Resources can pose a significant challenge to any online promotion. For community organisations and not-for-profits, it can be a primary challenge. Resourcing can be more than mere finance. Successful campaigns also require a wealth of time and expertise.
This case study looks at how some local artists made the most of a (very) limited budget, volunteer contributions and some expert guidance from Copy Transmission. They boosted brand recognition in their target demographics, and achieved objectively significant improvements in key operational metrics.
The Client: Open Studios West Gippsland
A cultural development rep from a Gippsland local government asked Copy Transmission to help promote Open Studios West Gippsland (OSWG). From the outset, resourcing was a leading issue for the project, and everybody knew it.
Artistry and aims
OSWG is a collective of artists in eastern Victoria. Twice a year—November and March—OSWG members invite the public into their creative spaces, to meet and observe the artists where they work. For a $5 contribution, people can explore as many studios as they like. The funds raised by these events are crucial to the organisation’s existence.
When we met with OSWG, it was obvious that they were ready to get serious about their online brand strategy. They could see what they needed to improve and were eager to learn how it could be achieved.
Getting strategic on social
In early consultancy, we found that many OSWG artists already used social media on an individual basis. Facebook and Instagram were most popular, appealing to visual sensibilities as well as being accessible and mainstream. These channels let them show off their talents, and connect directly with many of their audience.
As an organisation, OSWG’s Facebook page already enjoyed good engagement. The problem, though, was ticket sales. It seemed like the online engagement should be boosting their bottom line, but it wasn’t. To generate cash flow, they needed to covert their online audience to real-life attendees at events.
So, that was Copy Transmission’s assignment: convert OSWG’s solid social following into active paying punters.
Storytelling: Open Studios
In the lead-up Open Studios’ November 2016 event, we focused all strategic social media efforts on bringing the organisation’s brand narrative to life. It had to be done in a budget-friendly way, but it also needed to produce results.
This was the brand’s first strategic campaign. As yet, OSWG’s brand narrative was not fully formed—it certainly hadn’t been documented. So, reaching a mutual understanding of that story was objective #1.
The appeal of Open Studios events is threefold:
- people get to physically step inside a creative space and glimpse a world usually hidden.
- it is an opportunity to relate to the real people who make the art.
- it shows West Gippsland as a site of scenic beauty that inspires artistic creativity.
Of course, these three aspects coalesce into something that totals more than its parts. The rare opportunity to meet and learn from creatives where they work, also gives insight into how they work and why they choose to make Gippsland their creative home. People can speak directly with artists about their craft and inspiration and then to see how that gets applied in practice.
One of the advantages of working with such a group of creatives is that the subject can also be the content.
OSWG’s website didn’t have a blog. Copy Transmission added one.
We then invited the artists to write their personal stories: why they became an artist, how they discovered their medium, what stirs their passions, how they found their niche, why they live and work in Gippsland.
Following some strategic tweaks, these stories became the core feature content for the new Open Studios blog. Each story dropped on a schedule designed to maximise individual engagement as well as maintaining mindshare over time.
The personal stories were supported by high-quality photography. OSWG are well-connected in certain circles. Those circles provided great images—many of which genuinely enhanced the narrative rather than merely illustrating it.
In the past, OSWG had spent its promo budget on local print ads.
Working with Copy Transmission and seeking an improved ROI, they were ready to reallocate those funds to online.
Given the content advantages outlined above, we opted for a strategy that boosted the exposure of social content posts.
Each week, a couple artist stories were promoted via Facebook and Instagram. The content quickly struck the desired chord, with increasingly high engagement. The paid promotions started snowballs rolling, and that was the encouragement they needed to gain organic momentum. Posts were all well shared and the audience got larger as time went on. As they picked up momentum. In virtually every case, organic reach ended up outstripping paid reach.
To complement the artist content campaign, Copy Transmission developed a brand awareness ad campaign. It too ran on Facebook and Instagram, taking advantage of the targeting and metrics available for those platforms.
As with the feature content, the art and copy of the ads highlighted the brand narrative. It depicted real people behind the artwork and invited the audience to visit them in Gippsland and step into their creative spaces.
Previous market research by Copy Transmission had revealed a specific set of postcodes that are the source of the majority of the Gippsland region’s tourism. So, the OSWG ad budget was used to target those specific locations.
Social success & real world results
In the end, the total advertising and post-boost budget was just a few hundred dollars, spread across a 5-week build up.
Even early on, the strategy produced promising results. Before a ticket had been sold, campaign reporting showed things were moving in the right direction:
- organic reach tripled
- daily traffic to the Open Studios website tripled.
These observations were encouraging, but turning online success to real world results is the ultimate objective.
Unfortunately, OSWG’s ticketing system was not yet online. Relying on old fashioned cash transactions, we had to wait for on-the-day earnings to evaluate the campaign’s impact on the bottom line.
The event closed on Sunday evening: the results were good. Ticket sales increased by 40% over the previous November event.
Working with OSWG provides challenges and opportunities that are a little different from those presented by Copy Transmission’s core client base.
The practical lessons learned regarding what can be achieved on a shoestring budget can be applied for the benefit of bigger organisations too.
Of course, there are also some lessons from bigger clients could also help OWSG. For example, we’ve encouraged them to invest in online ticketing before their next event in March. That too can be achieved efficiently, and it will likely also show a good ROI. If the promotional budget can be stretched to accomodate more extensive A/B ad testing in the future, outcomes could likely be enhanced even further.
While social promotions have undergone waves of change in just a few short years, you can still eek great value out of the system. To find it, combine good strategy and a strong brand identity with quality content and technical know-how. If you need a hand with one or all of those aspects, get in touch with Copy Transmission—we’re happy to be a resource.