Finding the Voice: Planning and evaluation of social media in cultural institutions

Rod Fleming, University of Strathclyde, Glasgow, UK, Areti Damala, University of Strathclyde, Glasgow, UK

Published paper: Finding the voice: Planning and evaluation of social media in cultural institutions

Cultural institutions have sought to develop social media as a means of engaging with their audiences. However, there is a lack of guidance about how to effectively evaluate performance. A study was carried out to explore contemporary practices in cultural institutions to better understand the challenges, methods, and strategies.

This involved in-depth interviews with social media managers at eight Scottish institutions and a worldwide survey of one hundred organisations. The participants were asked about how they use social media, what their objectives are, and whether use of frameworks, toolkits, and strategies were useful or indeed feasible.

Results showed that despite various approaches, many institutions share priorities and challenges. Although some preferred to be flexible, while others more regimented, there is consensus that social media helps deliver on wider institutional goals and strategies. There is also evidence that institutions want to better understand the impact of their social media but often have problems capturing or interpreting relevant data, and all institutions are responsive to tools that might help them do this.

The research tested the principles of one tool in particular, the Culture24 Evaluation Framework. Discussions with participants revealed that while its concepts were relevant and valuable, there remained issues with how it could be implemented, given incongruity with existing operations. Consequently, the research proposes recommendations for developments in social media and evaluative frameworks. The research concludes that institutions that have more defined strategy, even if practices remain flexible, are more decisive and effective in their use of social media. Having objectives and cycles allows better implementation of specific tools and frameworks. Furthermore, careful consideration of the functionality of specific social media platforms allows them to more effectively address specific targets and metrics.

A Twitter account was created as part of the research, for engaging survey participants and disseminating results. This is found at

The following is a selection of some of the resources that were influential on the research, in terms of offering discussions, frameworks or solutions on evaluating social media in cultural institutions.

CILIP (2015a) ‘Impact Toolkit’, website. Available at Last accessed 31/08/2015
Culture24 (2011) ‘Let’s Get Real: How to evaluate online success?’. Available at Last access 31/08/2015

Culture24 (2014) ‘Let’s Get Real 2: A journey towards understanding and measuring digital engagement’. Available at Last accessed 31/08/2015

Fichter, D. and Wisniewski, J. (2008) ‘Social media metrics: making the case for making the effort’. Online, vol. 32, no. 6, pp. 54-57
Markless, S. and Streatfield, D. (2013) Evaluating the Impact of Your Library (Second Edition). Facet Publishing: London

Stuart, D. (2014) Web Metrics for Library and Information Professionals. Facet Publishing: London
Thomson, K., Purcel, K. and Rainie, L. (2013) ‘Arts organisations and digital technologies’. Available at Last accessed 31/08/2015

Universal McCann (2014) ‘Wave 7: Cracking the Social Code – The Story of Why’, presentation. Available at Last accessed 31/08/2015

Universal McCann (2015) ‘Wave 8: The Language of Content’. Available at Last Accessed 31/08/2015.

Villaespesa, E. (2015) ‘An Evaluation Framework for Success: Capture and Measure Your Social-Media Strategy Using the Balanced Scorecard’. MW2015: Museums and the Web 2015. Available at