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Remember the WHY #DigiLab

 Kim Osborne of the Roald Dahl Museum walks us through her thought process for creating films in the Digital Lab

When I began Digital Lab it seemed that I knew what I wanted to do, but not necessarily why.

The area I wanted to focus on was film. I’d started making films for the Museum over the summer during an unexpected closure due to a flood. I’d created a little project to help us reach our audience during a time when we were physically inaccessible to them. The films had come out quite well – I’d taught myself Premier, roped in people on the team to take a starring role, asked Learning and Collections to help with the content and then shared them with the world. Colleagues thought they were great, people online liked and shared them. Success!

So now we’re back up and running it seemed like the obvious thing to capitalise on all the work over the summer and use Digital Lab to help us to create and test more films, didn’t it? But my initial conversations with my wonderful mentor Ron always led back to one question – why?

Well… everyone is making films now, every blog I read says you need them, they are great for engagement – we need more engagement, right?

But why? Why do you need more engagement?

Um, because likes – duh!

What I’d failed to address was the basics. What do we want these videos to achieve, what’s our ultimate goal? I’d got swept up in the “I saw another Museum post a video of a cat falling off a shelf, and that got a thousand likes – we should be doing that!” mentality.

After a lot of thinking and chats with Ron I focused on an area that video could potentially bring real benefits to the Museum – audience research.

The Museum is gearing up for a major refurbishment, and another closure period (don’t worry, it’s not for a while). We’re potentially re-designing the whole of the Museum content, and re-thinking all of our spaces. It’s an exciting time, and we know the value of asking our visitors for their feedback along the way. We’ve planned to use focus groups and surveys, but hadn’t considered using our Facebook audience for their opinions. Until now.

After speaking to the Galleries Project Manager and other members of the team it became clear that there’s real potential in using Facebook this way, and a lot of support for the project. We’ve focused on key questions to ask, and I’m now beginning to plan and create a series of films to test. There’s also the possibility of engaging with our online visitors this way throughout the whole project – from asking for feedback, to allowing people to help us make choices during the process.

Digital Lab has really helped me to think differently about the digital content we produce – not just for these experimental films, but across everything else we produce. By working with other departments in the Museum it’s not only helping me realise the potential of using film and social, but also helping the wider team to understand how it could help other projects (maybe I’ve created a monster!?). The main challenge now is maintaining momentum, and finding the time to create the content, so careful planning and preparation is key!


Find out more about the AMAculturehive Digital Lab and information on how to take part.

Images courtesy of The Roald Dahl Museum © The Roald Dahl Museum and Story Centre.

Personalised vs Basic #DigiLab

Danielle McLoughlin of Hull Truck Theatre talks us through her first experiment on Digital Lab and identifies four key challenges she has faced. 

I applied for a place on the CultureHive Digital Lab in the hope of gaining additional knowledge and support to develop the ideas and experiments that I wanted to implement at Hull Truck Theatre. I knew that the opportunity to work with a mentor and other fellows would be invaluable and allow for lots of interesting, cross-departmental discussions about best digital practices, which would then help contribute to the company’s longer term digital goals.

I had my first call with my mentor, Tom, and we discussed the various experiments I wanted to work on throughout the course. We talked about making sure that my experiment/s had clear aims and could be measured, and about making sure that each experiment contained limited variables so that we could analyse the outcomes effectively, getting meaningful results.

Tom really took me back to school with all of his talk about variables, action reflection cycles and methods of measurability, and following our conversation I had a much clearer idea of what my experimental goals were, and I was prepared to adapt to new ways of working.

Experiment Number 1

Goal: To encourage repeat attendance from customers, within an hour’s drive time, who booked tickets in 2017 (Hull City of Culture year) and have not returned since.

Experiment: To create an Oliver Twist (Christmas 2018) email split test and find out which type (Personalised vs Basic ‘What’s On’) encourages the most interaction and conversions.

Part One

  1. Extract all customers, within an hour’s drive time, who attended the theatre in 2017 but not since.
  2. Randomise these customers and separate in to four Groups (A, B, C, D) ensuring that there is an equal number of customers who booked for last years Christmas show, in each group.
  3. Email GROUP A a general Oliver Twist e-shot, including image, synopsis, dates, times and general booking information.
  4. Email GROUP B a personalised Oliver Twist e-shot, thanking them for being part of our ‘Year of Exceptional Drama’ and contributing to the City of Culture events, plus the above details.
  5. Analyse the interaction and conversions from both emails and make a conclusion about which email content was most successful.
  6. Use the ‘successful’ e-shot (let’s call this ‘e-shot X’) to then generate the next step of the experiment.

Part Two

  1. Email GROUP C with e-shot X.
  2. Email Group D with e-shot X, adding the show trailer, an animation or other visually engaging content.
  3. Analyse the interaction and conversions from both emails and make a conclusion about which email content was most successful.
  4. Use the ‘successful’ e-shot (let’s call this ‘e-shot Y’) to then inform how we might engage with lapsing bookers, digitally, in the future.

Following this my intention would be to carry out a similar experiment for out of town visitors that attended in 2017 but have not been back since. In terms of content this might be a simple show e-shot vs an e-shot with additional visitor information such as hotel links, packages, etc.

There have been numerous hurdles during the early stages of this experiment but whilst they have been challenging to overcome they have raised some valuable discussion points and issues that need to be addressed.

Challenge 1
Once I had planned my experiment I realised that to be able to analyse customer engagement effectively I would need to teach myself to use Google Analytics. I took part in the free online Google Analytics Academy and picked up the basics quickly. I also researched Google Analytics Tag Manager, as Tom said this would be useful and it will allow me to track which e-mail my web visitors had been referred from.

Challenge 2
I was eager to start setting up some filters and goals, on the Hull Truck Theatre live Google Analytics site, but the theatre didn’t have admin rights to its own Google Analytics account which limited the functions I could use.

Challenge 3 
The company who had admin rights for our account was an old OLD web host, who we no longer deal with and I needed to contact them to try and get admin rights. Luckily, we do still have a loose relationship with our old web host and he was extremely happy to work with us to resolve the issue. It took some discussion between myself, the old web host and our new web host (who we are just in the process of switching to – throwing another spanner in the works!) to find a solution but we now have admin rights to our Google Analytics account.

Challenge 4
When attempting to create a tracking tag so that I could see how many people converted and purchased tickets for Oliver Twist, I realised that the last seven pages of our checkout process have the same URI, This means that I can’t tell whether someone fully checked out or dropped off at the donation, delivery, billing or summary pages. I am now in conversation with our ticketing provider, who deals with the iframes in question, to see if we can make these URI’s more unique and thus accurately track the customer journey.


Image courtesy of Hull Truck. Theatre. Oliver Twist at Hull Truck Theatre, Flo Wilson, Samuel Edward-Cook and Lauryn Redding. Photo by Sam Taylor.

What we do #Digilab

Millie Carroll of The Tetley talks us through her progress on the Digital Lab

In the last few months I’ve made this project involve our whole team, and recently we’ve finalised some big decisions and we’re finally in the process of launching the new ‘artists area’ of our website.

However one of the biggest decisions we’ve made after some research is that this isn’t going to just be an area about the work we’ve done with professional and exhibiting artists, but an area that highlights the ‘what we do’ more broadly. We’ll have first person narratives from workshops leaders, children who take part in our after school club, volunteers, and anyone else who we can think of that may have been impacted by the work we do at The Tetley.

After a few weeks of research we have not found any other museums or galleries that have an area like this. We’ve found directory style pages on websites where they list the artists they work with, alongside images, videos and quotes from their time with these people, but none of them are reflective, which is the main aim of what I want to achieve. I want feedback on how their experience went such as, “My exhibition at The Tetley has led to me showing work internationally…”.  I believe the public and potential funders will be more interested to read about this rather than ‘I’m excited to have my exhibition at The Tetley’.

I’ve been in touch with three people we have worked with so far. One had a major exhibition with us in 2017. The other two have been part of our Springboard Programme who lead workshops for families and young people at The Tetley and are also freelance practitioners. I sent around six questions which were very open in the hopes that the people we get in touch with have the ability to speak their mind, I’ve advised them to view these questions as ‘prompts’. The feedback has been great and I’m excited to get it online!

We’ve had an issue with our new website — we need to move it to a new server. The plan was to get these posts online by the beginning of March but sadly it has been pushed back. After speaking to the technicians, hopefully by the 18 of March I’ll have these first three posts online and we can start measuring engagement! The idea of building a new area of the site has been more complicated than initially planned. Looking back I have been perhaps naive in thinking it would be easy to make changes to our site… Hopefully this will all still be done in good time!

Read Millie’s first Digital Lab blog — Using the past to impact the future #DigiLab

Image courtesy of Liverpool Biennial 2016 © Joel-Chester-Fildes 

Starting a Podcast #DigiLab

Matt Walsh discusses starting a podcast for his Digital Lab experiment

I started my previous blog outlining my goal of starting a podcast, in this blog I’ll detail why and how I started a podcast for my organisation.

According to Rajar, six million (11%) of people in the UK listen to a podcast each week, a 58% increase since 2016 and recent research from podcast platform Acast suggests that podcast listeners in the UK tend to be millennials, with two-thirds falling into the 16-34 age bracket.

When thinking of my experiments and objectives for the Digital Lab, creating a podcast feed was one of my main aims to try and bring our world-class content to a wider audience.

My mentor Daniel Rowles has his own Digital Marketing Podcast and was able to offer great advice on the best podcast hosting service to use to publish podcast content. His advice was to create an account with Libsyn, a podcast platform he uses which enables you to upload audio content to destinations such as iTunes, Spotify, Google Play, Stitcher and more. Libsyn provides in-depth analytics, an RSS feed and a media player so you can embed your audio on to a blog post or a page on your website.

Before creating a Libsyn account, I wanted to ask our audiences on Facebook and Instagram whether they would be interested in listening to a podcast, and what platforms would they subscribe and download the content on. For this, I used the poll feature on Facebook and Instagram Stories.

From 429 votes on Facebook, 79% voted ‘Yes’ and 21% voted ‘No’. Our audience replied with their suggestions, with Apple and Spotify coming out on top.

Approximately 600 votes were cast on Instagram stories, I asked our audience to vote on whether they would subscribe and listen, and vote Yes or No to a variety of platforms.

With results from the polls and a content plan for podcast audio in mind, I spoke to my manager about the conversation I had with my mentor Daniel about Libsyn, and we found this to be in line with our budget to continue to sign up to Libsyn.

Speaking with Daniel and a team member at Libsyn helped me think about what results I wanted from uploading the podcast in terms of average number of downloads, (the average downloads for a podcast is 150 downloads) and podcast destinations, of which the data, albeit small, from our social media polls helped me decide Apple and Spotify was ideal. Daniel suggested creating a landing page for podcasts for SEO purposes and so our audience can find all of our podcast content in one place.

While I was unable to attend the Producing a Podcast workshop, I was able to listen back and view the slides, giving me valuable information about creating an introduction and outro, creating hype around the launch, where I used the podcast launch in our Seasons Greetings email to subscribers to promote the podcast, while we also promoted the launch on social media and placed budget to advertise the launch on Facebook and Instagram.

The Digital Lab fellowship has been invaluable for my learning on how to produce a podcast, with the help from my mentor and the online workshop I have been able to create content from Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s talk at the 2018 Literature Festival into a podcast available on Apple, Google Podcasts and Spotify, reaching a number of countries around the world including the UK, USA, Germany, Australia and Nigeria!

Header image courtesy of Dimitri Djuric  – Christina-Kubisch : Electrical walk at-Cut Splice by Sound and Music 2017




How to win at YouTube #DigiLab

Danny Evans of the Royal Shakespeare Company keeps us up to date with her Youtube experiments on the Digital Lab


We have 500+ videos on our YouTube channel. Although we create a lot of really great content, some of which does really well, I wondered if we were getting the most out of our channel.

I set out to explore this and to do something we’d never done before – create a piece of content specifically for YouTube that targeted the audiences on the platform that we wanted to attract, and to work out ways to make our channel work harder for us.

Before I could create the content, I needed to work out what it would be – who I was targeting and what would work well with them. I talked it through with my mentor, Seb Chan. He asked me a big question.

“What does success look like?”

Seb asked me to look at our YouTube channel and find out which video was the most successful. This sounds easy – so I’ll just go and do that now…

YouTube doesn’t have a ‘which one is best’ section in its Analytics. We look at stats for individual videos, but don’t often make comparisons. I rummaged around and learned all sorts of interesting and useful things about our videos. But which one or which format was best?

  • Is the most popular video the one that gets most views?
  • Is the most popular video the one that people stay watching for the most time?
  • Or is it some kind of combination of these?

We’ve long known that our ‘most popular’ video on RSC YouTube is the balcony scene from Romeo and Juliet. It’s no surprise – arguably the most iconic scene by the world’s most famous playwright, loved by people and taught to children all over the world. It was posted way back in 2011, but still consistently comes out as our most watched video – depending on how you define ‘most watched’…

The 2011 Balcony Scene video is 12 minutes long, and although hundreds of people have watched it from all over the world, most of them don’t stay to the end. On the other hand, our trailers for upcoming shows, which are often about 30 seconds long, receive fewer visits, but are generally watched through to the end. How do you compare a video that is 12 minutes long but people drop off after three minutes, with one that is 30 seconds long and they stay to the end?

I decided that the most popular video was probably some kind of a mash-up of these two figures. And in doing this I gave myself a world of pain (maths). We (I got help) looked at these stats:

  • Length of video
  • Average % of video viewed
  • Number of views

We put it all on a spreadsheet, combined the figures, and it spits out a relative ‘popularity’ value (z) that by itself is totally meaningless and bewildering (The Balcony Scene gets 70.47). But when we compare all the videos together the value starts to mean something. Ordering the spreadsheet by this column, gives us a list of our videos in popularity order.

What does success look like?

Looking at the videos at the top and bottom of the table to see what works well and what doesn’t work so well, this is what I saw:

  • Our top 6 videos are all trailers
  • Video #7 is a skit on the To Be Or Not To Be speech, featuring a number of celebrities
  • A recent behind the scenes timelapse comes in high at #11
  • All the other high-ranking videos are trailers or scenes from shows (The Balcony Scene comes at #17 out of 500)
  • With the exception of The Balcony Scene, all the top 20 videos are under 2 mins
  • All our lowest performing videos are over 3 mins
  • The majority of low performing videos are talking heads

With 500+ videos on our channel, anything that comes in the top 100 is doing OK. That’s what success looks like. And if we want to make it work, we should probably make sure it’s under 2 minutes long and not a talking head.

So now I just have to decide what I’m going to do (and win at YouTube)…

Image Courtesy of Stellar Quines ©


Shrinking changes for the Sex Pistols #DigiLab

Ruth Selwyn-Crome from the UEA discusses her early experience on the Digital Lab including getting to the heart of her experiments 

I joined the Digital Lab to experiment but to a certain extent the UEA Gig History project I’ve been working on for the past 23 months has been an experiment from the start – when UEA took a bit of a PR risk and decided to mark the anniversary of the cancellation of the Sex Pistols back in 1976 with a celebration of 63 years of gigs hosted on its campus. The project proved a hit with alumni, staff and the gig-going public in the region and continues to attract followers with its dedicated Twitter feed @UEAgighistory. The project website played its part well – showcasing material and guest blogs on a monthly basis – but now needed to be taken forward to a more permanent yet reactive state. I needed ideas and advice and, in the process, hoped that the knowledge I picked up along the way would also be useful for my colleagues here in the public events, alumni and conference teams as we strive to attract new viewers to our livestreams and recordings and look for new ways to share.

So far my time in the lab has been taking part in as many of the online workshops I can and so far they’ve all given me new tools to play with and share, as well as some advice. In addition I’ve had a great talk with my mentor – Daniel Rowles from Target Internet and have been given some doable homework which has helped to manage what could be rather a daunting and distracting challenge. Takeaways from the workshops so far have been:

Shrink those Changes

Initial visions for a more reactive website included a range of possibilities, from offering site visitors the chance to compile their own yearbook of favourite gigs to entering a digital museum, with rooms and podcasts and film and a whole “immersive” trip down memory lane…

The first workshop I attended was “Scrappy Experiments”. A big takeaway message from that was to “Shrink those Changes” and make them new, different but most importantly manageable. I forced myself to go back to the heart of what the project has been all about – i.e. attending live gigs and having a great time and then being reminded of that great time. The list alone in a published book – had already proven incredibly popular.  So my first task was to get the list into a more usable format; 80+ pages of gigs, back to front, in a word document, peppered with tabs has been transposed into a new, more experiment-ready shape via Excel.

Don’t steal from yourself (steal from others)

Another lesson picked up from that first workshop was not to “Steal from yourself by comparing yourself unfavourably to others”. Task/procrastination no. 2 I’d set myself was to research what OTHER music venues were doing with their archives – out in the real world, away from Higher Education. I’ve found some great examples of what I really wouldn’t want to use and some surprising ideas from elderly institutions such as the Albert Hall who have a nifty online perpetual calendar/time machine – take a look here. There are some great archives out there too – you know, ones that actually list everything that’s ever been performed in the, e.g. streets of towns or in whole regions, while others concentrated on particular genres. I loved what the Roundhouse had done with their history, including interview/podcasts with staff and ex-staff from across the years. This form of celebration of the whole venue community was more what I was aiming for. Venues encompass the performers, the attendees and the employees and many volunteers after all.

Visualise, visualise, visualise those goals

I’m good at visualising – ideally I wanted a website that looked almost exactly like an online version of the Rip It Up – the history of Scottish Pop exhibition I’d visited in Edinburgh back in August. The exhibition installation ticked every box going with its black walls, costumes, surprises round the corner and loud music always slightly out of reach…and a juke box! Now I just had to find a template to play with…

Tooled up

Three more online workshops over the past months and I’ve been equipped with some great tools – especially to search for influencers on social media and find out what people are asking (‘Whatever happened to the Dead Kennedys?’). My colleagues in the digital marketing department have given me access to the gig history pages on Google Analytics. The Google Analytics workshop gave insights into the mind-blowing depth of analysis it’s possible to drill into. This will be useful to re-visit when I’ve set up my test website. I’m finding each workshop adds something to the last – e.g. User Journey with Target Media’s Daniel Rowles included a tip about a free Chrome plug-in for KLEAR which is proving useful already for identifying Twitter influencers in the sphere of Music. I’m also looking forward to using for advice about tests for my user group.

But first I need to finish my homework for my mentor Daniel Rowles. Daniel made me take a deep breath and asked me to identify three gigs which had a lot of memorabilia attached to them (done), then find a WordPress template to try out a few things on with some project contacts (kind of done). It’s been more difficult than I thought trying to find a ready-made template that looks like the inside of an old gig venue – with a sticky carpet and cigarette stubs – but I think I’ve identified a couple of candidates.

Watch this space…

Header image courtesy of Tower Bridge Guildhall School of Music Drama  © Paul Cochrane

See, Think, Overthink, Share. #DigiLab

Jade Joseph of Ideas Test discusses her initial concerns about being involved in the Digital Lab

Having permission to experiment in a work-based environment surprisingly feels very daunting, perhaps because it doesn’t come with any guarantees. Not to mention that for a relative newcomer to the world of digital marketing, there seems to be an entire language to learn and an avalanche of abbreviations to master. It felt inevitable that whatever ideas my fellow and I initially devised would shift and change throughout the workshops and mentor meetings. What I hadn’t prepared for was feeling a little bit lost when it came from moving an idea from a concept to something more concrete.

Before Digital Lab officially kicked off, it was easy to feel quite enthusiastic about my idea, which was to investigate the impact that some sort of regularly scheduled Instagram content might have on engagement. We have experimented with physical brochures in the past, we’re fortunate to have a website and a physical space in which to display details about our events but in true millennial style, I wanted to test whether dedicating time to creating content for Instagram would make a notable difference. There was still a lot to figure out but at this stage that felt okay. It was suggested that we try and narrow down our focus by the time we speak to our mentor to really identify the key areas that would be feasible to work on and to test with relevant results.

During the planning stage, I felt relatively optimistic. There’s the dual enjoyment of doing something creative and the challenge of getting an idea to actually work outside the way it exists in your brain. My first idea manifested as an Instazine; an aesthetic series of swipe-able images uploaded every fortnight to advertise our events and bring our audiences behind the scenes. I consulted and surveyed the rest of our team about the idea, loosely planned out what could be included in the first few issues, compiled thematic undercurrents to draw each instazine together and then, after our first mentor meeting, promptly lost all confidence in the idea.

“The subject of SEO had always felt quite alien and my knowledge of Google Analytics barely scratched the surface”

This was not entirely unexpected – as a world class worrier, a brief loss of confidence is nothing new! What was tricky was knowing what to do next. This is where the online Digital Lab workshops have been so beneficial. Being able to access the series of accessible online workshops has provided a lot of reassurance. They have been a great gateway into topics that previously seemed quite dense and tricky. The subject of SEO had always felt quite alien and my knowledge of Google Analytics barely scratched the surface, but the Digital Lab sessions were so informative that I started to feel excited at the prospect of learning more.

The two and a half years that I’ve been working my current job have been a learning curve in itself, so I’m trying to treat the Digital Lab in much the same way. I’m still not quite sure what the next step is within the framework of my experiment but adding all of the Digital Lab knowledge to my brain can be nothing but helpful. Whether it’s the fear of failure or fear of the unknown, the best way I know to quieten that fear is saturation via education. (Feeling confident enough to apply that knowledge into a practical solution is, however, a very different question but that’s for a whole other blog post!)

Header Image courtesy of Liverpool-Biennial 2016 © Joel-Chester-Fildes 

Streamlining #DigiLab

Sarah Dick at the Royal Institution talks about streamlining her content plans with the help of the Digital Lab

At the Royal Institution (Ri) we were entering our busiest time of year, with our Christmas Lectures at the centre of a number of fundraising and PR campaigns. Alongside this we want to extend the theme of the Christmas Lectures to our digital audiences by creating content and engaging in conversations on the theme of the lectures, ‘Who am I?’.

In managing our social media I always try to bear in mind the 80/20 rule – that 20% of your content should be about your ‘brand’, and the other 80% should be content that is created and curated to entertain and interest your audience. I roughly divide the content we post in to two categories: marketing content, and science engagement content.

With the uptick in the number of posts around the Christmas Lectures period, it’s tricky to balance our business-as-usual posts with various messages, calls to action and original content, all whilst maintaining our tone of voice and not overwhelming our audiences.

Organisation is key. Last year (my first year on the job) I made a content calendar mega-spreadsheet. Everything went into it, with just a few words describing the content and a colour code to indicate which campaign it belonged to.

It was so bloated and convoluted that by the time I was done feeding in the science engagement content and the marketing content for the multiple campaigns, it only made sense to me in my colour code-dazzled state. It was a little impenetrable to anyone else at the Ri who wanted to quickly check the schedule to make sure their message was getting out. “It’s a simple colour code you see” I told them. “Yes…” they nodded.

A few weeks later and I had lost the context for why I had arbitrarily assigned a certain post to a certain date, and it wasn’t a simple process to quickly re-jig the dates of posts.

Starting the Digital Lab, I knew I wanted one of our experiments to focus on streamlining the various Christmas-time campaigns.

“I said ‘streamlining’ so much that the word lost all meaning…”

Our first phone call with our mentor Daniel was very helpful. We spoke about our backgrounds, what we wanted to get out of the programme and what experiment ideas we had. I think I said ‘streamlining’ so much that the word lost all meaning.

Daniel made lots of suggestions and right after our call emailed us a handful of links to articles and resources, my favourite being this social media content calendar template.

Looking at the way Daniel has structured his template made me realise that in my ‘streamlining’ obsession, I’d been focusing too much on making sure all the messages from our various campaigns, and all the content types, were all in the same place.

“I’d been thinking of my content calendar too much like a scheduling platform (we use Hootsuite), and not giving the content enough space to be fully worked through and developed before locking it in to a calendar date”.

Daniel’s content calendar is structured to make you think about your posts in 2-week themed chunks, which makes it much more practical to manage content production and make adjustments than the 2-month timeline I used last year. The calendar also gives space for you to input the platforms you will share the content on and the influencers and advocates you will contact to amplify the reach of your message. This is especially useful to help get the most out of your content and build relationships. I’m careful of not bombarding our advocates and reciprocal partners with request after request in the run up to Christmas (when their social media schedules are no doubt equally busy!)

With all this extra information for each post I think it will help me keep track of the message, purpose and audience, as well as aiding the actual content production. This structure has also made me realise that at this point in my workflow, the science engagement content and the marketing campaign content don’t necessarily need to be in the same content calendar and I over-fill the spreadsheet by trying to force it. This year, I’m going to split them between two separate content calendars and then streamline the posts by feeding them in to Hootsuite, where you can easily drag and drop posts to reschedule them.

I hope that having a separate marketing campaign content calendar will be clearer and more focused for other teams across the Ri to quickly check to see when their Christmas campaign messages are scheduled.

Finally, the calendars will also be hugely helpful when it comes to analysing how the science engagement content and marketing messages have performed with our audience, as there is space in the calendar to add your trackable URL. That’s the next big experiment we’re working on, something that’s been a long time coming – revitalising our social media analytics dashboards.

Header image credit: Paul Wilkinson, The Royal Institution

Paid Social Media Advertising #DigiLab

Charlotte Angharad of MBD discusses her experiments into paid-for social media advertising on the Digital Lab

Here I am writing my first blog post as part of the Digital Lab. Experiment 1 was to try my hand at paid social media advertising to advertise one of MBD’s events; The Gunpowder Plot.  It’s a large outdoor show and bonfire night event that we hold every year at Boughton House, a beautiful stately home in Northamptonshire.

We have tried various marketing techniques in the past, but haven’t ever used paid social media advertising.  Boughton House is in a rural location near Kettering and is not easy to get to using public transport.  As a result of this, we find that it’s generally a very local audience that visit the event.  I was intrigued to see how social media ads could work for this audience.

As part of the Digital Lab I have been lucky enough to be allocated a fantastic mentor, Devon Smith. Devon has a wealth of knowledge and is a brilliant brain to pick about digital marketing.  The chats with Devon have been really helpful in giving me really practical ‘how to’ information when running my campaigns. She also gave me a really useful ad campaign template that really helped me to get my head round what I was trying to do.

So, down to the campaign nuts and bolts. I decided to run two campaigns simultaneously, one on YouTube (ran by Google ads) and one on Facebook.  Following the advice from Devon I decided to run two video ads in each campaign to see which performed best. The video ads are quite different in style.  One is a typical show trailer format, the kind of video that we have done before. You can see it here.

The other is a more graphic text heavy ad and you can see the difference here.

“YouTube didn’t like my landing page URL as it had the words, ‘Gun’ and, ‘Plot’ in it…”

I found both the Google ads and Facebook ads sites quite confusing to navigate, even with my notes from Devon close at hand. YouTube didn’t like my landing page URL as it had the words Gun and Plot in it. I had to wait with bated breath for it to be reviewed but eventually I got the OK and the campaigns went live!

Both campaigns ran for two weeks. I found both of the platform websites difficult to navigate to see the results.  Once I downloaded the apps on my phone, I found things easier as there was less information to work with.

I scheduled a chat with Devon for day 9 of the campaigns so we could assess the performance of the campaigns so far and make any necessary changes.  As usual, Devon was super helpful and gave me some really good advice.  In both campaigns the show-style trailer was out-performing the graphic text ad so Devon suggested to concentrate my budget on this ad to get the best results.

So, the campaigns are over now and what have I learnt?

With YouTube my ads reached loads of people, with a total of 16,000 views. To get this level of reach the spend was approx £350.

“…the cost is so low you can afford to experiment”

With Facebook the reach was a lot lower at a total of 974, but the cost was tiny at just over £5. The world of social media ads is still a little bit like dark magic, but I definitely feel more able to navigate it, albeit slowly. It is certainly a form of advertising that I will try again to hone my skills further.  I think I will play about with different ad formats on Facebook as the cost is so low you can afford to experiment. Then once I’ve gathered a bit more research about what works I will dip my toe back into YouTube and Google ads.

My advice to anyone would be to give it a go, but try to get yourself a “Devon” to hold your hand through the process.

Now onwards and upwards to Experiment 2; MBD’s Digital Advent Calendar…….


Header image courtesy of AMA conference 2018, Brian-Roberts Images. 

Facebook Competitions and Privacy Settings #DigiLab

Matt Walsh of Cheltenham Festivals discusses his first experiment on the Digital Lab

As someone who has only recently started working in digital marketing, my aims and objectives for taking part in AMA’s Digital Lab fellowship was to experiment different ideas, and to learn more techniques and skills going forward – primarily for the use of social media content and creating a podcast using audio from previous and upcoming festivals.

I will write about my experiences on introducing a podcast at a later date but this blog will detail my experience of using a Facebook competition as my first experiment and what followed.

After speaking to my mentor about my first experiment for Digital Lab, I wanted to create a competition giveaway via Facebook to give someone who was not aware of Cheltenham Festivals the chance to win a pair of tickets to David Attenborough’s talk at Cheltenham Literature Festival by liking our Facebook page and subscribe to our email newsletter – this experiment was given the go-ahead by my mentor. After a conversation with the Head of Marketing and the Box Office team, we agreed we would put aside two tickets to use for the competition giveaway, and would create this competition on Facebook Ads with a small investment of £50.

The objectives for this competition were to:

  • Create a landing page for the competition to include T&Cs
  • Increase our reach to a new audience
  • Gain more likes on our Facebook page
  • Increase our email subscribers.

I created the landing page for the competition using the Pages tool on WordFly, this landing page was set up to give details of how to win the tickets and the terms and conditions of the competition.

To increase reach to a new audience on Facebook Ads, I included people who matched interests such as Blue Planet (TV series), David Attenborough and Planet Earth (TV series). I also wanted to experiment using the connections tool and exclude people who already liked the Cheltenham Festivals Facebook page; hoping this would help in reaching a new audience, gain more likes and increase our email subscription, and to not target people who like our page.

I ran the competition (pictured below) for four days, and would notify the winner by direct message.

On the day of notifying the winner, I was disappointed that the total reach of the competition was 60,000 and had just a handful of comments from people entering the competition.

I used the ‘People and other Pages’ Facebook tool (pictured below) to search the users who had commented ‘IN’ for the competition, of which all users did not appear to like our page.

Confused at why the people who entered our competition were not showing in the tool above, I chose one person who commented in at random and contacted them via direct message to ask their details they had signed up to our eNews with.

The user stated her account was private, and acknowledged she liked our page earlier in the summer.

Upon reflection, this experiment did not turn out as well as I had hoped in terms of the objectives outlined above, however it did give me an insight on what to do differently next time. From my experience of using the Facebook connections tool to exclude people who already like the Cheltenham Festivals page, I have learned that it does not consider some aspects of the users privacy settings.

While this experiment didn’t turn out as I expected, speaking to my Digital Lab mentor in my first mentoring session about this experiment has helped with my approach for future social media competition giveaways and how to set more effective and reachable goals on all social media platforms. The mentoring session helped my knowledge with the next social media giveaway I conducted in September, and gave me confidence to test something different on Twitter with a return on investment which was more successful in terms of reach, impressions and followers.

Image courtesy of Sadlers Wells © Stephen White – LightSpace by Michael Hulls

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