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This learning journey has been curated by AmbITion lead consultant Hannah Rudman.

Twitter is not for every arts, cultural and heritage organisation. But many organisations and individuals in the sector use it effectively to create audience engagement through debate and using it as a channel to push out live news and views. This learning journey is an introduction to explain what Twitter is about, and how it can successfully and strategically be used by arts, cultural and heritage organisations, as you become more expert, we provide tools for evaluating and tracking your success. If you’ve just started with Twitter, please follow @getambition to hear from us!

Another learning journey deals with the wider topic of social media!

1 Background reading: Twitter for the arts. Really?

In October 2009, I paused to consider how cultural organisations were beginning to use Twitter. Edinburgh’s Festivals were finding new ways to promote and review shows. New artistic endeavours were taking place – on Twitter, and were being created by tweets. Twitter was being used to build communities of interest around a subject. If you ever wondered if Twitter was suitable for the arts sector, this brief piece presents a few answers.

The word on the tweet

Whether you love it or resent it, Twitter is changing the way that audiences find out what’s on; discover reviews; participate in live arts events; and co-create artistic work.

Throughout August in Edinburgh, thousands of festival-goers have been tweeting their own mini-reviews of performances they’ve seen. Rather than trusting only the official reviews, audiences are putting their trust in these user generated content reviews – the wisdom of the many. Aggregating and filtering all these reviews has been achieved by the FestBuzz.com site. FestBuzz makes the traditional recommendation channel of word-of-mouth digital by listening in on what people are tweeting about all of the Edinburgh Festivals events, shows and performances. Users of the site search or browse a show to find out what the word on the tweet is: Festbuzz assigns shows starred ratings gathered from the tweets about and analysed by a “unique sentiment classification engine”. Festbuzz was created after Festivals Edinburgh and 4iP ran an online competition for ideas.

EdTwinge (@edtwinge) is another new Twitter-powered review site just for The Fringe. It uses the thousands of opinions expressed every hour on Twitter to provide a crowd-sourced realtime Edinburgh Fringe review service. As well as monitoring the general Twitter “noise” for each act, a “karma” rating is generated, which is the basis for the ranking system. It then produces a real-time leader board of the highest-rated acts currently happening. Users can embed this “Fringe Top 10″ as a widget in any blog or website. After the first week, the website had 6395 unique visits and 702 followers on Twitter.
As well as audiences finding out what’s on and reading reviews through Twitter driven applications, arts organisations are also producing live artistic events integrating the platform. Cellist Peter Gregson played at AmbITion’s London Roadshow, accompanied by the Words on the Wall, audience feedback, projected on a large screen behind him. The Words on the Wall is an application created by Peter’s Coffeeloop software company to aggregate SMS messages or tweets sent to Peter. Many of the messages reflected on thoughts and feelings elicited by the music, some bemoaned the intrusion, some praised the extra levels of engagement made possible through the technology.

Scotland’s first live twitter comedy event happened as part of the Edinburgh Festival Fringe at the “Twinge Party”. Twinge party attendees had heard about the party only through Twitter: audience development targeting a niche market (the Twitterverse) through using a communication mechanism unique to them.

Four comedians performed a short set each live at the party – the jokes and the audience responses were also tweeted. 

At the Twinge Party venue, one screen projected the comedians’ sets, another showed the crowd’s responses to the jokes, the party and other acts. The messages, also brought together on the FestBuzz site, gave people around the world a chance to watch some of the Edinburgh Fringe unfold before their eyes online.
Some organisations are commissioning creative work generated by users of Twitter. The first Literary Twestival (#LitTwest) was also held in Edinburgh this year, as part of the Westport Book Festival (a fringe book festival), with all live and virtual audience encouraged to become (extremely short -140 characters in fact) storytellers.


In September we can look forward to the Royal Opera House’s first opera, with a libretto generated entirely through twitter. The Twitterverse will be used to create the storyline for a brand new opera, which will be performed throughout the weekend of Deloitte Ignite 2009. ROH are investigating how short, 140-character contributions can build upon each other to create a non-linear narrative – like a Choose Your Own Adventure story or a game of Consequences.

If you do not use Twitter but have an iPhone, The Edinburgh Festivals Guide is the only official iPhone application for the largest arts event in the world. The Guide comes complete with full listings for all 7 August festivals, and uses GPS to locate the nearest shows and venues, showing results on a map with simple directions straight to the venue door from exactly where you are. It sort results by location, start time or popularity rating. Additionally, users can read reviews of shows and write their own; call box office direct from the listings to book tickets; view photos of events and venues (and upload their own in the next version); and find out which tickets are on sale at The Fringe Half Price Hut. The iPhone app costs £1.79 – more than the 7 festivals’ free brochures, but less weighty and impactful on the environment. The iPhone app development is a successful innovation initiated by Festivals Edinburgh and the Fringe, delivered in partnership with HedOut.

All the digital developments have involved the individual festivals fully embracing collaborative working and gaining understanding of new digital and joint venture business models.

Festivals Edinburgh (created and managed by the directors of Edinburgh’s 12 major Festivals, to take the lead on their joint strategic development) is the high-level organization that has facilitated this collaborative approach. As the collaboration began to agree their joint digital development aspirations, partnerships with new media companies were successfully developed, and now venture capital investment has been sought to fund the start-up of the new ideas.
For an introduction to Twitter, visit here!

2 Getting started: Twitter for beginners

Everything you need to know about setting up a Twitter account, and beginning to tweet! Also, check out Twitter’s own starter guide.

3 Getting started: Twitter for arts organisations

This guide gives an overview of Twitter good practices for arts, cultural and heritage organisations, and presents lots of ideas of how to build up a following and engage your followers.

Twitter for Arts Organisations

Twitter for Arts Organisations is a thorough guide to how arts organisations can use Twitter, the popular microblogging service. Written by Hannah Nicklin, @hannahnicklin on Twitter

Twitter for Arts Organisations

Download this document (PDF, 424KB)

4 Intermediate Twitter: developing confidence

This list of best practices helps you build up your confidence and expertises as a Twitter user.

Twitter Best Practices List

From: http://www.twine.com/item/123nqkqw1-qj/share-this-twitter-best-practices-list-help-save-twitter


Twitter is highly vulnerable to spam because of the way it is designed, and because there is a general lack of awareness of best-practices and practices to avoid when using Twitter. This article hopes to help solve that by increasing awareness of these issues.

Below is a list of Do’s and Don’ts for making Twitter better, and keeping it that way.


To help prevent Twitter from filling up with spam and abuse, we need to create a community-driven guide to Twitter Best Practices. This should be communicated and endorsed widely to begin to set some standards for acceptable use.

Here is a draft, work in progress, list of Twitter best-practices:


1. DO contribute content of real value to Twitter. These could be useful, clever, entertaining or engaging tweets, and/or they could be links to content that others might enjoy. The best way to get followers, attention and influence on Twitter, is to consistently add content of real value.

2. DO take care of your Twitter karma. In the near future your Twitter karma will be used to filter you and your content in or out of Twitter feeds. So be careful of your karma. More tools are coming out that measure your Twitter karma and score you based on that. Such as:

3. DO design applications that talk to Twitter to be polite. If you are making a Twitter application, or thinking of connecting your application to Twitter, think carefully about what it might do to Twitter if lots of people use it.

  • Don’t make it automatically invite all of your users’ followers – make your each of your users select which followers in particular they want to invite one by one, so they have to think about it first.
  • Don’t make it spew out large volumes of frequent and useless status messages to Twitter (for example, “Sue Smith is now on the NW corner of Park and 32nd Street,” “Sue Smith is now on the NE corner of Park and 32nd Street,” or “Joe the Swordsman just defeated Rick the Wizard in a battle” etc.
  • Don’t make it behave like a bot by autofollowing people and sending them frequent @reply messages etc.
  • Don’t make it send DM’s on behalf of your users, without first warning your users that they are about to send DM’s


1. DON’T use auto-follow. Auto-following rewards spam accounts and bots in Twitter. They simply follow you and you automatically follow them back. Be picky in who you follow. Who you follow reflects on who you are to the rest of the Twitter community.

2. DON’T bribe people in order to get them to follow you. Don’t offer people prizes or rewards of any kind if they follow you, or if you reach a certain number of followers. Twitter can be more than a high-school popularity contest. But that depends on what we focus on as important (number of followers people have is not important and does not accurately reflect their actual value to the network. The number of RT’s a person gets is a much better measure of their value to the network.)

3. DON’T DM people unless you think they should pay to read your message. DM’s go to many people’s mobiles via SMS. For many people, receiving SMS messages costs them money, and in some cases they have limits to the number they can receive. Only send someone a DM if you think it is worth them paying to get the message.

4. DON’T send useless @reply messages to people. Especially people you don’t know. If you send someone an @reply, it should at least be relevant to you and them, and hopefully something they will want to read.

5. DON’T post spam to #hashtags. Hashtags are a public resource and if you spam them you will actually make them so noisy that nobody will use them. If that happens, hashtags will become useless, even for spam. Spaming hashtags is like polluting your own drinking water. Don’t do it.

6. DON’T participate in chain letters. For example “RT this and you will have good luck” – they are simply annoying, result in bad karma, and so will not bring you good luck. For example do NOT participate in #TryThis1—it’s dangerous and must be stopped.

7. DON’T participate in multi-level marketing (MLM) on Twitter. That is not what Twitter is for. If you market something in an overbearing way on Twitter you and everyone downline from you who participates will probably end up losing followers.

8. DON’T advertise directly on Twitter. Instead, if you want people to get attention to yourself, or your product or service, then contribute content with enough value that people will read it. In the course of reading your valuable contributions, people will discover you and/or your product or service.

5 Intermediate Twitter: keeping a healthy balance

The problem with real time live updates is… it’s hard to switch off from them! this article discusses how much time you should spend on Twitter, and suggests tools that help you manage your time well on Twitter each day.

How much time should you spend on twitter every day?

I get asked this all the time and as someone passionate about the keeping my social and business connections alive through platforms like twitter.. I guess I’m an extreme case when I say sometimes I can use twitter up to 3 hours a day.

This is a different question to “How long do you spend online?” As on busier days when involved in projects/blogging etc, I may well be online for 8 hours +

If you asked me how much of this is mobile and how much at a desk you will get different stats again. If I’m in a queue and the people around me are not talkative.. I tweet. If i am a passenger in a car or on public transport and the conversation has hit a lull, I tweet.

Being connected whilst mobile means we are learning to multi-task better than ever before. There is no excuse why you can’t be building your networks, answering queries, learning from others or just being entertained whilst engaged in other activities.

Twitter is only 140 character bursts of information that occasionally require no more than 140 character responses. Sometimes If there is a link to a more in depth blog or video, I click a little button called ‘Read Later’ and the link is saved on my home computer in my instapaper link or on my iphone for later.

If you asked me how much time you needed to put aside to effectively manage a twitter account I would say you can get by on 15 minutes a day. 10 minutes listening and responding in short to a few in your closer network and five minutes engaging with people you don’t normally talk to and telling people what you are up to.

You don’t need to spend hours saying “Check out my blog, check out my blog.” Your blog should be linked in your profile. You just need to be interesting. If you are interesting and engaging people will want to know more.

I will add that the more you put in the more you will get out but there is a cut off point were you will be perceived as a spammer if you are tweeting uninteresting stuff 24/7.

If you can spread this 15 mins over the day dipping in and out you will reach a more varied group of people. I go to my ‘@’ replies before i do anything else and see replying to my ‘@’ replies as important as replying to emails. When it’s required of course.

This 15 mins a day though is just ‘getting by’. If you feel you can spare 40 mins of your day.. do it. This seems to be what most are doing and most are doing just fine.

The larger your network becomes the more time you may find you have to put in.. That said, you may find yourself in your email box a whole lot less and your digital footprint/network growing exponentially… I know I do.

Here is a Poll I threw on posterous to see how much time people are spending using twitter..

How Long Do You Spend On Twitter In A Day? http://j.mp/tweettime

Or you can go straight to the poll here.. http://poll.fm/1d143

6 Becoming expert: developing organisational policies and strategies for Twitter

Katy Beale reveals the strategy and processes she set up at the Tate, which enabled them to become one of the most followed cultural institutions in the world. A fascinating and practical watch!

7 Becoming expert: Twitter lists, coupons, invites, polls, contests, etc.

This article takes a playful look at twitter lists, and considers the pros and cons of setting them up, managing them, and being on them!

Finally, check out 63 Squares, a company that has loads of tools available to help you create coupons, invites, polls, contests, etc.: all on Twitter.

How to be Cooler than a Siberian Sunbather when it comes to Twitter Lists (or Anything Else!).

Picture credit: Lauri Vain “Ice Hole Swimming”

Want a quicker read? Aspin’s essentials version here.

Do you want to be a low value Twitter user?

Are you happy chasing your tail trying to keep up with other not-so-smart people? Do you think there are rules you ought to follow to constantly get more followers? Do you feel frustrated you’ve not been included in this list, or that? Are you content to settle for mediocre at best?

If yes, carry on as you are, there’s nothing more for you here.

How about you go away and find a post that’ll teach you how to automate your Twitter account so you can tweet while you sleep?

If you’re still here, and I suspect my lovely Twitter friends will be, then I’d like to share some ideas that are helping me stay cool, no matter how many lists I DO NOT get on, or however many people DON’T want to follow me!

Because you know what?

None of that stuff really matters!

That’s right. How many followers we have? Not important. How many lists are we are on? Irrelevant!

Why? Because those kinds of measurements, taken on their own, are not the point.

The point is, in my opinion: it’s who we are and what we are doing that matters.

That raises massive questions, and I hope we are working on what they mean for us and how we are responding to them. But they’re the stuff of other posts, whole blogs, academic research papers, books, seminars, PhDs, global think tanks, philosophy, science, religion, psychology, spirituality, social theory, politics, football, shopping, ballroom dancing, and they generate millions of hours of discussions and debates.

Hey, I love all that stuff but really, in this post, I just want to talk about Twitter lists!

Picture credit: Kellan

So here’s a list of thoughts toward reallygood thinking, that’ll help us avoid the “ingredients of FAIL” and get those lists in perspective:

1) Twitter lists are random.

They are arbitrary, subjective, personal, non-personal, thoughtful, stupid, amazing, rubbish, helpful, useless, accurate, wrong, you can go on and on. Go on, pick any words you like!

Lists are built by people and can be about anything people want to put in them! People have flaws, misunderstandings, insights, passions, they are lazy, full of ideas, egos, agendas, kindness, nastiness, greatness, hot air, world-changing actions, you can go on and on. Go on, pick any words you like!

2) If you are on one list and feel great about it, you’ll soon find you’ve not been included in another and might not feel so good!

How crazy to invest that kind of power in something external, something over which you have absolutely zero control. Yes, you can start a campaign to ingratiate yourself to those so-called influential people who create the most highly regarded lists, but even then, you may not be included!

3) Lists may be useful, but I suspect some will simply use them as yet another status, or lack of status, metric.

I know there may be some who regard the number of followers someone has as the defining factor in measuring or determining that person’s importance, influence, social value etc. I suspect those people will also regard the number of lists one is on to represent the same.

This attitude is a sure fire way to reinforce what contemporary philosopher Alain de Botton calls “status anxiety”: just another thing to use to compare ourselves with others and check where we feel we come in our perceived rankings.

4) To be included, or not to be included, is important, or not important, depending on who is doing the including, or the not including, whichever you choose!

If someone created a list called “most beautiful runners who have lost 20 per cent of their body weight since taking up the sport” (imagine you could have a title that long!) and I wasn’t included, would I be bothered? Too right I would – IF it was created by my mates in the local athletics club. But if it was originated by @fatarizonarunner then I’d not be too upset being left out.

The thing is, we often have expectations about how we want others to perceive us. We sometimes think folk should understand things about us, they should recognise our achievements, immediately see what makes us so worthy, and they should include us because compared to others on their lists, we are just as good, if not better!

Again, this kind of thinking gets us nowhere. It’s futile. It doesn’t help us. It presupposes a world in which all facts, interpretation of facts, subjective judgements and understanding, are put into the mix and out pops a perfectly formed, fully comprehensive assessment of us and everyone else, and that sparks appropriate choices and actions.

What kind of universe do we think we are living in?

5) So much stuff that affects our lives is random, accidental, flawed.

Get over it!

Let’s be grateful (at least most of us reading this) we were not born on a rubbish dump in some sh** hole with no one to feed us, care for us, or help us grow up and have a decent life.

Being as cool as a Siberian sunbather is partly about getting things into proper perspective.

Picture credit: Lauri Vain

Here’s a list of thoughts toward reallygood thinking, that’ll help us move beyond caring about what lists we are on, or not on:

1) It’s not about you (or me). It’s about “we”. So think-with!

I found a chapter called “It’s not about you” in Dan Pink’s great little book, “The Adventures of Johnny Bunko: The Last Career Guide You’ll Ever Need”. In it, the main character, Johnny, has to learn that essentially business, and life, are about being here to serve, not to self-actualise. The lesson is that most successful people improve their own lives by improving others’ lives.

That can mean lots of things but generally, if we focus, not on Twitter lists, but on serving others, helping, creating value, then we are going to win. As self-help chap Zig Ziglar says “You can get everything you want in life if you will just help enough other people to get what they want”. And recently, I heard Professor Srikumar S. Rao say “in a me centred universe you’ll have more than your fair share of anxiety”. You’ll find more of what he said here.

So, let’s try to be a bit less selfish. This might help.

2) If we build lives based on our inner values, a sense of meaning and purpose, we won’t be pushed around so much.

If our goal is just to get external recognition or approval (eg. being in the “right” Twitter lists), we are on shaky ground. We may get it, but it won’t last, it seldom does. It blows hot and cold.

Personally, I love it when people like my stuff. It’s great when they say how much they’ve benefited from one thing or another, and I do feel good when people say nice things about me or the projects I’m involved in. Of course, it’s great to be included in so many Twitter lists, especially ones created by great people who put me in with some of the most interesting world-changing people!

I acknowledge that, but I know it’s not enough, and nor should it be! And no disrespect or ingratitude to anyone, in the scheme of things, I really don’t care if I’m on your list or not, even if you are one of the most impressive thought leaders on the planet right now!

So, to be truly successful, our sense of meaning and purpose must be far bigger than our capacity, or need, for external approval, and we must try to keep it that way.

3) Lists (approval) might make us subjectively happy for a moment, but there’s a much greater experience, and it comes through finding, and serving, something much bigger than ourselves.

It’s not so much “what” that thing is, we just need to have it. It may be something good, or bad, the effect is the same, it gives us meaning. Dr. Martin Seligman, a professor at the University of Pennsylvania and a founder of the “positive psychology” movement describes the ultimate state of human happiness as “knowing your highest strengths and deploying them in the service of something larger than you are”.

Once we have that, we’re on our way folks! Being on or off a list will make no difference at all when we are that clear. We can focus on this higher meaning and nothing will be too big a challenge.

4) Surprising things, people, resources can appear and help us get where we want to go, even if the people we think we need most don’t know us or care about us!

It’s great when the people with power to help us decide to do so. It feels good when a respected leader in our industry or area of interest knows us and acknowledges our greatness and contribution with a place in their list called “top 100 potato growers in the world”.


Don’t you know, with all this digital connectedness, we can forget their list, or anyone else’s, and help people around us. Sooner, if not later, someone will see that and do something good for us. Our skills, talents, ideas, love, kindness, friendship, can be discovered and appreciated by zillions of folk all over the globe, regardless of anyone’s subjective approval of us! Point made!

5) Let’s build our own lists.

I don’t mean a Twitter list! I’m talking about something much more helpful and important.

Let’s build great lists of positive stuff that’ll keep us on track even when the external signs suggests we’re having a tough time.

A few ideas our own lists could include:
* Stuff that matters to you most. Outline a picture of the direction you want your life to take. Note what gives you a sense of meaning and purpose.

* Great qualities you naturally have that’ll help you on your way. You are kind, caring, a good people person. You’re great with kids, fab with figures, whatever.

* Someone, somewhere, cares about you, no matter what. Make a list of those caring people (if you can’t think of anyone, that’s a shame, but if you really can’t, then focus showing your care to someone else).

* List people you really care about, you don’t have to know them personally.

* You’ve beaten the crap out of problems in the past, you can do it again. Make a list of your wins and how it felt.

* Think of things that have worked well for you, given you strength, made you grow. Write them down.

* Say thanks to the most important people in your life right now. Write down who makes the biggest contribution to you and think of a way to let them know you appreciate it.

* Ignore the small, irritating stuff, and focus on creating lists around the big stuff that matters (or the small stuff that matters).

Those were just a few examples of where we might start. But I promise you, if we put this Twitter list thing into proper perspective, we really will stay cooler than a Siberian sunbather, and we might even be happier too.

I love it that you bothered to read this post. I hope you enjoyed it and found it helpful, thanks! I always like to know what you think. What’s your attitude to these lists? Are they another status, or lack of status, symbol? What have you discovered about having a big vision or sense of meaning and purpose> Any tips? See you in the comments. Oh yea, on Twitter, I’m ianaspin Much love, Ian.

8 Expert: Evaluating and tracking success

While cultural managers are increasingly interested in showing evidence of online success, funding agencies and government departments currently lack the expertise to offer guidelines or set standards for measurement. For many organisations this results in a confusing mixture of statistics and reporting which is time-consuming to provide and reveals little about online user behaviour, engagement and satisfaction. This is an issue faced by all parts of the cultural sector. Organisations regularly invest in cultural websites, social media activities and online services without a clear idea of what these services are trying to achieve, or their intended audience.

The brilliant Culture 24 project which works with UK Galleries, Libraries, Archives and Museums (GLAMs!) worked with 17 organisations to develop effective ways to define, measure and evaluate the success of online activities. The result was an insight into the place where many of the UK’s GLAMs currently are when it comes to understanding and making use of the data they collect from their online activities.

The real insights lie not in the tools or platforms, but in the shift in thinking that needs to happen at a deep level within every cultural organisation. Lessons can be learned through careful analysis of the data against each organisation’s primary objectives.

The report focuses on tools such as Google Analytics, Hitwise, Klout and Twitterific and looks at the social media platforms of Facebook, Twitter and YouTube. These platforms were chosen because they currently dominate the social space, but it does not mean that other channels are not relevant or should be ignored.

The report provides an insight into the way cultural organisations should go about trying to measure the success of their business online and challenges the assumption that simply counting total visitor numbers or ‘likes’ really tells us anything meaningful at all.

And here’s links to the other useful resources:

Social media metrics toolkit – A framework suggesting ways to make use of your social media metrics.

Social media tools comparison – A comparison of the tools that can be used to track diffident different social media channels.