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Using social media to boost Levelling Up engagement in Doncaster

In Spring 2022, Doncaster City Council, in partnership with Locality, prepared its second bid for Government Levelling Up Funds. As with the first bid in 2021, the Council used Commonplace to ensure high levels of public engagement. A foundational requirement of Levelling Up funding is that the bidding authority demonstrates it has engaged with the public in shaping its bid.

A key challenge in both bidding rounds has been to rapidly inform the public and get local feedback on a wide scale. Based on its successful Round One bid, Doncaster Council chose to use Commonplace again in June 2022. In addition to this, to achieve far-reaching engagement as quickly as possible, Doncaster Council decided to use the Commonplace Social Promotion package.

Read on to find out how Commonplace helped to drive constructive and comprehensive project feedback from the people of Doncaster.

Levelling Up Doncaster

Round One: success

In 2021, Doncaster successfully secured £18.6 million from the Levelling Up Fund to support actions laid out in its Local Plan and the Doncaster’s Borough Strategy. These plans identified eight priorities, all of which focused on creating safe, strong and vibrant communities.

Doncaster’s Round One bid was exceptionally successful, and much of this was attributed to their use of Commonplace - as mentioned by the Council’s senior official:

Our bid was voted 8th out of the 75 that were approved in England. 305 were submitted in total. We definitely think our success is down to the quality of the community engagement that occurred.

Christian Foster, Head of Programmes at Doncaster Council

In just over two weeks in Summer 2021, the Council‘s online levelling up engagement site received 1,948 unique visitors, 521 contributions, 281 respondents, and 117 expressed interest in being kept in the loop through news updates. As a result, Doncaster Council were able to quickly identify the local priorities, and successfully secured £18.6m in Government funding to start levelling up  these communities.

Round Two ambition

Doncaster Levelling Up GIF

To continue improving life for communities across different areas within Doncaster, the Council recognised that their ambitious plans would benefit from more funding. Two additional bids have been prepared for Round Two of the Government’s Levelling Up fund, for investment in two areas of Doncaster:

  • Doncaster North, including the town centre regeneration and investing in Brodsworth Miners Welfare Institute
  • Edlington, including the Royal Estate and a new leisure centre

Doncaster Council wanted to ensure the bids were once again clearly informed by local needs in the specific areas identified. In order to obtain a wide reach in a short timeframe of just one month, the use of social media promotion was fundamental to gaining feedback from the relevant communities.

Successful local social media promotion

The social media campaign was created and managed by Commonplace’s Social Campaigns Manager. Commonplace tailored the campaign specifically to the needs of Doncaster Council. Facebook and Instagram were used over a period of two weeks in June 2022, targeting residents within the Borough of Doncaster, which includes the suburbs surrounding the town of Doncaster, as well as the specific areas of Doncaster North and Edlington. 

Eye-catching visuals are a key to a successful campaign that drives traffic to the Commonplace website. These creative images, made by the social campaigns expert at Commonplace, increased the portion of people pausing and reading the ad by the hour.

Doncaster Social media levelling up posts

At the same time, the Commonplace website was set up by the Customer Success team to support engagement by visitors coming through the social media channels. This level of integrated design and campaign planning is part of Commonplace’s cross-company ”Design for conversion” approach to online engagement.  

The results

Two weeks of social media promotion resulted in 6,764 additional visits to the Commonplace interactive website, roughly one-half of the total number of visitors. The number of contributions gained via the social media promotional campaign amounted to 363 contributions, roughly one-fifth of all contributions the project received. By the end of the engagement, 723 people had subscribed to receive updates about Doncaster’s levelling up agenda. The local appetite to remain engaged was evident from the fact that local people continued the conversation beneath the social media ads themselves, which allowed the Doncaster levelling up team to reply, and attracted the attention of more people to the consultation. In this way, social media promotion run by Commonplace has helped to trigger, and continue, civic conversation in Doncaster about the changes potential Levelling Up funding could bring.

The short social advertising campaign delivered a conversion rate of 5.4%, significantly higher than the industry average of 4%. The conversion rate refers to the number of people who clicked on the social media ad and went on to add a contribution to Doncaster’s interactive engagement site. This shows how effective a social promotion campaign can be when engaging local people about the changes planned for their areas.

Next steps

Having received over 2,000 contributions in a short space of time, the Doncaster Levelling Up project team are happy with the feedback received from the engagement as a whole. The Levelling Up Doncaster engagement page has now been closed to comments, but remains visible on the Commonplace website. 

The responses so far have been brilliant and we’re getting some real insight into how the local people feel about the different projects.”

- Jeff Scales, Head of Services (North), Locality.  

If you want to learn more about Doncaster's Levelling Up online engagements, follow the links below.

Links and resources

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