Nov 09 2020

Embracing the virtual world at Smithills… a lockdown success!

 Lockdown has, of course, posed a huge variety of issues for everyone’s planned work for 2020 – but at Smithills it’s also allowed us to trial new ways of engaging existing audiences, and well as reaching new ones.

From March, when it became clear we would not be running our usual events or volunteering programmes, we began to create digital work instead, and to make more use of our social media channels as a way to connect across Bolton and beyond.

The good news is that the strategy has worked – with two specific campaigns, #BringingSmithillsToYou and #SmithillsStayAtHomeClub we increased our reach via Facebook from 38,000 in March to 98,000 in April, and it’s now a steady 75,000 people per month. Our Instagram analytics show that, although our page is new, it’s performing better than comparable pages in our sector. Hooray! The even better news is that we can use this reach to continue our engagement work even in lockdown…

On the events front, we’ve made a short film for families, following Swallow as she journeyed from Africa to Smithills, which ran as a Facebook premiere watched by 4,500 people, and two Facebook Live bat walks, watched by just over 500 people.

Russ Hedley hosting a live bat walk on Smithills Estate

Outside of social media we’ve created an interactive family friendly event run over Zoom, and turned some of our regular guided walks into virtual walks (again over Zoom) – our Fungi Foray had double the attendance online than when we ran it onsite last year, covering its costs and also introducing us to an audience with a good proportion of new ‘visitors’ to Smithills.

Rusticus Theatre hosting the Smithills Wildlife Buzz Awards – where we took attendees on a tour of our various habitats and crowned our favourite species at each one

We didn’t know how these test events and activities would go – but we’re chuffed with results so far and it gives us the ability to have back-up plans for 2021, should lockdowns continue…

If you want to follow what we are up to online (please do!) our Facebook page is @WTSmithillsEstate, and our Instagram is @Woodlandtrustsmithillsestate.

Dr Vicky Entwistle- Engaging Communities Manager, Smithills

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