate) Mail, I see others’ arguments, question my own beliefs and truly feel that I can say my way of thinking is the right way thinking (for me) because I’ve experienced both sides of the argument.

Struggling to work out what you think is wonderful – a real worthwhile challenge because, when you get there, the rewards are enormous. I had such a Eureka! moment in a series of email exchanges with another person I follow, Cllr Susan Hinchcliffe (Labour, Windhill & Wrose; Executive; Employment, Skills & Culture). I’d emailed her about Bradford past, present and future. Her reply was long, detailed, varied; also, it was passionate, knowledgable and inspiring. We exchanged a few emails and, in my head, I pointed out what I think can be improved re Bradford Council’s use of social media. Of course, I’m an ignorant, ill-educated, untrained, inexperienced and have no real interest in it professionally, wanting only for Bradford to succeed. But I felt like I could help, maybe, even in a small way. Honestly, it felt good.

Anyway, for what it’s worth, here’s what I think. If you know more about me than social media, and that is probable, please leave a comment below because then I can tell Cllr Hinchcliffe what deep down I expect: that I’ve been talking crap. After all, if it was a good idea, someone would’ve had it already. Here’s an email I sent to Cllr Hinchcliffe after we’d conversed about culture and tourism in Bradford.

Totally understand the difficult and delicate way any budget is handled. I couldn’t even dream of being a part of such a process. I think what I expect to find [from anFOI I’ve sent in] – though I don’t know – is that museums, parks and gardens cost a lot (and they should because they’re ace) but that they don’t get many visitors. I see adverts for Bradford Theatres but not a lot else. I wonder if a bit more spent would bring in a lot of money. This could be especially true of social media. I see tweets from visit Bradford, BDMC, etc but these aren’t in the evenings, at weekends or bank holidays when people are at home, on line and planning what to do. I wonder if the use of a tweet scheduling site could be used to get info to the target audience at the right time and far more effectively and efficiently. Also, using # will get more RTs, so #Bradford will get one audience but tagging a tweet with #Yorkshire gets it out to more people and there are a few twitterfeeds with large followers who will RT just because of that, bringing people in. This costs nothing extra. Also, RTing across accounts, with BDMC RTing Visit Bradford who RTs City Park, etc, all, I assume, being controlled by the same people. The RTs may get people following multiple accounts, too. Furthermore, it’s hard to get good news into the media – if it bleeds, it leads – but T&A, Look North, etc will often RT cuddly, feel good stories to their followers even though they would have zero chance of getting on to the actual news. They’ve got a huge following.

A quick look at (what I presume are) Bradford MDC controlled accounts:

Visit Bradford – 1225 followers – 4 tweets today + RTs of 3 people – first one sent 9.54, last one 4.35. Total VB originating tweets = 11, none of which are by other council twitterfeeds.

City Park BD – 799 followers – no tweets since 26 June.

Bradford Museums – 945 followers – 2 tweets – 10.15 and 10.30 pm – No RTs.

Bradford Theatres – 3071 followers – No tweets today

Bradford MDC – 1701 followers – No tweets toda

I know it’s a Sunday, so it’s not a normal day but, maybe, that’s the point. People don’t access social media as much at work o they need to be got once they get home. Also, there’s bound to be cross-over (I subscribe to all of the above) but if the council sites start cross-pollinating (I may have just made that up but it sounds good), their readership goes up, ie a Museums tweet goes to 945 feeds but a Museums tweet RTed by Theatres goes to potentially 4000 (I know, many people will be subscribers to both, but still, much more). It is reasonable to expect that someone who goes to the theatre in Bradford might be interested in going to a museum here; however, I’ve been to the theatre in Leeds but never a museum because I don’t know which museums there are in Leeds, really, because it’s never been well-marketed to me. Having 800 people subscribed to the city’s showpiece City Park and not sending out tweets is unconscionable. A little RTing can go a long way and increase follower numbers. Twitter’s not massive in Bradford, but it’s growing and lots of the people who are on it are followed by people in Leeds, Halifax, Wakefield, etc, so getting RTs really opens up the links.

If you look at some people in Bradford who use social media well (IMHO), who do it for love rather than their jobs (not a criticism of Media team, just a note on giving up time in evenings), you can see the difference:

@hiddenbradford – 2861 followers – about 20 tweets, nearly all RTs of other people who are selling the District with their own photos. They haven’t RTed any council tweets (because there weren’t (m)any.

@saltairefest – 2006 followers – about 20 tweets, including RTs of people having fun in Saltaire (this is a high number as it’s on).

@fabicbradford – 1460 followers – 4 tweets today.

@mediamuseum – 16846 followers – 3 tweets today.

Are you RTing any of their stuff? Have you called them to ask them to RT your stuff in a quid pro quo agreement?

Further than that, look at @culturevultures, a cultural blog. 15k followers and based in Leeds with a v large cultural audience. They want people to write well for them. A decently written piece on a forthcoming event will get a large readership. Their stuff is mainly Leeds / Wakefield but that’s because that’s where they get submissions from. They’re the target audience for a huge number of Bradford’s cultural events and could attract people in from Leeds and wider West Yorkshire. Plus, the same / similar piece could be taken up by other online cultural outlets, like Fabric and Bradford Buzz, which need content to survive so want people to write for them. Some might be whingy, whiny arty types (can we keep that description between us?) who would balk at the thought of plugging something council-cum-corporate but most will gleefully accept it. The people who read it will go to cultural events and will talk about it to others and then there’s momentum as word of mouth of Bradford’s cultural scene gets going.

Obviously, it’s no panacea but it could be part of strategy.

My God, don’t I go on!!! Any way, I’m sure I’m teaching my granny to suck eggs here and this has been thought of and would be being done if it were worthwhile. For starters, I know sod all as I’m just a teacher, but I have learned about loads of events through social media and gone to them (and talked about them). Unfortunately, I’ve also heard people talking about Bradford events as / after they’ve happened because I missed the tweet or two from the council.

After this little bit of research, I thought about Twitter and what a devotee I am, and how many others aren’t. There’s a number of tweeters in Bradford but not that large a number, really. So, I went to the social media of choice for most users: Facebook.

Visit Bradford has a page. It’s been going about a year. It has only 364 ‘likes’. New posts are sporadic, with entries every 3-4 days sometimes but none for a month at others.

Bradford Theatres’ page has 3630 likes and has new posts appearing two or three times a day.

Facebook works through people sharing, like retweets through Twitter. You like or comment on a post and it is immediately shared on your wall (or newsfeed or whatever) and others can see it’s there and ‘like’ or comment, sharing it further. If they like the page, they’ll get updates on their wall when new posts are added.

It appears to me, an amateur, that one way of doing this would be to reward engagement. This could be through prizes for comments, caption competitions for photos, the simple “like if you….” ruse, or a hundred other ways. That’s how companies do it – for instance, Pulse Radio, Bradford’s radio station who will be broadcasting to and would want to attract the very people in Bradford and West Yorkshire Visit Bradford would, has over 32,000 ‘likes’. Even if, as has been shown recently, a large number of these are fake accounts, many must be real people and will be people in West Yorkshire and want to listen to music so, maybe, might be interested in Council events at St George’s Hall, around the District like Bingley Music Live, etc. A little work to get some momentum and the amount of ‘free’ advertising the council gets for events will be astronomical as users like and pass on exactly what the council wants them to hear. Again, if Visit Bradford likes a Bradford Theatres page, the post goes out to a huge audience. How about a bit of money for a social media led competition brought to us by Visit Bradford in association with Bradford Theatres and Bradford’s Museums & Gardens? If entry is via social media, everyone who enters tells their friends about the page and about the competition and the news and page and message spreads further and further. If business-savvy brands are doing it, it must be proven to work or they wouldn’t be doing it.

Even if a small scale, Twitter advertised, Facebook driven competition or two doesn’t have the Council’s pages which are there to attract visitors clocking up over 10k followers in a week, I would wager it would double the measly 364 within a couple of weeks and get them on the way to 2k with a month. Once they have 2k people signed up, they are advertising directly to people who have signed up to receive the posts so will have some interest in the product being sold. Each targeted advertisement then costs only the time it takes for someone to type a few lines and upload a photo to the web… which is already happening.

Any way, my point in doing all this is because I have begun to see just how much Bradford & District has to offer. I go out and I sell my city, countering the stereotypical beliefs of others who have been starved of news until, once every few years, they are force fed a glut of poison.  want my city and the towns and villages in my District to do well, to thrive. My voice might change one or two people’s minds; a coordinated social media programme by the council could get the message out to people in Halifax, Leeds, North Yorkshire, East Lancashire and, yes, Bradford, Bingley and Keighley that there’s loads going on and we’re more than 5 minutes of bad news every other month.

However, I freely admit that I know nothing so, if you know a better way to advertise Bradford & District, I’d love to hear it – and I’ll pass it on straight away to Cllr Hinchcliffe. As I said at the start, she is a do-er. She’s even been kind enough to pass my email on the media department to see if this has been looked at before and if it’s feasible. If she comes back to me, damning my ideas with faint praise or simple damnation I’ll make sure I post it here. I hope, by then, you’ll have given me a better idea to get Bradford in people’s minds for the right reasons.


About jatkinson1977

I'm in my 30s and married to Sharon, the beautiful woman who keeps me in check. We live in Shipley, just outside Bradford, with our black lab, Nipper. I'm an English teacher in secondary school and, after working as a Teaching & Learning Consultant with the local authority, have returned to the classroom to become a Lead Professional in English at a large comp in Bradford. I'm also trying to become a little more cultured, especially by seeing what culture's right here on my doorstep in Bradford and West Yorkshire (please see my blog, 'Am I Kulchad Yet?'). I've got a third and final blog which is filled with things that, essentially, don't fit into the other two but are interesting enough to share (please see my blog, 'Things That Occur To Me').
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3 Responses to Selling Bradford through Social Media – any ideas?

  1. Pat Manning says:

    Well, everything you say makes sense to me. Bingley Music Live never stopped tweeting and showed the way to do it. There are other independant people tweeting about Bradford and they put the Council to shame. You’re not as ignorant, inexperienced and I’ll educated as you suggest and wonder why you play that card. However, if you can help to drag BMDC into realising that social media is the cheapest marketing tool they have in their locker, well done. I don’t use Facebook so I can’t really comment but I’m sure there must be a few Twitter savvy people working at City Hall or Jacobs Well who would love the opportunity to publicise the Council’s Parks, cultural events, markets and a whole host of activities that many people never hear about. RT other people’s events etc. it’s so flipping obvious.
    Finally I’d say that I admire your efforts in attempting to promote the more positive aspects of this City on your Twitter feeds; I don’t know how you find the time and the energy. Well done.


    • Thanks for that, Pat.

      Because many of the people on Twitter follow me primarily for education stuff and are all over the country, I like sharing Bradford stuff to try and dispel the myths about the city, or redress the balance somewhat might be better. Also, I really feel lucky to live round here and would love to persuade people from round here to enjoy their city and towns and villages and countryside more.

      As for playing the ignorant card, well, in terms of media and getting word out, I am uneducated, inexperienced and all the rest. The reason I put it in was because it’s so obvious to me that the target audience can be reached so quickly and cheaply I assumed that it must have been considered and dismissed as a bad idea. I didn’t want to set myself up as someone with a solution and a good idea only to find that, in practice, it’s been proved foolish and unworkable.

      Thank you for your kind words. I hope that I might get even a couple of people to think differently, whether that’s people promoting the District or people visiting or experiencing it.


  2. Damien says:

    A great piece, talking a lot of sense. Keep up the good work in ‘selling’ our lovely city. Cheers D


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