Part one of our two-part interview on the evolution of Glasgow Film with Margaret Smith (Marketing and Press Co-ordinator), Gavin Crosby (Design and Digital Co-ordinator) and Sean Greenhorn (Programme Manager)covered how the Glasgow Film Theatre not only endures but thrives in such a competitive space; their selection process, the Glasgow Film Festival and what the future may hold.

Part two looks at how they position the brand - both from a traditional and a digital perspective - and how they manage their prolific social media activity across multiple channels. The team provided an interesting insight into how the message is adapted to suit each channel, as well as how their digital presence may develop. 

So turn off the lights, turn off your phone, put your feet up and enjoy part two of our long read on the evolution of Glasgow Film! 

What were the main objectives when redeveloping your website at the end of 2016, and which challenges did you encounter?

Gavin: The website needed an upgrade for about five years and couldn't cope with what we needed it to do.

Our digital partner did pretty well in taking our values and trying to convey them on the website. We wanted to depict the cinematic nature of GFT, which is why we went with large imagery on the homepage to make it feel cinematic. The purpose of the website first and foremost is to sell tickets, and it does that. Also, to tell the story – to make people feel welcome and get them engaged.

The biggest challenge was the navigation and the layout. Attempting to convey information clearly and quickly, while making it easy for people who want to dig deeper and find out more. We have a lot of content to go through!

For example, if you put up a festival programme and have to talk about everything that goes with it; plus engage in the community with blogs etc, it's a lot to take in. That was a big challenge. Also, limited budget!

Has the new website been a success?

Margaret: Selling tickets is so much easier. There aren't issues with checkouts like before.

We've seen from Analytics there is a lot more traffic. Some months it has doubled or tripled. People are using it more than they used the old site which is nice to see. The hope was that there would be no dead ends, and that people would be encouraged to read through and see what else we have.

Gavin: The number of complaints about the website have reduced dramatically, especially during festival time and I'm really happy with it!

In terms of general promotion, which methods of digital and traditional marketing do you tend to deploy, and what has worked well for you?

Margaret: We do a mix of digital and traditional and we find that our audience - the GFT loyal - like the brochure. They like the traditional methods – they like to pick it up and circle it and fold pages. The brochure does work really well for us but there are things that we know are more for an online audience. For example, for certain films and events we'll create a Facebook event because that's where tickets will sell. If it has been in the brochure for two weeks it doesn't matter. It's interesting – it depends on the programing, the films, and the events as to what works and what doesn't.

Gavin: It's the same with the festival. I think the festival audience are more up for doing it digitally – online or on their mobile or whatever. We can't get rid of the print for the festival, as there's too much to do online. You need to have a physical presence. For GFT and GFF we're not going to get rid of print any time soon but we're aware more people are using digital platforms. We want to make sure that's well covered. It's a mix.

Is there a difference in the channels you use or engagement within those channels during and out with events?

Gavin and Margaret: Yes!

Gavin: They are different audiences and they engage with you in a different way. In terms of channels, it is the same channels really, but the festival has a less formal voice. The tone of it is less formal. People will come from further afield to the festival because of the nature of it.

Sean: At the festival a lot of the conversation is around being there – being at the event. Whereas the conversation during the general GFT programme is more about the film(s). They are one-offs. We spend a lot of time and money making them special and that's what we want the audience to take away with them. It's not that we don't do that normally at GF – it's just more money is spent on that at the festival.

Margaret: We have a mix of the brochure and online activity all year round. When it comes to digital, we don't get to produce as much content for certain social channels year round, e.g. Instagram, but generally it's the same mix.

At special events people are taking pictures of themselves and their surroundings, which is something that doesn’t really happen at GFT year round.

What about paid campaigns?

Gavin: It's more concentrated for the festival because it's for a set time. You have the lead in, then the festival itself. Although, we definitely do paid campaigns for year round stuff as well. It really depends what's on in the programme and whether we think that's worth putting money behind.

Sean: There are more resources for the festival – in terms of cash and bodies. Our team triples during the festival, so there are more people doing it. We have people working purely on digital content and that makes a massive difference.

Out with the festival, what's the criteria for warranting an extra push?

Gavin: It's a case by case sort of thing. We'll push one off events online. If something isn't doing as well as we think it could or should do, we may put more effort into it. Sometimes you put something on and it just goes by itself. You've done virtually nothing and it's sold out!

Sean: A lot of the seasons we curate ourselves get additional promotion – whereas the new Christopher Nolan film (Dunkirk), not as much, as that had enough marketing behind it.

Have you noticed any positive ongoing impact as a result of increased brand awareness during events and festivals, or does it go back to business as usual?

Gavin: Probably the latter. It just depends. The GFT takes control of the building after the festival. If the programme is strong, as it often is, then audiences will come back again.

Sean: Our audiences have increased since the festival started and the age of the audience has dropped so much because of the festival and events. There is added engagement. Sometimes we do events and brand them as GFF, and that on its own gives them an extra push. It's exciting and a stamp of quality.

Margaret: It’s something people know. They know GFF and they trust it. It makes a difference.

You're pretty active on social media, but which channels work best for you?

Margaret: It's varies depending on the films we're promoting. For example, we were doing a Calamity Jane singalong and it was Facebook heavy. It was very much a people tagging event and it sold itself. We knew by creating that event it was done, and therefore we didn't really need to schedule anything in on Twitter.

What do you think is the flavour of each channel?

Gavin: On Twitter, people want to have a conversation with you directly and they'll ask questions and expect answers. On Facebook you don't get that as much. It's more about raising awareness.

How far ahead do you plan your social media content and how do you manage your day to day activity?

Margaret: We try to plan as far in advance as we can – knowing which things are going to work on certain channels. Although it can be a day by day thing. We spend an hour in the morning scheduling and then monitor it throughout the day. However, that can change. For example, when we recently announced a new screening of 'The Big Sick' we didn't have any prior warning, and so we added it in to the schedule.

If there is a big event coming up, would you wait until the day before or that morning to schedule in the post, rather than scheduling it in advance?

Margaret: It depends. It's great to be able to schedule things in but it depends what that channel is talking about and how it's looking that day. If people aren't interested in certain things, there's no point scheduling something in to say "look at this".

Is it about social listening? About tapping into whatever conversations or trends are happening based on the offering you have at that time?

Margaret: Yes, I think specifically on Twitter it is about that conversation. We don't want to be shoving things in people's faces. We'll schedule things in if we know things are happening, like tickets going on sale for something, then there will be scheduled tweets to promote that, but generally we try to have more of a casual conversational tone.

Which content works well for you, elicits more engagement and resonates more with your audience?

Margaret: It depends on the film and the programme. We try to post as many videos as possible, as we know that's really good content for us, and people really react to it. However, it is dependent on the film and what content we have for which film. Sometimes you don't get the same material for one film as you get for another.

If something doesn't generate the engagement we expect, we try to learn why. It's worth looking at why it didn't work and whether we can change it so that it does work in the future.

Have you posted enough content on each channel that you know the best day or time to put out certain types of content to maximise engagement, or is it more fluid than that for your audience?

Margaret: It's the same across the board. Everyone knows people are online more during the commute, during lunchtime and late at night. Our audience are on the same time as that. However, there's an argument to say there is less competition on these channels if you post at different times, so if you post at 3pm when everyone else posts at 5pm – is that hitting your audience or not? That's something we are experimenting with.

How do you do handle day to day positive or negative feedback online?

Margaret: We get back to people as soon as we can on our social channels and have an automatic reply on for out of hours. We try to be polite, hear them out and if they have a complaint we investigate it further if it warrants it. A comment or question could be really important and lead to improvements in how we do things. It's polite to respond and look into a complaint or suggestion.

Gavin: One of the ways we try to differentiate ourselves from other cinemas is with quality of service. That also applies to social media.

Are there any channels you'd like to make more of, or new channels you see yourself using in the future?

Margaret: We want to grow Instagram year round. We use it for the festival and it's really good for the festival because there's great content. We're trying to grow it and get different content for year round, but we don't see a new channel that's worth the investment. Like Snapchat for example – our audience aren't on Snapchat. We don't have the time, the budget or the people to invest in something like that. It's a balance and I don't think there is a new channel for us right now.

How do you think your digital offering may develop from here?

Gavin: We'll keep working on the website and we have a few upgrades to do over the next few months. The hope is to grow our own video content. Maybe do introductions for programmes or seasons, or this month's brochure. Here's a rundown of the highlights – this is stuff you can't find elsewhere. We're hoping to do more of that sort of thing.

Sean: There was a VR experience that went with a film last year called 'Notes on blindness'. The film was about a blind man and the tech was exploring what that's like. To get that sensory deprivation and it worked really well. The problem is limited space in the building, so we had to do it in the Café across the road – Project Café. With the festival there is more scope to do that type of thing and we're definitely looking at it.

For the Short Film Festival, they had a VR strand but it had to happen off site. We're a cinema and first and foremost, and that's what we focus on, but if we can support it with other tech then that's great.

Margaret: We're also looking in to potentially live streaming sold out events.

Okay, to finish off we can't let you go without asking you about your favourite films! What are they?

Margaret: I knew this was coming!

Gavin: I'll just say this year! I loved 'I am not your negro' – a documentary about civil rights. Really excellently put together. I really enjoyed 'Moonlight' and 'Manchester by the sea' too.

Margaret: I loved 'La la land'! 'Catfight' was the highlight of the festival! 'Salt and Fire' too – the Werner Herzog film. I went to see that and thought it's a cinema experience film.

Sean: Favourite films? Okay, I’ll go this year. I think 'Moonlight' was fantastic, as well as 'The salesman' and 'A ghost story' – the new David Lowery film. The screening I watched it in was split. Every second person either loved it or hated it. I loved it, so I'm keen to argue with some people about how good it is!

Many thanks to Margaret, Gavin and Sean for being so generous with their time and for providing such an interesting behind the scenes insight. 

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