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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 ©


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!





Experiments in access #DMA

Freya Jewitt from South London Gallery shares her experience on the Digital Marketing Academy.

My initial goal for the DMA was to improve the accessibility of the SLG’s website and digital marketing ahead of an inclusive arts festival for disabled and non disabled families. It was really helpful that my project was embedded into my work on the festival so that I had preset deadlines, audience targets and content to work with, and having the festival to work towards was also a great way to motivate my colleagues to collaborate on new projects.

In the run up to the festival I worked with the Learning and Operations teams to create an autism friendly visual story, an ‘Access’ page for the website, and other resources. Having time to do research and testing changed my perspective on all aspects of the festival marketing so that I put it into practice in lots of different areas, from the information in the e-flyers to A/B testing the targeting and imagery on Facebook ads for the event. I’m still working on evaluating and developing these further and thinking about ways that we can raise awareness of the new resources, so just because my project is coming to an end it doesn’t mean the experimenting is over.

Over the course of my project some of my ideas were reshaped by the time and contacts available to me so I had to take a flexible approach. It was great to look broadly at accessibility and explore a range of ideas but if I was going to do the project again I’d probably set out a much more defined test or question I wanted to answer.


Header Image courtesy of Pavillion Dance South West © Farrows Creative — Safe  

Improving Online Access Information #DMA

Freya Jewitt from South London Gallery shares her experience on the Digital Marketing Academy.

On the 28th of October the South London Gallery is hosting the first ever Making Routes Festival, a free and accessible weekend of arts and play taking place across south London. I’ve been using the festival as a deadline for improving the access information we share online and it’s also been an opportunity to put my accessible marketing research into practice on our website, e-marketing and Facebook advertising.

I wanted to highlight a few of the things I’ve learnt along the way that I’ve used to improve our digital content, and fed into things like the South London Gallery’s webpage style guide. A lot of it might sound really obvious but hopefully will highlight some helpful tools and resources.


  • You can use the WAVE chrome plugin to check how accessible your website is
  • It’s great to keep website text short, clear and to the point, you can use online tools to check the reading age of your website copy
  • When uploading videos try to add in subtitles and audio describe where possible
  • Flag up the resources you have and provide content in alternative formats for example large text versions of gallery guides or word docs as well as pdfs (as pdfs can’t be read by all screen readers.


  • Include photos of disabled visitors and use photos that show off your access provisions on site
  • Always alt-text images you post online so that screen readers can scan them
  • Don’t put text over images

Access information

  • Build a dedicated access page on your website and be up front about your facilities and flag up any potential obstacles by giving thorough information about accessible travel options and your building.
  • For some visitors it can be helpful to describe the experience on site so consider creating a Visual Story or Sensory Map.
  • Providing a named access person at your venue will encourage more people to get in touch if they need to
  • Ask disabled people and people with lived experience to be involved in the process of deciding what is included.


Helpful resources:

Wave Chrome plug-in

Readability Test

Reaching Disabled Audiences guide

Accessible Marketing Guide

5 ways to Connect online with disabled audiences

Access Information recommendations



Header Image courtesy of Puppet Theatre Scotland © Andy Caitlin – The Table – Blind Summit

5 learnings from the #DMA

Hannah Mason – fellow on DMA 4.0 – discusses five key learnings from her Digital Marketing Academy experience so far. 


Finding the time to concentrate on the experiments and the DMA experience is fundamental to achieving meaningful results. A couple of months in and I was thinking “Well I am very bad at separating time for this”. I thought my peers were all dedicating hours to their experiments which would all be going like clockwork and yielding amazing results. Conclusion being I was ‘a bit rubbish’ at this. Which leads me to points 2 and 3 in my discovery…


Of course I was totally wrong about my peers and comparing myself to imaginary versions of them was (and is!) the real waste of time. Our next Action Learning Set taught me this. We were all busy with the day job which was getting in the way of our experiment schedules. Our organisations were changing in ways we could not have envisioned and this was impacting in our ability to do what we set out to. Equally we were being harsh on ourselves. Things do slide but how we bring them back on track makes the difference. The clue is in the title ‘experiment’ not ‘absolute outcome’ so I realised sharing with my peers that it is okay to feel snowed under but if I found time to dedicate solely to the project each week the joy would come back.



I had lined up a series of visits to local galleries and exhibitions where I was going to talk to visitors about the interpretation available and the information they found before their visit. I wanted to ascertain the need for the information I feel is lacking. The first gallery would be at The Art House, where I have curated an exhibition with an artist called gobscure. He has lived experience of mental ill health and his work explores the language of lunacy. Alongside the exhibition I designed a magazine and website as he wanted to share the work not just in a ‘white cube’ but in other accessible ways. The change I wasn’t expecting was that in the gallery there was no interpretation! For various organisational reasons the interpretation was not created. Knocked off kilter a bit, I found this halted my momentum.


For a number of reasons time has played such an important role in how the project is progressing. I need to be flexible in how I gather the information to carry out the experiment. I have audience data from the galleries in a standard format due to the Audience Finder system all ACE-funded arts organisations use. The next step is setting up new visits to the three galleries in the plan and use the lack of interpretation as a tool rather than seeing it as a problem. Use agility to break down these tasks into smaller easy steps.


Or at least a simple version of the tool. The plan for the next phase of the project is to create a simple version of the online tool and share it with a focus group at The Art House. And of course enjoy some experimentation with it.

All images courtesy of Hannah Mason 

Good Reads #AMAKnowingYou

Volker Kuchelmeister, Jill Bennett, Dennis Del Favero, Amnesia Atlas, 2014, installation at FACT

Header image: Volker Kuchelmeister, Jill Bennett, Dennis Del Favero, Amnesia Atlas, 2014, installation at FACT.

With our 11th Digital Marketing Day just around the corner we asked some of our speakers what’s on their reading list in the run up to the event.

Jo Hunter

Jo Hunter of 64 Million Artists and the New Citizenship Project will present a keynote at Getting To Know You challenging us to rethink online participation, and think of our audiences and communities as creative in their own right.

David Gauntlett’s Making is Connecting is a great read focusing on creativity and engagement. There are lots of free resources on the website including the first chapter of the book.

Brené Brown has spoken and written on a lot on bringing vulnerability to your work and life. Her TED talk is great, and her book, Daring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead, is definitely worth looking at.


Sarah Corbett’s How to be a Craftivist: the art of gentle protest is a guidebook to how small, creative acts can empower and engage.

Will Saunders

In his keynote, consultant, Executive Producer & Digital Strategist Will Saunders will be sharing how he’s seen organisations engage with audiences using digital technologies and platforms. You can find a regular stream of great recommendations for further reading about new technologies on his Twitter feed.

I’ve been reading about why AR Is About To Take Over Your World (and thanks to BuzzFeed for getting as excited as the rest of us).

As voice becomes more of a “thing”, this article looks at how much brands should think about their sound, as well as their look.

Content isn’t king “The smartphone is the sun and everything else orbits it” is a compelling essay from Benedict Evans.

And more…

Selma Willcocks, who’ll be sharing details of Artsadmin’s journey to develop a new open-source CRM system, has been reading about how machine learning is used to create your personal Spotify recommendations.

In the AMA office, Rebecca and the programming team enjoyed this long-read about how the internet changes our relationship with time, how we share experiences and broadcast versions of our lives online.

And finally (and ignore the slightly scaremongering headline) although this study is US based, it contains some interesting points about how what we understand as ‘culture’: Is the Museum of Ice Cream the Future of Culture?

Our 11th Digital Marketing Day, #AMAKnowingYou takes place on 1 December at Barbican Centre, London.

Find out more about the programme and speakers and book your place.


Digital Marketing Day 2017; Getting To Know You is supported by:

Logo for Tessitura, networking sponsorLogo for Extensis, brand sponsorRed 61 logo - Digital partner

Painting by Numbers #DMA

Olivia Parker from Waddesdon Manor shares her experience on the Digital Marketing Academy.

I finished my previous blog with the intention to learn the art of making GIFs, so that’s exactly what I did. I invited Adam Koszary from Reading Museum to Waddesdon for a day of discussing digital marketing. In the morning we led an open discussion between the curators and the marketing team looking at the peaks and pitfalls of using animations to highlight the art in the collections as well as their importance in spreading knowledge, understanding and awareness. Then in the afternoon Adam imparted his digital wisdom by teaching the marketing team how to make GIFs. It was an incredibly valuable day, on a practical level but also in terms of creativity, inter-departmental communication and strategy. We’ve shared some of our thoughts in a recent blog ‘Getting giffy with it’.

As the DMA continues so does my understanding of website analytics and our audiences. Following my second session with my mentor, Tom, we decided it would be a valuable exercise to identify some of the main types of visitors to Waddesdon’s website and give them personas to start to paint a picture of who they are. From assessing Google Analytics I highlighted four main groups of people and created web persons based on who they are, what they were looking at, where they had come from and what interests them. On the most basic level this process has helped me to visualise them as people not statistics and has shifted the way I approach putting content together. This has fortunately tied in with broader audience analysis so as a team we’re much more aware of the types of people we need to deliver to. By far our biggest audience is women in their mid-thirties to forties with children.

A key goal of my project is to discover a bit more about our younger audiences, specifically those between 18-24. They make up a meagre 4% of our visiting audience and just over 6% of our website visitors. With another of my aims to prompt more user-generated content, I thought I could achieve both things by inviting young social media influencers and bloggers to Waddesdon for the day. Both organising and executing this day proved to be huge learning experiences. From recruiting attendees to finding a day that worked for the majority was very hard, particularly with such a niche audience. Then getting those interested to commit was also another challenge. We had a list of 20 people interested, 6 acceptances and then 3 people come on the day. I was initially incredibly disappointed about the small turnout, however the day proved to be a huge success and I learnt a lot from it. Logistically, as we took the attendees on a curator-led tour of the house it would have been very hard with any more than 3 people so this needs to be brought into consideration for future events. I spent a lot of time reflecting on this day in my most recent mentor meeting but ultimately the real take away is that, although the sample was small, it was successful. So much so that these types of events will be integrated into our marketing strategy and will be adapted and iterated for audiences needs as well as our own (hello agile working!).





Header Image : Picture of the Dining Room at Waddesdon Manor © National Trust, Waddesdon Manor.  Photo Chris Lacey

How We Increased Donations By 17.5% With This One Small Change #DMA

Devon Smith, co-founder of Measure Creative and Digital Marketing Academy Mentor offers tips for A/B testing

A/B testing is the practice of showing two slightly different versions of the same thing (an A and a B) to two small groups of people, figuring out which version works the best, and then showing that version to everyone else. You can use A/B testing in many different marketing channels – from social media to email newsletters to your website; you could even A/B test conversations that you have all the time (like fundraising pitches to donors)!

There are 7 key steps to any A/B test:

  • Goal: A/B testing depends on having a singular optimization goal that defines which version wins. It could be a click, the open rate, time on page, downloads, or nearly any other singular metric.
  • Hypothesis: Google famously A/B tested 40 different shades of blue to figure out which one got the most clicks, and then changed all links to that colour blue. As arts organisations, we just don’t have that kind of time. So a good hypothesis helps us focus on the things that matter most: the high value goals (ticket sales, fundraising, attendance, etc), and the aspects of the marketing channel that are likely to matter most (images, headlines, big noticeable changes).
  • Segment: A/B tests usually apply to a small segment of your audience – they’re the “test group” that helps you make a decision about which version (A or B) is most effective; it might be 10% of your email subscribers or a “week’s worth” of your website visitors.
  • Split: one half of your segment sees the “A” version, the other half sees your “B” version. It’s important these two groups are very similar to each other (and so we often randomly assign members to A or B)
  • Show: Don’t forget there should be only one small change between your A version and your B version. If you change multiple things at the same time, they’re likely to cancel each other out and you won’t know which test is the winner, or why. Once you’ve got your two A and B versions, you need to show them to the A and B  groups for a period of time. This calculator from Optimizely helps you figure out for how long the test needs to be running before you know the winner.
  • Measure: each of your A and B versions will have their own conversion rate, which equals “success metric” divided by “number of people exposed to the test.” In other words: 14 successful downloads divided by 100 people who saw the version B is a conversion rate of 14%. If version A’s conversion rate is 20%, then version A clearly wins.
  • Change: once you know the winning version, you need to roll it out to the rest of your audience as a permanent change.


Let’s take a look at this 7-step process in action, using the example above.

  • Goal: complete the donation transaction
  • Hypothesis: website visitors pay more attention to the left side of a page and by the time they get to this donation page, they no longer need to be convinced (so the “a gift of hope” panel is distracting)
  • Segment: this test ran for 1-month, to 100% of website visitors to this page
  • Split: visitors to this donation page were randomly shown the A version or the B version, using the tool Google Optimize
  • Show: the single change between these two versions is the reversal of the left and right panels
  • Measure: After 1-month, version A had 7.4% of visitors complete a donation, and version B had 8.7% of visitors complete a donation. So over the course of a year, just by changing to version B we would see a 17.5% increase in online donations ((8.7-7.4)/7.4 = 17.5)
  • Change: after the test finished, we made a permanent change to the donation page (and started a new A/B test!)


For more tips on how to A/B test in social media, emails, and your website, check out this presentation from a recent workshop I facilitated.

Header Image courtesy of Puppet Theatre Scotland © Andy Caitlin – The Logic of Movement – Stephen Mottram

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