During the last two decades, social media and review sites have provided opportunities to city councils, heritage, and tourism destinations to co-create value with citizens and tourists. The online channels facilitate the sharing of information and experiences using different types of content such as texts, photos, videos.
The high level of interactivity and reach of social media platforms may play a critical role in the city branding of Stoke-on-Trent taking into consideration the extensive increase in 1) number of users, (2) content generation and (3) content consumption during the last few years.
The city’s destinations and citizens generated content on social media platforms may influence the city branding which may have a positive impact on the long term societal and economic indicators. As residents of Stoke-on-Trent, we can influence visitors or investors attitude toward the city by collectively engage with social media accounts of its destinations, heritage places, visitor attractions, city centre, businesses, and many others.
The participation and involvement in Stoke-on-Trent city branding may seem complex, and as citizens, we might think that we need to be experts in content creation, photo shooting or video editing to support the city brand image. In fact, we can play a valuable role without being social media or technology experts by following the three steps formula (1) Awareness, (2) Engagement and (3) Co-creation.
First, we need to be aware about the events and activities taking place in the city. This may be achieved by searching and following social media accounts that relate to Stoke-on-Trent city branding. For example, Table 1 highlights that the percentage of the population of Stoke following the official tourism account ‘’ Visit Stoke ‘’ @VisitStoke is 4.75%. This is representing an opportunity for more residents to join and engage with city branding when this percentage is compared to other similar cities or to the national Visit Britain social media accounts. Other destinations and attractions in the city to follow are @EmmaBridgewater, @TrenthamEstate, @Monkey_Forest, @regandVic, @WorldofWedgwood, @Middleport_Pot, @PotteriesMuseum, @LoveClay_, @SpodeWorks, @GladstoneMuseum, @NewVicTheatre, @barewall, @SmithfieldST1, @TheartbayG, @PotteriesCentre, @EtruriaMuseum, @Mitchell_Arts, @WaterWorldStoke, @sotculturaldest, @appetitestoke, @StokeCreates, @StokeontrentBID, @MadeinStokeonT, @MakeItSoTStaffs, @Stokecity, @OfficialPVFC
Table 1. Percentage of the city population following the official visit the city social media accounts
|City Name||Estimated Population||Total number of followers on the official visit the city account on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram||Percentage of followers from the total population|
The second step is to engage with the content of these accounts. Engagement behaviors include liking, commenting, and sharing the content. Previous studies have shown that engagement will increase visibility including reach and views that enhance awareness, and most importantly Stoke-on-Trent brand equity, image, word of mouth and loyalty. Further, this step may include rating and reviewing the destinations’ pages on Google or other review sites such as tripadvisor.co.uk. Much research highlighted the importance of these reviews during visitors search for information and before decision-making.
Table 2 highlights that the official visitor’s website of Stoke-on-Trent ‘Visit Stoke’ is effectively performing for the number of organic traffic per month. Further, the number of searches for Stoke on Trent on TripAdvisor is higher than other cities. However, the number of Stoke-on-Trent hashtags on social media platforms is an area for development, and this can be improved by following the third step for city branding.
Table 2 – Comparing similar cities
|City Name||Number of # Instagram||Number of # Facebook||Number of # followers on LinkedIn||Estimated monthly organic traffic to official tourism site||Estimated search traffic on TripAdvisor per month|
The third step is to co-create content with the destinations, heritage, museums, and visitor attractions at Stoke-on-Trent. This step includes visiting these places and creating content such as images, videos or texts highlighting your experience and feelings, followed by sharing the content on your personal social media platforms while tagging the place and mentioning the related hashtags such as #stokeontrent #stoke #MyStokeStory #wearestoke #visitMAC #Smithfieldtoke #potteriesmuseum #LoveStoke #WhatsOnStoke #PoweringUpStoke #StokeIsOnTheUp #welovestoke. Further, you can develop a specific social media page or blog dedicated to showcase the best places to visit in Stoke-on-Trent including all the news, events and activities that may happen during the year. A good example is the Instagram named @welovestoke or the news and media page named @Babababoon.
During the last week of September, and during the welcome week at Staffordshire University, we have used the #stokeontrent along other Hashtags on Twitter. The photo below of the word frequency explains how we have influenced the #stokeontrent including the activities happening around the city and the Twitter accounts that they are using or re-tweeting with the #stokeontrent. For example, words such as students, amazing, appealing and Hashtags such as #staffsexperience and #proudtobestaffs were combined frequently with #stokeontrent. This is an example of a strategic use of Hashtags and how it may be beneficial for the city branding when it is searched online.
During the same week, the Twitter accounts in the figure below have used the #stokeontrent frequently. This represents an opportunity for other citizens to join and use the #stokeontrent strategically enhancing the reputation and supporting the vision of the City Council to transform the city into one of the region’s most important cultural destinations.