Facebook: how it works for us, from the perspective of a small heritage organisation

By Sarah Humphris, Bexley Heritage Trust

Working for a small independent charity, Bexley Heritage Trust (BHT) that manages two historic houses, Hall Place and Danson House, means that I wear lots of hats in the workplace. As Marketing and Events Officer my role ranges from managing events and marketing to the Friends organisation, volunteers and updating the website. Somewhere along the line social media also falls into my job description.

Initial set up

The setup and management of our Facebook is a reflection of the differences in our two properties.  Hall Place is a Tudor house surrounded by formal gardens and parkland that are also managed by the Trust. Danson House is a Georgian villa located in the local authority-run Danson Park. The properties are very different in history, style and the way they are used and visited, which is why we chose to have separate Facebook pages for Hall Place and Danson House.

Staff at Bexley Heritage Trust pose with comedy mustaches.
Friday fun in the Hall Place office.
This is from a series of photographs taken to promote our exhibition of Victorian lantern slides ‘Illuminated World’, where there was an interactive where visitors could dress up (including moustaches!) and pose in the style of Victorian portraits

Strategy & content

Our strategy for Facebook is quite fluid; it broadly fits in with our events and exhibition programme, but the majority of the material I post is generated ad hoc, sharing what is going on around us on a daily or weekly basis, changing with the seasons. The content of our posts is varied, with everything from observations about the weather to celebrity spotting, historic facts, linking with other organisations, local wildlife and Friday fun in the office!

As a general rule I post or share to the Hall Place page at least three times per week, but to Danson much less so – sometimes only once a fortnight. This is because I’m based at Hall Place with the rest of the office/education/commercial staff, so get to see, hear (& taste in the case of the tea room!) things first hand. Also the gardens, visitor centre, events and exhibitions at Hall Place generate more content that can be posted regularly with ease.

Having two pages to manage doesn’t mean that I’m posting the same thing twice. The content is always site specific and even if it is relevant to both I just share between the pages rather than repeat. For us the benefit of having a page each is establishing the individual identities of the houses.

I tend to post most things during the work day (from 9-5pm) but I do also use the feature within Facebook that allows you to schedule posts in advance. For example if we’ve got a Farmers’ Market on a Sunday morning I’ll schedule something for Saturday to go out to remind people that it’s on and then a great photo of a something delicious from one of the stalls just after it’s opened to tempt people out!

Screen shot of Facebook post and comments.
An example of interaction on the Hall Place Facebook page.

 

House style

Our house style is light hearted and friendly, but still professional. We make it a rule not to identify staff members by name or tag them personally in photographs. We do promote our events through the pages, but more in the style of a gentle reminder or ‘Did you know?’ than a hard sell. All of our posts have one thing in common – they all contain an image. Whether it’s a photograph, as part of a web link or even just a piece of clip art we always make a point of illustrating what we’re talking about. We always respond or acknowledge (through a Like) when someone posts to our pages. Usually it’s just me that posts to Facebook, but occasionally my colleagues also get involved so I created a set of guidelines for using our Facebook outlining our house style.

 

Measuring success with Facebook Insights

Facebook Insights, which is freely accessible to page owners on Facebook, can provide you with figures for the reach of your posts (the number of people who saw your post) or the level of engagement (number of clicks, likes, comments and shares).  I consider the success of our Facebook pages purely in terms of number of Likes for each page. Insights has provided evidence for what the most popular posts are (the gardens consistently get a lot of Likes) but these tend to be areas that we already know anecdotally are popular so I do not spend a lot of time crunching statistics.

The number of Likes is a good indicator of success, but does it

Topiary animals in gardens of Hall Place.
The Queen’s Beast Topiary at Hall Place
This photograph of the freshly trimmed topiary at Hall Place proved to be one of our most popular posts ever!

measure whether the time you spend posting to Facebook is worthwhile?  I’ve actually found it more useful to look at some of the other information provided by Facebook Insights rather than using it just to measure the number of Likes we receive. For example, I have learned that the number of people viewing our posts is similar each day of the week, and that the peak times for people viewing our posts are 10am, 8pm and 10pm. I have also discovered that the demographics of the people that Like our pages does not reflect our visitor demographics (from on-site surveys) and is more likely to reflect the demographic of general users of Facebook. This information is helpful to me when posting, scheduling and interacting with the people that Like us and ensures that my time is well allocated when using Facebook.

So in conclusion…

As a small organisation without much time to spare I try not to tie myself up in knots evaluating statistics from Facebook. I can appreciate the value of this for larger organisations, but in our case, concentrating on regularly sharing our news with great imagery, replying to people as soon as we can and increasing the size of the online audience works for us.

Top tips for small organisations using Facebook

  • Keep it visual – always use an image with your posts
  • Appreciate your followers – acknowledge when people interact with your page
  • Get to know the Facebook software – make use of the free inbuilt features
  • Be careful – don’t link yourself or colleagues personal profiles to your visible content
  • Don’t hard sell –  just use it to raise the profile of an event
  • Create house style guidelines for colleagues
  • Variety is good – even if you know the most popular topics on your page, try not to let it put you off posting about other topics.
  • Find your organisation’s balance  – be professional and human

Sarah Humphris (sarah.humphris@bexleyheritagetrust.org.uk) has worked for Bexley Heritage Trust for 10 years with varying roles through major restoration projects at Hall Place & Gardens and Danson House and is now the Marketing and Events Officer. Sarah also tweets for the Trust @BexleyHeritage

 

 

 

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