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Audience interaction through social media #DigiLab

In this #DigiLab blog Charlotte Angharad from Metro-Boulot-Dodo (MBD) talks about her third experiment to develop Instagram Stories and the impact the Digital Lab has had on the organisation’s approach to social media.

Our third Digital Lab experiment was originally going to be based on community interaction through our website related to a project that we’re doing to celebrate the 50th Anniversary of the Moon landing. Unfortunately, the project has been delayed until October so although we still plan to undertake this experiment, we needed a new experiment for Digital Lab.

So instead, our third #DigiLab experiment is an Instagram one. Although I lead on MBD’s social media I don’t know much about Instagram or Instagram Stories — as a result we’ve just been posting on Instagram rather than developing stories.

We have at the moment a fantastic intern, Silvia Campanile, who knows a lot about Instagram. Silvia is a design graduate from Naples who’s working at MBD for four months as part of the Erasmus Programme, which is a European work placement programme. Silvia is working on some of our VR projects, as well as on design and 3D animation. She’s also been helping us with our social media, in particular Instagram.

Silvia has started to develop MBD’s Instagram Stories — she’s been posting content and developing interaction with followers. Our experiment is evaluating that work.

Silvia’s made a real difference to our Instagram and we’ve seen an increase in followers. It’s also made a difference to how we view our audiences. We originally started 22 years ago as a touring theatre company so our audiences were in the room with us when we were performing. We could see audience reactions to our work; hear their clapping and experience a real-life interaction.

However, these days we do a lot more work online and using Virtual Reality (VR). We do work that’s site specific, for example audio heritage trails in historic properties. As a result, we’re not always there when our work is happening so we’re not seeing the reaction of our audiences and we’re not talking as much to our audiences. We miss that interaction.

So the work that Silvia’s doing with our Instagram Stories is creating more interaction. Throughout the working day people will ask questions through Instagram about the work that we’re doing. They’ll ask questions such as: what’s a difficult day in the office? Or, what we’re working on next week? It gives us an opportunity to directly interact with our audiences and that’s a really good resource that we’ve previously not tapped into.

It’s changed the way all of us in the team are thinking. It’s made us more aware of our audiences on a day-to-day basis.

Silvia is also imparting her knowledge of Instagram to the rest of the team and training us up to the level that she’s at. So that when she leaves we’ll be able to carry on the stories.

As a result of the Digital Lab programme, we’re now developing ‘tone of voice’ guidelines for our social media platforms so that we can have a consistent organisational voice across all our channels. We’re also defining which platform we want to use for which type of content — so that we know what type of post we want to put on each platform. #DigiLab has opened our eyes to how best to use our social media channels and how we can implement that across the whole organisation.

Read Charlotte’s previous Digital Lab blogs: Paid social media advertising #DigiLab  and Digital Advent Calendar #DigiLab.

Images courtesy of Metro-Boulot-Dodo ©.

Four key lessons from #DigiLab

Digital Lab Fellow Kim Osborne from the Roald Dahl Museum and Story Centre shares the four key lessons she’s learnt from the projects and experiments she’s undertaken as part of #DigiLab.  

So, we’re at the end of Digital Lab now, and this blog post is a good opportunity to reflect on what I’ve learnt over the last six months or so. Here are four key lessons from the projects and experiments I’ve carried out; some expected, some not! But they’re all great things to keep in mind when planning future digital projects.

1. Always take time to work out ‘why’ you are doing something.
I spent a long time at the beginning of Digital Lab trying to work the ‘why’ of the project. I had lots of ideas about exciting things I could make and test, but my mentor Ron Evans really made me drill down on why I should do these things. I eventually decided to make a series of films to gain audience feedback via email and Facebook, but initially I had just wanted to generally increase engagement on Facebook using film. Spending time thinking about why we needed engagement, and what types of engagement would help the Museum, enabled me to develop an idea that involved asking our audiences specific questions, the answers to which would be useful for many Museum projects.

This approach helped me step back for a second to develop some well-considered ideas and eliminate some ideas that might not be so beneficial.

I now find myself taking more time at this stage with other projects and plans, and it’s made a difference to how I communicate my ideas too.

2. Don’t operate in a silo — make the most of all those around you.
Because the feedback I was looking for was potentially useful for various Museum projects, it meant the I needed to talk to people across the Museum team. This helped me to understand their views on the content I was creating, and we worked together to devise a set of mutually beneficial questions. These conversations also gave me more ideas and insights, gave me a greater understanding of the Museum as a whole, and led to the development of future projects. Win, win!

3. Planning ahead makes perfect sense!
This is kind of covered in point one, but I don’t think it can be overstated, especially for me — planning is key. I can be a bit too eager to get on with things sometimes, and always in a rush to tick things off my list and get on to the next thing. I do plan, but probably don’t always take enough time on the planning stages, so for this project I made sure I thoroughly and methodically went through each stage. This was helped by the two points above, but also on my mentor’s insistence on making storyboards for my films, which I have to admit not only helped me when it came to making them, but also helped me to share those ideas with others. And helped me to develop a new skill, which is always handy.

4. Don’t underestimate email.
The biggest surprise of the project for me was the response to the emails I sent. Although my focus was on sharing films on Facebook, I set up a test on our email list initially. This was so I could split my audience up fairly and test film and non-film content alongside each other.

After all my storyboarding, filming and editing it turns out that my emails with plain text questions were more successful than those with embedded links to my films. In fact, they were also more successful than the films I posted on Facebook. I had so many replies to my emails despite our relatively small number of subscribers — some people writing up to 300 words — that it made me think about the untapped potential of our email list, something I’ve definitely overlooked.

So, based on these results my next steps are: 1) think about email — what can we do with this audience to help us achieve our goals? And 2) what can we do with film on social media? What kind of content will deliver the results we’re looking for?

Now for some more experiments…

Read Kim’s previous Digital Lab blogs: Remember the why #DigiLab and All about the making #DigiLab

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

Getting out of your comfort zone #DigiLab

Digital Lab Fellow Danny Evans of the Royal Shakespeare Company explains in her second #DigiLab blog how drawing a video storyboard pushed her out of her comfort zone.  

Working on this project has made me realise how much our jobs push us out of our comfort zones. A colleague excelled at maths and science in school but has ended up a very successful Marketing Manager.

I always loved words, so I pursued a career where I’d get to write them. The two subjects I was least comfortable with at school were maths and art. Fast forward lots of years and here I am, Content Manager at the Royal Shakespeare Company (RSC). Words are still a big part of my job, but I spend hours at a time analysing web stats, arranging spreadsheets, and doing algebra. And now, for this project, I have to storyboard my video. I have to DRAW some pictures.

The project
Like many organisations we’ve long since used our YouTube channel as a repository for all our videos, not a curated channel. We have so many skills at the RSC — carpenters, hairdressers, costume makers to name just three — I wanted to find out if we had something valuable to offer a YouTube audience.

My research question: is there an appetite for bespoke content, designed solely to appeal to our YouTube audience?

First up, I interrogated our YouTube stats, looking at what worked and what didn’t work, what content our audience wanted more of, and who this audience are. Here are a couple of key insights:

  • Most of our YouTube audience are aged 18-44 — that covers several key audience segments for us
  • We’re based in a small Warwickshire town but most of our audience aren’t — 32% watch in the UK; a matching 32% watch from the US; the other 36% come to our videos from all over the world. So YouTube could be the key to bringing our content and our brand to the US and lots of other places in the world.

I decided to use a tried and tested YouTube format for my experiment — the ‘how to’ video. I got our Wigs and Make up team on board and we decided that the video would be on wig fitting and we set a filming date. All I had to do was storyboard the video, and we’d be ready to go. That’s all.

This filled me with dread. It had to be stickmen, because that’s all I’m capable of, but it’s still terrifying. Even my stickmen are somehow more rubbish than everyone else’s. You will be able to see, immediately, what an artistic disaster I am. If you can draw you probably won’t understand — but there’s probably something comparable that you would avoid at all costs. First thoughts:

  1. Is there a way around this? Do we really need it? Can I just not do it? Can I do words instead? No, they need a storyboard, I should give them a storyboard — with pictures.
  2. Is there a tool on the internet that will do this for me? Yes there is, but by the time I‘ve figured it out and downloaded it I probably could have just done the storyboard on paper — I mean all it needs to be is a few squares explaining what I want to happen, with stick people.
  3. How hard can it be? Just get on with it!

So I finally put pencil to paper. I wrote a list of the steps I needed to show, divided a piece of paper into six squares, with a space for a caption under each one, and set about drawing a person, some hands, a chair, a mirror and a stand for a wig. It’s a very simple storyboard. It took about four drafts and a bit of rubbing out before I was satisfied that it was neat enough to do the job. But it does the job. And that is all it’s supposed to do.

I did it! And you know what? It wasn’t actually that hard. Like a lot of things — it looks big and scary, but if you start small, you can always learn.

By getting out of my comfort zone and drawing out the storyboard for my video, I’ve learnt a new skill.

I’ve taken lots of insights away from this project, which I hope will have a big impact on our YouTube strategy over the next year. But if there’s one piece of advice I’d give, it’s this: get out of your comfort zone, do the things you thought you couldn’t do. There will be no stopping you!

Read Danny’s first Digital Lab blog How to win at YouTube.

Image courtesy of Danny Evans and Royal Shakespeare Company — Van Gogh eat your heart out! The dreaded storyboard becomes reality.

Using the Instagram Music sticker on Stories #DigiLab

In Matt Walsh’s third and final Digital Lab blog, he details how he used the new Music sticker feature on Instagram Stories to showcase the artists that are playing at Cheltenham Jazz Festival in May 2019.

We announced our line-up for Cheltenham Jazz Festival in February 2019. This year I wanted to highlight our line-up and experiment using the Music sticker feature on Instagram.

The Music sticker feature enables Instagram users to post a video or photo, and search for a specific song, genre or what’s popular and tap the play button to hear a preview. When you’ve selected your song, you can fast-forward and rewind through the track to choose the exact part this fits your story.

I wanted to use this new feature and experiment with the Music sticker for the build-up to the Jazz Festival, and throughout the Festival in May. For this experiment, I created a weekly feature using the hashtag #TuesdayTunes, including the range of diverse artists and genres we have at the Jazz Festival this year with the ticket link for their gig in our bio.

The Instagram blog posts states to capture a photo or video for the Music sticker, but I wanted to experiment using artwork created for our programme brochure and artist photos and use this on Instagram Stories.

Before creating the images to add to Instagram Stories, I browsed through the Instagram Music library to make sure the artists I wanted to include, had their songs available in the music library.

Fortunately, the majority of artists songs were available. I went ahead and planned weekly #TuesdayTunes Instagram Stories; highlighting well-known names and emerging UK talent that our audience may not particularly be aware of and showcase their songs to give them a taster of what’s coming up, in the hope that they like the artist and would consider buying tickets to see them at the Jazz Festival.

Creating artwork and artists images worked well for this experiment, it enabled users to view who was coming to the Festival, but on some posts the music didn’t play straight away and some users messaged us about this — I included the tap to listen and arrow emojis in the photos above to see if this would help, this enabled users to tap the music sticker and listen to the entire song if they wanted, not just a 30-second clip which was a useful addition.

I intend to use this Instagram Stories Music sticker feature each day for the Jazz Festival this year, but instead of creating artwork demonstrated above, I will capture photos and videos of our Festival Village, its venues and potentially a photo of the artists if given permission to do so and include music stickers for each artist.

The Digital Lab fellowship has been an invaluable experience in my new digital marketing role at Cheltenham Festivals.

The fellowship has given me the mindset of testing new ideas and features in digital marketing, safe in the knowledge that experimenting is the best process to work out what works well, what can be improved on and what may not be the best fit.

Read Matt’s previous Digital Lab blogs: Facebook competitions and privacy settings #DigiLab and Starting a podcast #DigiLab.

All about the making #DigiLab

Kim Osborne from the Roald Dahl Museum and Story Centre, explains the process she went through, as part of her Digital Lab fellowship, to create videos aimed at getting feedback from the Museum’s audiences. 

The next section of Digital Lab has been lots of fun. I’ve been experimenting, drawing and creating new things. But I’m having to keep reminding myself to step back and make sure I’m still looking at the bigger picture.

During this phase I’ve been creating videos to try to get some feedback from our audiences. They are short films to try and gain a better understanding of what people think of the main subject of our museum. We hope this feedback will help us make decisions in the future about everything from gallery content to café menu items. I’ve finished up with four films, which will now need to be tested.

But before we jump to the testing, this phase was all about the making.

One of the key things to come out of this project (and perhaps a little unexpected) was the amount of collaborative work across teams to make the films. This was mainly to do with the questions we wanted to ask, and the data we wanted to collect: how would be best to word it? What answers would be useful? I really needed to consider how the feedback would be used to make the films as purposeful as possible.

Once that was done, I wanted to jump straight in and film, but my mentor Ron Evans suggested I storyboard them first, so I was really prepared, and to help with creating more films in the future. I really enjoyed this, and he was right — it made the filming and editing stage much more straightforward.

I tried to develop new skills and try new things with the films. They are a mixture of live action and animation, so I did spend some time sourcing new equipment, and finding online tutorials for Premiere Pro. I also had to overcome the hurdle of finding good sources of free or low-cost images, music and sound effects — as well as creating this content myself. Overall, I really enjoyed it — although the visual planning and making did take a lot longer than I’d hoped. I feel this has given me a solid foundation in creating more films like this in the future.

One other off-shoot of this project is that I’m seeing how I can use these skills in other projects in the museum, and other people in the team are also suggesting ways I can put the filmmaking to use. These include content for screens within the museum exhibits, and films for the archive. Some of these projects are already ongoing.

I’m really excited to test the films I’ve made now, to see how people react to them — both via email and through our Facebook page.


Digital Advent Calendar #DigiLab

Digital Lab Fellow, Charlotte Angharad from Metro-Boulot-Dodo (MBD) shares the thinking behind and outcomes of her second #DigiLab experiment — a digital Advent calendar.

In our second #DigiLab experiment we didn’t have a specific goal as such, we just wanted to try lots of different things through our social media channels to see what worked and what didn’t.

We thought Christmas was a good time to experiment with playful content, so each day throughout December 2018 we published different types of content on our three social media channels — Twitter, Facebook and Instagram — a bit like a digital Advent calendar.

The type of content we published varied — photographs, videos and plain text. Some posts we put across all three channels to see how they performed, some we just put on one channel.

We had a series of posts on ‘meet the team’ with a bit of information about each MBD team member. We asked the team questions such as what’s their favourite thing about Christmas? And what were they most looking forward to in 2019?

We also asked questions as posts. Some questions related to our work, for example, asking whether people had seen a show that we’d done or whether they had any feedback on a show. We also asked unrelated questions such as — what’s your favourite Christmas film? We just wanted to get people talking and engaged on our social media channels.

We monitored the level of engagement we got from these posts. We wanted to see if there were any trends we could identify with the type of content we published. We wanted to gain some insight into what our audiences engaged with and “liked”.

The results were very mixed. We found that the posts that gained the most engagement were the ones about the team — information about real life people rather than pictures of a show or a prop. Posts that had human interaction — either a video or a picture of a team member — were the ones that got the biggest interactions with the most likes and occasionally some comments.

The question posts were really hit and miss. We found that some of the questions were our top performing posts while others didn’t get any reaction at all. It was very hard to glean any evaluation from these. What we did find was that top performing questions were the ones that generated a conversation. Posts with interactions and comments were the high performing posts.

It seems the key to social media is not just sparking interest in a post it’s about sparking a conversation amongst your audience. We know that’s a good thing for us to do but we’re still figuring out what kind of questions and posts work best.

What we’ve gained from this experiment, and from the whole Digital Lab experience, is that our social media channels have very different purposes.

We now see that Twitter is more for engaging professionally with partner organisations and other organisations and artists within the sector; and that’s where we get the most interaction. Whereas Facebook is more for our already engaged audiences — giving them more insight into the work that we do. We’re quite new to Instagram so we’re still finding our feet but it tends to be a mixture of both.

We’ve definitely changed the way we engage with social media. Knowing which audience suits which social media channel has helped us think more about the type of content we share and who it’s aimed at. We’re more mindful of the content we post on each channel. We might share the same subject matter across the three social media channels but how we present that content is very different.

Images courtesy of Metro-Boulot-Dodo ©.

Rock ‘n roll strolling down the hushed corridors of art history #DigiLab

In her third and final Digital Lab blog, Ruth Selwyn-Crome is not only looking forward to future plans but also reflects on what she’s managed to achieve from her initial objectives. 

Having completed a few experiment outlines — and forced myself to think hard about objectives, unexpected results and what I might do differently next time — I’m feeling that I’ve managed to learn quite a lot so far.

I began with a really grand idea that I could create an online, immersive, museum style showcase. I wanted to find out how best to engage and attract people looking for memorabilia relating to gigs they’d attended. While I was thinking about this I decided to turn the massive list of gigs into a more workable format.

BUT researching many other music archive sites made me realise that engaging content isn’t all about functionality. I couldn’t possibly create a library catalogue in the time allowed — there are far better qualified people around to do that. And I didn’t have the time necessary. Meanwhile the simple list of gigs (albeit back to front) had sold out its second edition and more were being printed. The list wasn’t a problem that needed to be fixed.

I thought about what I was most disappointed about with the website I’d been using and it was mainly about the complete lack of ways to show images in an attractive way. This combined with the fact that the most exciting part of the Gig History project has been the newly digitised photographs which have come my way from alumni contributors.

SO when choosing a new web template to play with I went for the grandest museum/gallery version I could find. I liked the idea of exhibiting the material I had as valuable works of art. I liked the idea of allowing rock and roll to stride down the hushed corridors of art history!

The template is very sophisticated and it’s going to take a while to find out how best to use it. My mentor has very kindly offered to assist me beyond the confines of the lab timetable. It’s already attracting comment from my work colleagues though (“Wow, that’s beautiful — did you make that?”) which is heartening.

I’ve been invited to take part in a University of East Anglia (UEA) session at Latitude Festival in July. This has given me another deadline and great reason to develop the new site. I’m going to get a fantastic opportunity to do some audience surveying.

I recently met with a young postgraduate student, who had seen a panel discussion I’d been part of where I spoke about reaching out to new audiences and freelance experience I’d had with a local music festival. The student was part of an i-heritage project and was looking for ways to advise and help a local museum to engage with particular audience members.

I immediately remembered a case study from an AMA publication which I’d found very useful — and which I had shared with my own work colleagues. I also found myself referring to my notes from the AMA Future Now conference and found them incredibly pertinent. The student had already got some great ideas of her own but just needed to bounce them off someone. And perhaps that’s been my own biggest takeaway from the Digital Lab, with talk on the Slack Channel and participation in the webinars and research into what other people are doing with their online archives.

It’s all been a useful way to not so much firm up my own ideas as to reflect them back to myself in a slightly different way and give me courage to go in a different direction.

That’s what experiments are for isn’t it? Thank you to Digital Lab for this fantastic opportunity.


Read Ruth’s previous Digital Lab blogs — Keeping the dialogue open #DigiLab and Shrinking changes for the sex pistols #DigiLab

Image courtesy of University of East Anglia (UEA). Photographer Tim Richards. The Specials performing at UEA’s LCR venue in 1979.

Working towards digital goals #DigiLab

As Danielle McLoughlin approaches the end of her time on the Digital Lab, she reflects back on what has benefited her most throughout the whole process, whilst also looking ahead at how she might use what she’s learned to start her next experiment.

My journey through the Digital Lab has been fed back to our theatre’s Digital Working Group and it has encouraged new conversations between departments about how we might work better digitally and how we may be able to feed this into our organisation’s digital strategy.

One of the first conversations that came out of the meeting was between the Communications Manager and myself. We talked about how we haven’t changed the branding or design of our customer e-shots for over two years and that in this age of social and digital media, we need to create something standout that will cut through the digital noise.

We’re going to start by A/B testing various things from subject headings to personalisation, image content to number of words, and use Google Analytics to gather data and track goals. These goals may include things such as conversions and clicks, time spent on a particular page, bounce rates and customer journey etc. — the finer details and goals will be discussed at our next communications meeting. Eventually we hope to have a quality template to use for all email communications that will be unique, yet on brand, and drive more sales.

A second experiment that I am working on with the Press & Digital Officer is related to a specific show. The show is produced by Hull Truck Theatre and, as usual, is of fantastic quality but is quite different from our previously produced works. It’s in a different performance space, it’s a one woman show and it’s predominantly spoken word with a genre classification of contemporary drama/thriller.

Being quite different from other produced work we want to put out a selection of social media posts/advertisements, with varying content, and see which is interacted with the most. I’m aware after analysing website data that the bulk of our sales do not come from social media, they come from emails, so bearing this in mind our primary focus will be about interactions and engagement. Secondary to this we’ll look at conversions. We’ll use a Campaign URL Builder to clearly ‘label’ each social media post and evaluate this once the show ends. We hope this information will help to inform the way we advertise on social media and by continuing to do similar social media experiments we can start to build the ‘bigger picture’.

Reflecting on my time with The Digital Lab, I have learned a lot, but some of the key take away points for me are:

  • Don’t rush into an experiment without spending a good amount of time on the planning stage. As I learned in my last experiment, one of the hypotheses I’d made (re: latecomers) was tenuous at best, and I hadn’t thought it through in full before going ahead. This doesn’t mean the experiment was wasted, I was measuring other things too, but it did mean that the data that had been gathered for this particular ‘theory’ was useless.
  • Have a clear idea of what it is you want to know/find out, too many variables can muddy an experiment.
  • Be prepared to come up against obstacles. It may mean you have to change the way you’re experimenting or, in my case, put an experiment on hold completely.
  • Google Analytics, URL Campaign Builder and Google Tag Manager are your friends! My mentor, Tom, taught me a lot about what Google Analytics can do and what sort of valuable information can be gathered from it, and also how URL Campaign Tags can be effective in tracking data from different sources. It’s important once you know what data you want, that you know how to read it.
  • Obstacles are not your friend! BUT they can be valuable lessons. During the Digital Lab I came up against quite a few of these, which hindered my progress with the experiments, and while this can be very frustrating they are all learning curves. They have flagged up several things that need ‘fixing’ before we can confidently proceed with future experiments and data collection.

Have a clear idea of what it is you want to know/find out, too many variables can muddy an experiment.

Overall the Digital Lab was an extremely rewarding experience. I’m very much looking forward to learning more about Google Analytics/Tag Manager and helping other departments look at how they might experiment, digitally, within areas of their own work contributing to the company’s digital goals.

Read Danielle’s first and second Digital Lab blogs The dreaded roadblocks #DigiLab and Personalised vs basic #DigiLab

Image courtesy of Hull Truck Theatre — Us Against Whatever. Photograph by Sam Taylor.

Why do video when a podcast would be better? #DigiLab

Kyra CrossAudience Development Officer at Ideas Test, explains how a Digital Lab session on podcasts inspired her to create podcast content as part of her #DigiLab experiment.

If you asked me a few months ago about how I felt about my Digital Lab project I would have probably sent you a gif of Michael Scott from The Office (US version) looking visibly worried.

My colleague Jade, who is also on the Digital Lab programme had the brilliant idea of creating an ‘Instazine’, a mini Instagram magazine that is posted each month. Due to some major events and projects, which seemed to all happen at the same time, I felt that I hadn’t progressed very far. The feeling that I was lagging behind my peers I think was partly the impostor syndrome I think everyone one has at one time or another.

But … you’ll be glad to learn that I’ve had a breakthrough! 

Originally my idea had been to create video content about our organisation and the projects we do. This was a bit of a daunting prospect for me. I have some experience with video but I was concerned that it may not look professional.

In the meantime I took part in all the sessions Digital Lab offered. One session in particular caused me to have a startling revelation about my project, which I think has not only improved it, but has the possibility to continue beyond Digital Lab. During Hannah Hethmon’s podcast session I had the thought: “Why am I doing a video when a podcast would be better?” It’s a growing medium, a great way to communicate with people.

One of my colleagues once said that if I could talk to everyone they would understand what we do. A podcast is an ideal platform to create that. Also we have a few community radio stations in the area that we could offer the podcast to as local content.

Hannah’s session was so thorough that I didn’t need to ask any questions as she already answered them. Issues around accessibility were a concern, but Hannah showed that podcasts can be transcribed in various low cost methods. Plus I already have experience in audio editing, and Ideas Test has quality audio recording equipment, so the initial costs would be lower. All I needed was a great story to tell.

That story is going to be about our Youth Programme project: Swale’s Big Music Takeover. It’s a programme funded by Youth Music for young people that includes music performance, production, and other opportunities connected to the music industry. Through the project’s Audiocamps workshops, young people will learn about radio presenting and production, with visits to radio stations, and the chance to make their own show. It seems a perfect fit with a podcast.

But I always feel that there should be a back up plan in place, just in case something happens and I can’t record audio during the Audiocamps workshops.

I’m creating a trial podcast (an ‘Episode 0’) where some members of our team have informal chats with each other about our jobs and what we do. Not only will it demystify and humanise our organisation, but it will be good to assess how long the podcast will take to make, trial the uploading and RSS feeds, and to make sure everything runs smoothly for future episodes. I’m looking at keeping this podcast short, around 15 minutes or so. 

After talking to our amazing mentor Seb Chan, I’m already coming up with questions that I can use analytics to answer, not only in my podcast project but across the whole of our organisation.

So as my second blog comes to a close you find me in a much better place. I have a plan, now to make a podcast!


Image courtesy of Sound and Music © Dimitri Djuric. Christina Kubisch, Electrical walk at Cut & Splice by Sound and Music, 2017.

The dreaded roadblocks #DigiLab

Digital Lab Fellow, Danielle McLoughlin of Hull Truck Theatre gives an update on the ‘roadblocks’ she faced in her first #DigiLab blog.

Since my last blog, I’ve completed one experiment and I’m currently evaluating the outcome. It’s simple, and not something I had initially set out to do, but after hitting so many roadblocks I wanted to try and put some of the things I’d learned during my mentoring sessions, into practise.

The dreaded roadblocks
The aforementioned roadblocks were noted in my last post and most related to our website and Google Analytics.

Our online checkout process showed that the last five pages of our website had the same URL ending /checkout. This meant I couldn’t accurately track who had actually completed a purchase and not dropped off one or two pages before making payment. Update: we’re currently looking in to this, with our new web hosts, and hope to be able to pin point a specific page, or ‘action’, which can then be fed back to Google Analytics to show us when a customer has made a purchase and thus a conversion has occurred. Within the Communications Team we are now also discussing what we would like to get out of Google Analytics and looking to set up specific goals and targets.

We didn’t have admin rights to our own Google Analytics account our previous, previous (!) web host did. Update: we now have FULL admin rights and each of the Communications Team have set up their own logins — sounds like a simple ask but trust me, it was not!

These may only small wins but they’re huge learning curves.

The experiment
Due to tight timescales and the issues I encountered with Google Analytics and web URL’s etc., I could no longer carry out the experiment I’d hoped to, so I decided to look at an alternative that wasn’t too time sensitive.

I was interested in creating pre-show emails to send to customers that contained show information (including warnings, age guidance, running times, etc.), parking info and links to our online access and dining pages. The Box Office strive to offer great customer service at all times and this would be another addition to the service that we thought would be really useful. I also wanted to encourage our catering team (external company) to be involved and come up with something that we could test that would benefit them too. I decided to create a pre-show email which I would send out on ONE week of a two week show run with the aim to finding out whether:

  • Sending the pre-show email, which includes info about parking and the show start time (not doors open), means less latecomers?
  • Is the email useful? Do people even open it? Is it worth staff time creating and setting up these emails, plus cost of sending them out, if only a small number of people look at them? Would this information be better put elsewhere?
  • Including an offer would encourage customers to pre-purchase interval drinks and thus change customer behaviour, reducing queue time at the bar during the interval which has previously been a problem and led to lost sales.

I am currently evaluating the outcome through Dotmailer and, with the help of my mentor, Google Analytics.

One of the main positives that has come out of the experiment so far is that working across departments or even companies, in the case of our catering team, does work.

18% of people who received our pre-show email, and opened it, used the discount code at the bar, pre-show. Okay, this isn’t a life changing number, and some of the customers may have pre-ordered drinks anyway, but it shows that you can influence customer behaviour in the way you want, and this behaviour in particular meant shorter queue times at the interval we’ve previously had issues with this and less (if any) lost sales at the interval.

On the flip side, I know for certain that the idea around evaluating latecomers was tenuous at best and will not provide me with a definitive answer. I can’t honestly tell whether everyone who was late did, or did not, receive the pre-show email but this has just stressed to me how important it is to make sure I have really clear, measurable variables in place and to plan, plan and plan some more don’t rush into an experiment under pressure.

Read Danielle’s first Digital Lab blog Personalised vs basic #DigiLab

Image courtesy of Hull Truck Theatre — Bouncers. Photograph by Ant Robling.

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