Making the Switch: Change Doesn’t Mean Pain

First a big apology. We have been silent for about a month! We have been hard at work, but are excited to get back here on the blog!

 

It’s not you, it’s me. I think we should just be friends. I’ve found someone else, I just don’t love you anymore.

Breaking up is hard to do, but it shouldn’t be that way when you want to change your ticketing platform. Of course changing providers can feel daunting, but it really doesn’t have to be. In this post we will take a look at why you might want to consider a new ticketing platform, what to consider before making the change and some tips on making the transition easier.

It’s Just a Rough Patch: Or Everything is Fine, Really.

There is no denying that in every relationship a little rain must fall, and that is absolutely true when it comes to our relationship with software we use everyday. Maybe it was cost, maybe it was exactly the system you needed at the time, maybe you inherited the system or maybe that was all there was at the time. Whatever the reason, there is good cause for the platform you have now. And sure it can be annoying now and then, but it gets the job done, right?

The thing is, unlike a personal relationship, your box office software relationship really needs to deliver. Deliver on time savings, on optimising workload – and ultimately helping to grow audiences and sales. It also needs to be able to grow with you. Anyone in a long time relationship will recognise that change is inevitable. In the case of your box office software, if your software cannot grow with your changing needs, no matter how much you love it, it is not delivering on what it should.

Ask yourself: does our platform help our organisation grow? Does it delight our end customers? Is it keeping us abreast of technology changes and changing buying behaviours?  Does it make sense financially? Are we missing opportunities because our software is holding us back? Do we really understand our audiences and their buying experience? Is it delivering on our goals? Do they have deep industry knowledge? And on a personal level, do you think you will get on with them?

We would never advocate change for the sake of it, but if your current platform is not delivering on aspects that are important to your organisation, it’s time to look elsewhere.

Change Doesn’t Have to be Challenging

Full disclosure: the above title might seem disingenuous, since we are a ticketing platform, but hear us out. Did you ever get the feeling that when you do decide to make a change roadblocks start popping up? For example, with some platforms you don’t actually own your customer data, which locks you down. Or maybe you get told that porting your data to another provider, “just is not possible.”

That is, in part, why we have worked so hard to ensure migration is smooth and seamless for those coming onboard with Ticketsolve. We provide a dedicated migration team to each onboarding. We take care of all the data migration, so you don’t have it. We want you up and running with Ticketsolve fast – so you can results fast too. Plus, once you are up and running with Ticketsolve, updates to the software happen weekly and automatically, so you never have to deal with costly downtime.

Sounds Too Good To Be True You Say?

Of course there can be hiccups, we do our best to make sure the process is as smooth as possible. But there are some things you can do help make the transition easier.

People

Start talking to your teams straightaway – even before you make the decision to change providers. Let them give insight on difficulties they are having and what they think is positive and what their dream platform would be like.

And don’t stop talk! Keep your teams in the loop the whole way through the process so they fully understand the process and have a chance to ask questions. Having your teams onboard will make a huge difference to your transition.

You will get push back – it is inevitable. Change is not easy. Work with your teams to help them to really understand the need for change.

Training

Make sure that whichever platform  you choose, that they provide your team with all the training they need to get up and running. Ideally it should be part of the transition process – not an extra cost.

Be Realistic

There may be he hiccups, and some staff may get frustrated. With the right prep (and the right platform), it can really be very smooth and easy.

Set Goals 

Sit with your potential provider and go into detail about what your goals are, and how they will help you achieve your goals. Setting these goals means that you can really track how well you are hitting your milestones. 

Enjoy It

Obviously this is a big change, but don’t be daunted, enjoy it! Keeping positive about the change will make the process much smoother and exciting.

Don’t Take Our Word For It!

We have done almost 300 onboardings; interested in learning more about our process? Give us a call!

Happy Birthday To Ticketsolve

I am going to get a little personal this week.

So my daughter turned 11 this year. At 11 she is in the throws of tweendom: the requisite eye rolling, attempts at teen-like snark are intermingled with the desire for cuddles, and protests of, “but I am still a little kid!” 11 years have positively flown by, and as my daughter recently told me, “you know the arrow of time never stops dad.” Too damn right.

Around the time of her first birthday, I embarked on a different adventure: 10 years ago, was when we founded Ticketsolve.

If I am honest, 10 years ago feels like a lifetime ago – and not at all that long ago – all at the same time. I can vividly remember my daughter’s first shaky steps, just as well as I can remember our initial meetings around a very nascent online box office idea. At the time, we were running a pretty successful software consultancy firm. And while I loved that, being a programmer at heart, I really wanted to build something that would be different. But making the leap to Ticketsolve was a definite risk – especially when I was thinking of my young family.

In those early days, it was so clear that the arts community was sorely lacking in options. Options that were affordable yet, provided a really polished professional system that could help arts organisations build their online presence. After all, in 2007, internet purchasing was really only just beginning to take off. Jameson International Film Festival was our first collaborator, and user number 1 on Ticketsolve. That early collaborative work, was the pattern that set all our collaborations going forward – it is the perfect way for us to work.

Back then we were a very small team – I mean microscope. Everyone did everything! We worked our proverbial a*&%s off for sure. Long nights working, not made easier by a wee one at home, but still we were building something amazing and we knew it, though we were not without our stumbles along the way for sure.

I think what I am particularly pleased about though, is that after 10 years, and countless hours, we have maintained that drive to bring the best possible solutions to the arts communities in Ireland and the UK. It is incredible how much the platform is grown, and I love that we still work collaboratively with customers.

But what I am most proud of, is our team. We are a little bigger now of course, but I am constantly amazed at how much our team manages to do for customers and for the system each and every day. The women and men on the Ticketsolve team are truly fantastic – and we would absolutely not be where we are today with out them.

Ticketsolve has definitely been a labour of love – and a team effort; not without it’s ups and downs. Sort of like raising my daughter I suppose: a labour of love, a team effort, and DEFINITELY lots of ups and downs.

So happy birthday to my two favourite tweens – I am incredibly grateful only one of them is capable of snarking eye rolling.

Google Analytics Dashboards – What’s On Yours?

Google Analytics is a great tool. But how many of us actually go through each report and use the information to improve? Not many I would guess.

And that is totally understandable – working in the arts is a busy job. But like meditation, squeezing in a little Google analytics reflection is good for your marketing soul. So we thought it was about time to contemplate the perfect analytics dashboard.

Customise Your Dashboard

Dashboards are the best way to extract the maximum value from Google analytics, so that you can quickly identify what’s working and what’s not. But, getting those insightful pieces of information requires customisation. You want to see all the things that are important to you in one simple report, not an overwhelming mountain of data that will just confuse you. Even better, is that dashboards can be automatically emailed to you and your team at set intervals, giving you a regular heartbeat to your data.

Below are six pieces of data critical to your dashboard.

Ecommerce First – Always.

This is a pretty obvious one, but it’s amazing how many people don’t look at the ecommerce information. From here you can see how well your website is performing, the total revenue, transactions and average weight of purchase. The ecommerce conversion rate is probably the most important figure as this tells you how many of your customers are coming onto the website, and end up making a purchase. As an indicator, WordStream say that the average conversion rate in e commerce is 1.84%. Anything above this figure is great.

Path to ecommerce.

Besides just the ecommerce numbers that let you know how you are doing, it is important to know how you got those results. The “how” numbers give you a real insight into what is working and what is not.

Looking at the sessions, users, pageviews and other similar metrics, gives you a good picture as to how your got to those ecommerce metrics. For example, if you are looking at your bounce rate figures and they seem high, you need to think about tweaking your site to get people to stick around and dig deeper. Decreasing your bounce rate should give you a bump in increased ecommerce metrics. It all goes back to the ‘marginal gains’, a 1% improvement in 20 sections of the website will generate a 20% increase.

Visualise the data.

The raw numbers themselves might be a little overwhelming. But using the graphs and charts within analytics, you will be able to easily trends and identify growth (or lack thereof).

As you can see from the ecommerce graph above, you can quickly identify peaks and troughs in your online sales. Another top tip is to add annotations to your Google Analytics so that you can see why sales peaked on a certain day, i.e., February 28th – Facebook post announcing a big comedian.

Where are my customers coming from?

Now that you now how many tickets you are selling, and how many customers are coming onto your website, the next questions are, where are those customers coming from and how much revenue is generated from each source. As we have a full integration with Google Analytics this a very simple report to add to your dashboard.

Using tools such as Google URL BUilder, you can track all your digital marketing campaigns from one place. You will be able to see each campaign, and see if any of them are generating ticket sales (impressive right).

Your checkout funnel.

The checkout funnel is a very important report to add to your dashboard. It quickly shows you how many customers are going through the funnel – and perhaps more importantly –  where they drop off the booking process.

Again, tweaking a few things on your site could get more of your customers through the funnel buying tickets.

Desktop, Tablet or Mobile?

Do you know what devices your customers are using when making purchases on your site? This piece of data will allow you to optimise your website for those devices. Luckily, the booking pages of Ticketsolve are fully responsive. Customers on a purchasing from a website on a Ticketsolve platform can book using any device of their choosing (and this is why our customer are seeing much higher conversion rates that the average). Take a look at the platform, devices, browsers your customers are using and use that information to make impactful changes to your your site. You can even see the conversion rates per device as well.

There you have it, those are my tips for creating your dashboard. Obviously there are many more metrics you can look at, but as long as you have the basics, that should give you enough insight to get started. Don’t forget to schedule your dashboards so that they can be sent to you, and your team on whatever day you would like them. But most important, look at the data within the dashboards, and make slight changes here and there to increase your ecommerce metrics.

 

Like always, if you would like some help getting these up and running, please don’t hesitate to get in touch.

 

Falmouth University’s AMATA Students Get Real World Experience With Ticketsolve

Ticketsolve gets used in some pretty unique ways. Falmouth University’s integration of Ticketsolve is no exception.

We spoke to James Randell, production assistant for the Academy of Music and Theatre Arts (AMATA) at Falmouth University, and learned how Ticketsolve is helping their students get real world experience on an industry leading box office solution.

About AMATA

Based in Cornwall, Falmouth University offers an extensive arts degree programme to over 4,500 students and is the Number 1 Arts University in the UK. AMATA or the Academy of Music and Theatre Arts, runs nine speciality undergraduate courses in: dance; acting; theatre and performance; technical theatre arts; music, theatre and entertainment management; creative events management; creative music technology; popular music; music and offers a masters programme in creative events management.

AMATA’s ultimate goal is to equip students with the necessary skills for their professional life in the arts.

AMATA: For the Student Body and the Cornwall Community

But AMATA provides much more. Besides their comprehensive degree programmes, AMATA showcases events and shows for general public audiences. These events include student run performances, but also, as James explained, touring performances.

“With only one other major venue in the area, AMATA’s public programming is just as important to the wider community as it is to our student population. We ensure that touring shows that might not otherwise make it to Cornwall – do.”

But being both public and academic, means AMATA faces a constant balancing act. The multi-use space (finished in 2010), provides space for public and student performances, as well as space for class lectures and workshops.

All told, the AMATA arts programme covers six dance, six theatre, and six music shows a year, plus workshop style shows, exhibitions, as well as events and activities that relate to those shows or are linked to student engagement. Shows run all year, though the concentration of work is presented from autumn to spring.

Bringing on Ticketsolve

Prior to Ticketsolve, AMATA’s management team was working with limited resources and limited time. Their approach approach to box office and ticketing was, as James noted, “not streamlined”.

For example, neither the students nor the public could book online, and season tickets were managed through physical paper. Payment for tickets had to be done through the university’s financial system. All of this translated into inefficiencies and lots of wasted time. Moreover, there was big disconnect between the experience of buying a ticket to an event, and actually attending the event.

Clearly, AMATA needed to create a better customer journey.

“It became very obvious that we needed a new box office system to help us as we ramped up the public facing part of AMATA’s work,” said James. “This was especially important as our programme developed further and our audience sizes grew.”

For AMATA, having no previous system, meant they needed to define early on exactly what they needed now, and ensure that the new system could handle any future growth.

WANTED: Rich, Real World Experience for Students

Being able to start from scratch as such, also meant that AMATA could define specifically what they needed for their unique venue and situation.

Since AMATA’s public programme is already linked to course work, the next logical step was to integrate the box office. This had the dual advantage of allowing AMATA to capture much more data for audience development analysis, but also to give students real world event management experience.

During the procurement process James and his team found that many systems they looked at were:

  1. Cost prohibitive (license fees or per seat costs). Cost was extremely important, because AMATA needs to accommodate staff as well as students on the system.
  2. Not flexible enough to allow students unsupervised (e.g., no staff present) use of the system.
  3. Lacking control or freedom to use system as AMATA required.

Integrating Ticketsolve into Student Learning

Ticketsolve was implemented at AMATA in autumn 2015. The first stages of the implementation focused solely on AMATA staff learning how to use the system. In tandem, James worked to create lectures and training for students as part of their live event management course work.

At AMATA, 2nd and 3rd year students (focused on creative management) are required to develop a series of live events; one major one and several smaller shows. As part of this coursework, AMATA trains students on box office management, including using Ticketsolve, an industry leading box office platform.

“By integrating Ticketsolve into the live event module, students get hands on experience working with an industry standard box office system. They are able to really see what a professional box office system can do for their management of an event.”

Students are given training workshops and lectures on how to use the system, after which they are then encouraged to use the system unsupervised. Students can access AMATA’s online learning platform if they to refresh themselves on any aspect of the system.

See the video: Students used the Ticketsolve box office recently for a BBC Music introduction event.

Why a Professional System?

Using Ticketsolve for their event management projects gives students the opportunity to really think about sales, marketing and audience development for their events.

Interestingly, James explained how pricing of their events also impacted students learning.

“We instituted a minimum £5 price for all tickets. In the past students would grossly underprice tickets, leading to budgets getting completely blown. With the minimum ticket price (and no booking fee), students learn how they need to create value perception of their work (and not kill their budget). This perception of value is important not only for themselves, but even more so, for their audiences.”

In addition to learning how to use the system, James also presents lectures on the procurement process, as well as the implementation process. This aspect of the lectures is an excellent way to help students really understand how to evaluate systems they may encounter at various arts organisations during their careers.

Using Ticketsolve also, gives students a much more in-depth look at how various functions loop together to run an entire venue, from front of house teams to box office.

“In end, students leave university with real world transferrable skills on an industry standard box office system. They have a picture as to how a system like Ticketsolve needs to be procured and implemented. We are setting then up to be able to hit the ground running in their careers.”

Where to Next? Analysing and Interpreting Data.

For James and AMATA, the next step is to make data analysis a bigger focus for students.

Ticketsolve is now integrated with Audience Finder. This is important for AMATA, because the reporting tools within Ticketsolve are great, but AMATA’s location make it a slightly unique cultural landscape. With only one other large scale venue and many small and rural venues, not very many venues are set up like AMATA. Being able to see the landscape broadly will be helpful in audience building.

In addition, AMATA is now looking at how Ticketsolve can be brought offline and help deliver off site events.

To see more of AMATA and their student led events, check out Stitch (click the thumbnail below) their student led, managed and run fashion event.

Arts Organisations Are Like Startups.

On the surface businesses and arts organisations don’t seem to have a lot in common. Businesses are driven entirely by profit and shareholder value. Arts organisations are not driven by profit, but rather by providing arts, cultural and community value.

But just because their goals might be different start ups and arts organisations make up is oddly similar. Both start ups and arts organisations typically, know how to do work with limited budgets and resources, are creative problem solvers and fiercely passionate about what they do.

Why Start Ups Are Interesting?

Over the last number of years there has been a definite love affair over all things start up. Maybe it’s the mid-day meditation breaks or the in house masseuse, but I think it goes beyond that. I think it is desire for organisations to tap into innovation and become more agile – two things that start ups tend to be really good at.

And while I don’t think any of us are expecting a foosball table in our canteen anytime soon, there are plenty of take aways from start up culture that can really help arts organisations.

Promote Passion, Creativity and Innovation by Focusing on People

One thing that start ups are really good at, is focusing on their people. Happy, motivated teams are passionate, energetic and have an “anything is possible” mentality. Add to this, the idea of authenticity drives start ups, and so in turn they allow their people to be authentic to themselves. This means that people feel the organisation they are with is honest, and allows them to be their honest selves. This all makes teams interested in their work, and that is where the magic happens.

Arts organisations tend to attract passionate and energetic people from the outset, but it is worth considering incentives and ideas that help foster this type of community even more. Keep in mind this incentive does not have to be money or awards, but even just giving your teams more autotomy and flexibility where possible.

Focus on Your Vision and Growth

A shared purpose or shared vision is of course vital for any organisation arts or otherwise. Many arts organisations are very clear on their vision, and shared purpose. I would argue that alongside that shared arts or cultural objective, should be a vision for growth.

Growth does not have to focus entirely on ticket sales (but clearly we are not doing our jobs if increasing sales is not part of that growth), but could be a focus on growth of a particular audience type or membership growth or customer segmentation or even community involvement. The idea here is that growth (perhaps in a specific area), gives your team a true north – a clear focus.

Being Agile Lets You Be Innovative – And Fail Fast

Agile organisations is an often used, but perhaps little understood concept. What does agility really mean? An organisation that is agile can react quickly to changes. For the arts this might be changes in technology, audience or customer changes, or even funding shifts. Agile organisations tend to be flatter and respond well to change. While this may not entirely describe your organisation, it is worth thinking of ways to help your teams become more agile – even if only in small ways.

Agility (plus the factors we have noted above) can help drive innovation. This is incredibility important to arts organisations, who like start ups, have a fantastic (if not pressured) ability to do more with less. Innovation is a real hallmark and result of agility.

But while innovation allows you to try new things, it also has a risk of failure. After all, not all innovate ideas work.

Being agile allows you to innovate – and fail – but fail fast. Failing fast lets you turnaround and try something new. This may sound a little nuts (and frenetic), but my guess is that you probably do a version of this already.

One aspect that helps the idea of failing fast work really well is being data driven. Tools like Ticketsolve can help you gather data and change your direction if you need to, and really innovate. All the data is a your fingertips so that you can make intelligent and insightful decisions.

Okay What About Some Concrete Ideas?

So the above is really exploring cultural and mindset goals for your arts organisation, and may feel very familiar to what you are already doing. What are other concrete things that startups do that can be applied to arts organisations?

  1. Social Media – start ups are often social media mavens. They use every aspect of it to their maximum advantage. While you may already use Facebook and Twitter it is worth looking at other social media channels such as Instagram and others that work with your goals.
  2. Audio and Visual – not only to start ups use social media effectively, they use a tremendous amount of audio and visual content to connect to their audiences. The arts is rife with great audio and visual content, be sure to use it!
  3. Affiliate Marketing – think about where your audiences go online. Is there anything complimentary that could work there? Start ups are relentless about affiliates.
  4. Crowdfunding – we have talked about this before – this is a great option when looking for additional funding sources, especially for specific projects.
  5. Test, Data, Analyse – do this for all your activities and rinse and repeat. Be ruthless about tweaking ideas (or getting rid of them all together). Let the data do the talking.

 

Welcome Katy!

Have you met Katy yet? We are super excited to introduce you to Katy! Our newest superwoman in support!

Katy comes to us with amazing box office and sales experience. In addition to support experience, Katy has also worked in front of house, and has both hands on and supervisory experience in theatres. Katy has a keen creative spirit, with an interest in photography and painting and drawing.

Katy’s previous experience includes Royal Court Liverpool, Theatre Royal St. Helens and Tate Liverpool.

If you have not had a chance to say hello to Katy, please do!

Welcome Ling!

We have always worked hard to ensure Ticketsolve is as user friendly as possible. But it was definitely time to take Ticketsolve to the next level. Enter Ling.

Ling is Ticketsolve’s UX guru bringing focused experience in user design, and work flows to Ticketsolve. Her experience spans both desktop and mobile, and across both front and back end design.

She has worked in a variety of industries from travel to financial services, but always with an eye towards usability and positive user journeys.

Usability is critical to Ticketsolve, so with Ling, we aim to hone in on bringing Ticketsolve’s ease of use forward.

We are super excited to have Ling on board, and especially excited about the design direction she is helping create for Ticketsolve.

Welcome Ewan!

There are so many exciting new developments coming down the line at Ticketsolve. But to execute effectively, we knew we needed to grow the development team. Enter Ewan.

Ewan joins Ticketsolve’s development team bringing not only an impressive technical skills, and a solid background in the arts. Ewan has over 10 years of software development experience, with a Masters in IT. He has been responsible for writing code, project delivery and project management for a variety of organisations through the UK.

Ewan has worked extensively within mobile integrations, ruby on rails and ember. As an agile developer he fits well into the agile environment of Ticketsolve, bringing an eye to quality and testing.

Ewan has a diverse arts background including museum and gallery multimedia installations, web development, multiscreen video art works, developing video interview systems and a video production management app.

We are delighted to have Ewan on board – welcome!

How Can Crowdfunding Help Fundraising in Your Arts Organisation

Chances are you have come across “crowdfunding” before. However, did you know it can help your arts organisation gain valuable exposure, create real engagement with your patrons, and of course, raise money for your projects? 

In this post we will explore what crowdfunding is, and how it can help with fundraising in your arts organisation.

What is Crowdfunding?

While not a new concept, crowdfunding has exploded through the use of the Internet and social media. People from anywhere in the world can donate funds to any project, in which they are interested. In return for their financial contribution, funders are given rewards (typically related to the project). Some research shows that in 2015 over $10B was raised in the arts industry alone, making this a vital avenue of additional income for cultural organisations.

How Can You Use Crowdfunding in Your Next Project?

You may be thinking,”This all sounds great, but what does my arts organisation have to offer potential funders?” Let’s be clear; crowdfunding is not a donation in the traditional sense. You need to give your patrons something in return for their donation, so it’s more like clever marketing than fundraising. This is where your creative side comes into its own. While you may not have a “product” to give in exchange for contributions (though merchandise could work well here), you can offer a plethora of “exclusive” extras.

So let’s say for example, you have a new production within your organisation that requires some additional funding to help build the experience. Crowdfunding can help bridge the funding gap, but we need to consider what rewards we can offer in return for contributions. Take a look at the scenario below:


A patron contributes ₤100 to the overall goal of ₤5000. For their ₤100 contribution they will receive two free tickets to the production, their name in the programme and a meet and greet with the cast after the show. If a patron contributes ₤500, they receive all of the above, plus an exclusive dinner with the director of the show and front row seats for the performance.

Taking a real life example, The Wexford Arts Centre has successfully used crowdfunding campaigns to increase funding levels. In addition to funding they have also increased engagement from their patron community – a real bonus.

Below is an example campaign Wexford recently completed through Fundit.ie

wexford-arts-rewards

Your rewards can be as small or as big as you wish, but remember, never lose track of your final target. Creativity is the key to successfully achieving your goals. The more exclusive your reward is, the greater the chance of people contributing.

Crowdfunding Does More Than Fund Your Projects: It Generates Great Awareness.

Crowdfunding not only offers patrons a concrete incentive to contribute and be a part of your project, it also raises awareness and offers meaningful engagement with your local arts community. The people that do contribute will no doubt raise awareness which will in turn increase the level of interest and engagement, and in turn more contributions to your project.

Getting Started

pjimage-1
Platforms such as KickstarterIndiegogo and FundIt have made crowdfunding a project easy to set up. In many cases, you can have one ready to go within half an hour. Their user friendly interfaces allow funders to easily donate to campaigns they are interested in supporting. Many crowdfunding sites do take fees (typically around 4-5%) of all monies raised, and some require you to achieve your set monetary goal before you can receive funds. Companies such as GoFundMe require no set monetary goal, but do collect fees, so it is important to read the FAQs before setting up a campaign.  

Arts and Business NI have a great toolkit that can help you get started (and it’s free).

Why not give it a go? Set yourself a small target on a specific project coming up, choose your reward and give it a try. Stuck for ideas? Give us a shout and we’d love to brainstorm some ideas. 

Social Media Algorithms: No Seriously, Keep Reading

Social media algorithms are something you need to know about. No seriously, keep reading we promise it is relevant. For arts organisations who rely on social media marketing (and those that are thinking about it), things have changed, but it might not be all that bad.

Algorithms may seem like some strange voodoo magic 8 ball, but they are the trend in how content is displayed in social media.  Since their founding, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc. have all overhauled how content is presented to users. Going from chronological to algorithmic doesn’t mean the end of the world  for your theatre’s social media campaigns – you just need to make some changes and tweaks to keep eyes on your content.

Algorithms Focus on Users

Simply, algorithms are a set processes or steps that computers execute. In other words, given a certain set of conditions, a computer program will deliver a certain output based on the algorithm.

What this means for social media platforms such as Facebook, is that they can provide content that is linked to behaviour, and is likely what the user wants to see.

Social Media is all about Engagement because of Algorithms

In the early days, social media content was presented in chronological order. Now with algorithms, this has completely changed. Let’s take a look at a few different types of social media platforms, and the algorithms that underpin them.

Even if you are a theatre, festival or arts organisation that only uses minimal social media marketing (check out this article on social media marketing and arts organisations), say posting on Facebook, understanding these algorithms can help you create better content.

Facebook: Engagement and Relevance

Facebook’s algorithm changes extremely fast. But it is still based upon how often, and how much users engage with a post. How often it is liked or hidden, what is the level or depth of engagement and its overall performance. Based on the above,  your focus needs to be on engaging and relevant content for your given target. Keep in mind that Facebook hides posts that it deems are not relevant – so again it pays to focus on engagement within Facebook.

Consider how you can incorporate more photos and videos of upcoming shows for example. Maybe look at Facebook drives for fundraising objectives. Likes and comments are the name of the game in Facebook and getting your audiences to engage.

Twitter: Relevance and Followers

Twitter still offers a chronological tweet timeline, but the platform is moving to algorithms as well.  The “Tweets You Missed While You Were Away” feature promote certain tweets based on relevance. While this feature can be turned off (it is not straightforward), it is important to note that most people don’t look at twitter constantly. That means, when people do open the app, you want your tweets to be in the select “Tweets You Missed” top section. As with Facebook, promoted tweets are based on relevance and engagement.

For arts organisations that means looking at what your audiences have engaged with. Was it the tweet with the show reel? Was it the box office staff picture? Was it a post about fundraising for your theatre refurbishment?Algorithms reward high-performance users, since the more people who engage with an update, the more often that users updates will be promoted, thereby amplifying the effect of popularity.

Instagram: Relevance

As Instagram’s user base has grown it made sense to move to a more algorithmic based approach to posts. So rather than a chronological onslaught of posts, users see relevant posts based on their past behaviour or posts they have engaged with. While posts are not hidden in Instagram (like they are in Facebook), it still will force business to focus on engagement and relevance.

These are just a few examples of social media platforms that have changed, but the broader expectation is that they will all move to this sort of idea.

What About Organic Reach in this Context?

Good question. With algorithms playing such a heavy part in promotion, organic reach for your arts organisation becomes more difficult. But it really depends on how relevant and engaging you can make your content. Ticket discount offers and show or festival promotion posts will work – to a point. Your audiences are interested in your theatre or festival – engage them with great behind the scenes content. Encourage more user generated content and content that matters to your audiences.

Algorithms Mean New Users = New Eyes for Your Content

Social media companies are not employing algorithms for nothing – they are trying to get new users onto their platforms. This of course presents challenges, but also presents a great opportunity for you! Learning how these algorithms work (and more importantly how you can harness their effect) is vital. As social media platforms increase their new user base, your box office can access new patrons too.

The algorithm based social media trend is not perfect. Many complain that their target audience can miss even relevant tweets. Or that it allows businesses to “game the system” (tweet what they believe the algorithm will like). While this is true, I cannot see platforms reverting back to non-algorithmic based systems. For one, it improves their users experience, and two, it encourages new users to try the platform through filtered content. Finally, and I think we can all agree to this one, it helps to screen out a lot of content noise for everyone.

The upshot for your arts business is that you have to make content that is relevant and engaging for your target audience. Try and look at user generated content. Don’t throw out ticket sale after ticket sale – try and really connect to your audience and use those algorithms to your advantage.

Remember – algorithms change all the time. And so must your marketing.