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Social Media and Community Engagement in Catford Island

More than half the world’s population is active on social media. If you want to get your message out to the public, digital platforms are the way to go. This is true in the world of planning too, particularly since “Planning for the Future”, is the Government’s 2020 planning white paper and its emphasis on digitising the planning process.

Knowing this, the team behind the mixed development at Catford Island opted to make use of the Commonplace social media promotion package to encourage hyperlocal engagement, obtaining the thoughts and feedback of those directly affected by the changes proposed to regenerate the area.

Read on to learn how the Catford Island team kept local people informed and gave over 40,000 people the chance to engage at the click of one button.

What is being done at Catford Island?

The site known as Catford Island is located in Catford Town Centre in South London. It is currently home to a number of retail outlets, restaurants and a carpark. It’s one of six key sites earmarked for urban regeneration by Lewisham Council.  Catford is densely populated, and the Council's vision is to create connected new green and public spaces for the existing community to enjoy. The Council have also prioritised increased housing in the area, new shops, cafes and business spaces suited to the needs of the local population.

Early Community Engagement

In June 2021 the Catford Island project team, made up of Barratt London and communications agency Lowick,  started round one of engaging the community living and working in the Catford Island area to discover how the local people would like to see the Catford Island team bring this vision to life.

Using the Commonplace platform was the logical option as Lewisham Council has used the platform over several years to build trust and familiarity with the local people. When the first phase of the engagement was launched, the Catford Island team received feedback from over 500 participants in their early engagement, helping to clarify the local needs and wants. A summary of initial feedback can be seen below:


These clear priorities formed the basis of the fleshed-out proposal by Barratt London and the Church Commissioners. The proposal was shared with the local population during the second round of community engagement. For this second round, the project team wanted to reach and engage a higher percentage of the 44,000-strong local population. This is where the use of social media promotion became invaluable.

Social Media Engagement

To truly make a digital approach work, you’ll need a solid digital strategy. Equipped with experience from the initial community engagement, the project team commissioned the Commonplace social promotion package in order to hear from a larger base and particularly young people. The package includes a dedicated member of the Commonplace team running the campaign, holding regular monitoring and update meetings, and providing campaign advice based on the results achieved. In Catford Island, the social promotion campaign lasted one month.

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Following close collaboration between our in-house social media virtuoso and the Catford Island team, the target population was scoped out, the relevant metrics selected and the ideal platforms were identified. The beauty of social media promotion is its ability to make engagement as wide-reaching or as hyperlocal as appropriate. This ensures more contributions from the people directly impacted by the proposals for the area.

A seamless end-to-end digital journey

As a digital-first platform, we recognise the benefit of a seamless end-to-end journey, and ease of access to relevant information. For the Catford Island social promotion this meant a one-click journey to specific Commonplace surveys and proposal pages and consistency in images, videos and branding used by the project team and Commonplace.  A combination of images and videos was used to capture the attention of a scrolling audience, and the associated wording was agreed in partnership with the Catford Island team. This maximised opportunities for local people to engage before leaving the web pages, and the results spoke for themselves.  

The results

The use of social media had an evident impact. Over the one-month campaign,  the social media ads reached over 44,000 people; that’s equivalent to over 90% of the local population, with each person seeing an ad from the campaign roughly four times. During this time, the Catford Island Commonplace website went from receiving three to five visitors per day to an average of 150 visitors a day until the end of the project; the highest number of visitors was 536 visitors in one day. In total, the campaign generated 7,257 project page visits. This means the social media ads received a 1.7% click-through rate, 0.4 percentage points (or 25%) higher than the industry average. 

In the first four days of the project, the social media ads brought 68 additional contributions, and in total accounted for 231 of the contributions made to the project. This means the ads experienced a conversion rate of 3.2%, versus an industry average of 1.5% *.

Regular monitoring of the campaign helped us drive additional traffic to the website even at the later stages of the engagement. The Commonplace website visitor total ended up the equivalent to 54% of the local population, with 20% of confirmed contributions made by 18-30 year olds.

The value of social media engagement

When there are long-term plans for development in an area, it is so important for members of the community to be exposed to planned changes as early and as much as possible.  It’s even more important to ensure all voices have the chance to be heard. Online community engagement helps make this happen.

The added value of social media promotion is in raising general awareness and its ability to capture a younger audience; those for whom any proposed changes will have a bigger impact. Also, familiarising local people with urban regeneration plans in this way encourages greater understanding and often reduces risk of widespread objection. Informed local views stand a better chance of being constructive and more informative.

In a digital world, posters on the street and mail drops no longer suffice. The presence of a social media campaign is key to increasing local exposure to plans. Awareness campaigns like Catford Island make it easier to build long-term conversations with local communities and conduct future community engagements and consultations.

Speak to a member of the team to find out how your project can benefit from social media promotion.

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