How quickly would you expect your local council to react to a complaint? One week? One month? Longer?
I once used the Cheshire West and Chester Council website to report an incident where someone was driving across a green in Ellesmere Port in a Land Rover, and they’d churned up all of the grass and left deep tyre tracks. I even had photos, with the registration of the vehicle. I heard nothing for weeks, and had to chase it up.
It was months before I was eventually told they’d do nothing about it. I know this is a familiar story to many.
However there is a much better way of getting direct action from your local council – social media.
Last week, I was walking along Stanney Lane, in Ellesmere Port, when I was confronted with the image in the photo at the top of this page. A tree had been allowed to grow so large and out of control that it had blocked the pavement and the cycle lane. I had to lean into the road to get past, as did a couple with a pram.
Now, conventional wisdom would say to phone the council and report it. We know that doesn’t work though, don’t we? Instead I took the photo you see above and posted it on social media, in a local Facebook group for Ellesmere Port.
The post received a lot of engagement. Some people said how it was due to council cutbacks (pun intended) that trees like this were being left all around Ellesmere Port. Some said they had similar trees near their houses that needed attention.
Some people took the opposite stance and ridiculed me for wasting my time moaning, claiming I should borrow a hedge strimmer from someone and fix it myself.
The outcome of all of this however was that the tree was cut down by the council within 24 hours of the post being made.
Why did this happen? Quite simple – if you phone, email or write to the council you’re making a complaint, or request, in a private environment. It will be dealt with, or not, using the internal systems and processes in place to deal with such correspondence. There is no pressure on them to do anything quicker. You have no leverage.
When you post it in social media, it’s instant. Anyone and everyone can see it. Plus, when the right people see it, it prompts immediate action because it looks bad on their part if they don’t act. The Facebook group is frequented by local council workers, councillors and even the MP for Ellesmere Port and Neston, Justin Madders (he’s actually an admin of the group) so anything that raises enough concern within it may well be dealt with instantly.
This isn’t exclusive to Ellesmere Port, or to Facebook. Social media represents a public opinion forum to raise issues and get the right people to see them. Social media can elicit more direct action than any other mode of communication, and it can be more effective than any other sales or marketing technique as you’re able to go where the audience is. You’re able to engage with them directly. This works whether you want the council to cut down a tree, or whether you want to promote one of your own products or services.
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