Can 1,400 Facebook likes get more people cycling in Oxford?
By Oly Shipp
Compared to other cycling campaigns, we are certainly doing pretty well: of 108 campaign groups in the UK, Cyclox ranks fourth in terms of social media following, behind the huge London cycling campaign, and those in the much bigger cities of Leeds and Edinburgh. In fact, in a thinly-veiled attempt to manipulate the data, we calculated that on a ‘likes per head of population’, Cyclox comes well ahead of any cycling campaign in the country!
However, maybe none of the cycling campaigns are doing very well: certainly we have a long way to go to catch up with the Oxford Mail (37,428), Oxford University (3,706,134), or even Cristiano Ronaldo (120,916,519).
But does any of this matter? How exactly could clicking on social media help achieve the strategic aim of Cyclox, which is to get more people in and around Oxford cycling, more safely and more often?
One way is that social media could help us persuade decision-makers (such as the County Council, our local transport authority) and the voting public to actively support safe cycling in Oxford.
Local councillors tell us that they really do listen to issues raised by constituents – face to face conversations and direct mails about specific issues are particularly helpful. However, in this digital age, engagement through social media is another powerful way to demonstrate to our elected politicians that they have strong and broad backing when then support cycling.
The public are also likely to hear about Cyclox through Facebook and Twitter. People may stumble across us through a random post and may then get involved by responding to consultations, coming to our events, helping with stalls and perhaps even becoming a champion, or committee member. Of course, we hope they will join Cyclox: as well as needing the modest annual subscription to fund our campaigns and pay a part-time coordinator, this gives us another number to celebrate, the legitimacy of having over 500 paying members.
Although it’s not just about the numbers; recent discussion in social media circles has suggested that ‘engagement’ is a better measure than ‘likes’. Certainly, the discussions, debates, even occasional arguments on the Cyclox Facebook and Twitter pages go well beyond just liking, or retweeting.Whilst engagement is great, it’s much, much harder to measure, especially for small, volunteer-run campaigns like Cyclox. So, for now at least, even if it’s the only thing you can do to support us, please like our Facebook page and follow us on Twitter – it really does help up us spread the word!