Culture Geek

Last week I had the pleasure of attending Culture Geek, created by Sumo and held at the Barbican. Having attended the last two MuseumNext conferences, also by Sumo, I knew it was going to be a great day.

The first speaker was Andy Levey from Cirque du Soleil and he spoke about how the company has moved away from traditional marketing methods and is now developing a relationship with their international audience through Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

One of my favourite ideas was the visualization of tweets created with Mass Relevance. Giant screens were used to create a visual picture of the tweets about the show, and fan could tweet and see it appear up on the screen (with some filters in place to stop anything rude or offensive stuff going up!). I could really imagine this working in a museum exhibition; allowing visitors to leave comment and add their own interpretation to the exhibits.

Cirque utilize Facebook in a big way and have recently celebrated getting 1 million followers on their main page. So, what were their top tips?

  • The one tip which was on many conference attendees lips during the coffee break was leveraging your partnerships. In the case of Cirque, this involved working with Disney and the Beatles and getting them to post content on their pages linking to the Cirque page. Clearly, the Beatles aren’t in my little black book of contacts, but we all have organisations we work with where a bit of cross promotional Facebook posting would produce good results.
  • For those museums further down the digital path, it might be worth considering spending part of your marketing budget on Facebook adverts. Cirque aim for for 70/30% traditional/interactive marketing spend. The good thing about Facebook adverts if they can be monitored and adjusted as you go along. If you spent money on a traditional method, you just have to hope it works, and there’s not much you can do until you get you next budget ( so called spray and pray). However, on Facebook, you can tweak it to find that perfect combination.

Royal Opera House by Juan Salmoral on Flickr 

The Royal Opera House gave an inspiring (if a bit geeky) presentation about the redevelopment of thier website along semantic lines, which launched in April this year. Their aim was to build a site which is going to last, and went for a data driven rather than design approach. In the process, they did away with their CMS system and now everything is hosted on sites such as Flickr, YouTube, Delicious, WordPress and Tessitura, and sucked into the correct parts of the website. The Royal Opera House admitted that they still have a way to travel on their linked data journey, and are working towards opening up their website and data for others to utilize.

Sydney Festival by Jean-Jacques Halans on Flickr

In the afternoon we heard from Jill Colvin at Sydney Festival, where social media and digital channels are seen as a extension of the Festival experience. For the past few years they have focused on mobile and making sure people have the information they need while on the go. This year was the first year the website was mobile optimized and traffic to the site from mobile devices has increased by 300% over the last three years.

A theme which came up several times during the conference was the use of social media for customer service. When the Festival tickets go on sale, the high volume of traffic can be frustrating for customers. Jill described how she worked with her team on these days, each taking a social media platform, and responded to complaints and comments within 10 minutes of the person posting them! What an improvement on have to write and email (or even a letter) and wait ages for a response!

One of the most relevant talks for museums was the session from Tijana and Elena from Tate about how they have implemented the culture of website analytics across the organisation. They believe that if we are to be audiences focused, we need to get know our online audiences as well as we know our gallery audiences. I very much recommend reading their paper and with time and a bit of effort we will be able to make decisions based based on clear data which can help museums fulfil our mission.

Top tips from Shamir Allibhai, who is doing great work at Doha Film Institute:

  • When using social media conduct yourself as if you were speaking to that person face to face. Simple right?
  • The other idea I liked was about theming your content across all the platforms you use. I think sometimes there is so much going on in museums, we share a bit of everything. However, it would be really powerful if every now and then there was a month of content all with the same theme. Maybe you have a big exhibition coming up on the Scottish Colourist for example. For one month content for blogs, facebook, twitter and pinterest could all be about Colourists and your audience could enjoy rich content with a strong message.

To finish off the day  Julia Kenyon, from Global Brands BBC Worldwide, talked about driving digital growth around Doctor Who. In 2011, 60% of the UK population watched Doctor Who (including me!) and it was interesting to see the work they had done to segment these audiences for the first time. Segments include Space Cadets, Family Time Lords and Distant Daleks! For all those Doctor Who fans out there, it’s the show’s 50th anniversary next year, and they are planning a big live event. Get your sonic screwdrivers at the ready!

For more info about what went on at Culture Geek check out Blue Sail’s summary of notes, tweets and links on Storify.

And to sum up tweets from the day thoughtden have created a tweet poster:


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