The big Christmas lights switch-on – late-November staple diet stuff for council comms and events teams across the land.
In previous festive seasons, we pretty much could’ve done it in our sleep. Press release – check; posters and leaflets – check; special guests – check…
And don’t get me wrong, we did all of the above for the illuminating of the seaside town of Redcar again this time round.
But this year was the first in which we really wanted to harness the power of social media to create an online buzz around our Chrimbo events, bringing a boost to businesses and giving the council a bit of a reputational shot in the arm at the same time.
We’d had some recent flak for trimming £40k from the festive lights budget this year, arguing that in turbulent economic times there was a delicate balance to strike between maintaining frontline services and not being seen as Scrooge-esque.
Facebook and Twitter were the focus of our efforts.
We set up the #RCXmas hashtag to push last Friday night’s Redcar main event with its fairground, log cabins, local performers and the switch-on with X Factor boyband The Risk.
We also used #RCXmas as a space where residents, schools, community and voluntary groups could share details of their own Christmas fairs, plays, carol concerts and other events – all of which we retweeted. Even The Risk themselves got in on the act.
Daily FB updates counted down to the switch-on, urging people to share their pictures and signposting to a dedicated web page outlining all of our communities’ festive activities.
Keen to get involved with the social drive, our portfolio holder for leisure and tourism did us a couple of Audioboo clips encouraging folk to turn out in force and we had listings on n0tice.
Did it all work? Well, I’ve no footfall figures yet, but I’ve never seen the town so busy.
According to Tweetreach, over the five days leading up to the event the #RCXmas hashtag reached 205,791 accounts, generating 240,107 impressions.
By 9pm on the night itself, we had a gallery of more than 50 superb images from the event up on our Facebook page, as well as on a Pinterest board. The likes and positive comments are still coming in.
Most importantly of all, we’ve had some really encouraging levels of engagement – and hopefully spread some social festive cheer into the bargain.
Photo – Dave Charnley Photography