Back in 2011 I attended an LG Communications conference in Coventry where the subject of Google+ came up. It was suggested councils start a Google+ page so we at least had the name registered. So I returned to Brum and that’s what I did. And then, well not a lot really. I added content pretty much as and when I posted content on the corporate BCC facebook page. And the number of people adding us to circles increased to 145. In twelve months. Wow.
But I persevered. And then something happened which I didn’t expect. In March 2013 Google emailed me and asked if I really was Birmingham City Council on Google+. After I got up of the floor (this also happened when Facebook rang me up) I said yes and we arranged a conference call.
It turned out Google were very interested in seeing if they could help us promote our page a little bit better and make us a good case study for local government. They started the process by verifying the account and giving me some tips on posting content. Then things started getting interesting. A verified account is much easier to find on Google, it appears at the top right of the page when you Google search for BCC. This is great because not only is it very visible, it makes a great campaign box to promote key messages. And the number of people following us increased (a lot). 20,000 people had us in their circles by July and we have over 26,000 active users.
Unlike our Twitter and Facebook accounts which have a predominantly local audience, our Google+ page attracts worldwide followers. It’s an ideal tool for exporting the brand of Birmingham globally. I tend to post the same key messages as our other social media channels interspersed with more ‘touristy’ content of events and activities that promote Birmingham as a great 21st Century city.
Content that works really well tends to be images (no surprise there) and also webcasts of BCC Council meetings, which give an insight into mechanics of local government and promote democracy. Also issues that affect everybody, like public health and environmental issues get a lot of interest. It’ll be really interesting to see how the account develops over the next twelve months.
by Guy Evans
Social Media officer at Birmingham City Council