At the time of my research Museum of London (MOL) had a Facebook fan page that users of Facebook who were interested in MOL could join as a ‘fan’. MOL also had two ‘groups’ for users interested in the MOL late events that run on the first Thursdays of every month in both MOL locations (London Wall and Docklands).
On Facebook, MOL could send emails to all the members of MOL Facebook groups and send update alerts to all MOL Facebook fans.
I created a survey that was posted as an email to the members of the MOL Facebook groups, and it was also added as an update alert on the MOL Facebook fan page. (Information about my research methodology and the full survey can be seen in my last post). The survey was available for three weeks and in that time, 46 people completed the survey, of which, 45 were genuine responses.
MOL had been on Facebook for a year and at the time of the survey, had 369 people joined to its Facebook group ‘late at Museum of London’ and 155 people on its ‘late at Museum of London Docklands’ group. It also had 721 people joined as ‘fans’ of MOL.
Though the total number of members across all groups and fan page was 1245, many of the same people were joined to more than one of the above, and some were joined to all three.
So with the total number of members at 1245, and 45 respondents, in effect 3.6% of all members responded, not taking into account that many of the members may be joined to more than one group and/or the fan page, which would have meant that a higher percentage of members had responded.
How members were distributed over MOL on Facebook
It can be seen from the below graph (figure 1) that of the people who responded, the percentage of those signed up to the three different Facebook pages roughly mirrored that of the actual figures (721 fans, 369 members on late at MOL and 155 members on Late at MOL Docklands).
Figure 1: Members signed up to each MOL page on Facebook
Keeping in touch through Facebook
I wanted to know whether people actually visited the Facebook pages, and posed a question on this. The response to was that only 37% of the members visited fairly regularly (monthly, weekly, or daily), but of the remaining 63% of members, 47% visited the pages less than once a month, whilst 16% did not visit the pages at all.
These figures, however, were not quite accurate. First because the scope provided in my survey, between ‘less than once a month’ and ‘not since first joined’ is so large, but also because I did not factor in the question for whether members visited the pages if prompted with an email or alert. This is more evident through the fact that when asked when Facebook emails or alerts were sent out, were they read (figure 2), 67% of members said they read the emails and 53% said they checked the alerts, whilst a further 29% said they sometimes read the emails and 33% said they sometimes checked the alerts. Therefore, the percentage of people who did not actually read the emails or check the alerts was minimal.
Figure 2: Members who read the Facebook emails and alerts
In addition, I had to bear in mind the comment made by one responded that may have been true of other members on Facebook:
“This questionnaire asks ‘How often do you check your Museum of London Facebook pages?’ I selected ‘Have not visited since joining groups or becoming a fan’ because I don’t proactively visit pages. I only go in response to emails or other notifications from the page owner.”
Many other respondents made similar claims, where they said they “don’t think to go there unless prompted”, and because “I haven’t looked at the page on my own initiative but I like getting messages about events because I don’t have much time to look myself”.
Does Facebook encourage visit to MOL or MOL websites?
Of those people who responded, the number of visits made to MOL website was very high. 86% of all members visited MOL website as a direct result of MOL’s presence on Facebook (figure 3). Given that there are 1245 members on MOL Facebook pages, it could be said that it is equivalent to 1071 new visitors visiting MOL website as a result.
The visits to MOL and MOL Docklands are on a lesser scale, though it still shows 46% of members having visited the museums. If we carry that across all MOL Facebook members as above, 46% who may visit MOL or MOL Docklands will equates to 458 new visitors walking through the doors.
Figure 3: Members who visited MOL website, or MOL or MOL Docklands because of MOL presence on Facebook
If we look at the specific visits for actual late events advertised in the Facebook groups, it shows that 18% of members attended an event due to the fact that MOL had a presence on Facebook (figure 4).
Figure 4: Members who attended the late events because of MOL presence on Facebook
From the comments I received from the survey, it becomes apparent that some members think it is “useful to find out about lates” and that updates keep them “in the know about happenings at the Museum”. One respondent said “I find it useful to know what’s going on – even if at the moment I keep failing to get there!”
It was interesting to find that many members do not live in London but enjoy hearing about what the Museum is up to and what they can do if they decide to visit London. From this I concluded that though a presence on Facebook will result in some specific visits to MOL events, the members on Facebook do not see it as an invitation to attend but rather as a place to get information about recent changes and updates to keep them informed about MOL.
How visitors learned about MOL and MOL on Facebook
To find out whether Facebook increased awareness of MOL, especially if they have never heard of MOL before, and therefore, can be classed as new audience, I asked how people learned about MOL as well as how they found out about MOL on Facebook.
The below graph (figure 5) shows that in fact, 22 people (43%) who had signed up to one or more of the MOL Facebook pages, were already aware of MOL because they had visited it in the past. A further 20% found out about MOL from friends, and 12% of the respondents actually worked for MOL. In reality, only 4% of respondents learned about MOL through Facebook – so Facebook did not reach out significantly to a whole new audience in the traditional sense – that of acquiring new audience in a new way that have never heard of MOL before.
On the other hand, 40% of respondents learned about MOL on Facebook through Facebook. This did not come as a surprise to me as I was aware that at the time of research, MOL Facebook pages were not advertised and only appeared in a single page on the MOL website, buried within the site, and therefore, the possibility of members signing up via MOL website was small.
Figure 5: How visitors learned about MOL and MOL on Facebook
Looking at the graph, there appears to be similar reasons behind how people learned about MOL Facebook pages as they did with MOL itself, and those reasons appear to be through friends and for having visited MOL in the past.
How useful Facebook visitors found the MOL presence on Facebook
As I wanted to find out whether the MOL presence on Facebook was thought of as ‘useful’ by members who have signed up, I requested that respondents rate how useful they thought MOL on Facebook was. The result (figure 6) was that the majority (38%) of the answers given fell in the ‘neutral’ zone (3/5) although no one rated it as least useful (1/5).
Figure 6: How useful members found the MOL presence on Facebook
This didn’t actually tell me much about ‘what’ they found useful or not useful and it was entirely due to the fact that I had not defined ‘useful’. However, there were some very interesting comments that accompanied this rating. See some comments below:
“It seems that people dealing with it, are just bored and do it because they have to do it”.
“Because I live in the north and it is easy to keep up to date with goings on Facebook because I am always on here!”
“I think their website is the best resource but I’m glad to see them on Facebook as well.”
“Notification of events at MOL is brilliant”
“It’s easier to engage with as opposed to visiting a website”
“I’d not know about the events otherwise”
One respondent noted that other museums provided more updates, by which, it was implied that MOL was not providing enough updates and perhaps should do more to make it useful. On the other hand, another respondent said that “you do it well and you don’t spam”, which implied that MOL got the right balance in frequency of alerts and emails.
This was an interesting point as social software tools can be used either as a social networking tool, or as a publishing tool by organisations to communicate information to users and members of Facebook can fall into either category.
To make sure people in both categories received the right level of information and interaction is difficult to get right. If regular updates are made and alerts and emails are sent, there is the possibility of irritating some users who may decide to remove themselves from the MOL Facebook pages. On the other hand, if enough updates are not sent, encouraging users to engage with MOL, the members who wish for more interaction will be bored and detached from MOL activities and may also choose to leave.
The challenge is to make sure that members in both categories were not alienated, and that everyone gets something out of the MOL presence on Facebook. The solution may simply be to ask visitors how frequently members wish to learn about particular events, exhibitions or museum news, and categorise them and only send regular updates to these people, for the specific type of update they signed up for.
In total, the number of positive comments outweighed the number of negative comments by 1 to 5, and thus it could be said that on the whole, Facebook members found the MOL presence on Facebook useful, but MOL could do more to improve its communications. Conversely, it could be said that as the respondents choose to answer the survey, they may have already felt positive towards MOL and thus skew the results. In fact, the results could be biased simply because those who did not respond may have felt negatively about MOL and its presence on Facebook but decided not to contribute towards any MOL activities.
Nonetheless, given that not all responses proved to be positive, it could be said that the set sample of responses is still representative of the population and the result can still be assumed to represent all members.
Despite the rating of the usefulness of MOL Facebook pages by the respondents being mostly ‘neutral’, there was a unanimous agreement from the respondents that MOL should continue to use Facebook.
A comment that followed the question of whether respondents thought MOL should continue to use Facebook was “why not?” If MOL were looking for an argument for not using Facebook as a means to communicate to a wider audience, then the above unanimous response defeats this. As one respondent commented, “it’s a very economical means of mass communication and reaches a “young” sector of the potential audience.” And as many respondents pointed out in various ways, “a LOT of people use Facebook!”
Perhaps the success behind having a presence on Facebook relies on the fact that “most people don’t have time to check multiple websites” and “it’s good to offer multiple ways for people to get information about your museum and events”.