Reflections on going viral #DigitalLab
Joanne Karcheva, Head of Marketing and Communications, Manchester Collective, shares her experiments and how to make genuine engagement between musicians and audiences. Part of her Fellowship at Digital Lab.
Blog 1: Reflections on going viral
Still from Manchester Collective’s Sirocco broadcast feat. Abel Selaocoe & Chesaba
Things rarely go to plan. And that’s ok.
I started my Digital Lab journey with a firm resolve to create space for things that tend to resolutely stick around the lower third of my to-do list. Improving aspects of my organisation’s email strategy was the first of my planned experiments, but that’s not what I’m writing about today. Because that still is where I left it back in early October 2020 – along with my best, still unrealised intentions.
This, in my experience, is exactly how working in digital goes a lot of the time. For all the planning that goes into campaigns, you need a good chunk of time to simply be responsive and react to the way things actually play out in the world. People and algorithms are unpredictable, and I’ve long made my peace with it.
Let’s cut to the chase. On 15 October 2020, I posted a video on our Facebook page from a really special performance that had happened a year ago that day. It was not a huge deal in organisational terms – we’d done a livestream of the full show a few months before (which did great). I knew people would respond really positively to it and it may well make someone’s day.
Well, this it did. Within the first hour, the shares started growing at two times the rate of likes. For every person who shared, several of their friends did so too.
After 12 hours, the video had been seen over 100,000 times. The following few days this grew further yet, and to date it’s had 1.2 million views.
Our following also grew exponentially.
As great as it was to get all that attention, and see something really resonate with people, there was a new challenge to meet. How could we follow this up in a way that’s meaningful to us and, importantly, the thousands of new international followers who’d just come across one part of our work. We’re not a ‘band’, our collaborators change from project to project, and this multiplicity is something we need to stay true to.
I opted in for a quick follow-up and introduction to our work. Soon enough, there was a second video from the same show, with the description welcoming our new followers and telling them more about who we are. A third one came four days later, alongside an ad campaign re-targeting those more engaged viewers inviting them to watch the full concert on our website. The plan was working – more people than ever before were engaging with our content and Facebook was pushing our existing and new recordings onto people’s feeds.
By the end of the month, we’d recorded an additional 800k views across the rest of our videos.
The craziness has now subsided, and we’ve had to re-balance the time spent on creating great content for socials with making plans for future projects, but ultimately, our Facebook strategy has completely changed as a result of this. We’ve realised that short, impactful videos with people-focused copy can go a long way. Video is now at heart of our Facebook content strategy, which for the first time is clearly differentiated from our other social platforms.
We experiment, we learn, and we strive to do more of what creates a genuine connection between musicians and people.
My newsletter masterplan may have to wait another month, but opportunities like this do not present themselves often. There’s no shame in pausing the initial plan and being in the here and now, responding to people’s interests in real time. The rewards can be substantial, for everyone.
Blog 2: The trials and tribulations of Facebook audience segmentation
Dark Days, Luminous Nights © Manchester Collective
In December 2020, Manchester Collective announced an ambitious new project conceived and created during the pandemic – an immersive experience combining film, music and photography.
My job as the marketing & comms lead was twofold: to create broader awareness about the project amongst our target groups and to sell a limited number of tickets for the pilot series of events. The latter proved an interesting challenge, as we knew demand would outstrip supply; with only a few hundred tickets on sale my job was to ensure our communications would reach and attract new audiences to our work.
That’s where Facebook Ads came into the picture. For my second Digital Lab experiment, I decided to delve deeper into ways of optimising our social media advertising efforts so they drive greater engagement from the right people. I set out to test ad performance for different audience segments and different formats.
Facebook had recently updated its A/B testing feature, which lets you compare performance against a chosen variable. The two experiments I ran – one directing the same advert to two different audience segments, and another using different image formats (square vs. landscape) – both came out as inconclusive. The overall budget for the tests was fairly limited and each ad performed very similarly to its counterpart. The testing feature had its limitations, which I think influenced the outcome; for instance, it’d have been much more helpful to compare the performance of an image-led ad to one leading with video. That wasn’t an option within the A/B testing feature, and therefore the differences were probably not significant enough to influence user behaviour.
My own tests, where I compared campaign performance for three different target groups, were more insightful. I allocated a similar budget (around £100 each) to three geographically segmented groups: Salford residents with an arts interest, Manchester culture enthusiasts, and North West experimental & classical music fans (which is our core audience). Each ad set used very similar visual assets, with only the copy adapted to reflect the event’s relevance to a particular group. The most successful campaign was the Salford one with the lowest cost per landing page view, followed by the North West music segment. A broader cultural audience in Manchester came at the bottom with the highest cost per conversion.
What was a surprise though is that the cost per click overall was significantly higher across the board than previous campaigns we’d ran – nearly three times higher. I suspect this may be down to the nature of the event. Single artform events, like a classical music performance or a photography exhibition, are more easily targeted to a specific Facebook audience using their pre-defined interest groupings; a multi-artform event targeted at ‘experience seekers’ was a lot harder to translate into a meaningful and specific audience grouping; instead we had to resort to a broader Arts & Music segment.
In our future ad campaigns, we’ll continue exploring effective ways of meaningfully segmenting audiences and look for those specific links that people may have with the programmes we present – as that’s where we find the most success.
Joanne Karcheva, Head of Marketing and Communications, Manchester Collective
An adopted Scouser (originally from Bulgaria), Joanne is passionate about bringing great art and unforgettable cultural experiences to people. She learnt her trade at Liverpool Biennial – the UK’s largest festival of contemporary visual art – and now works with the boundary-pushing Manchester Collective.