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Small Steps Lead to Big Changes #DMA

Katie Moffat, head of digital, The Audience Agency and Digital Marketing Academy Mentor, talks change. 

In the digital world there is always a buzzword or phrase of the moment and currently it’s, ‘Digital Transformation’.

Digital Transformation is about adapting the culture and operating systems of an organisation to work more effectively with new technology.  Often Digital Transformation requires significant changes to the mindset and skillset of all staff, including senior management and the board.  It’s about much more than what tools and tactics you employ. Digital Transformation has a useful and valid role to play in helping organisations adapt to, and thrive within, our digital era, but let’s not forget that there can also be huge value in small but significant changes.

When Sir Dave Brailsford became the performance director of British Cycling he started by breaking down all the elements of a successful performance into smaller parts. He believed that if it was possible to make a 1% improvement in each area the overall gain would lead to a significant positive difference (and ultimately success). This approach is known as ‘marginal gains’, and thanks to Brailsford it’s now much more widely recognised. History tells us that his approach resulted in huge successes for the British GB cycling team, transforming a sport that had been languishing in the doldrums.

But the effectiveness of the marginal gains approach is one that can thrive outside of sports. For example, Google and Facebook are constantly undertaking small scale data and platform experiments in order to discover areas where tweaks can be made, changes which collectively add up to great impact.

I’d argue it’s a way of thinking that arts and culture organisations should adopt more often, and it’s frequently a feature of a Digital Marketing Academy experiment.  For example, a theatre looking at whether sending out a follow up email to a booker the day they attend makes them more likely to book for another event than if the email is sent out a day later. Or whether prompting people to sign up to an email newsletter in person is more successful for certain audiences that an online prompt.

Large, transformational strategies are sometimes important and necessary to ensure momentum but let’s not forget that the marginal gains approach can be incredibly effective.

Header Image courtesy of Tasmanian Symphony Orchestra © Richard Jupe

Putting Audience First #ADA

Taking a closer look at yourself, your organisation, your audience is just the first layer explains Sara Devine from Brooklyn Museum.  

In my last post, I ended with a call to action: put your audience first. This is not a simple task, and I realize that. To be truly successful for the long term, an audience-first mentality should be embedded in the DNA of your organization. But don’t let that intimidate you. The good news is that this journey can start from anywhere in the organization, and it can (and should) unfold incrementally.
I’ve spent my career thinking about audiences, from my first job as a curatorial assistant working on special exhibitions to my current role in digital engagement. In my various capacities, I’ve used the same basic framework to help shape my thinking, which I share below with some tweaks related specifically to audience-building.
1. Who is it for? It bears repeating from my last post: be specific. Think critically and honestly. Note: “general audience” does not exist. The “general audience” for the Brooklyn Museum is not the same “general audience” for The Met. The bulk of our “general audience” are Brooklynites, where as the bulk of The Met’s are tourists. Huge difference. Get to know your specific “general audience” make-up and then for each project, be specific about which subset you hope to reach.
2. What are their unique needs? The more specific you are in answering the first question, the better you’ll be able to answer this one. If you answered “families with small children” for the first question, then unique needs would include everything from family-friendly content to easy access to bathrooms with changing tables and nursing areas. If you’re not sure of the answer, ask those folks directly.
3. Will they feel welcome? Meeting those unique needs will go a long way toward making your audience feel welcome. There is much to learn from the hospitality industry here about anticipating needs and providing for them in a seamless way. Disney, of course, is the master at this. If you’re unsure how welcome someone might feel, take a journey through your experience (if possible, invite an audience representative to join you) from beginning to end with that audience in mind with the list of needs in-hand. Are those needs met? Where and how? And how will the audience know?
4. Will they see themselves in your organization? This is a vital question and one that takes longer to execute. Really what you have to ask yourself is: does the diversity of your staff and your offerings reflect your audience? At the Brooklyn Museum, this means we have a diverse staff in all levels of employment and a collection that reflects the diversity of Brooklyn both in artists and subject matter.
5. Will they find relevance? AKA So, what? This is the most important question of all because you can do everything else right, but if no one wants what you’re offering, it’s moot. The key here is finding the overlap between who you are and what your audience wants/needs. In order to do this, you have to have a strong institutional mission and vision (i.e identity) and spend the time and effort to get to know your audience (current and aspirational). There is a school of thought that put emphasis on learning about your competitor’s offerings as well.
I encourage you to answer these questions for yourself, in your own capacity within your organization and for your own projects. Since change can come from anywhere, start where you have guaranteed impact: yourself!

Looking back on the #DMA

Charlotte Gross and Clare Campbell from Scottish Ballet share their experience on the Digital Marketing Academy.

Charlotte and I have come away from the DMA with a genuinely new outlook. After a few frank conversations and an eye-opening workshop on Agile Working in the first weeks, our DMA experience changed from one pre-determined project with an end goal to a series of discussions, experiments and learnings which, put together, have changed our work culture for the long-term – in a way that a single open and shut project might not have done.

With the support of our Mentor Tom Beardshaw, we have grown our digital knowledge and output in many ways, but particularly in our use of digital tools to test theories and make informed decisions, and to analyse ROI. We now use digital tools to plan non-digital strategy, using a small budget to test what images and language work ahead of big spending. As a ballet company, our visual is hugely important and audience research has told us that brochures and posters are a key factor in their decision to book. We chose the visual for our most recent contemporary tour based on the CTR results of an A/B test of two Facebook promoted posts each with the same copy but a different image. It went on to be our most successful contemporary tour in a number of years.

As a touring company, we are concerned that a weakness in our customer relationship is a lack of contact. Their loyalty lies with our venues and not with us. We have been able to consider how we improve relationships with our audiences – part of our initial challenge – in ways that we might not have on our initial path. From simple things like A/B testing email content to using the “see think do care” model to develop our social media strategy, these are small changes in our behaviour which are becoming embedded in our daily working lives. We have conducted a number of online surveys in the course of our DMA Fellowship and are now looking in more detail and over a longer time frame at what we should ask and who we should ask to draw the best feedback to tackle our biggest problem – low repeat attendance.

During our time at the DMA, we took the first steps in selling tickets for our tours directly through our website. While the technical set up of selling our own tickets was a huge digital task in itself, we hoped that having the full buyer journey on our website would allow us to track their behaviour and determine their loyalty to us through repeat visits to the website, a longer time spent on our website, more engagement on social media or other measures. In reality, this project made clear to us limitations based on our Google Analytics set up and also our knowledge of how to draw data from it. In the few months since selling the tickets, we have set ourselves goals and events, created and revised dashboards and improved our e-commence tracking. I am also starting the Google Academy in January. We have also become less reliant on the agency which manages all of our paid digital advertising. We can now tell them when something isn’t working rather than waiting for a fortnightly report.

The DMA has both changed our outlook on how we use social media and digital advertising but has also led us to re-evaluate how we incorporate digital into larger strategies. With clear and easily acquired results, digital advertising offers a confidence and security that spend on traditional marketing cannot. I always compare reading a Google Analytics report from the comfort of your desk to chasing a bus with your advert on the side down the street, asking everyone who glances at it what their age, interests, family make up and social grade are… I know what I’d rather do…

Header Image courtesy of National Football Museum © Chris Payne

Reactions #DMA

Ron Evans, Group of Minds and a Mentor for the Digital Marketing Academy offers thoughts on the end of DMA 3.0

As we wrap up Digital Marketing Academy 3.0 and I look at the fine work that my mentees have accomplished in their experiments, I’m reminded how many advantages we have today as experimenters that weren’t possible just a few years ago.

Take product testing for example. Up until recently, product ideas would likely be tested in a focus group. A facilitator would gather together some target audience members in a room, cue up the two-way mirror with the company wanting the feedback on the other side, and ask a lot of questions about how people felt about the different product options.

Now, I like a good focus group as much as the next guy. But they are not great for innovation, because when you ask people the equivalent of “how can we innovate so that you’ll buy this,” people often don’t know what they want. On the topic of innovation and the creation of the automobile, Henry Ford is often quoted as having said “If I’d asked people what they wanted, they would have said ‘faster horses’.” Turns out he apparently never said that, but you get the idea – it’s hard for people to break out of their boxes and come up with a more innovative solution. Also, people often make confident but false predictions of their future behavior for potentially all sorts of reasons: a wish to please the moderator, or the fact that their lunch is disagreeing with them. You just never know. So what’s an arts marketer/experimenter to do?

At the National Arts Marketing Project Conference in Austin, Texas, U.S. this past November, I was happy to sit in on a session called Embracing Dynamic Frameworks To Drive Organizational Change led by Arts Marketing Association rockstars Cath Hume and Carol Jones. In 60 minutes, they gave the crowd a working knowledge of agile marketing methodologies, and the idea of doing small and rapid product tests, analysing results, making changes, and testing again. Agile is sweet, and it just so happens that it is one of the backbone concepts of the Digital Marketing Academy.

In a nutshell, rather than asking people how they would react to a product in the marketplace (with all of the challenges listed above) we instead see how they actually respond to that product being in the market, through small tests such as Facebook ads or Google Adwords, clicks on “buy now” buttons, analytics, and more. “Would you buy this” leaves a lot of wiggle room for people. Actually seeing who buys is a more accurate predictor of future behaviour. Through rapid testing, several ads can be tested for response, and the best one picked to move forward.

That’s where the advantages we have today come in. Before digital media, the cost of running these tests was often prohibitive. You might have to mail a ton of postcards to see which message worked, and pay for each postcard. In digital advertising on a per-click basis, you only pay if there is a response… you literally can try as many versions as you like. This simply allows for a level of testing sophistication – by observing actually buying behaviour – never before possible.

This is a glorious time to be a marketing person in the arts, because there are so many options available, and the ability to tailor campaigns and rapidly modify to improve them over time is something the generation before us could do, but at a much slower pace. So pick one of your marketing messages and change it up. Try something wickedly different and measure your results. Most of all, have fun with it. Studying human behaviour is a fascinating and rewarding process, and we may never fully understand what makes us tick, but we can learn a little more each day.

My thanks to the CultureHive Digital Marketing Academy and the Arts Marketing Association for their facilitation of another round of fantastic learning and experimentations by some of the most interesting cultural organisations in the UK!

You don’t have to pay Facebook #DMA

Giant Picnic 2010

Hannah Fiddy shares her involvement as a Digital Marketing Academy (DMA) Fellow.

My second experiment was as part of a different organisation: London Flashmob. Part of my marketing is through the Facebook page, which brings together a community of people who are interested in finding out about flashmobs happening in London. I have never paid to advertise, so due to changes in Facebook algorithms over the past couple of years, posts are being seen by increasingly fewer people, despite the size of the page growing. Therefore I wanted to find out how to get Facebook to show my posts to more people without paying, which would hopefully also increase engagement.

Hypothesis: Facebook favours content uploaded to its site over links to external content, even if the content is identical.

To test this, I ran a Throwback Thursday campaign over a six-week period, posting one status a week, each at 8:30am on a Thursday. Three of those were videos of past flashmobs uploaded directly to Facebook. The other three were hyperlinks to videos on YouTube.

As you can see from the graph below, posts including a video directly uploaded to Facebook reached over double the number of people as links.

In this instance, there didn’t seem to be a link between the number of people viewing the content and the amount of engagement. My most successful post was status number 5, which reached very few people. The reason it was most successful was because unlike in the other statuses, I asked people to like it if they wanted me to organise another event of the same type. Asking for engagement worked, with more likes and comments with positive feedback. It’s interesting to note that despite having a lot of engagement, Facebook still didn’t choose to show the content to more people, perhaps because it contained a link to an external site.

Due to the shortness of this blog post, this is a very simple overview of the experiment and there are many more variables that could be tested. There could have been other factors affecting the Facebook view numbers (e.g. the amount I was posting outside of the Throwback Thursday campaign), but my tips from carrying out this experiment are:

  • To get more views on a post on Facebook, upload the content directly to Facebook rather than directing people away from the site. This not only includes videos but also pictures, events, etc.
  • Don’t be scared to ask for engagement – it can be very successful!

    Header Image courtesy of People United © Zoe Maxwell

A Live Tweeting Comedy of Errors #DMA

Langham Research Centre - The Dark Tower. Barts Pathology Museum. 13 June 2016.

Hannah Fiddy shares her involvement as a Digital Marketing Academy (DMA) Fellow.

I started the DMA course with an experiment that turned out to be a comedy of errors. My aim was to encourage engagement from audience members on social media during a concert. In my capacity as Marketing Manager at Spitalfields Music, I was preparing for a performance in a pathology lab (Bart’s Pathology Museum) with Langham Research Centre, an ensemble performing electronic music using obsolete technology. We got off to a great start by selling out so that was the first hurdle out of the way!

My idea was to experiment with live tweeting programme notes during the concert. It seemed a good opportunity to test this approach as it attracted a very mixed audience and had an informal set-up: there were no chairs so audience members were encouraged to walk around the space throughout, and, as it was based in a pathology lab, there were numerous body parts in jars (!) to scrutinise while enjoying the music.

In advance of the performance, I scheduled tweets to go out at regular intervals, announcing what was being played and including interesting facts about the music. I also created signs featuring our Twitter handle and questions about the music to be placed around the space, encouraging the audience to engage with us online.

However, upon entering the venue, I came across a vast number of problems:

  • The pathology lab was within a hospital with limited signal, so accessing Twitter was difficult.
  • The performers asked everyone to turn off their phones as the signal would interfere with the technology they were using.
  • Photography was not permitted within the lab, so it was difficult to allow tweeting but no photography.
  • The entire venue had glass cabinets around the room (containing medical specimens) and there was a rule banning signs on the glass. I managed to put up a few of my carefully prepared signs but they ended up in places that weren’t very visible.
  • Despite telling each audience member when entering that they were encouraged to walk around during the performance, most people decided instead to sit on the ground, and therefore didn’t see any of the signs anyway!

 The upshot of all of this was that no-one was tweeting during the concert, let alone reading my programme notes. Afterwards we did have an influx of tweets about the concert – more than was usual – but it’s impossible to say whether that was in any way influenced by the signs.

If you want to try out this experiment, my tips would be to:

  • Check in with Production about the venue stipulations and artist requests.
  • Visit the venue beforehand if possible.
  • Include your Twitter handle in physical/digital programmes, and mention it during the pre-concert announcement.

This is just one of the struggles born out of being a non-venue-based organisation, but at least we learned a few lessons!

To the next step… #DMA

Anna Kelner and Rachel Marriner at West Yorkshire Playhouse share their experience on the Digital Marketing Academy.

There’s always a next step. A new idea.

There is no area of research where this is more relevant than within the digital world. There’s always a new app, different technology, something else one could be doing. With this in mind we went about improving our already established digital communications channels, whilst engaging with ideas relatively new to us as an organisation, such as Live Streaming. All the while attempting to get to grips with Google Analytics in order to find a way to evaluate our success.

This is where we are, and as we sign off from the Academy there’s still some work to do… To the next step…

Click on the image below to view the journey of our experience

West Yorkshire Playhouse experiments

West Yorkshire Playhouse experiments

Looking ahead #DMA

Kate Carter, Senior Marketing Manager: Digital at
The British Museum shares her involvement as a Digital Marketing Academy (DMA) Fellow.

January is named after the Roman god Janus, who had two faces to see both the future and the past. So this is a good time to be reflecting on progress made, as well as making plans.

Over the last few months I have been working on a project of transformation: to design and deliver a robust process for digital customer service at the British Museum. To summarise what has been achieved so far:

  • A new Visitor Insights team has been established within Marketing, working alongside the social media and email team.
  • A combination of software tools enables us to capture over 40,000 comments and queries every month from online reviews, social media mentions and direct messages, emails & comment cards.
  • A logging system has been designed to categorise and respond to the around 500-700 direct comments and enquiries we receive each month.
  • We have set different target response rates for each communications channel, and around 95% of messages have been responded to on time.
  • We have started producing monthly insights reports tailored to key departments.

There are some fairly obvious next steps for us to make our system as comprehensive and sophisticated as possible within our current resources:

  • Baseline the data collected so far to understand norms and trends, and set KPIs for the next financial year.
  • Ongoing refinement to automate as many aspects of the process as possible – this will include trialling an open source, cloud-based helpdesk system to manage the workflow around customer service emails, both within the team and between departments. The more we can remove manual elements (such as generating unique reference numbers, recording dates and assigning tags), the more we can eliminate human error, and by becoming more efficient we free up the team to take on more complex challenges and be more proactive.
  • Become more agile and mobile-first. We’re experimenting with messaging tools like Slack and What’sApp and will start to prioritise using app-based versions of the tools and platforms to ensure that the system works on-the-go, as well as at weekends.
  • Celebrate success. We need to be loud and proud about what has been accomplished in order to keep advocating for investment in this area, and to ensure that the visitors’ voices are heard. This is about sharing positive visitor feedback more widely across the Museum, as well as highlighting the tangible improvements to the visit experience that have come about as a result of negative feedback. The insights have to be actionable.

And since this is the time of year for predictions, I will throw my hat into the ring with a few thoughts on what 2017 might have in store:

  • Chatbots. Such a buzzword and still feels quite futuristic but I think they aren’t too far away for us. We will make the most of the evolving Facebook Messenger Assistant and look out for the right opportunity to build something more bespoke.
  • Communicating with Chinese audiences is becoming increasingly important. We will re-open our major Asia gallery in late 2017 and I would like that to be supported by developing our profile on WeChat as well as providing visitor support in Mandarin across multiple channels.
  • I’m interested in developing a more nuanced spectrum of sentiment. I think the range of Facebook reactions indicate the direction of travel, and that the bluntness of positive<neutral>negative will not be enough to understand and represent how our audiences feel about us.

Proactive customer service feels like a big opportunity, but raises lots of questions. How do we identify an influencer during their visit (and how do we define what kind of influencer is valuable to us?) What would be an appropriate way to spontaneously interact with them and take their visit to the next level, and what would be the benefit? Would it be wonderful to unexpectedly receive a birthday surprise at the Museum because we read your tweet… or would it be creepy.


Header Image courtesy of Sadler’s Wells © Stephen White LightSpace by Michael Hulls

What comes next? #DMA

Seb Chan, Australian Centre for the Moving Image and a Mentor for the Digital Marketing Academy offers thoughts on the future for arts marketers…

One of the big themes of 2016 and for my mentees has been ‘what comes next?’ – especially as the continued political climate in the arts becomes increasingly hostile to ‘innovation from within’. And ‘innovation from outside’ is also becoming harder as arts workers slip deeper into a freelance ‘precariat’.

Mar Dixon, originator of many of the most successful arts/heritage hashtag campaigns of late, writes, “we are losing amazingly talented people from our sector who once gone will probably never return. These aren’t people after an easy life, riding on the back of funding streams to allow them to do as little as possible (though be honest we’ve all known at least one). No – these are talented, creative professionals who bring hundreds of thousands of pounds to our sector and recognised all over the world, but are leaving because they can’t battle any more”.

Retention is hard at the best of times, but now it has become almost impossible in some parts of the world.

So what is a digitally-skilled arts worker to do?

I’ve been discussing with my mentees the value of repositioning their talents and looking at where the broader digital industries are heading in terms of titles and skills. My own teams have actively recruited ‘product manager’ roles in recent years –  and more organisations in the arts and culture sector are cottoning on. This is part of a broader trend that sees digital staff being hired for their ability to understand the wider business context of their work, and help drive structural change by better aligning the needs of users and the organisation. A ‘product management’ methodology is highly valuable to an organisation as it moves forward, well beyond the boundaries of ‘digital marketing’ and arguably brings ‘digital’ as a whole, closer to the core operations of the organisation – not to mention a greater user/patron/customer/citizen focus in decision making.

In the museum sector this trend is perhaps most pronounced. Lucie Paterson at ACMI has written about her experience moving from a product management role at Southbank Centre to her current role in Melbourne.

Let’s hope things improve in 2017.


Header Image : Sadler’s Wells © Stephen White LightSpace by Michael Hulls

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