How to evaluate success online?

This was Culture24′s first action research project and took place from June 2010 to September 2011.

Developing effective ways to define, measure and evaluate the success of online activities 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.

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.

Co-ordinated and led by Cuture24, the project addressed these issues and actively involved 17 different UK cultural venues, five agencies and a university. The result is a final report entitled ‘Let’s Get Real’ published on September 20 2011. Links to download this and other associated resources are at the bottom of this page.

The budget for the project was only £29,000, but it was made possible by the willingness and enthusiasm of the project team and the participants to share data, experience and resources openly in order to improve the effectiveness of their digital output.

The result was an insight into the place where many of the UK’s leading cultural  organisations currently are when it comes to understanding and making use of the data they collect from their online activities.

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 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 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.

“It has provided concrete evidence that the changes we’re making to the way in which we report our metrics internally and to external stakeholders are in line with the rest of the sector”

National Maritime Museum


We’re hoping that the project – conducted in conjunction with a PhD scholarship at the University of Leicester – will revolutionise the way the sector thinks about its digital output, the audiences it reaches and the ways in which we measure our success online.

Download the report and other useful resources

Download the report in colour or black and white. Hard copies are available upon request from Culture24.

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 identified during the project that can be used to track diffident different social media channels

Google Analytics health checklist - How to check your own GA set-up

Basic user segments and Advance user segments - These are the user segments developed collaboratively as part of the project that you can download and apply to your own GA account