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Burgess Park in Southwark was one of the contenders for a £2 million grant from the Mayor of London, and the council knew they needed to do something special to get the money.

Southwark Council know from research that their residents are keen Facebook users and that thousands of members already belonged to Southwark-related groups. They created a group called ‘Back the Burgess Park bid – we need Boris’s millions!’, allowing local people to get actively involved but in an informal, less traditional way.

Their approach was to:

  • Choose an alliterative, eye-catching and amusing title for the group
  • Use friendly, jargon-free language that focuses on the park and the people – not on the council’s involvement
  • Give enthusiastic calls to action

They took a grass-roots approach to building a Facebook presence, knowing that people are far more likely to buy in to an idea if they hear it from their peers rather than their council. They therefore wanted to create a word of mouth effect. They launched a range of social media applications, including a YouTube channel, Twitter account and Flickr photo library to help raise awareness of the campaign – all linking back to the Facebook group.

Other ways of driving traffic to their Facebook group included news stories on the council’s website homepage, links from the parks web pages, items posted in the local online community forums, and prominent features on local newspaper websites and on the Friends of Burgess Park website.

They sent email messages to supporters over the weeks updating them on any news or events and encouraged them to provide their suggestions on what they wanted to see improved in the park.

On March 4 2009 the Mayor of London announced that Burgess Park had won the transformational £2 million grant!
The Facebook group was considered a major factor in the park’s success and an example of good practice for the council’s new approach to online campaigns. They invited no more than 10 people to join the group yet within 10 weeks the group had swelled to 1,135 members – demonstrating effective word of mouth. There were more than 80 posts to the wall and discussion forum about what people wanted to see happen to their park. On the whole messages were overwhelmingly supportive of the council and the bid.

Learn how you can use Facebook and other social media to drive traffic and get more people active.