April. Predictions, Poetry, Proof

Today I realised that it’s been over a month since I last wrote anything here. That particular fact doesn’t bother me, I’ve left this blog for longer periods than that before. I think what bothers me is how little I’ve wanted to write anything – because, well, what do you write in a time like this?

People with more experience than me in marketing and the arts have written some excellent blogs that sum up where our industry is at. I can definitely recommend Sam Freeman’s ‘Arts Marketing – So What Do We Do Now?‘ and David Jubb’s ‘Time to Change‘.

However, there have been plenty more blogs, articles and opinion pieces that have simply frustrated me. Everyone is rushing to predict what we will be doing in three months/six months/twelve, and it will be so different/much better/much worse than where we are now. The fact is, none of us have any idea from the relatively short amount of time we’ve had (six weeks, people!) since the UK began to shut down, how audiences patterns; consumer patterns, have changed and will change.

So, in terms of work right now, everything that I’m currently doing is in the online sphere. The organisation I work for has been running creative projects via social media, which has meant trying to balance that kind of content with the overall direction of our brand. It’s also been an ongoing exercise in seeing where people engage best with that kind of content (Twitter, as it turns out – it’s much better for conversational sharing than Instagram/Facebook) and doing some bits of experimentation, with IGTV and with Facebook stories.

Elsewhere, we ran our first ever entirely online event – a poetry slam run via Zoom, and streamed on YouTube. There were technical hitches and issues, as there always are in such things, but if you have a few moments to watch a little bit of it I’d definitely urge you to. The audience and participants rallied round to make it a really nice evening. Since this was also an event advertised entirely via digital means (e.g. Facebook/Google ads, eshots, organic social and listings sites) I’m also grateful to other cultural organisations and news sites who helped us to cross-promote it.

Elsewhere in my work I’ve been spending far more time than I normally would going over stats – from social, from our website, and in as much detail as possible. We’re taking this time to try lots of new things, and so we need absolutely clear data on what has and hasn’t worked. There will be ongoing issues with this (what benchmark do you compare it to? What really proves audience growth/change?) but if we really are going to be in this digital-only state for the long-haul, we’re going to have to figure all these things out and prove that we’re doing things as well as we can.

Actually Getting on with Google Analytics – Notes

At the start of this month, I posted about going back over Google Analytics, specifically going over some of the videos for beginners. Obviously a lot of stuff has happened in the world and in my job since then, but now I’ve got a bit of free time to start looking at these. (Don’t worry, I haven’t been laid off! Just working from home for now, and using up some leave as well.)

This playlist has fourteen videos, and this morning I went through the first seven of them to start off with. A lot of it was stuff that I’m already familiar with, but it’s always good to go over these. I’ve made some notes as always, which I’ve written up below. I’ve also linked each video

Welcome to Google Analytics

Google analytics is about setting up the stages of buying and the purchase funnel – it’s harder to see these stages in the digital sphere than in the physical environment. With Analytics you can spot where problems occur, how the path from discovery to loyal customers runs, how to create better marketings with provable data. Analytics can cover mobile apps, games, CRM system etc as well as websites, and can compile it on one dashboard.

Overview of Data Collection

I already knew some of this with regards to adding the tracking code to each page to see info about users. But I didn’t know that sessions end after 30 minutes inactivity. I did know that you can filter out data like internal company views, which is always useful to remember.

The Analytics Account Structure

Tis video is really useful to see how multiple accounts could be organised, which is something I’ve personally not done before. Also, exactly how properties work was good – I have used multiple properties before, but it’s useful to see how Google describes the layout.

Navigating the Full Audience Report

It was useful to be reminded that goals and e-commerce will only work if you’ve set up those separately. This one also goes over the summary views, which I’m pretty familiar with.

Introductions to Dashboards and Shortcuts

This one was useful! Definitely one I want to come back to, to help me collate all the most useful metrics on the account at work in one place. I also learned that you can share and download dashboard templates in the Analytics Solutions Gallery, so you can get dashboard designs which other people have found to be the most useful.

Finally, there was Audience Reports Overview, which I didn’t write any specific notes on, as it was more of a quick run-through reports which I’m already familiar with, though it does give some good suggestions on how you could use audience data to refine your marketing – for example, considering different language support on your website if you’re getting a lot of hits from a particular country.

So, I’ve gone over the basics and picked up a few extra tips. At some point soon, I’ll make sure to watch through the rest of the videos, and write up a part two of notes to make sure that I’ve got a record of it.

 

March Update – Finally getting to grips with useful Analytics

I’ve not been reading, studying or posting much these past few weeks because I’ve been busy getting to grips with a new job role, but I’m now starting to figure out where the gaps in my knowledge might be in that new role, I know how to start solving them going forward. Plus, spring is finally on the way (I think?) so I’m feeling a bit more energetic and keen to learn!

A big one has actually turned out to be Google Analytics. I have used Google Analytics plenty of times in the past, and even been to a few Google Garage sessions, but I’m discovering that I’ve only used it at a basic level. Now, I’m in a position where I need to be able to critically evaluate campaigns and customer journeys through a website right from first entry to buying something – and figure out how best to test and improve it. So, I’m going to be spending some time this week going through Google’s Analytics course videos, and making sure that I’ve got all the basics down.

After this, I might start looking through some of the Google Garage online courses, and getting a better grasp on some elements of e-commerce tracking.

Reading Lists for December

So, continuing on from earlier’s Email Marketing post, I’m continuing to spend the next few days studying around marketing strategies for the arts, and that means finally reading through some of the more well-known guides and case studies that are available for free via CultureHive.

The first guide I’ve been reading through is ‘Thinking Big! A guide to strategic marketing planning for arts organisation‘, which has been interesting in light of having recently had to create a full marketing plan for a heritage attraction. I basically started the marketing plan using an older plan as a template (if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it!) While I know I made the right decisions in terms of audience trends, SWOT analysis and main messages, it will be much easier to explain my decisions to non-marketing staff using the pointers and explanations from this guide, which I’ll certainly need to be able to do in the future. The guide is designed to help people of any level, from those just starting out in marketing through to senior managers and the chapters are laid out accordingly, but as my last post showed, it’s never a bad idea to redo the basics.

Next on my reading list is ‘Balancing long and short term marketing planning’, as I’ve been putting together notes towards a three-year strategy for my current role, and, in a very different vein, ‘Putting Purpose at the Heart of our Brand’. I haven’t been through a complete brand refresh at any of the organisations I’ve worked for, but it’s only a matter of time, so I’m making sure that I have plenty of advance knowledge and examples from other organisations.

Image: ‘Reading [Day 87] by gerlos, Flickr Creative Commons, Attribution-NoDerivs 2.0 Generic (CC BY-ND 2.0). Link

Reading up on Email Marketing

Since I’m currently on Christmas leave, I’ve decided to spend a bit of my time studying up on marketing strategies, in particular one which I’ve had less to do with in my current role, and that I don’t think I always managed efficiently in the past.

I began by hunting down some case studies and articles specific to the arts world, beginning with this article ‘Top examples of email marketing from the arts and charity sector

This article looks at different art org marketing email designs. What I was interested in finding out was: What first gets people’s attention?

The set of emails shown are notably image heavy, lighter on text which makes sense when you want people to click through to your site, and also need to capture their attention/imagination very quickly. But, one thing you would need to be careful of here are always image size, to ensure that these emails open and load quickly, or else you’ll lose people.

The other notable feature is a small number of links, but multiples of the same link in text/image/title etc. I wonder if there’s any research done on what prompts people to click certain parts of an email over others?

Southbank Centre – Smart Insights Case Study

Next, I looked at this case study ‘Welcome Email Success‘, which covered some changes in email marketing for Southbank Centre.

They began by looking at email newsletter sign-ups. This is definitely a important and potentially overlooked audience for arts organisations, because it is an audience that wants to and is actively working to engage with you.

The new welcome email sent to sign-ups starts as just that, a welcome with no upfront push at the top of the email. The links aren’t to specific events, but to more information about the organisation in general.

Then there’s an offer to sign up to artform preferences, which I’m definitely interested in as it’s something I’ve not worked with since I was managing email for GoSeeThis.com in 2015 – this gives you as the org an immediate level of data customisation.

One problem of basing email data of previous audience visits is that you end up pigeon-holing your audience on incomplete data. Allowing audiences to choose their own data preferences makes for a more well-rounded picture, especially for a multi-arts venue like Southbank which will attract a varied set of overlapping audiences.

Frequency

How often do you want to speak to your audience? I read through another Smart Insights article on this ‘What is the Best Frequency for Email Marketing’ and, frankly, there isn’t a clear answer for this one. Too much and people will unsubscribe (This is the most common reason for people to unsubscribe). Too little and you leave your audience unengaged. This does seem to be rather trial-and-error based between different industries and sectors, and larger companies will have the time and resources to run trials – much harder in the arts!

In Conclusion

So, while this was only at the bare bones of the topic, I definitely feel more refreshed on email marketing strategies after only being peripherally involved for a year, and where they’re up to going into 2020. Back in 2018, I attended the Tessitura Europe Conference (blog post here) where a presenter described email as ‘not splashy, viral, sexy etc. but it can be your most powerful tool, and also most cost-effective‘. So, it’s important to keep reading up on this topic, and making sure I’m using email tools well.

 

Notes from the #AMABeyondDigital Twitter

This post is a little late arriving! However, I still wanted to get my notes up here.

I haven’t been able to attend any AMA events in person or even digitally this year, but thankfully plenty of other people were tweeting out insights and bits of advice during their AMA Beyond Digital event on 5 December, so I made sure I had the hashtag feed up to periodically check on while I was working, and scribbled down a couple of bullet points (in bold) plus my own thoughts.

  • Your whole organisation needs some level of digital skills. The digital skills of people entering your organisation will vary wildly, and if you rely on digital, you are going to end up leaving those people missing out on an important part of your organisation’s work.
  • Your digital channels are the face of your organisation. So they need a clear strategy, that is an essential, interlinked part of your overall business plan.
  • However, a lot of those skills are specialist, and you do need a digital team – it shows how fast the sector has evolved that this wasn’t really a thing a few years ago. This is definitely still an issue – the assumption that social media or website management is ‘easy’, or can be handled by the assistant/intern/volunteer, is very prevalent. For social media to cut through and be effective, it needs to be good quality, well-curated content, based on data about your audience and their habits. For many organisations, this is a full-time, skilled role.
  • Create content that is meaningful in it’s own right, not just to promote your work. People aren’t on twitter or Facebook to be immediately directed away from it. I have been encouraged in my current role to always add links etc. to posts where possible to engage people further, but if that’s all you give people, they don’t have a reason to follow you on that platform.
  • Think like a search engine. Give advice to your audience – think how Google provides clear information, answers to questions etc. This was a really useful piece of advice which I’ve been taking forward in my current role. I’ve been looking at the most-viewed, most searched pages of the website that I manage, and thinking ‘if this was the first page I landed on, does it have all the information that I need to understand this content?’ This includes adding opening times (even if that’s duplicating information from elsewhere) even adding the organisation’s name to the top of each popular article just so there’s absolutely no confusion!

Facebook down; Internet explodes

I wonder what the loss of revenue is when Facebook goes down?

Not for Facebook I mean, though I’m sure it causes employees and shareholders considerable grief, but for the people who use it.

I don’t know if there’s any kind of public figures or even estimates for the number of Facebook ads being run, from the massive political and government advertising that makes up a huge proportion of their income (again, figures are hard to come by, even with more transparency on political advertising in some countries) to a single person local business spending a very small amount of money to engage a few new customers.

Of course, anyone who pays for advertising doesn’t (or shouldn’t) lose money while Facebook is down – though if you did, I suspect there’s no legal comeback. However, if you’d planned an ad to coincide with a particular timescale, public holiday, or offer at your own business, every moment that ad isn’t being seen is a moment where you aren’t getting in the customers that you wanted.

Also, the whole world of professional influencing has a problem when Facebook and Instagram aren’t up and running, since that’s a very fast-paced world for views, likes and attempts to manipulate the algorithm. It’s also a very sink or swim world for many people trying to make money off it – for every multi-million follower multi-millionaire beauty blogger there are thousands of small-scale influencers chasing six or seven revenue streams to make up one pay cheque. Losing out on those views, especially views promised to a particular sponsor, could do a lot of damage to their career.

This kind of dependence on one digital service is not new, nor is it something I’m criticising people for (on a professional level, I’m waiting for a Facebook ad to be put together, as it has to go out soon or conflict with another marketing campaign. It’s certainly not career or business-damaging but it is frustrating.) But it is interesting to think how much industries and lives can be affected by this.