Social Media Team of the Year

Scroll down to meet the nominees for the Regional Press Awards Social Media Team of the Year, sponsored by Facebook Journalism Project.

Facebook’s mission is to give people the power to build community and bring the world closer together.

The Facebook Journalism Project is committed to strengthening communities by connecting people with meaningful journalism. As part of our work, the Facebook News Partnerships team collaborates with publishers, broadcasters, journalists, universities and other stakeholders across the news industry globally to promote quality journalism.

Our teams partner with news organisations to develop products and tools for newsrooms. The Partnerships team are also committed to training journalists, hosting workshops and sessions in newsrooms as well as providing online training and resources.

The Shortlist

Open to news teams that have as a unit made the best use of social media platforms to reach out and engage with the public. Entrants may focus on sustained overall year-long achievements or pinpoint specific cases with breaking stories or campaigns.


Supporting statements:

BirminghamLive’s main Facebook, Twitter and Instagram accounts continue to flourish – showcasing some of the major stories of the year from a 25 minute Facebook live at the opening of the world’s biggest Primark to telling the shocking story of homeless man Kane Walker who died on the freezing streets of Birmingham. We finished 2019 with a social following of 1.6m followers, not including our numerous brand groups.   

But what makes our social team stand out is the desire to serve more specific communities within the city – ensuring we are delivering relevant content to them and how we engage with our audience.

Through building our brand and loyalty amongst readers it means that they turn to us first when something happens. When people were trapped in stores and restaurants at Star City in November, they posted in our Facebook crime groups and messaged us for information. We spoke to readers and asked them to take pictures and video and as we made initial enquiries and verified sources, we went live on the incident. We were soon inundated by terrified families who had been to see Frozen 2 on a Saturday afternoon. People were talking to others about their experiences and some of the reaction and social interaction was embedded into the article. 

We used various platforms to share the story, from Facebook to Twitter, Instagram, through our app and a breaking email newsletter. 

The editorial team continued to use social channels to lead the agenda on this story, getting reaction, a review on the film from one of our writers and then we broke the exclusive that the film had been banned, to which there was a huge response on twitter. Through this story we felt we were able to engage a younger audience and through the work of community reporters we have used Instagram takeovers to further give younger people a voice. Each post in the Beatfreeks takeover averaged 1,500-page views – adding to a total amount of 52,784 views. 

Our priority is using social media to give readers a voice, enabling them to have respectful conversations with others and improving lives for people where possible. This story and social storytelling on a woman who fled her home with six children and £10, captured the hearts of our readers with people wanting to fulfil the children’s Christmas wish. Our office was subsequently swamped with gifts.

Finally, we have increasingly used video to add followers, expand our reach and promote positivity on our channels and have had an incredible response. In 2019 11 million minutes of video were watched on our main Facebook account, up 200% from the previous year. Engagement was at 1.3m, up 900%. And our top performing videos were feelgood ones with the highlight being a birthday message for a 100-year-old lady by her binmen. This reached 5.6m people.

BirminghamLive has continued to think of innovative ways to capture the attention of readers with innovative ideas and tools.

Judges’ Comments:  

A strong and solid offering from an outlet well known for its strong digital and social output.


Supporting statement:

ChronicleLive is an essential part of people’s daily lives in the North East, with more than 1 million followers across Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.

We have grown our Facebook page to 375,000 fans, driven by a strategy of posting only the best content and growing engagement through interaction within dedicated groups for breaking news (this group is one of the biggest in Reach with 30,000 followers), traffic/travel which is named around the region’s roads to help with discoverability, court and crime which gives us a place to post active proceedings safely to Facebook with comments disabled, nightlife, business, bargains and money-saving.

Our local democracy reporters run groups focused on council planning matters, while our community reporters engage with readers via groups shining a light on under-served communities in Newcastle’s East and West End. Overall, our Facebook group membership has more than doubled year-on-year to 52,000. 

We use social media to understand and answer the questions readers are asking. After the shocking murder of solicitor Peter Duncan, we were inundated with queries about why we had not named the then-17-year-old teenager charged and later found guilty of his murder. We worked closely with the courts, police and CPS to name Ewan Ireland at midnight on his 18th birthday, and published an explanation for readers of why we had not legally been able to name him before. It received over 100,000-page views and clearly demonstrated a need for public interest explanation journalism. 

We have a relentless dialogue with Newcastle United fans via social media. Through regular, interactive Facebook Live broadcasts published on our pillar NUFC Facebook page, our writers address questions live and tap in to debates being had in pubs and at kitchen tables throughout the North East. The resulting transcripts from these crowdsourced discussions generate compelling and engaging content for ChronicleLive and for our newspaper titles. 

We have focused on an Instagram growth strategy during 2019 and increased our following to nearly 50,000 with a combination of pictures, regular takeovers with local photographers, and daily stories focusing on what’s on, nightlife, property and local nostalgia. Weekend Instagram stories focus on showcasing the people and businesses using the platform to make the North East more interesting, beautiful or community-focused, such as this profile of local tattoo artists.

Our reporters have upskilled in Facebook Live broadcasts during 2019, with highlights including a 20-minute walk-through Newcastle’s biggest ever Christmas market – our most engaging Facebook post of the year.

We ran our first Newcastle Loves event in 2019, celebrating the best places to eat, drink and play in a city renowned for knowing how to show people a good time. The public response via social media was incredible: we opened ten categories to online vote and promoted this via Facebook and Twitter, where we tagged in venues’ official handles and pages. We were blown away to receive over 20,000 votes, showing that our fantastic party city had been waiting for an event like this for a long time.

Judges’ Comments:  

At the heart of the community and consistently using sport to cement that position through social.

Good use of platform to tell important stories – e.g. murder suspect.


Supporting statement:

In 2019 we had very specific goals of what to achieve and they were broken down into five sections – all focused on quality.

1.Breaking news

During breaking news our team is vital to reporting the facts quickly and accurately.

One person will post on Facebook and Twitter, one sends a push on the app then another sends a message to 6,000 subscribers on our WhatsApp service and an Instagram Story is also created.

The news is then posted in relevant groups and finally the reporters involved will post on their own professional accounts.

Instead of waiting for people to come to us we take the news to them.

2.Pushing the boundaries 

The General Election brought an opportunity to try something new.

We hosted four Facebook Live political hustings. We used a television studio with professional broadcast equipment and the programmes were transmitted through Facebook Creator Studio. 

They were watched more than 30,000 times and reached 100,000 people. Many hours went into research, technical preparation and monitoring hours of viewer comments it to do something that had not been done before in regional journalism.

A link to one of the four hustings can be found here

3.Reach new audiences 

We constantly want to reach new audiences, so we set out on a journey to master Instagram and increase our loyal readership through WhatsApp.

Instagram had been tricky in 2018 gaining just 11,782 readers but 2019 the strategy to concentrate on quality Instagram Stories produced by the Deputy Digital Editor backed up with stunning local images specially curated by the Picture Editor proved to be key.

It has been a huge success with 225,310 new readers. The number of followers has also doubled from 15,000 people to more than 30,000. (Picture Above)

Our WhatsApp daily news service has 6,000 people signed up and during General Election night we started a breaking news service for our most loyal readers. 

It was given constant updates and readers appreciated the bespoke service.

4.Community interaction and supporting court reporting

During 2019 out of 500 UK news Facebook pages Nottinghamshire Live was the 15th most engaged page with the majority of the top 20 having hundreds of thousands of more page likes. This was achieved by interacting with our audience. 

Our Facebook groups have more than 40,000 members and we use our one group to share court stories which has built a dedicated audience. This helps keep our court service going at a time when daily court reporting is declining. 

5.Bringing history alive

Our past is as important as our future and we wanted to show people what life was really like.

Our History and Bygones Facebook group grew from a couple of hundred to 2,000 strong and is one of most engaged communities we have. 

The team interacts with the group and weekly our Picture Editor compiles a gallery of historic photos which are viewed by thousands.  Lenton through the years was viewed by more than 30,000.

Judges’ Comments:  

A team looking to use social to put them at the heart of their community.

Clear strategy, good content.

Manchester Evening News

Supporting statement:

Growing the Manchester Evening News’ presence on social media has been one of the driving forces in helping us reach more of our readers and understand more about them.

Over several years we grew a huge Facebook news page which has more than 1.6m likes. We publish our best stories and share native video. It has also become one of our main sources of tips and during breaking news such as bad weather we are inundated with images video and other information. 

Replying and chatting to people, particularly when they are not happy with something is something we think is very important. We aim to reply with real personality, and this has led to “in jokes”and some top-quality banter!  (For example every time we do a weather forecast piece readers post a picture of Gail from Coronation Street with big muscles…) 

2019 was all about looking after that big page while reaching even more people by building hyperlocal feeds.

We started new feeds for areas including Bury, Bolton, Wigan, North Manchester, South Manchester, the city centre. We also have pages for the rest of our boroughs.

We also focused on bespoke Facebook groups – our breaking News group had 25k members, our court groups have 25k members. We also have a traffic and travel and good news group with 4.5k members each – and a Coronation Street group with 28k members in it.

We have done pop up groups around events like the Christmas Markets. These groups almost become self-sustaining with members sharing information like where to get the best sausage.

By diversifying our social in this way, we are able to offer our readers what they want rather than spraying out content and hoping some of it will hit the mark.

In a similar drive to reach new audience we have worked on Instagram. We now have 188k followers (53 per cent under 35) sharing thousands of images under our hashtag. 

In 2019 we focused on Instagram stories. We make our stories relevant to the community that is looking for more positive content. 

We had 800k page views to our website from Instagram last year. However, it’s not about clicks through to our site as people can get all they need from the Instagram story. It’s about reaching a new audience and being the go-to place for content about Greater Manchester It is a new and vibrant community that we are very proud of.

This submission is quite fact based but we wanted to demonstrate the scale of the work being done. We don’t have a huge social team. Most of of the work is done by content editors, and there is a great culture of training across the newsroom. But in concentrating on growing new feeds we have found new audience and new places for our journalism to go.

Judges’ Comments:  

Impressive diversification has resulted in reaching new audiences, which is exactly what journalistic use of social should be about.


Supporting statement:

In 2019 we were one of the UK’s most engaged news sources, with record growth and 23m social media engagements.

We were most-followed for Welsh news on Twitter while our flagship Facebook page had more engagements than any other regional (8.94m) and larger titles like The Times and Daily Express.

Our strategy is to creatively amplify excellent journalism and constantly innovate with new formats and ideas. 

We’re ambitious, forward-thinking and like to be first.

In September we launched a 24-hour newsroom to provide unrivalled Rugby World Cup coverage for two months.

We delivered: 

*An ambitious live daily Facebook show, The Gain Line (here), featuring writers and experts, linking to our reporter in Japan and interacting with viewers. It now has sponsorship.

*Our rugby podcast grew to 20k listeners, second in iTunes’ sports chart. We streamed a special with a live audience to Facebook.

*Reporters presented daily 6am video bulletins for YouTube and Twitter. 

*We launched WhatsApp groups, one for fans in Japan to update on events like Typhoon Hagibis, and another for fans at home. The latter now has 3,500 loyal readers and generates 20k page views weekly.

Alongside this:

*We were the first UK regional to launch on TikTok and tap into its young audience. We now have 10k followers. 

*Our Newport Online Facebook group evolved into a new brand with a team of journalists.

*Our Alexa news robot project was replicated across Reach.

*Newsletters became a key traffic source and our Instagram presence expanded.

We used social media to be part of readers’ daily lives and conversation, cheekily changing our Twitter handle to @WhalesOnline after a Trump gaffe, to a hugely positive reaction.

At the core of our strategy is social video (here). Most watched of 2019 was “Derek and Eirwen” (1.9m FB reach, 900k unique viewers, 7.5k shares), the heart-wrenching story of an elderly couple reunited for one last time.

We used video to give people a voice, documenting a mother’s struggle to raise three autistic children, the moment homeless people had tents removed and to promote campaigns like Wales Against Plastics.

And used Twitter with flair and creativity to mark events like International Women’s Day (see the thread here).

Everyone is trained in tools like Dataminr, Newswhip, CrowdTangle and Tweetdeck to source and break news quickly and accurately – from a fatal steelworks explosion to the Emiliano Sala tragedy, which we monitored across the globe, from recovery in Guernsey to grief in Argentina and France. 

We held the powerful to account with fact-check videos, challenging views on climate change, streaming press conferences to our politics Facebook page and podcasts interviewing Wales’ decision makers.

We took readers to the heart of a story with live streams, like the Extinction Rebellion protests.

Original and passionate about Wales, we got celebrities to appear in our World Cup videos, even bagging actor Matthew Rhys as narrator.

We used social media as a team, to build trust and relevance, from our 130 reporter channels to our hyperlocal and niche pages.

Judges’ Comments:  

An eclectic skill set demonstrated across the team.

Clarity of purpose and big impact on storytelling and the business.

Warrington Guardian

Supporting statement:

BEING shortlisted for last year’s Regional Press Awards has undoubtedly been a contributory factor in helping to drive our small weekly Warrington Guardian team on to further success over the past 12 months.

In March we were named the fastest growing local newsroom in the UK for social media engagement – an increase of almost 200% (yr/yr) through the use of the latest tools combined with a passion for innovation and desire to keep our readers entertained, educated and informed.

We were also in the top 5 Newsquest titles for Facebook interactions and the top weekly for unique users (600k+) and page views (4m a month – up more than 30% year on year).

We have continued to thrive in a highly competitive region due to our teamwork combined with having the ability and flair to use social media to its full potential. 

Through our 80,000+ Facebook followers/community groups we play a vital role in helping to lead the conversation for Warrington residents. Using Instagram stories and live videos to reach a younger audience, we now have more than 14.5k Instagram followers – the largest of any Newsquest title and the most successful weekly in the UK.

Here are three examples of how we lead the way:

  1. When Warrington Wolves reached the Wembley Challenge Cup Final in August we coordinated an Instagram takeover day, working exclusively with the rugby club to provide unrivalled coverage nationally. 

As a result of our social media coverage more than 2.4m pvs were secured in the week of the final. Our social posts alone reached more than 310,000 people.

It was a record-breaking week on Instagram with thousands liking our posts and it ensured record numbers attended the team’s victorious homecoming.

  1. On General Election night in December our social media efforts meant we were in the top 5 most read live blogs across Newsquest for more than 24hrs, while our Facebook post asking for gifs to sum up how they felt about Boris Johnson being the new Prime Minister and our Twitter moment of the Warrington coverage were the best performing. We also used Facebook Live to interview every candidate and host our own hustings. View coverage here.
  2. Through Facebook/Twitter/Instagram insights and daily analytics tools including Crowdtangle, Taboola and Chartbeat, we decided to put a greater emphasis on being a force for good through increased ‘positive’ posts via our #WonderfulWarrington Facebook group.

It is a ‘troll-free’ environment and we used it to launch a number of new initiatives in 2019 including #ThankYouThursday which encouraged followers to thank those who had made a difference. We also had an unprecedented response to our Big Clean Up litter campaign, with hundreds of readers interacting in our live Big Warrington Clean-up day.

And after supporting a campaign to raise money for the treatment of a mum-of-two with cervical cancer, we appealed for Warrington women to get a smear test via our #SmearforSmear video that went viral after being watched 42,000 times and shared 202 times.

Judges’ Comments:  

Good mix of content and impressive engagement.

Punching above their weight.