A little over 3 months at Goethe-Institut.The job has been colorful and exciting so far. What else to expect when the “products” you work on are language classes, concerts, performances, exhibitions, festivals, workshops and creative competitions and the people you’re surrounded with are teachers, writers, filmmakers, illustrators, dancers and musicians. Yea… it´s kind of cool.
From the very first job interviews, it was clear that as PR Coordinator (my official job title) I would have to be Jill-of-all-Trades. They wanted a person who would manage classic PR work that comes along with a cultural institution, but, specifically, to take the online activities of the GI Indonesia to the next level.
It’s obvious why a strong online presence is of importance in a country like Indonesia. Adoption rates of social networking sites and mobile internet have been phenomenal, with Indonesia present in the Top 10 tweeting cities worldwide with not 1, but 2 cities – Jakarta leading and surprise candidate Bandung wedged between New York and Paris.
Also, Indonesia’s island geography and weak transportation infrastructure makes it particularly difficult for people from remote parts of the country to take part in cultural activities in the capital or other big cities. All the more important to reach out and offer opportunities online.
What I found. Assessing the situation
Goethe-Institut is, per definition, a network organization with establishments all over the world. It is partly funded by the German government, yet an independent entity. It additionally acquires financial help from the private sector and public funds. While the headquarter in Munich offers resources and guidelines, the sister institutions abroad have a lot of individual freedom in executing and documenting their activities.
When the GIs in the SEA region saw the need to quickly get active in social media in order to keep up with their audience, this, unsurprisingly, led to the mushrooming growth of various facebook pages, groups, profiles, blogs and twitter accounts to fulfill immediate needs. There was little time to devise any overall strategy or coordinated effort. I believe many institutions with a similar network setup such as the GI will find themselves in this situation.
In my first discussion with the team (meaning everyone that administers, or engages with, one or more of our many many social media outlets), I actually found an impressively deep understanding of social space, of the benefits and possible pitfalls of “conversation” rather than providing information, and a general positive and open attitude towards “social “channels.
While there were a lot of great individual efforts, the main problem I saw was the inconsistency with which content was offered, the lack of a structured approach in working together as a team, and the lack of, or not yet identified need for measurable goals.
In our first workshops as a team, we talked about the overall goals for the social media activities for each of the departments. Why did we think we need to be active here? What kinds of conversations were we hoping for? Would we be using social media as replacement for some other form of communication, for example ticket reservation via email?
As the result of the workshop we were left with three main goals, which now serve as guiding principlse until the next assessment.
Goal 1 “engagement” – being social as a goal in itself
As a non-profit and unlike a company with a physical product, our “product” is experience – something intangible and certainly difficult to measure in hard numbers. Our products: learning the German language, experiencing art in all forms, taking in literature or other media content, happens as a result of people interacting with each other. It dawned on us that, when culture is your product, facilitating conversations is a strong goal in itself. This means that – perhaps more so than in the social media channels of commercial brands – we are allowed to pat our backs with a growing number of fans and conversations. And Goethe-Insitut’s slogan “language, culture, germany” makes a pretty good guideline for the content mix.
Measurement: growing number of fans/followers, increasing interactions
Goal 2 promoting events
Looking at the number of signups for the language classes and at the number of visitors to most of our events, we can say: this is looking good. Since the institute is the venue for most events and language courses, there is a natural capacity limit. And the language classes as well as events are usually full, if not overbooked. This puts us in the luxurious position of not really having to use social media to promote anything – but we sure could use it to make event promotion and registration more efficient. Especially for larger events that do not take place in our house, we need to be able to pull a larger crowd. We need to start using online ticketing, which simplifies the process, and gives us an idea ahead of how popular the event is going to be. The next opportunity to introduce social media promotion and e-ticketing is coming up in October, so we’ll definitely be testing it out soon.
Measurement: sign ups through social media, incl. measuring effectiveness of individual channels
Goal 3: Virtual / real interaction
The final goal is related to the first, but goes further. Ultimately, our online presences should be able to offer genuine online experiences for those not physically able to attend, and it should offer “real” value. While the language department is leading the way in the form of offering online classrooms and German language-learner communities, the culture and information/library departments still need to figure out which formats and topics are most meaningful to their audiences. On the long run, I want to use social media to create windows of opportunity for dedicated individuals to get involved with GI’s program from far away: this could take the shape of having smaller remote cities “apply” for hosting cultural activities, which would then be brought there by GI, or regularly inviting interested people from further away to see cultural events produced by the GI. Creating campaigns around “city battles” or invitations to events will also help increase visbility and number of fans and followers.
Measurement: usage/readership of online products, impact and participation during social media ‘campaign’ periods
While coming up with grand goals is comparatively easy, implementing the processes to achieve those goals is the challenge. We have to take into account the different experience levels of the team with social media and its tools, as well as the “heritage” of social media routines that have evolved in the past.
These are roughly the steps I took in the past month to steer softly in the direction of where we want to be heading.
3 months (May – July) Framewok for consistency
In order to work together towards a shared goal we needed to establish a sense of being a team first. We rounded up all people with access to and active roles on any of our social media outlets, branded them the “social media team” and set up a weekly meeting.
We invented new gimmicky roles among us, such as the “wearer of the twitter hat” for someone responsible for managing interactions, keeping up with the stats, assigning tweets, and live-tweeting from events in a given week.
We invented the “facebook gardener” for someone whose responsibility it is to tend for a particular facebook page or group.I find that using playful images such as these helps people identify with the role and makes the tasks that come along with it come naturally. Of course – the gardener “weeds out” bad comments, highlights particularly interesting posts, decides which posts go where etc.
Also, in order to understand how we were tweeting and who was tweeting, (all sharing one twitter account, @gi_indonesien) we decided to start using initials after each tweet. Although it sounds like a clumsy workaround and a waste of characters, it has helped us learn from each other, avoid double tweeting and improve the quality of our answers to our followers.
In another step towards consistency, (still work in progress) we are streamlining the content flow from one channel to the other, and developing unique but consistent ways of writing for facebook and twitter.
Spending some time on building the team and workflows was important: to have a strong team that knows how to hold effective meetings, how to formulate goals and move towards them, is at the basis of everything…
6 months (August – October) – Increasing quality with tools, measuring effectiveness
In the coming three months, I want to focus on increasing the the number of interactions, keep a stronger focus on stats and implement more advanced tools such as e-ticketing for a pilot event and working with a contest app for a photo competition engagement campaign. Starting in September, I will also focus building 2 “communities within the Goethe community”. One is targeting German-Language-learners in South East Asia. The other is the already existing comiconnexions platform for comic/graphic novel fans, which needs to go into phase 2.
Lastly, we will start setting the necessary internal foundations (commitment, timeframe, budget…) to work towards goal 3.