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Finding an audience

As part of Digital Cities Week in Birmingham, we hosted our first BBC Academy/The Space learning day for arts organisations across the West Midlands.

Claire Hutchinson and Owen Hopkin, audience specialists from The Space team, provided insights on audience profiling and growing audiences online based on audience development examples from projects such as Ai Weiwei 360, Classic FM and the Amazon VR Hub.

“We built it, measured it and then learnt from it.”
Claire Hutchinson

How Ai Weiwei 360 was made, is further explored in: Bring offline to life online!

Target Audience?

Claire believed there is a younger online audience, which was interested not only in technology but immersive experiences. Before exploring what platforms to use, Claire and the team considered online user behaviour i.e. how to make it engaging to users who don’t have a couple of hours to spare, how to make the content interactive so they can dip in and out of, and how to make the project work across all devices.

What online platforms?

With so many various online platforms available, it's important to consider which ones were used. Claire mentioned, “We had certain existing online platforms, which we thought would work well. Why? Because they already had audiences we could reach out to." Existing platforms such as BBC Taster and The Royal Academy’s website, its various channels and their social media platforms drove a considerable amount of traffic.

According to Claire, promoting the project across new online platforms like the BBC’s main website, and bringing on board key influencers to spread the word through editorial, all led to driving traffic back to the project. Of course, the team used social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter to get more views, shares, tweets and likes.

After launch, “we gathered all our audience data and found successful digital engagement with younger audiences, slightly male skewing, but an audience which liked music, technology and video on demand," said Claire.

Ai Weiwei 360: Key Learnings from The Space team.

  • Build a strong network of existing and new digital platforms. This means go out there and find your audience.
  • Keep checking the metrics; use all the free available tools such as Google Analytics, Facebook Insights and Twitter etc. To see what your audience is doing and what they like or don’t like.
  • Develop the user experience even after launching the project. Keep some budget and resources in reserve.
  • It’s ok for the online experience to be different from the offline experience, as long as you work with the artist to make sure the art is not compromised. Don’t be afraid be adventurous!

Engage and Grow

Appeal to a much wider, broader and diverse audience
Owen Hopkin

Whilst Claire talked about reaching audiences, Owen’s focus was on growth and how to achieve it. He said, “having a platform is great, but the main thing is the content you put out there, has got to be able to communicate with them in a way they understand.”

To achieve continued growth and audience development, he believes, “you need to use your audience data to test and learn what they might want.”

Testing, Testing

At Classic FM, he was responsible for growing the audience from 300,000 to 900,000, and this was achieved by a systematic approach to testing. Owen believes, “Testing allows you to create a tone of voice for the content and make it relevant to your audiences.” In doing so, this will allow you to not only identify who your users are and their patterns of engagement, but analyse who isn’t being engaged, and to find ways to appeal to a wider audience.

To highlight how important testing is, Owen used examples from his previous content campaigns at Classic FM. Before the content was posted on Facebook, the Classic FM team went through a rigorous process of testing. The level of detail they went into Owen explained was, “when was the best time to post, how many they post each day, for how long, what kind of content to post.” By taking this approach they wanted to make sure each piece of content would succeed.

“Its content was shared 2500 times and generated reach of 250k – that was the biggest reach they had ever managed to do," said Owen.

Key learnings:

  • By posting at a particular time of day, they were maximizing the traction of the content not only in the UK but US as well.
  • They found the lifespan of a Facebook page is roughly one day.
  • Growth curve is considerably slower on the weekends.

Owen claims, ”Testing and analysing data will allow you to effectively build strategies and grow your audience.”

What’s great is all the testing and analysing that Owen talked about, can be achieved by using free tools such as Google Analytics, Facebook Insights and Twitter website campaigns. Have a look at our resources for simple and easy how-tos and digital marketing tips.