Lessons from a council that went viral on Facebook and Reels

Feb 7, 2023

“Make this go viral on Facebook” says the head of finance, about her 347 page PDF report. Argh!

We don’t always get given the sexiest things to promote.

But everyone in comms want to get lots of meaningful social media engagement – likes, shares and comments that promotes a message, product or service.

So what happens when you DO crack it, and go viral?

The brilliant Stacey Cosens, Director at Stacey Cosens Marketing Limited and Media and Communications Officer at Braintree District Council, shares some incredible lessons.

My recipe video accidentally went viral and here is what I learned


So something slightly crazy has happened with one of my latest reels. It’s completely blown up!


Inspired by the brilliant Bored of Lunch book and our Cost of Living campaign at Braintree District Council (BDC) – I decided to revive our recipe videos to share easy low cost low energy recipes.


My first was a chorizo, kidney bean and potato stew which did ok. I followed up with a slow cooker beef curry recipe and it snowballed.


The reel was created on our BDC Instagram but shared to Facebook. So far it has had over 1.1m views, 7.8k likes, 1k shares and over 600 comments!


Half the reason for its success? Debate about spoon size, using beef, not washing meat, not searing meat and my use of peanut butter!


At first, the negative comments did get to me. I’d worked hard to put a video together for people to enjoy – an easy, cheap slow cooker recipe for those who are struggling with the cost of living crisis and who may not be cooking experts. Why did I bother?


Screenshot from Facebook shows a slowcooker with tasty looking beef casseroleBut after the hundredth comment about how I was using the wrong spoon, now I can just celebrate this engagement and a successful reel and appreciate the positive comments and reactions above the noise of the negative ones and think of the people inspired to try this because of my video.


Social media success is a bit of knowledge and a lot of luck and now that I am beginning to lead more on social media in my role at Braintree District Council, I am so pleased to have an idea pay off!


As someone who manages the social media for a local council, I have had more than my fair share of abuse, so here are my tips for dealing with negative comments on social media.

  • Don’t read the comments! If you can, avoid the comments, especially if they become negative. You will only wind yourself up more by refreshing the page to see more vitriol.

  • If you do read the comments, focus on the positive. Appreciate the people who have taken the time to give you positive feedback. People are always more likely to complain then praise so appreciate those who are grateful for your message.

  • Try not to take it personally. If you’re running a social media account for a brand, remember that any negativity is against their vision of that brand – be it a business, government, venue, charity or anything else. It’s not personally aimed at you, although it may feel like it, especially if you’ve worked on the creative.

  • Remember, debate sparks engagement, my post saw such high engagement because it sparked debate.

  • Switch off. Working with social media, it can be impossible to switch off from it. We can easily check in or see how a post is doing via our phone. Try and be strict with yourself and avoid checking on this outside of your usual working hours or it’s going to ruin your free time and stress you out.


Thanks so much to Stacey for letting us the hear the story behind the video! Excellent tips here, and a fab insight into the kind of content that blows up on Facebook.

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    Hel Reynolds

    Hel Reynolds

    Author of this post

    Hel is social media trainer and boss of Comms Creatives. She has been working in comms since 2005, and has been brushing up her expertise in social media for brands since the good old days of MySpace. She also draws the Comms Cartoons, and is usually attached to a mug of coffee.

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