How to Create a Successful Facebook Campaign – A Review of the “Save The Byre Theatre” Campaign
Roll up, roll up and welcome back to The Student Entrepreneur and the first post of 2013. Given the fact that views of the blog have almost entirely dried up and it is in fact four months into the new year, I thought I should pull the proverbial finger out and treat you all to a new post.
Spring has very much arrived; I can smell the buttercups and hear the bleating of new-born lambs, amazing when you consider I live in the middle of Manchester but it’s true! Spring has always been about new life and new hope but sadly, this is not the case for all…
On the 25th January came the unexpected news that The Byre Theatre in St Andrews would be closing. Originally founded in 1933 by local journalist/playwright extraordinaire Alexander B. Paterson, the Byre has featured prominently in St Andrew’s life over the past 80 years. The theatre has grown in size and substance, starting life in a lowly Byre, a disused cowshed, to being transformed into Scotland’s only five-star theatre but Paterson’s ideals of using theatre to unite a community has always been an essential part of the Byre’s philosophy. So how could something with such a rich history fall victim to the administrators?
Having been a focal point of Fife’s community for such a long time, the abjection and objection felt by everyone connected to the Byre was completely understandable. Such raw emotions can sometimes negatively impact on the ability to bring about change but not always…something remarkable has been going on in a bid to save the theatre. This is the story of the Save The Byre Theatre Facebook campaign and its success at raising awareness.
The founder of the campaign is Gillian Gamble. She is a recent University of St. Andrews graduate who now works as a photographer and illustrator around the town. She says that she first heard of the theatre’s closure via Facebook when different conversations about the Byre appeared on her news feed. Immediately, she decided to make a central page to facilitate discussion about what to do. The page grew in popularity and within weeks it had attracted almost 6,000 facebook likes and its profile pictures had been shared hundreds of times. But what made the group stand out?
I’ve just finished reading Malcolm Gladwell’s Tipping Point, a book which looks at why social epidemics happen and what tips the scales. I highly recommend it! He suggests that campaigns, products, ideologies etc are successful because they satisfy three rules, and because I can’t be bothered to think for myself, I’ve decided to use these three rules and apply them to the Save the Byre (STB) campaign to show you why it was successful.
RULE 1 – LAW OF THE FEW
Gladwell begins with this theme. In essence, it refers to the fact that a lot of the work is done by a few, very important people. These people can be divided into three groups; the Information Givers, the Salesmen (and women!) and the Connectors. I’ve decided to focus on the latter two groups in relation to the STB campaign.
Who was the salesperson? Well, I think you really have to look no further than Gillian. Granted it was a fairly easy sell; it is obvious people would object to a local theatre’s closure but I reckon half of the reason why people clicked “like” was down to the fact that almost every message on the group had an air of positivity about it. Right from the off, Gillian says that she wanted to focus on making the forum constructive. Rather than waste time trying to criticise the failings of the Byre’s board, she implored people to think of ways to try to save the theatre and ultimately created a positive atmosphere on the page. When you first visit the page you are confronted with infectious enthusiasm and the notion that something can and is being done for the theatre and immediately, that’s you sold. You click the like button, you share its statuses, you adopt its picture as your own profile picture and suddenly the campaign starts to tip…
Through her positive and constructive messages, Gillian became a successful seller. But were there any connectors which made a difference? We all know someone in our lives that seems to know absolutely everyone. You don’t quite know how they know your auntie’s hairdresser but they do. Chances are these people have the same vast array of friends on their social media sites as well. These are the connectors. When they decide to like a group or share a status people listen and because they know so many different groups, the end result is that the message is amplified. Who was the connector for the STB campaign? Well, unfortunately that’s impossible to know. There were probably multiple connectors that made the difference in making the campaign go viral. Although Facebook can show you when the biggest percentage rise was in likes for your page, it doesn’t single anyone out at that time. What Gillian does know is that the biggest incline occurred over the first weekend after the page went live. So if you liked it over 25-27th January 2013, it could have been you!
RULE 2 – THE STICKINESS FACTOR
The next point we have to consider is “The Stickiness Factor”. This, quite simply, relates to a message’s ability to stick as an idea and therefore bring about a change in thought. I consider there to be a number of individual reasons why the STB campaign stuck.
First and foremost, it is something which people care about. When Gillian started the campaign, she wasn’t trying to sell a product, she was trying to persuade people to act on an idea. It was a common concern shared by many. Having studied in St Andrews myself, I know it can sometimes suffer from a “town versus gown” tension. But this campaign has united both students and locals alike because both are involved with it. I’ve seen a number of my student friends actively try to spread the word but I’m also aware of the scores of youth or local groups that relied heavily on the Byre Theatre to rehearse and perform.
A good message needs a good platform in order to reach people and keep people involved and that is exactly where Facebook comes in. I have in the past been sceptical about its ability to create change. Whenever I invite people to a party I’m throwing, no one ever clicks attending so it obviously doesn’t work, right? Or so I thought! With the STB campaign, my eyes really were opened to Facebook’s use as a marketing tool. With the hundreds of likes and shares it amassed, it appeared on people’s news feeds a number of times each day during its first few weeks of life so therefore its constant exposure made it sticky. It also pointed people towards the online petition and encouraged them to sign to save the theatre. With Gillian being a photographer and illustrator, it was obviously that visuals would play a role in making the campaign sticky. As she points out, the photo below was shared over 1,200 times and as they say, a picture can say a hundred words. In fact, it only had 4 words but you get my drift!
She also recruited a number of celebrities to pose with the Save The Byre Theatre poster. I’ve always thought of Tony Robinson as a bit of a legend and this just confirms it!
So, just to recap, the campaign was “sticky” because firstly you were constantly exposed to it and you were exposed to something which used visuals to really hammer home the message.
RULE 3 – THE POWER OF CONTEXT
The campaign facilitated the creation of a community discussion about the Byre. It also provided information about the latest news on its fate and it allowed people to see various events which they could attend that were created in order to raise awareness of the theatre’s plight, including the one you can see below which asked people to don their best fancy dress and come along to meet outside its doors to protest about its closure.
The very nature of this Facebook campaign has shown individuals that they were not alone in caring about what happens to The Byre and are part of a community which clearly includes thousands of people. This, in essence, is the Power of Context. The campaign was so powerful because it captured what individuals felt and used this to grow a community.
I’m sorry for ever doubting you Facebook!
Unfortunately, the campaign was unable to prevent the closure of the theatre on a temporary basis at least as the level of debt was too large. Latest news is that it will potentially reopen again in the summer under new ownership and I feel that this decision has definitely been influenced by the STB campaign and the publicity it attracted. Many national newspapers covered the story and its plight was broadcast to the country on “Scotland Tonight”. But unfortunately, the campaign has not stopped people losing their jobs at The Byre and the huge level of disruption it has caused to groups who used The Byre. However, as always, positivity seems to prevail. Gillian is planning on setting up a non-profit coffee shop in St Andrews. Whilst this is not directly related to the Byre Theatre, Gillian’s vision for the coffee shop is very much in the same mould as Paterson’s initial vision for the Byre. It will be a social enterprise which aims to reinvest in local charities and the arts. I would encourage anyone that does go or will go to St Andrews in the future to visit “Our Story” and do a good deed!
I will finish by reviewing what I’ve learned from the Save The Byre campaign in terms of how to make a product or idea tip the balance:
1) Be Passionate and Positive!
2) Make sure you have regular updates about what’s been going on. This will make it “sticky”.
3) Facebook shares and likes really do equal exposure.
4) Make it appeal to people. “Humanise” whatever you are trying to promote and use visuals to get the message across.
5) Facilitate a sharing experience. Getting people involved will increase your chances of success!
I hope you’ve enjoyed reading about the Save The Byre Theatre Facebook campaign. I interviewed Gillian about the campaign and I’ve only been able to use a very small amount of what she told me in this post. Therefore, I will publish the interview in full next week and I would encourage everyone who has enjoyed this to read it as it really is a fascinating interview.