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Web Marketing

From the Horse’s Mouth – HorseWorld’s winning way with Social Media

patty the donkey painting

Patty - HorseWorld's painting donkey - was a Facebook hit

We’re delighted to see our client HorseWorld shortlisted for the Communicator of the Year award at the prestigious Bristol Post Business Awards next week.

It’s particularly pleasing for us as we’ve followed them through their journey with social media, from tentative first steps to it being a key part of their communications strategy.

We advise a lot of clients on social media strategy, but HorseWorld are one of those who have really grabbed the reins (pun intended!) and created something that we now use as an example in our social media workshops.

Like most clients, HorseWorld were a little unsure of how to approach social media when we first met them – and even whether to do it!

With a strong marketing team already getting results through existing channels and working flat out, there was the question of capacity – who would actually do it? – and also understandable caution at opening up public communication channels without the experience of managing it.

High percentages

They needn’t have worried – after taking the plunge, HorseWorld’s team have delivered a level of social engagement that puts many bigger organisations to shame.

As we tell all our clients, it’s not about the numbers – in two years they have gathered close to 4,500 Likes on Facebook, a good number but still plenty of room for growth.

What they are great at is turning those likes into conversations and actions that benefit the charity. The level of interaction is remarkable – at any one time, as many as a quarter of those Likers are actually active: talking to HorseWorld, sharing posts, having a conversation.

To put that in perspective – HorseWorld’s usual interaction rate is between 15-25%, compared with the Facebook average for even well-known brands (with huge social media budgets) of 1.4%.

In fact, while a rival horse charity has 5 times as many Likes, the level of active users they have is no higher than HorseWorld’s – and active users are really all that matters.

Managing conversations

Social media is not about marketing, it’s about managing conversations and turning those conversations into actions.

HorseWorld’s Facebook page has seen them re-home horses, increase visits to the point that they are almost at capacity, generate national press coverage – and even get one of their animals on Britain’s Got Talent!

They’ve done this with the same limited social media capacity that most charities have – and they’ve done it by not thinking about the technology or trying to come up with gimmicky ideas, but rather just by having that winning formula all conversations need in order to flow – “be interesting, be interested”.

They know their audience and share their passions, and they talk to them – it is simply people talking to people about stuff that interests them both. Sounds easy, but it takes a certain talent to pull it off as effectively as HorseWorld.

Their online community feels listened to, and knows their opinion is important and that the people at HorseWorld genuinely enjoy interacting with them.

HorseWorld MD Mark Owen told us: “Social media has helped HorseWorld establish a real-time two-way communications dialogue with our supporters from all over the world at extremely low-cost.

“We have been able to truly engage with the public and involve them in every step associated with our Charitable work of Rescuing, Rehabilitating and Rehoming Horses in need.

“We are also able to quickly garner options from our visitors, supporters and Equestrian enthusiasts about our work and the Equine Welfare sector in general – which is invaluable feedback when planning for the future.”

The Bristol Post Business Awards are being held on Wednesday 27th June.

New website for Luton Culture

We’re celebrating the launch of our latest website – a powerful and user-friendly site for Luton Culture, a major urban arts and culture charity.

Luton Culture manage manage 12 venues and provide cultural services to more than 250,000 people across Luton and surrounding area, with more than 300 employees.

The site promotes events at the 12 venues, as well as providing an online cultural community for the region.

The site, built on our open-source based Hummingbird platform, includes complex online event listings for multiple venues, as well as e-commerce, social media integration and e-marketing management.

Detailed planning, usability and accessibility testing went into creating a site that works for a highly diverse audience across multiple platforms, and provides Luton Culture with a highly-flexible, easy-to-use website for managing all their online communications.

We were also briefed to ensure the site ensured each venue kept its own identity and worked as a stand-alone area of the site, while ensuring ease of use and a sense of a single organisation working together.

We conducted user-testing with a wide range of subjects in Bristol and Luton, as well as planning detailed wireframes and paper-prototypes to ensure the finished site delivered the marketing aims of the organisation.

The site is now up and running, and can be seen at http://www.lutonculture.com/

BCCweb – it’s about people not platforms

While it’s been fascinating to see the talk among Bristol’s developer community following the roundtable on Bristol City Council’s Future Web Platform, there does seem to be an element of discussion around the project that is conspicuous by it’s abscence – the end user.

For those not familiar with the project – BCC are commendably taking opinion from Bristol’s digital community on the re-development of the council’s website.

We attended the roundtable last week, and discussion there – and online – since has centered around the arguments for and against the whole gammut of open-source platforms and technologies.

This is a little like architects arguing over the construction materials for a building before finding out what the building is going to be used for. The danger is, you design and build a wonderfully constructed office block when the client wanted a car park.

Doing Stuff

The council has produced a reasonably detailed requirements document – but there is nothing in there that suggests any robust measure of end user needs has been identified, or that suggested functionality has been evidenced against any user needs.

A massive investment in time and resources is being put into identifying and developing a platform before anyone knows what the platform needs to deliver for the people using it.

We risk getting bogged down in a discussion about the most “appropriate” platform before answering the most important question – “appropriate” for whom?

For instance, a lot of the discussion at the roundtable centred around migrating content. But what if the content is part of the problem? There was little or no discussion about content planning, Information Architecture, usability or the end user.

These are the elements that need to be understood first – before any decision on platforms is made. Not least, because they will – or should – be the determining factor in the functionality of the site.

The website needs to do stuff for people who live in Bristol. This “stuff” is the reason for the existence of the site, the technology is simply there to enable this stuff to be done. The CMS is the servant of the project, not the master.

Different platform, same issues

Back in 2007, we carried out an information architecture and usability review of the Bristol City Council Intranet. The issues we discovered with the site largely centred around poor information architecture, out of date and unreliable content, poor search and lack of user customisation functionality.

We’ve just carried out a (rather unscientific) user review of the BCC website and guess what the main issues identified by our user group were? Yup – IA, unreliable content, poor search, no customisation.

No technology solution is going to address the issue of poor content, no customisation functionality is going to understand how people living in Bristol want to customise their site. These are all planning issues.

We were able to deliver a 700% increase in engagement with target areas of the BCC Intranet by making changes to the IA, content and layout of key pages.

The technology didn’t come into it – we had to work within the constraints of the existing intranet platform. Getting a thorough understanding of what staff at the council actually really wanted to be able to do on the intranet did.

However, we also identified that had we been able to change the intranet platform to a more suitable one, we could have made even greater progress.

When we carried out our work on the BCC intranet, we ended our consultancy by discussing the imminent upgrade of the council’s website. Our key recommendation – don’t go out and buy an expensive off-the-shelf CMS and try to shoe-horn your user’s requirements into it, start with the requirements and develop a CMS to match them.

Three years later, we’re sticking to that.

WWT Photography Competition site launched

Our first project with the Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust has just launched – a mini-site for their annual photography competition wwwt.org.uk/photo

The social media-friendly site allows users to upload their photographs, vote, email and link images with Facebook, Twitter and Flickr.

The WWT Photography Competition aims to find the best wildlife and scenery photographs taken at any of the 9 WWT centres around the UK, including the famous Slimbridge reserve in Gloucestershire.

The mini-site is the first of a number of projects we are undertaking with WWT

Latest Project: Somerset Coastal Change Pathfinder

Tickbox have been commissioned to develop this important public-engagement website highlighting the impact of coastal change on Somerset communities.

We are creating a site which will provide information and an online meeting place for communities on the Somerset Coast directly affected by erosion and rising sea-levels.

It is a challenging site, with a very tight deadline, and is calling on a range of skills from complex information architecture planning, to copywriting, SEO and social media engagement.

We’re working on some creative ways to get across what is a complex and occasionally controversial subject in ways that engage, inform and inspire ordinary people to get involved in an issue that will have a significant impact on their communities.

Phase 2 of the project is now live: www.somersetcoastalchange.org.uk