Analysis vs Reckoning

This post is a follow-up to my previous one and is about using data from social media to improve decision-making in marketing. Don’t say you weren’t warned.

First up, an example (with apologies to anyone who feels like I’m picking on them).

A poor assumption

I’d not come across The Les Mis Contract before – it’s a comedy skit featuring Matt Lucas, Cameron Mackintosh and Alfie Boe and is the 7th most popular of the 62 videos on the official Les Miserables YouTube account. At the Twespians event on Friday it was held up as an example of a more interesting approach to online theatre marketing. So far, so fair enough.

Someone in the audience asked how many views it had racked up – the answer at the time of typing being 38,874 over 11 months. The general muttered reaction in the room was ‘that’s not very good’, as reflected in this tweet:

Twitter @twespians

Presumably the thinking went like this – 40k people is barely enough to fill a West End theatre for a fortnight and you can bet not everyone who saw the video bought a ticket. Also, 40k views is nothing compared to what some videos on YouTube get. #FAIL.

The thing is, we need to know so much more before deciding whether or not that video worked. For instance:

  • How much did the video cost to produce?
  • How many people rang the box office number, entered the URL from the video or clicked the URL in the video’s description? (Assuming these things were being tracked properly).
  • How many tickets did each of those people book and at what price?
  • How many of the website visitors or tickets buyers were new ones?
  • Once a person has bought tickets and handed over their contact details, what’s that person’s lifetime value likely to be?
  • Was there any increase in organic search traffic around related keywords – for example, those that included ‘Matt Lucas’?
  • Did the video create any additional PR value? Did it lead to Les Mis being mentioned at more events and on more blogs?

And so on… you see what I’m getting at? The number of views tells us nothing. Just to hammer the point home:

  • If that video cost £1,500, took a couple of days to pull together, drove £10,000 of sales, added new contact details to the company’s email lists and was featured on a few theatre blogs then I’d call it a success.
  • If it cost £10,000, tied up resources for a fortnight and drove £1,500 of sales, with all but one customer already being on the company’s mailing list then I’d be chalking it up to experience.

The point is…

Far too many reports, articles and discussions about the effectiveness of social media marketing (especially in the arts and culture sector) are hampered by assumptions based on poor information. Just because some stats (followers, fans, subscribers, views, etc) are publicly available doesn’t mean they tell us anything conclusive.

I think all of this is caused by two things. The first is that although good, actionable data is there to be collected and analysed, it’s rarely made available to third parties (and nor would I expect it to be). However, people seem to enjoy talking about social media and so the vacuum is filled by people’s reckoning instead.

Secondly, I think there’s a big skills gap here and the landscape it constantly evolving. Web analytics aren’t part of the standard marketing syllabus and most arts organisations don’t have the resources to employ a specialist web analyst. The few that are out there aren’t especially vocal. As a result, most others don’t know what they’re missing out on and there’s nobody to pick up on any mistakes.

On that note, a couple of corrections…

There were a couple of things in Sven’s thesis that I’d like to bring up. It’ll be my last word on it, I swear, but I think it illustrates my point.

In the Recommendations section (on p40) there’s a SWOT analysis. The following are listed under ‘Weaknesses’:

6. Few people indicate social media marketing has influenced their buying decision. Then again, this is impossible to measure, just as it is impossible to determine which outdoor billboard influenced a persons buying decision

It’s not impossible to measure! That’s what Google Analytics, ecommerce tracking and a sensible approach to campaign URLs were all invented for. We’re not even limited to last click attribution – there’s fun to be had with the rest of the sales cycle too.

7. Measurement is available, but it usually comes at a high price. Even the most sophisticated measurement tools are not able to link a specific ticket sale to a message one posted on social networks. Twitter and Facebook do not allow tracking of that data

Wrong on the first two counts (but right on the last point). Google Analytics is a free service, awe.sm won’t exactly break the bank (although I’ve yet to have a proper play with it) and I’m sure there are other options out there too. Maybe the costly bit is in hiring a full-time analyst or getting someone like me in to do some training (and I’m a bargain, really). Meanwhile, see above regarding social media attribution.

Let’s push things forward

This is the kind of stuff that I pick through when I’m looking at social media strategies and measurement for clients (it’s not all lolcats in my job, y’know) so I know full well that it’s not glamorous and it can be difficult and frustrating.

However, it’s the kind of thing that can help arts organisations work smarter, increase sales and reduce costs. That’s why I think we should all talk about it more and encourage people to build the right skills and share what they know with each other.

I was chuffed to see SOLT‘s Katherine Wood commenting on my previous post to say that they’re interested in hosting round tables and panel discussions in the future as well as providing opportunities to share case studies. More of that kind of thing would be useful.

What I’d love to see is some top ecommerce managers from the commercial sector being invited to speak at arts marketing events. Although frankly I’m not sure whether that would be more likely to scare people rigid or send them to sleep.

Museum stats and analytics

This year there have been a few websites and projects aimed at presenting online (and offline) statistics relating to museums. These are the ones I’ve seen, in chronological order. There may well be more, so if I’ve missed any good ones then let me know.

When Should I Visit? was made at Culture Hack London in January 2011 by Dan Williams. It uses check-in data from Foursquare to find the least busy time to visit the museums, galleries and theatres of London.

There have been other interesting things made at Culture Hacks over the year but this one stuck in the mind.

When Should I Visit - Tate Modern

In April, Jim Richardson tweeted about having a spreadsheet of 1500+ museums on Twitter. This sparked a collaborative project with lots of others chipping in to extend and improve his data. The spreadsheet doesn’t seem to be accessible at the moment but no matter, it got a good amount of attention while it was around.

Sean Redmond, a web developer at the Guggenheim, took that spreadsheet and created Museums in Social Media. He added Facebook data and presented the information in a nice table.  He’s also blogged about the process.

Museums in Social Media

Skip on a few months to August when the Let’s Get Real report was published. I’ve mentioned that one on this blog plenty enough by now so won’t go on about it here. I should give Museum Stats a mention at this point. It was referenced in that report but, what with it being in closed Alpha at the moment and me not being a museum, I have no idea what’s going on there.

Which brings us to Museum Analytics, recently unveiled by INTK in the Netherlands. It’s:

an online platform for sharing and discussing information about museums and their audiences. For each museum there is a daily updated report with information about online and offline audiences.

I’m not quite sure how they’re getting all the information (although there is an about page which explains a little) but it’s nicely put together and they’re talking about it extending it further. You can look at stats for each venue, country and online platform. You can even order a regular report to be emailed to you.

Museum Analytics

The pattern for these things goes:

  • Someone makes data available (Foursquare, Jim Richardson & co, Let’s Get Real partners, etc)
  • Someone does something with that data (Dan Williams, Culture 24, Sean Redmond, INTK)

The variety of things that can be built will only increase as the raw materials (lots of good sources of data) become more widely available. Whether the things that are made are insightful, arty, actionable, profitable, funny or otherwise will depend on the person building it and what their motivations are. The more the merrier, I say.

Links for 6 October 2009

  • Derek Powazek – How to Publish a Magazine in a Day and a Half – “But, really, I can’t believe how easy it was. Making print media used to be so difficult. I remember cutting and gluing long columns of text together, shooting flats, and generally sweating for days to create my college newspaper. Now the the most time-consuming part is simply asking for permission from the content creators”
  • Welcome | MagCloud – “Welcome to MagCloud, where you can publish your own printed magazine”
  • Trust Art – Home – “Trust Art is a social platform that is commissioning ten public artworks over the next year. People are invited to become shareholders with $1, share with interested friends, and renew culture”
  • 24hrBook Project : CompletelyNovel – “a groundbreaking project to challenge a group of writers to write a new story about London in just 24 hours. The book will be written by a group of experienced writers working together using all kinds of online collaborative tools around the clock”
  • HBO Imagine – “This isn’t sitting back to watch a show… we’ve created this entirely new way of experiencing a story. Each piece of content provides unique information, and offers a unique perspective on the characters, plots and motives at play, allowing viewers to discover for themselves what is really going on”
  • November In Manchester – November in Manchester is a social media tale of fiction. Taking place over the month of November, this project will share the story of two very different characters – via the medium of social media – as their lives intertwine and eventually collide
  • Flink Labs | Data Visualisation Beyond the Bar Chart | Concept Lens – Concept Lens is an innovative application that enables you to visually track the conversations occurring on Twitter and photos being posted on Flickr, for an event or topic of interest