Best Use of Social Media – case study

Best Use of Social Media.

Torfaen County Borough Council – Social Media Campaign – In the Depot


Severe winter weather poses a huge reputational risk for local government, as vital services face widespread disruption. However, it also provides an opportunity to enhance the reputation of public services through engaging communications. This was at the heart of Torfaen Council's 'In the Depot' campaign.


  • To weave key 'sticky' messages from our winter maintenance strategy into a funny, creative, informative video that would be shared at least 500 times and achieve 3000 views
  • For Torfaen's social media community to feel well informed about the disruption caused by the winter weather
  • To showcase the work of local government gritters during the snow with 5 pieces of local media coverage and 3 pieces of national media coverage
  • To increase positive perception of local government by encouraging 1000 positive/supportive online comments from citizens
  • To increase Torfaen's social media influence and reach by increasing our Facebook following by 20 per cent
  • To have a positive influence on online mentions about Torfaen during the snow


Our crisis communications strategy focuses on being first, fast and accurate with news; placing digital channels at the heart of our communications and proactively seeking media opportunities to highlight the work of frontline workers.

Analysis and research of our most frequent social media comments and queries from the public during a snow crisis highlighted the following:

  • People expect all residential roads to be gritted
  • People rarely see the roads being gritted as it takes place through the night
  • Social media users expect up to the minute street--‐level information on services

Therefore our strategy focused on:

  • Using digital channels to make a high level, complex winter maintenance strategy easy to understand
  • To highlight the work of the council's gritting team
  • Providing an around the clock communications service using social media


Content and timing

Adding humour to such a high profile issue meant pushing the boundaries of traditional local government communications. With no budget available, a script and a storyboard 'In the Depot' was prepared in an hour, and we secured the free services of a well-known local Elvis tribute. Timeliness was critical meaning the video was recorded in an hour on Friday and went live on Monday.

An online buzz

We engaged with local and national bloggers and online influencers including weather presenters, journalists and government ministers. Their endorsements fuelled the online buzz and this was sustained with local and national PR/public affairs activity. We also ensured the film was shared with employees - our most valuable local advocates.

Well informed citizens

Positive sentiment was maintained during the crisis and in the days that followed, by a constant flow of timely local updates around the clock.

Research, planning, measurement and evaluation

Two pieces of research shaped our planning

1. People are increasingly using Torfaen's digital channels as their primary source for information during a crisis.

2. Topical video is our most engaging form of social media content

This knowledge made us focus on online video as the focal point for the campaign.


  • A viral video - In the Depot was viewed 350,000 times in ten days, receiving more than 500 positive comments on YouTube alone
  • Torfaen's Facebook page had 226 updates on service disruption - receiving 7138 'likes', 3421 shares and reached 59,000 people in a week, an increase of 885%
  • There were 170 snow tweets from @torfaencouncil providing latest information, attracting 300 new followers
  • The snow page on Torfaen Council website was updated 115 times in a week, achieved 100,000+ views
  • 24 press releases/media invitations were issued achieving daily take up by the media


  • In the Depot was trending as YouTube's second most popular video at the peak of the snow disruption and was shared 1757 times.
  • The video was 'shared' 30,390 times on Facebook, including Radio 2 and YouTube's pages, and received 30,306 Facebook likes and 14, 754 positive comments
  • The video was shared 2800 times on Twitter including targeted influencers such as weather presenters, journalists, bloggers, media outlets and politicians
  • Full house of media coverage including:
    • TV - Sky News, BBC News, ITV News, Channel 4, BBC Wales, BBC WM, the Wales Show
    • Radio: Radio 2 news plus Steve Wright viral video of the day, Radio Five Live, Radio Six, Radio Wales, Real Radio
    • Press articles in Daily Mirror, Daily Star, Independent, Telegraph, Western Mail, South Wales Argus, Free Press, Big Issue as well as local government specialist press (The MJ)
    • Online: All the main news websites including Huffington Post and as far afield as Sky News Australia, blogs included the Independent, Comms2Point0 and fan forums from Elvis tributes to football clubs. Also featured in the Guardian's Viral Videos of the Week.


  • Huge Community impact/reach: It was sung on a local rugby terrace within a week of launch
  • Messages of congratulations/praise from ex-pats in Jamaica, Australia, Canada and USA
  • UK Highways Agency hosted video on their website while UK Resilience cited it as best practice social media use
  • Councils from Aberdeen to Bournemouth shared the video with residents and staff


The campaign exceed all its objectives:

  • A post-snow survey of social media followers revealed 97% of were better informed about council activities during the snow
  • Positive online sentiment for local government was achieved through 17,200 positive comments, praising Torfaen Council
  • In the Depot video and its key messages received 32,938 'likes' and 34,947 'shares' and has had 465,000
  • Torfaen's online influence has increased with Facebook followers rising by 65% to over 5000
  • The work of council gritters was showcased through 20 unique pieces of positive national media coverage and eight articles in Welsh media.

Budget and cost effectiveness

It cost nothing - only staff time - even Elvis gave up his time for free. The work of local government workers in Torfaen (population 90,000) was seen in a positive light by millions of people on a national and international stage.

And to top it all off, before Vegas comes calling, we've signed up Elvis for our big summer event!