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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 18th 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!


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

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 ©


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. 

Data-driven decisions for website redevelopment #digilab

Ray Clenshaw and Emma Rowan at Belgrade Theatre, Coventry discuss their Digital Lab experience so far

We were both incredibly excited to be accepted onto the AMA’s Digital Lab. For a long time we’d discussed the increasing importance of making more data-driven decisions and whilst we use Google Analytics and other digital platforms regularly, we felt we were not unlocking their full potential.

In our first meeting with Devon we focused on gaining a better understanding of analytics which would inform our future experiments. Devon was great at helping to demystify some of the terms used and to identify key reports which would provide invaluable data moving forward.

With a greater understanding of what we could learn via analytics we started to think about what we really wanted to know. With a rebrand of our website on the horizon, we were keen to learn more about the user journey on our current site. We were also keen to explore Facebook advertising in more detail, to examine elements of the platform which we weren’t currently using.


Using data to inform website redevelopment

Our website is getting on a little bit now and we’re just starting to formulate our plan to redevelop the site. It’s been incredibly useful to discuss that with Devon and to identify some of the information we can gain from analytics to inform decisions we make going into that process.

The plan is to explore conversions and the user journey behaviour to see how people currently use our site and to gauge what people want most from what we offer. We’ll also be listing assumptions we have as an organisation about the content on the site and how people engage with it, and then finding ways to test those assumptions to see if the data backs them up or not.

Making ‘data driven decisions’ is something we talk about a lot, and we obviously use data from our CRM and ticketing systems all the time, but we’ve always felt there’s so much more we could be taking from google analytics to inform all kinds of activity, and that’s exactly what the Digital Lab experience is allowing us to do now. It’s really exciting and will no doubt prove incredibly valuable as we increase our knowledge and understanding.


Remarketing versus boosted Posts

Facebook advertising is a key component of all of our marketing campaigns but we felt there were elements of Facebook’s advertising platform that we were yet to explore, particularly the remarketing function. Whilst we’d both been exposed to remarketing ads personally we’d never used them as part of our social media advertising strategy. We were keen to examine whether they were more successful than the boosted posts and newsfeed ads we’ve traditionally used.

Devon was really helpful in talking through the logistics of setting up a remarketing campaign and helping us to ascertain what our goals were and how to track them via analytics. Once we’d established our goals we decided to set up an experiment to compare the success rate of a remarketing campaign versus a boosted post. Focusing on one of our upcoming Christmas shows we set up a 2 week remarketing campaign with, ‘number of transactions’ as the trackable goal. Once the advert has run its course we’ll run a boosted post with the same budget and compare the results.

Making changes to tried and tested marketing tactics can be scary, particularly when budgets are tight and the results are unknown. Being part of the Digital Lab has helped to increase my confidence in taking ‘risks’ by improving my knowledge of analytics and how to set goals, track and evaluate the success rate of campaigns. It’s been great to have the opportunity to test some of our ‘what ifs’ and I can’t wait to see what the results show us.

Header image courtesy of People United © Janetka Platun — BELONGING

Changing tact — using film to create rich experiences for existing audiences #DigiLab

Tom White, Assistant Digital Manager at City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra talks about his early involvement with the Digital Lab

New audiences are pretty much the arts marketer’s holy grail – it’s no secret that getting people’s attention and persuading them to come and experience our art for the first time can be a challenge. But something we’ve been thinking about lately at the CBSO is the importance of keeping that attention, and how we can stop those hard-won attenders from ‘lapsing’ after they’ve taken their first steps. So my first discussions with my AMA Digital Lab mentor focused around the ‘visitor experience’ – not necessarily a concept we deal with too regularly as a performance-based producing organisation – and ways we could enrich our concertgoers’ experience digitally.

Digital video is a format that we are already quite comfortable with as an organisation, so we have started doing some experiments around how we can use it more as a re-engagement tool than a mass-marketing medium.

On any given week, the CBSO will perform between one and three entirely different musical programmes, usually at our Birmingham home venue Symphony Hall but also on UK and international tours. As a result, our production cycle is very tight, with no more than five days between the first rehearsal and the end of the concert – and then maybe only two or three days until rehearsals start for the next one.

As far as generating video content to support concerts online, within that week-long window we can film rehearsals, interview conductors and musicians, and quickly turn around social media videos in time – just about – to publish them on the day, or day before, a concert. We’ve done that quite a few times, using video as a last-minute sales push. Admittedly the content has been very useful in terms of social media engagement and reach – but it’s not necessarily helping us sell seats in the hall. We already know that our core audiences will book several weeks out from the concert, so it’s impossible to get this content in front of would-be attenders quickly enough to make a difference.

So, as part of the Digital Lab, and with our lapsing booker challenges in mind, we’re experimenting with a change of tack. It’s really simple – the plan is to also use video post-concert instead, with the hope of creating a richer experience for existing bookers. A no-brainer, right? Our team already sends post-concert emails after every performance (with press reviews, a social media roundup and recommended concerts), so we were aware of their usefulness. But the Digital Lab has given us the impetus to try video in this context too.

In practice, for a few trial concerts this has meant collecting very short (60 seconds or less) video interviews of musical soloists or conductors immediately after they come offstage – literally the musical equivalent of post-match footballer interview. The clips are then shared directly with the attenders of that particular content via email. Of course, these videos aren’t going to break any YouTube views records – in fact they’re not even visible on our channel – but that isn’t the point. Our hope is that doing this can enrich the audience experience in a way that might increase a first-timer’s engagement in the artform more widely, and make them more receptive to further marketing communications from us in particular.

We’re measuring the responses to the videos, and early results seem positive, with CTR substantially higher on these content-rich emails than on our standard post-concert messaging. The real litmus test, though, will be whether this has any bearing on how those same people respond to the next enewsletters or concert eflyers they get from us. Will the video engagement help to punch through the white noise of marketing in people’s inboxes, or will it make no difference at all? Either way, we’re looking forward to finding out.

Header Image courtesy of Sound and Music © Martin Weiss 

Get the most out of UTM Codes #Digilab

Devon Smith, mentor on our Digital Lab shares insights on UTM Codes    

One of the great benefits of online marketing is the ability to measure the direct impact of your marketing efforts. In order to measure the success of emails, social media, all manner of online ads, and other online marketing efforts, each of those needs to be tagged with a UTM code.

UTM codes are deceptively simple and complex. You can add a UTM code to any link that you control (links that you add to an email, social media post or ad, a digital ad in an online newspaper, an entry in an online community calendar, etc), and the information in that code is then automatically passed to Google Analytics. In short – by adding UTM code to links, you can get more and better data into your Google Analytics, so that you can evaluate whether, for example, visitors from email bought more tickets than visitors from social media, or exactly how many donations were made by visitors who arrived as your site from that end-of-year giving email campaign.

That’s the easy part:

Link + UTM Code = More data in Google Analytics

The hard part is making sure all of the UTM codes on all of your marketing links use the same structure and conventions, because Google Analytics is maddeningly precise in how it organizes those UTM codes in analytics reports.

Before we dive into figuring out how to solve that issue, first a little nerd history: before Google Analytics existed, there was a similar service called Urchin; it was Urchin that developed the “Urchin Tracking Module” code that we now shorthand as UTM. Google acquired Urchin and folded in the Urchin Tracking Module (UTM) code method into Google Analytics. This is why Google automatically attaches UTM codes to all Google AdWords ads by default (and so you shouldn’t be adding UTM codes to your AdWords links!).

UTM code must have the “Source” parameter (a parameter is the type of information being passed to Google Analytics) and can have up to 4 additional parameters (so if you don’t want to use any of the 4 parameters, just leave them out of the code entirely). Each parameter follows the same structure: utm_parameter=youdecidewhatgoeshere and those parameters are joined to each other with an ampersand (&).

Source: intended to identify the name of the website where the link is placed or the name of the email client (particularly if you are a large organization that, for example, uses Mailchimp for some emails and DotMailer for others). So, your Source parameter is often identified as facebook, twitter, mailchimp, theguardian, etc.) and looks like:


Medium: intended to identify the type of marketing channel where this link is being placed, for example: email, social, referral, display, etc. Google Analytics has very strict rules about how it will use the Medium parameter to identify traffic in the default “Channels” report. If you don’t following Google’s rules for the Medium parameter, lots of your traffic will end up identified in the “(Other)” category for this report. After tagging all of your links with UTM codes, you want a Channels report that looks something like this, where the “(Other)” category is quite small:

Default channel grouping chart example

All the rules that Google has for formatting and using the Medium parameter can be found here, but the basic idea is for traffic to end up in these channel groupings. For traffic to appear in the Channel of:

  • Social use Medium of exactly: social, social-network, social-media, sm, social network, or social media.
  • Email use Medium of exactly: email
  • Affiliates use Medium of exactly: affiliate
  • Referral use Medium of exactly: referral
  • Paid Search don’t add UTM codes to any of your Google AdWords! But if you use other paid search network, (Bing, Yahoo, etc) then use Medium of exactly: cpc, ppc, or paidsearch
  • Other Advertising use Medium of exactly: cpv, cpa, cpp, or content-text
  • Display use Medium of exactly: display, cpm, or banner


So your Medium parameter is often identified as social, email, referral, or display and looks like:


If your Medium parameter doesn’t exactly match one of the terms in that list (spelling, capitalization, spacing must all match), then your traffic will get grouped in the “(Other)” category in this Channels report. If that happens, or for some reason you can’t follow the default definitions of Medium that Google has created, you do have the option to update those definitions in Google Analytics!

You can create your own rules for how to sort traffic based on UTM parameters in the Administrative section of Google Analytics, under “Custom Channel Grouping.”

Campaign: intended to identify the name of the thing you are promoting. Ideally, you will have lots of different Sources and Mediums that all share the exact same Campaign code. This is often the name of the performance, exhibit, course, or fundraising campaign. It’s a best practice to use dashes or underscores to separate words, use all lowercase, and minimize the number of words used so your Campaign parameter might look like:


Term: Google uses this parameter specifically for Google AdWords to identify what keyword was bid on, but YOU can use this parameter for anything you want! It’s a total free-for-all. If I’m tagging a social media ad, I’ll often use this parameter to identify the audience segment I was targeting. If I’m tagging an email, I’ll use this parameter to identify the date the email was sent or the list segment the email was sent to. So use the Term parameter for whatever you want that you think will help you better analyze your marketing efforts, and it might look like:


Content: google uses this parameter specifically for Google AdWords to identify which ad the link was placed in, but YOU can use this parameter for anything you want! Again, it’s a total free-for-all. If I’m tagging a social media ad or an email, I’ll often use this parameter to identify the type of content in the social post or email, such as a video, slideshow, or image, or I’ll use it to identify the specific text copy that we might be testing. So use the Content parameter for whatever you want that you think will help you better analyze your marketing efforts, and it might look like:


Put it all together: UTM codes are joined to the link that you’re posting by a question mark and by convention typically appear in the order listed above. So we put all of those things together, and your link might look like:

This is the full link that you would include in your email newsletter on 31 December using a 30 second video to promote Beauty and the Beast. If there are two different places in that same email where you’re promoting that show, just change the Content parameter. If you’re also promoting the show via a video Facebook ad, change the Source, Medium, and Term (but leave Campaign and Content as-is).


Google created the “Campaign URL Builder” website to help you create that long link:

‘Enter the website URL and campaign information example chart’

There’s also a plethora of free or cheap tools you can find online that help automate this process, including Excel add-ons, Chrome extensions, Google Sheets add-ons, etc. Do a little googling to find the one that fits your needs best.


If you decide to go the manual route, it’s still great to use a spreadsheet to keep track of all your parameters throughout a campaign, and that spreadsheet might look like:

Example spreadsheet

Capitalized letters can wreak havoc on your well structured and planned UTM codes. For example, if you accidently use “beauty_beast” and “Beauty_Beast” Google will think that those are two different campaigns, and not group the data together in your Campaigns reports. If you think you might get a little sloppy with capitalization (I know I’m guilty of that!), create a filter in Google Analytics that will force all URL data into lowercase automatically:

Creating a filter in google analytics example

Have you lost sight yet of why we started using UTM codes to begin with? Now that your UTM codes are on all of your digital marketing links, you can start using them to understand which source, medium, term, and content is performing the best for each of your campaigns. So if everything went as planned, you have a nice organized list of campaigns:

Campaign list showing acquisitions

And you can click on any of those campaigns, and see which marketing channel is generating the most ticket sales:

More campaign acquisitions information

Or which audience segment that you created for a Facebook ad campaign is generating the most ticket sales:

example sheet showing which audience segment is generating the most ticket sales:

Or which type of content is generating the most ticket sales:

Once you understand the rules and conventions of how to use UTM codes, there’s a world of analysis that’s possible in Google Analytics – hopefully making more efficient use of your limited marketing budget. But it’s not enough for a single person to follow all the rules and conventions – everyone at your organization has to share the same practices! I often find that’s one of the hardest parts of campaign code management – just keeping everyone on the same page and using the same naming conventions. It’s helpful to share a single spreadsheet that tracks all UTM code parameters at the organization, and to have regular meetings with all of your marketing staff who might need to use UTM codes in their work so that everyone can work out discrepancies.

Good luck with your campaign tagging and may the magic of UTM codes help all of your online marketing efforts succeed!


Header Image courtesy of Liverpool Biennial 2016 © Joel Chester Fildes — Rita McBride, Portal, 2016.  

Content Plan — Reloaded #DigiLab

Image courtesy of Eastern Angles © Mike Kwasniak

Nicky Hand from Shakespeare Birthplace Trust shares her experience so far on the Digital Lab

One of the things I love about my job is the endless potential it affords. There’s always something to learn; a new tool to play with; a process to improve upon. Experimentation is woven into the fabric of what digital is all about, so coming up with ideas for experiments to run as part of the Digital Lab was definitely not a problem. The only tricky part was going to be figuring out which one to pick first…

We were encouraged to identify an experiment that fits directly into our current to-do list. Instead of feeling like yet another thing to fit in, it should just be a version of your day job that happens to benefit from the expertise of a mentor. So with that in mind, I knew pretty quickly that I was going to focus on content.

The way we produce content at the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust has been changing. Rather than funnelling everything through a centralised team, we’ve been working with individuals across the organisation to skill up a team of ‘content champions’. They might post onto social media, write website content or create videos; the aim is to empower our people to tell the stories relevant to their area of work, direct to our audiences.

As our champions have gained confidence and got to grips with the mechanics of content creation, our attention has been turning to more strategic matters. Introducing a diversity of voices means our content increasingly reflects the living, breathing collective of passionate individuals that makes up the Trust. We see this as a hugely positive thing, but it comes with some practical problems to overcome, and a risk that the overall coherence of our output could be compromised.

To reduce this risk, we use a shared content schedule. By plotting everyone’s plans in a single place we hoped to increase transparency, encourage wider campaign thinking and enable opportunity-spotting for collaborations between teams. In practice, feedback tells us it’s mostly just used to find a gap in which to schedule up a post. It’s a useful reference point for avoiding timing clashes, but not much more. There certainly isn’t any evidence that champions are using the document to inform their analysis or broader planning.

So the focus of my first experiment is to see if there’s anything we can do to change that. After a helpful chat with my mentor I’ve gone back to the drawing board, thinking about what else a content plan could and should offer. Are we capturing all the information that we should be? How can this tool work harder to guide people’s thinking about what to create, not just when to send it out into the world? Is there a format that could offer reporting and insights to people at different levels of the organisation for a variety of purposes?

While I’m working through these questions I’m also on the lookout for alternative platforms that could provide a more flexible solution than our current Google doc. The one that intrigues me most so far is Airtable, which has the familiarity of excel but a lot scope for data interrogation in more visual, calendar-based formats. I’ve run a quick demo of the tool past our champions, and my next steps will be to set up a beta content plan that incorporates the findings of all my thinking so far.

There’s a lot of work still to be done, but I’m feeling really positive about the opportunity to take a fresh look at something that sort of works, but could be better. It’s not always easy to make time for that, but I’m excited to see what the impact of a relatively straightforward change could be on how we manage our content for the benefit of our teams, our stakeholders and – most importantly – our audiences.

Header image courtesy of Eastern Angles © Mike Kwasniak 

The First Time #DMA

Female hand holding a pen and writing a plan in a planner

Katie Walker and Hugh Gledhill from Theatre Royal Stratford East share their experience on the Digital Marketing Academy

We came to our first call with our mentor Ron Evans with lots of different ideas, and Ron was very calm and positive so we came off the call with lots to think about, but also with the assurance that we could reach out to him anytime during the process. We talked about all things digital, and one of my key takeaways was realising my reservations about employing marketing tactics that I don’t personally respond to as a customer (such as re-targeting campaigns). It was useful to recognise that, and I’ve made a mental note to try and work through it! It’s always better to test something and act on what the data, rather than what your gut, tells you.


As a theatre in London one of the challenges we face is lack of loyalty – there are hundreds of arts organisations competing for customers’ time and money, so it can be difficult to persuade people to return. The average London re-attendance rate is less than 20%, and at Theatre Royal Stratford East we feel it more than most because of our varied programming and a lack of disposable income in our local area. Hugh and I had been discussing this since joining the team in 2016, and it formed a large part of our discussion with Ron.

It’s cheaper and easier to retain existing customers than to find new ones, and as TRG Arts CEO Jill Robinson said at the 2016 Spektrix Conference, we should all be in pursuit of pushing customers up the loyalty pyramid (visitors to return, returners to donate, etc). It seems that two re-attendance project options are getting pantomime attendees to return the following year (the larger opportunity because each pantomime runs for two months and the attendance figures are very high), or getting non-pantomime attendees to see another non-pantomime show within a given time period (perhaps more challenging because of the breadth of our programme, but potentially very useful as re-attendance rates are low).


Ron asked about the journey we send customers on before and after they see their first show here, and it reminded me of Robinson’s dating analogy.  You wouldn’t email someone after a first date asking them to rate the experience, but embarrassingly, that’s what we’ve been doing here. If we followed up with interesting articles about the show they had seen then perhaps we could create a warmer, longer lasting memory that would make them more likely to return.


Ron shared a very interesting anecdote from his experience where background reading was included in a pre-show email which wasn’t getting read, but there was a high penetration rate of people going back to read the pre-show email after they had seen the performance. This is definitely food for thought, and time is finally on our side as the theatre is dark for a month over summer. We finished the call with a research assignment regarding how many first time visitors are re-attending within a year (separated into panto and non-panto attendees) over the last three years, and we will report back in our next blog!





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