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Shifting narratives on social: choose your own adventure highlights real issues

24 January 2020

For the Trussell Trust, ending the need for food banks in the UK isn’t just about changing policies – it’s about shifting the narrative…

At the heart of our communications are the voices of people with lived experience – people who know what it’s like to live in poverty, to be forced to use a food bank, to have to make difficult decisions. Too often, negative media stereotypes take centre stage online and we wanted to change that by sharing real stories on social media and asking our followers to engage with the options faced by people in poverty personally.

The Trussell Trust has a strong following on Twitter, but last summer after spotting a fun ‘choose your own adventure’ style thread about being Beyonce’s personal assistant for the day, we decided to try something new. It’s easy on social media to end up simply broadcasting information, sharing updates or statistics or fundraising for donations – we’d been looking for a way to drive more interaction on social media, and a thread like this seemed the perfect choice.

We were keen to combat stereotypes about poverty, emphasising that living in poverty limits a person’s options. People don’t use a food bank because they want to; they use one because that’s the only ‘choice’ they have left. We started by looking through real stories people had shared as part of our #5WeeksTooLong campaign calling for an end to the five week wait for Universal Credit. Once we had a range of key stories, our communications team worked with colleagues from the campaigns and policy teams to make sure that the phrasing and messaging were right and our information was accurate.

Putting together a thread we were all happy with took a few weeks of collaborative work – but the most time-consuming part for us was working out how to actually to post the thread in a workable format on Twitter! We’d never done anything like this before and did a lot of testing (with a lot of mistakes) before we had a clear thread that worked for everyone.

Areas we covered included things like advance payments, unexpected bills, renting, and health problems. We wanted to make people aware of how wide the range of different issues that can be caused by the five week wait for Universal Credit is – how a seemingly short-term wait can have real long-term impacts in all areas of a persons life.

We achieved close to 350,000 impressions on the thread as a whole over the first few days of sharing it, with retweets and likes well above our usual levels. Our engagement rates spiked too, and our website saw around 22% more visitors than on a ‘typical’ day.

The success of the thread showed us how important it can be to try something different, something innovative, on our social media channels. The thread asked our audiences to interact with it directly and really think about the circumstances that are locking people in poverty, making a really effective way to get our messages across without it seeming boring or too instructional. It’s definitely something we’d consider doing again given the boost in visitors and engagement we saw. And now we know how it works, it would be a lot more straightforward to set up!

Three top tips for anyone trying to set up a thread like ours:

  1. Make sure you have your messages and aims clear before you start, and choose your stories before you try to build them into a thread. It’s easy to get lost in the thread structure, so you need to plan well!
  2. Test the thread on people who haven’t been involved in creating it before you go live. You can check whether the options and journeys make sense to them, and tweak anything that needs changing.
  3. Practice posting it a few times so that you feel confident it works and you know you can share it quickly on the day.

Photo: Justin Luebke on Unsplash

Maddy Stottor

creative project manager, The Trussell Trust

Maddy joined the Trussell Trust’s creative services team a year ago, and works across a range of projects as a project manager, designer, and copywriter. From working on report launches to planning social media activity, it’s a wide-ranging and fast-paced role.