NativeHQ expands its pioneering SMI Arts programme after successful pilot

If you’re an arts organisation looking to use digital media more intelligently, this post is for you. Read on for details of how NativeHQ can help you, through our Social Media Insights: Arts programme.

Social media have the potential to change the possibilities for arts organisations to connect meaningfully with audiences, communities, staff and other key people – if done properly. It’s getting it right in a specific arts context that is the challenge. And it’s much more than just improving your promotional activities or selling tickets.

All arts organisations are facing challenges:

  • How can we achieve more with less public funding?
  • How can we involve our audiences better in the creation, as well as the production of new work?
  • How can we build a better understanding of our company that can help us recruit more volunteers or help raise funds to secure our future?
  • How can we test a new business model in the quickest and cheapest way?

Social Media Insights: Arts is specifically designed to help arts organisations develop social media understanding and skills that are most relevant to them.

NativeHQ can help your company develop more efficient working practices, embrace emerging art forms; reach new audiences and participants; and sustain the company through new business models or generate more income from new sources such as crowdfunding.

“Social Media Insights came at just the right time for Hijinx. We were in a period of change as a company, so it was the right time to stop and reflect on who are we, what we do, and how digital and social media could help us do that at a foundational level. NativeHQ have helped us to take a holistic approach to digital and social media as a company: to see digital’s potential for serving the company’s entire mission, rather than just as part of the marketing strategy”
Vanessa Morse, Hijinx Theatre

As NativeHQ’s newest associate I can also offer my expertise in helping arts companies undertake organisational development and innovation reviews.

Your arts organisation would work with NativeHQ to develop and follow your own agenda for improving your use of social media, covering issues such as strategy, training, network growth, individual campaigns, advertising, media production, monitoring and evaluation.

We won’t run your Facebook or Twitter accounts for you, but we will teach you how to run and manage meaningful social media relationships that support your overall artistic and development needs.

ysgol-y-canolfan

On the roof of the Millennium Centre, Cardiff

 

The programme consists of the following activities:

  • 10 x half day sessions with NativeHQ over a four to eight month period (agreed with you and starting when most convenient for you)
  • We will begin with a process based on our 4P Method for developing strategic direction with social media and prioritising initiative ideas, that we will then pursue through training and enabling work with you
  • Between each session, you and NativeHQ would agree agendas for the next sessions
  • Our closing session would focus on developing ongoing social media plans and success metrics.

What we would ask of you:

  • An enthusiasm across your organisation for the potential of using digital networks for development. We would prefer to include leaders, marketing/communications and other team members. The implications are important to all aspects of the company’s work.
  • A morning or afternoon set aside for staff to meet with NativeHQ regularly
  • An open, rigorous, experimental approach to learning
  • A named lead person for the programme in your organisation
  • Willingness to participate in a limited number of R&D and evaluation activities to assist learning in the programme

“When we embarked on the Social Media Insights I really had not anticipated quite how the project would touch on every aspect of what we do and how we operate. Instead of some glib, generic advice on what to do / what not to do on social media, the project went so much deeper than that and required us to unpack who we are, how we do things and how we want to be and do. It was very, very bespoke and accommodated everyone’s’ skills and needs as well as the organisational needs.

As a result of the SMI Arts, we now manage our projects; communicate within the team; manage our time; market ourselves; make and edit films and of course, use social media – much better than before!”
Amanda Griffkin, Powys Dance

If you are interested in engaging NativeHQ for this innovative programme, or for a specific social media project you are considering, I would love to meet you.

I will provide more details about the programme including wider business and organisational development, our costs, how we can help you secure additional funding (if necessary) and to ensure we tailor the programme to your company’s needs and plans.

Email richie@nativehq.com or phone 07870 569316 for a discussion about Social Media Insights: Arts.

How should arts companies use digital? Lessons from SMI: Arts

Over the six years of NativeHQ’s work, we’ve been developing our approach to delivering the best social media learning and development process for our clients. We aim to improve our clients’ own capacity to deliver good quality online social media communications that actively serve their mission.

We have developed a method that helps them to understand relationships with their networks, think through their digital strategic goals and develop skills and knowledge for turning their ideas into reality. We call it our Social Media Insights (SMI) programme. It takes place over a series of half-day sessions, which are scheduled between two weeks and a month apart.

Social Media Insights: Arts

Between 2013 and 2014, we worked with Arts Council Wales to trial this method with five arts companies at different stages in their development, working in a range of art forms across Wales in both English and Welsh. This post is about that project, and the lessons that we learnt through the work.

The SMI process starts by exploring the networks of people and organisations the company works with, who has relationships with them and how those connections impact on work. We then pin down their artistic and business aims within each set of relationships. This is the basis of a creative ideation process that helps us to develop ideas about how specific uses of digital media could improve the effectiveness of the work they do.

From this set of possibilities, we draw up a shortlist of initiatives, and the training and launch processes they need in order to start. The company picks the initiatives they want to prioritise and we plan a bespoke programme for them to take place over the remaining sessions of the programme.

NativeHQ’s work with Arts Council Wales

SMI: Arts Applicants Map

SMI: Arts. Applications

Arts Council Wales was interested in learning about how we support arts organisations in this way and commissioned us to deliver this service to five arts companies in Wales, and to learn from the experience.

We announced the project via social media and our call for applications received 45 applications from a variety of companies all across Wales.

There were many high quality applications and only space for five (MOSTYN, Dawns Powys Dance, Urdd Gobaith Cymru, Hijinx Theatre and Response). We then set about delivering our service to them between October 2013 and June 2014.

Responses to the programme

Here are a couple of the positive responses to the programme:

“Social Media Insights came at just the right time for Hijinx. We were in a period of change as a company, so it was the right time to stop and reflect on who are we, what we do, and how digital and social media could help us do that at a foundational level. NativeHQ have helped us to take a holistic approach to digital and social media as a company: to see digital’s potential for serving the company’s entire mission, rather than just as part of the marketing strategy.”

Vanessa Morse, Hijinx Theatre

“When we embarked on the Social Media Insights I really had not anticipated quite how the project would touch on every aspect of what we do and how we operate. Instead of some glib, generic advice on what to do / what not to do on social media, the project went so much deeper than that and required us to unpack who we are, how we do things and how we want to be and do. It was very, very bespoke and accommodated everyone’s’ skills and needs as well as the organisational needs. As a result of the SMI Arts, we now manage our projects; communicate within the team; manage our time; market ourselves; make and edit films and of course, use social media – much better than before!”

Amanda Griffkin, Dawns Powys Dance

Learnings

While writing our report to Arts Council Wales, we reflected on some of the lessons we had learnt. We are constantly learning and updating our methods and have now adapted our programme to incorporate them. Here are a few:

Blocking of essential internet services

Many arts companies, especially those working within the public sector, are struggling to access consumer web services (e.g. Facebook, Google Drive) that are being widely adopted by collaborators and audiences beyond their firewall, often because of IT security concerns. We now work with clients to help them tackle these issues within their company.

Need for strategy and the centrality of social media

Many people are still unclear about why they are using digital media and social media, which is increasingly a normal and central aspect of their network’s communications landscape. A result, they struggle for clarity about what their learning needs are, or how to manage their competing digital priorities. We start by helping them to think through their strategic priorities before we begin to plan a training programme.

Broadcast approaches

Many people take a broadcast approach to their social media presence, continually pushing information and talking at people. As this approach often fails to develop the potential of the medium, we work through alternative communications patterns, such as listening and conversations, collaborations, research and investigation. We seek to think through the possibilities of these digital patterns within their work objectives.

Leadership, sustainability and resourcing

While many organisations leave the work of social and digital media to the communications manager, digital media impacts on the whole organisation and is best tackled by a group that includes wider leadership and a breadth of team representation. While many organisations are worried by the resourcing requirements of a good social media presence, there are areas where more efficient communication skills can win time for them to make the work more sustainable.

The need for bespoke training programmes emerging from strategy

Having started with a focus on strategic aims, the training programmes that we delivered to the organisations involved in the Social Media Insights: Arts were unique to each company. Over the programme, we delivered training sessions on a very wide range of topics.

Training types chart... SMI Arts NativeHQ

One interesting statistic was that 58% of the training topics we worked on were delivered to just one organisation, and only a minority of topics were prioritised by more than one of them. The lesson from this was that there is limited value in “general” social media training, because the training needs of organisations are unique to them, if you pay close enough attention.

We have taken encouragement from this finding that our approach of focusing on thinking about strategic priorities first with our clients will result in a bespoke programme that will accurately prioritise their development priorities.

Programme adjustments

We learnt lessons about the programme, which we delivered as an eight-session programme over eight months. During the strategic development process, we have found value in compressing the sessions so they’re closer together to concentrate the thinking and creative process. Our training programme remains one in which sessions are spaced out by at least three weeks (preferably a month), so that new learnings have time to be embedded into working practices. Our current Social Media Insight programme is now structured as follows:

The programme’s impact

In our evaluation of the programme, we asked each company if they had experienced a change in confidence in their ability to:

  • understand how their work on digital platforms contributed to the company’s mission;
  • develop tactics for projects and initiatives;
  • how they resourced social/digital media;
  • innovate and develop new approaches;
  • run their own media, with existing skills and knowledge;
  • evaluate their own digital work effectively by knowing what metrics mattered to them.

Across all categories and organisations, there was an increase in confidence of 45%.

Dig deeper

If you would like to know more about this programme, our approach, or how we might be able to help enable your organisation, please leave a comment, or question, or get in touch.

Blogging for the CultureHive Digital Academy

DMA-logo1I’m currently working for a new project run by the Arts Marketing Association called the CultureHive Digital Academy, which is an initiative aiming to innovate in digital learning. It’s run by Carol Jones, recently of Chapter, who also teaches the RWCMD in Cardiff.

The Academy’s model is to encourage its fellows to learn through rapid innovation, experimentation and reflective learning. They are encouraged to develop initiative ideas, implement and evaluate them, then reflect on their experiences through the Academy blog. This participatory education programme consists of online action learning sets and regular sessions with a mentor, and I was asked to be one of those mentors in the summer of 2014.

From September 2014, I’ve been meeting with fellows via Google Hangouts and Skype, helping them to think through the programme and develop their learning from the programme.  So far, I’ve been working with; Amy Rushby, who works in digital marketing for the Royal Shakespeare Company; Ruth Catlow, a digital artist and leader at the digital arts collective Furtherfield in Finsbury Park, London and Jamie Eastman and Jamie Wooldridge, who work at Live at Lica, a University based multi arts venue in Lancaster.

The programme leaders have asked me to reflect on my experience as a mentor through the programme’s blog, and today I published my first post, which is about establishing the purposes for setting up a digital media initiative, and ideation, the process of generating and combining ideas for solutions. You can read my post, Thinking through digital innovation before you start creating initiatives on the CultureHive Digital Academy website.

I’m chuffed to have been asked to continue being a part of this exciting initiative when the next batch of fellows join later in 2015, and I’ll continue blogging about my insights into what the fellows have needed to tackle during their mentoring sessions with me over the next year and as long as I’m involved with the programme. You’ll be able to access an archive of my posts into the future. Enjoy!

Social Media Insights: Arts programme gets underway

NativeHQ recently started a project working in partnership with Arts Council Wales called Social Media Insights: Arts. It’s similar to the Social Media Insights service that we offer commercially, and is based on meeting with clients for monthly sessions to address digital strategy, tactics, training, tools and analytics.

We think this is one of the most effective ways to improve client’s effectiveness on social media platforms for clients who want to retain control of their internet presence, and avoid outsourcing it to an external agency.

We put out a call for Welsh arts organisations to apply for the five places on the scheme, and were very pleased to receive a total of 46 applications, which has obviously made it very difficult for us to narrow down to five, but demonstrates the a very strong demand exists within the Arts scene in Wales for more support in this area.

We were very interested in getting a diverse portfolio of organisations to work with, in terms of the artforms they work in, their geographical location in Wales, their organisational size and the languages that they work in.

We have made our decisions and have informed all the applicants of the results. The final list of the organisations we will be working with over the next eight months is as follows:

  • Oriel Mostyn, Llandudno
  • Hijinx Theatre, Cardiff
  • Urdd Gobaith Cymru, National
  • Powys Dance, Llandrindod Wells
  • Response Wales, Vale of Glamorgan

This is a pilot project, and will involve a research element which will explore some of the common challenges and needs of the sector in creating effective work in social media, which we will make available to Arts Council Wales. We are currently getting underway, booking our initial sessions with the organisations and conducting benchmarking surveys to assess their perception of the issues they face at this point in time.

As we deliver this programme, we’ll post occasional updates on our blog to keep you informed, and we’ll explore the issues that the arts sector is presenting us as we help them get to grips with this transformed media landscape.

Artist abandons Twitter and Facebook – and explains why

Hugh Macleod is a well known cartoonist who has a blog by the name Gaping Void. Here is an excellent and thought-provoking post from last month:

Earlier today I told everybody on Twitter and Facebook, that I’m leaving Twitter and Facebook.

Why?

Because Facebook and Twitter are too easy. Keeping up a decent blog that people actually want to take the time to read, that’s much harder. And it’s the hard stuff that pays off in the end.

Besides, even if they’re very good at hiding the fact, over on Twitter and Facebook, it’s not your content, it’s their content.

The content on your blog, however, belongs to you, and you alone. People come to your online home, to hear what you have to say, not to hear what everybody else has to say. This sense of personal sovereignty is important.

And as I’ve said many times over the years, Web 2.0 IS ALL ABOUT personal sovereignty. About using media to do something meaningful, WITHOUT someone else giving you permission first, without having to rely on anyone else’s resources, authority and money. Self-sufficiency. Exactly. […]

Read the rest of the post for more of Macleod’s reasoning. It’s interesting to read the various responses around the web to the post.

I admire Macleod’s idealism. In general I’m inclined to agree with his points about Twitter and Facebook. They are companies with their own objectives and although the services are free, we should think about if we should use them – and how. (Incidentally at the time of writing Macleod appears to be back on Twitter but let’s ignore that and focus on the advice.)

I wouldn’t recommend Macleod’s advice for everyone in every case but I would say that it is of particular relevance to artists and creative people who ‘create content’. As always it comes back to the nature of your set-up and what you want to achieve.

Technology as a material

To make art with technology, one does not use it as a tool; one must understand it as a material. Technology is not always a tool, an engineering substrate; it can be something to mould, to shape, to sculpt with.

Materials have desires, affordances, and textures; they have grains. We can work with that grain, understanding what the material wishes to be, wishes to do – or we can deliberately choose to work against it. We must understand that grain and make a deliberate choice. […]

Thought-provoking short essay about art and technology by Tom Armitage which I’m still pondering.

Organising an event? Record and share it

I met a representative of an arts organisation this week. She mentioned one of their key aims is to help artists and other people they deal with to share knowledge. So they are organising an event, a get-together, to allow people who wouldn’t normally meet to do so.

The event itself sounded like a good move. It also made me think of the possible benefits of recording the event and uploading it online.

The recording might be a video, on a service such as YouTube or Vimeo. Or it might be just the audio, on a service such as Soundcloud. Attendees and other people can then embed a player on their blogs and websites, if you allow this (and usually there’s no reason not to allow embedding). Ideally you could embed it on your organisation or company website – but you don’t even need to do that to get started, at least for now.

The equipment for just documenting something is so ridiculously cheap now. We’re not talking about high production values or live streaming, just documenting the thing.

(There plenty of other ways to document an event using social media but today I’ll focus on getting the whole event as audio or video.)

Most attendees can be fine with audio or video if you tell them beforehand. Let them know about good opportunities to introduce themselves and plug their own work – at the start of each person’s first comment for example.

For video we use the Flip cam at NativeHQ, which is just a suggestion but it is cheap and an additional bonus is its size. It’s portable and so small that even the less confident people can happily ignore it and get on with sharing their thoughts.

So here are some possible benefits.

Extending the reach
There will probably be people who want to attend your event but can’t, because of time and geography. Recording it allows them to catch up afterwards.

Reminders
For people who do attend your event it serves as a reminder of what was discussed. It might even help them to concentrate and fully participate in the meeting rather than struggle to take notes of everything.

Awareness of your organisation
Publishing a recording helps wider awareness of your organisation, its aims, its projects and so on. Relevant recordings lead to inbound links and boost to your online reputation.

Openness
One feature of the web, thought by many to be the beauty of the web, is that your recording is potentially accessible to anyone. What about exclusivity? Some audio and video services do allow you to control access to recordings. But in most situations you can just make it open. Why place limits on who can get this information? It might seem paradoxical, but some of the most competitive people and companies are the ones sharing the most useful recordings. Most things aren’t sensitive. They may as well be open.

Promotion of the event itself
This follows from the previous point. There are lots of reasons to attend your event. Some of these reasons are: meeting other attendees face-to-face, asking questions, having more influence, helping oneself to a drink or buffet. None of these are replaced by a recording. Often the recording can promote the event. (For instance, look at how the prestigious TED talks have taken off since they started sharing video. The attendance fee has increased too.)

Persistence
Having a recording of key points may allow you to avoid having to repeat yourself. You can keep the recording online for weeks, months, even years afterwards. All of the good audio and video services will give your recording a permalink. This will not change and can thus be emailed to your community and shared between them and other people. Your recording will also be found by people searching for keywords contained in its title or list of tags.

Unknown reasons
I kick myself to think of the useful events I’ve attended – or even organised – and not had recorded. That’s because you don’t always know how useful the recording will be until afterwards. Or maybe sometime later. Those meetings just vanished into thin air. I’ll get by, but it would have taken hardly any effort to record them – so why not? (I’ve also been to some boring and irrelevant meetings in my time, but that’s subjective. Even those might have been of use to someone out there. You never know.)

These benefits can apply to anything good you choose to put online, not just audio and video. You could substitute the word “recording” above with “blog post”. You might already have guessed that for me, typing out this blog post ticks off some of the benefits described above.

National Theatre Wales conversations in full flow

We’ve been working with National Theatre Wales on their online community strategy. Earlier this year we unveiled a social site based on the Ning platform.

It’s similar to Facebook in some ways except that it allows a level of detailed conversation probably not possible before. We’ve had many people join and, importantly, participate on there – actors, writers, directors, technical people and of course audience (like me).

NTW wanted something which would complement and support their work and their ethos of boldness, openness and experimentation. National Theatre Wales are like the host of a party – on the site there’s a great deal of freedom in the topics you can discuss. Feel free to sign up and try it.

If you want to be precise about terminology you could say it’s both a “social network” site and a “social networking” site. It’s a subtle difference in wording but a big difference in practice. In other words, it not only supports existing connections between people (like Facebook friends) but encourages new connections to form between people who wouldn’t otherwise know each other. (If you’re interested in some background to this distinction, check out USA-based researcher danah boyd’s thoughts in this area. Not for everyone but you might like it.)

So it’s been fun to work on the site – with NTW and their visual branding partners Elfen – and now see people discussing things and blogging about theatre and related topics. And it’s genuinely exciting to think that people will meet “in real life” and work on new projects together as a result of this online community and the various groups it now holds.

Currently we’re gearing up to November’s announcements of next year’s theatre events. More news soon.

In the meantime, here’s a great example of a discussion which resulted from a blog post.