Reflecting on our communications channels

A while back I wrote a post detailing our approach to communicating service resources. In a nutshell it focuses on the launch and dissemination of our online resources. The process involves developing a launch and dissemination plan and typically involves promoting a resource through social media, email, existing networks, and our service blog. In this post I’ll be reflecting on the data we’ve collected since initially launching the e-safety infoKit and having used the approach for a range of other resources.

What worked and what didn’t?

e-Safety infoKit launch

Working solely from the data we have from launching the e-safety infoKit we learned:

  • Tapping into other networks seems to generate the most traffic. The ALT News Digest resulted in the most visits. The RSCs e-bulletin was a close second.
  • People do read our blog! It generated the third highest number of visits and they viewed the resource longer than any others.
  • Twitter did not generate the most traffic. In fact it was 6th out of 8 in terms of the comms channels we used. However, the average visit duration was second only to traffic from our blog. Visitors from twitter were also much more likely to view other pages during their visit.
  • Our mailing list didn’t seem very effective in engaging people. It generated a fair amount of traffic to the infoKit but the average visit duration was the second lowest.

Overall, the e-safety infoKit has had 3,934 “pageviews” three months since its launch. We know for certain 2,321 of those “pageviews” came from an academic network. The bounce rate is 14.66% less than the site average and the exit rate is 5.51% lower than the site average. The table below provides a summary of data relating to our planned communication campaigns used for the e-safety infoKit.

Campaign name: e-Safety Launch 3 months on
Launch date: 15 April 2013 Visits Pages per visit Avg. visit duration % new visits Bounce rate
Overall 696 2.68 0:02:34 47.27% 59.77%
ALT Digest / email 140 2.51 0:02:53 38.57% 65.00%
rscs / e-bulletin 119 2.70 0:03:03 44.54% 57.14%
blog / blog-post 102 3.00 0:03:55 40.20% 54.90%
infonet-mail-list / email 87 2.30 0:01:12 52.87% 52.87%
jisc-advance / website 77 2.75 0:01:33 58.44% 62.34%
twitter / tweet 75 3.77 0:03:05 45.33% 64.00%
keystakeholders / comms 53 1.91 0:01:04 64.15% 66.04%
ALT Digest / email 43 2.19 0:02:31 51.16% 55.81%

Overall findings

Looking at the range of campaigns completed since launching the e-safety infoKit we have learned:

  • Twitter has generated the most traffic to our website excluding website referrals (typically where we’ve transferred a resource to our site from a wiki). It’s also the easiest channel to use.
  • Building on existing networks is vital. We assess which stakeholders might be interested in a particular resource and email them to let them know it’s been updated/launched. Where possible we try to build on contacts we already have. Where this isn’t possible we try to foster new relationships.
  • People that read our blog appear to be the most engaged. The average duration of their visit and pages viewed per visit are the highest. That said we attract the least amount of new visits through our blog so we’re probably preaching to the converted.

This of course does vary depending on the topic we’re working on and the audience we’re trying to promote it to. That’s why it’s important to think about the plan upfront as mentioned earlier.

A more strategic approach

Since the initial article we’ve set up a marketing and communications working group and we’ve also developed a draft communications strategy. Our focus early on was around social media but we realised it needed to be much broader, focusing on communication more generally. As a starting point we went back to basics and discussed what it is our service does, reflecting on our core business functions which comprise things like: managing projects and programmes; managing the service; producing materials; organising service events; and so on. We then spoke about success criteria relating to these business functions and the way in which marketing and communications could help us to achieve them. This resulted in a number of recommendations which we shared with the wider team for discussion. Once that’s been agreed we hope to make a lot of progress in this area. Generally speaking we are a lot more comfortable with communications from an organisational perspective and are beginning to develop clear processes to support key business functions.

Social media

As individuals our team is very comfortable using social media, however, we haven’t made the most of it from an organisational perspective. As it stands we receive a very low amount of our website traffic from social media referrals (Aug 12 – Jul 13). We are very proud of our resources and we want people to know about them and we’d like to use social media to increase awareness of what our service offers – online guidance (infoKits, tools, topics), facilitation workshops, staff development workshops, hosting events, public speaking and managing projects and programmes. The risk is that we begin to annoy people by bombarding them with updates and so we’ll be working hard to ensure our communications are relevant and of value to anyone listening.

We’re also very interested in using social media to maintain and develop relationships with people we’ve worked with or who have used our resources. We see our material as living documents and we’re keen to have feedback on them whether it’s good or bad. Indeed, it was a comment on twitter that led to a change in the way we present data on our website. @elliogem and I (@andystew) are attending an event later this month looking at social media marketing and communication for education so we hope to have a bit more to say on this soon…

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