The ‘Social Media Journey’

Often, when people are composing blog posts to display on their websites or share throughout their social media channels, they are seeking to demonstrate their expertise and showcase their knowledge within their chosen field. We are no different, of course. Social media gurus suggest that such activities help establish trust throughout your potential customers (and provide reassurance to your existing customers that, in selecting your services, they made the right choice – not just for today, but for the future).

The truth of this line of thinking is pretty self-evident: one only has to reflect upon our own experiences as consumers to find confirmation of it. A supplier who demonstrates their knowledge regarding the item or service you are looking to purchase is surely most able to answer any questions we may have regarding our own applications for said item or service.

When we post regarding ticketing and visitor attraction management, this is unquestionably the case’ having worked within the sector for a great number of years and, during this time, forging long and fruitful relationships with a wealth of attractions up and down the country (and beyond).

This post, then, is admittedly somewhat of an anomaly.

Today – and over the coming weeks – I wish to fly in the face of conventional wisdom and discuss, not something at which we are exceptional, but something with which we have had less success.

The title of the post may have already alerted you to this topic: social media, or, if you will, our “social media journey.”

As businesses, regardless of which sector we occupy, we are largely united by (among other things) the need to “be on” social media; to “maintain our social presence”.

But what does that mean and how do we do it?

An excellent question. As with most things we do, when faced with such a conundrum we viewed the situation practically by asking the obvious questions:

“How do other people do it?”

We conducted research and gained an understanding of what others – both within our field and outside it – were doing and, this done, we dipped our toe into the murky waters…. with limited success.

Next step: seek advice.

Nobody needs to be told that there is an abundance of information about social media, I’m sure. Some of the options we investigated were as follows (although I’m sure there are others):

– online services (articles, blog posts, YouTube videos)

– consultants (enlisting the help of agencies, following ‘influencers’ online via their own social media channels, utilising algorithmic data analysis packages)

– employees (appointing somebody with a relevant qualification)


How does one measure social media success, though?

Statistics? OK. Our charts and diagrams clearly showed that our engagement was up! Through the roof, compared to our previous endeavours. Fantastic, right? We felt brilliant! Evidently our strategies were working brilliantly.

The only slight issue, though, is that – to the best of our knowledge (although our research has admittedly not been exhaustive in this regard) – bar graphs don’t purchase ticketing solutions. I know! Who knew, right? Neither (hold on to your hats here…) do page: impressions, follows, likes or even retweets!

(To be continued!)

Basic Branding Guidelines: Avoiding the ‘Marketing Trap’!

Going around the region as I do when networking I meet many new and small businesses. What I find quite incredible is how many of them have paid for ‘branding’ and a website and yet fallen into that old trap of ‘First Impression’

What I mean by that is that they have concentrated on having a snazzy name and a great logo but then not carried it through to the rest of their public presence.

How many do I see with: then followed by or worse

Having paid money to obtain the URL to maintain the brand they are trying to create, why do they then not then take it a step further by adding an e-mail address to it i.e.

In addition the only telephone number on their business card is a mobile.

If we look at the old adage “only one chance to make a first impression” what do those two ‘mistakes’ say about the business – and mobile number only?

One person company working from home. Is that the first impression they’re trying to create? I suspect not but yet they have “done the branding”!

Why is it that so many new and small businesses think that branding is a snazzy name and a great logo?

It’s far more than that and needs complete lateral thinking.

To obtain a regional telephone number i.e. 03?? is relatively cheap and can be taken wherever you go. Link that to a call handling service and already your ‘first impression’ is of a much larger company. So, if it’s that simple, why are so many new businesses making the same mistakes? Is it the fault of the start-up agencies who should be giving some guidance on first steps? Is it the fault of the various marketing agencies who, when pressed for a cheap price take the soft option? Is it the fault of the business owner for not doing their research properly before signing up to this new branding initiative? Truthfully I think it’s a bit of all three, but whichever way you look at it many businesses are not getting the best advice and support when it comes to basic marketing techniques.

Call me old fashioned, I did my Marketing Diploma over 40 years ago now, but some things don’t actually change and being a bit ‘savvy’ about branding and presentation hasn’t changed, so come on you support people and do what it says on the tin – support!! Common sense, fully rounded branding shouldn’t cost any more to produce, but yet will have a lot more impact and resilience.

P.S. Don’t forget the back of the business card too, use it to explain your ‘benefits’.

Should Museums Charge for Admission?

Should Museums charge for admission?

One of the most difficult challenges for museums is defining a charging structure that offers value for money, promotes long-term growth, meets fundraising objectives and encourages engagement from both local and tourist populations.

We were lucky enough to catch a seminar given by DC research on their AIM commissioned study at the Museums & Heritage show in May this year on the “Impact of Charging or Not for Admissions on Museums”. In this slightly longer than usual blog-post, I’ll be giving you an overview of their findings.

Association of Independent Museums Credit Credit to DC Research

Full credit to AIM & DC Research for their report “Impact of charging or not for Admissions on Museums.

The Study

Their research stems from interviews with over 300 museums across the UK, of which the majority were independent museums. They found most (67%) of independent museums charge some kind of admission, whereas the same percentage of local authorities did not.

percentage of museums who charge admission

Most of the respondents were Independent museums due to AIM’s existing connections with the sector

Interestingly, when questioned about the effect of charging or not charging, 55% of free museums felt their structure had a definite positive effect on visitor numbers, whereas of those who charged admission, only a small minority felt their fees had a negative impact.

Based on the testimony of venues who had recently changed their pricing structure, going from free to chargeable often meant a drop in visitor numbers, but increasing fees seemed to have little effect. Those who did charge admission generally felt there was an understanding with their guests that the fees were to a good cause and offered value for money.

It was noted that not all visits of free venues were necessarily of value, as a number of guests would use the venue simply for restroom facilities, as a meeting spot, or even respite from the rain. This belief is reinforced by the statistics that show that in general, visitors of paid attractions tended to stay longer, indicating a desire to get their money’s’ worth. Similarly, when free venues began charging, they found that local traffic saw the most significant drops.

effect of charging admissions on donations, secondary spend and dwell time

Respondents felt that charging admission generally had a positive impact on dwell time and secondary spend, while opinions were split on spontaneous donations

The findings became more interesting when looking at the effect of charging admission on donations in general. While a small majority viewed admissions as detrimental to receiving additional donations, 56% of respondents felt that charging admissions had a neutral or positive effect. In addition, those who charged admission also reported longer dwell times, though they were less confident than free museums of the impact of this on secondary spend.

Qualitative Observations

From DC Research’s qualitative assessment, the researchers found that in general, whether or not a venue charged had little to do with visitor spend. As they put it, if you want to buy a tea and cake, you won’t be put off because you’ve already spent £5 to enter. Instead, visitors were actually more likely to visit the shop or on-site catering as part of their paid-for experience.

In terms of creating a visitor experience, museums charging admissions generally had the edge over their free counterparts, in that they offered a formal welcome to the establishment. This forms an integral part of delivering value, and it was DC Research’s recommendation that otherwise free venues should still have an alternate welcoming process.

Who charges what?

Of the participants interviewed, the median price for a ticket was £5 for an adult, £2 for a child, £16 for a family and £4.05 for concessions. The mean was slightly higher, indicating a skew for ‘key attractions’ who charged up to £24 for an adult ticket.

trends for museum pricing

While independent museums charged more than local authorities, average prices had less to do with sector and more to do with significance of the attraction itself

The lowest price recorded was just £0.50, which raised concerns from the research team. Not only do such low priced attractions suffer from the footfall drop of charging, but they also don’t benefit from the otherwise flat price elasticity. As the speaker put it, such venues have “suspiciously low” pricing, wherein the value of the experience is downplayed to the point of being a deterrent.

While there was no real correlation between admission rates and the type of museum, the more expensive museums generally saw over 100,000 annual visits, and operated in the South-East & London.

How does charging admissions affect fundraising?

Of the participants who increased pricing in the last 3 years, 70% reported that it had no impact on spontaneous donations. For those who transitioned from free to charging, donations were commonly claimed to have decreased. In both instances, overall revenues were reported to have improved.

Despite the general trends, It’s important to know the local demographic when planning any price increases. The case study below highlights difficulties faced by Cannon Hall, which attempted to charge admission to its’ grounds after years of free admission for guests to its’ grounds.

Cannon hall admission fees case study

The cannon hall case study, a local attraction for us here at Merlinsoft is a great example of needing to understand your audience. In this case, Cannon Hall arguably forgot the colloquial Barnsley motto: “how much!?”

The general consensus was that admission charges were of minimal importance to the donations received. More critical factors were things such as how the donation boxes were presented, whereabouts in the museum they were positioned, and the messages associated with them.

Final word

After reading this article, it seems apparent there is much goodwill towards museums, and audiences are generally tolerant of price increases. It is worth noting that the majority of museums who increased prices, did so with the addition of a new offering, with full disclosure of the reasons for increasing charging, and/or with sound evidence about their audiences’ preferences.

In truth, good fundraising comes from understanding your audience and sharing a mutual vision which lets them share in your cause. For some, free admissions were a way to build a sense of community, while others flourished and grew their offerings year on year through paid admissions. Ultimately, it comes down to your museums identity, and that of your visitors.

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