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Creating effective social media messaging and engaging digital content takes time and careful planning. Sarah Leech describes the approach at HOME in Manchester.

Image of woman taking a picture of collage of headshots

My role at HOME is to manage the website, social media platforms and digital content we produce. We are a digital team of two (myself and our Digital Content Officer Simon) with plenty to cover. HOME has galleries, cinemas, theatres, a busy schedule of workshops and events, plus a bookshop, café bar and restaurant.

We want to be part of the conversation as opposed to just shouting about what we do all the time

Our content can range from festival trailers to film emoji plots, right down to the classic cake pic (#GBBO eat your heart out). In an average week we’ll send out a hundred tweets, two Facebook posts, three to four Instagram posts and publish two pieces of content (video or audio) on either YouTube or Audioboom.

That doesn’t include reactive activity on these platforms. We listen, ask questions, like posts and add comments in addition to doing all of the above, and that is just as important for audience development. We want to be part of the conversation as opposed to just shouting about what we do all the time.

A team activity

So, who does what? Well for starters, Simon and myself curate and publish 95% of this content. Our press team tweet any reviews, the box office folks jump on at weekends to let our audiences know about sell-outs or returned tickets, and we also offer our feeds to artistic department staff, theatre companies or art collectives for the odd takeover.

When we do hand over our feeds to others, we always provide simple guidelines to help them shape their messaging. This includes points on house style, hashtags and tips on what content works best. You might have caught our recent Edinburgh Fringe takeover. For this, we invited a mixture of companies and theatre staff to bring us a daily dose direct from the Edinburgh Fringe. It was content we couldn’t have captured ourselves and gave a great insight into life at the festival as both a punter and performer.

Although takeovers aren’t a major feature here, we offer opportunities throughout the year for our staff and artists we work with to get involved in the digital content that goes out on our social media channels. Our monthly film podcast and Facebook Live broadcasts are great examples of this. Our staff have such a wealth of knowledge between them, it would be silly not to try and make the most of it.

Planning activities

Planning is key to maximising the impact our content has on our social media channels. Simon and I sit down every Monday and produce a priorities document. This helps us map out the social media activity for the week ahead. From events and opportunities here at HOME to things going on in the city and nationally, all these aspects shape our messaging for the week.

It’s everything from the BAFTAs, how to navigate travel routes on Manchester United match nights, to sneak peeks behind the scenes of our latest exhibition or production. All of it goes into the mix. We then share this with the wider team so they can see what’s being covered.

We use Hootsuite to schedule our posts. It’s easy to use and gives us the flexibility we need to target our audience at peak times, post content when we’re in meetings or out of the office, plus keep an eye on relevant hashtags. We have the cheapest professional account as budgets are tight, but this gives us the enhanced messaging scheduling functionality plus the two logins we need.

Videos and images

We create simple videos and GIFs ourselves, but we also work with a local video company, which also creates bigger pieces of content for us, like theatre and season trailers. This allows us to capture high-quality footage on kit we couldn’t afford to have in-house with creative filmmakers who are up for experimentation. This working relationship blossomed from a partnership with Salford University and has been integral to the popular video content we put out over our channels.

Unfortunately, we can’t afford to produce all-singing all-dancing videos every week but we can still tell interesting stories. We use free apps like Boomerang and Hyperlapse to create short videos, Storify to curate audience reaction on shows or compile coverage round-ups from events. Music playlists have gone down well in the past too.

Constant evaluation

But it’s not just about putting lots of content and messaging out there. We review what we do on a weekly and monthly basis. Evaluation is so important to inform the type of social media activity we continue to create. An analytical tool like Facebook Insight is a friend and we use it to understand what our audience likes, what content works best and what opportunities we can exploit – and then tweak our activity accordingly.

At the end of the day our social media activity is all about adding value to the audience experience before, during and after they’ve paid HOME a visit. And we try and have fun along the way too. Our pancake day film puns are a highlight each year. Can you do better than Batter Royale or Crêpe Fear?

Sarah Leech is Digital Content Manager at HOME.
Tw @sarahmleech
Tw @HOME_mcr

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