Thursday, December 11, 2014

Encouraging Your App Subscribers to Get Social

The Social screen in your mobile app's At-The-Event module enables your app subscribers to post photos and text messages about the event and respond to each other's content.  The Social screen aggegates posts from the In-app form as well as posts to Instagram and Twitter featuring the event's hashtag.

To post to the Social screen, the app subscriber taps on the pencil icon and selects the platform they would like to use to share their content.

Example: The Social screen for Berkeley Repertory Theatre's production of Party People.
Simply providing the tool, however, does not mean that your app subscribers will use it.  So how can you encourage your audience to engage via social media when they are at your performance?

Put Your Patrons in the Picture 


Culture Track 2014 recently surveyed patrons to determine how they use their mobile devices while attending cultural events.  The most popular activities among respondents were taking photos (66%) and sharing photos (47%).  Some arts organizations are rightfully concerned about copyright issues and the potential for disrupting a performance.  So, here are some ideas for encouraging photo taking and sharing while simultaneously protecting copyright and the integrity of the live performance.
  • Selfie Campaigns - "Selfies" are photographs that mobile users take of themselves and their friends using their smartphones or tablets. Selfie campaigns have emerged among arts organizations as a way to galvanize social media participation among audiences.  Selfie campaigns encourage patrons to take photos of themselves and their friends at your event and post it to social media with a corresponding hashtag.
    • Both Twitter and Instagram allow mobile users to post pictures from their devices, which makes it easy for your app subscribers to post photos to the Social screen.
    • Promote the selfie campaign on-site with signage in public spaces and a mention in your printed program  
    • Promote the selfie campaign within the app by (1) using the Spotlight Text area on the Info screen, (2) including it as one of the items in Things to Know (see the example below), and/or (3) linking from the Info screen to a custom tab describing the campaign.
    • Consider incentivizing selfie campaigns by offering participants a chance to win a backstage tour, a chance to meet the artists, tickets to upcoming shows, etc.
Detroit Symphony Orchestra incentivized participation in their selfie campaign by offering
participants the chance to win a VIP table for 4 at an upcoming event.
  • Selfie Stations - Take your selfie campaign to the next level by setting up "selfie stations" where patrons are encouraged to take pictures of themselves and their friends with artists, background images, or props featured in the event.

    Example: For their production of A Christmas Story, The Musical, Dallas Summer Musicals created a selfie station with a cardboard cut-out of the character Ralphie and the show's iconic leg-shaped lamp.  The station also featured a background with DSM's logo.
Audience members took pictures with a cardboard cut-out of the main character and an iconic
prop at the Dallas Summer Musical's production of A Christmas Story, The Musical.
  • Volunteer Selfie Takers - Sometimes, it's difficult to get a great photo when you have to hold the camera yourself.  Help your patrons get the best possible photo at your event by providing volunteer selfie takers.  
    • They are responsible for offering to take pictures of patrons using the audience member's mobile device and encouraging patrons to post their photos to Twitter or Instagram with the events hashtag.
    • Position volunteers at selfie stations, near iconic artwork in the venue, or roaming throughout public areas before the performance, during intermission, and after the show.
    • Provide volunteers with buttons, T-shirts, hats, or some other item clearly marking them as a "Volunteer Selfie Taker."
    • By using a term like "selfie taker" or "photo taker," you reduce any expection  for the volunteers to be professional photographers.

Let the Audience Guide the Conversation


  • Invite Questions - For most live performances, the audience does not have an opportunity to directly engage with the artists.  The Social screen can serve to facilitate conversation between artists and your patrons by inviting app subscribers to submit questions for artists to answer. 
    • The questions may be answered directly by the artist within the app or during a live post-performance Q&A session.
    • Use signage in public spaces and a mention in the printed program to invite patrons to download your app and submit their questions.
    • Within the app, use the Spotlight Text area on the Info screen or an item in Things to Know to invite your app subscribers to submit their questions.
Austin Symphony Orchestra displays slides on digital screens in the lobby to invite patrons
to download the ASO app to chat with Maestro Bay and musicians.

A second slide provides instructions for downloading the app and using the Social screen.

During intermission, Maestro Bay answers questions directly within the ASO app.

  • Tweet Seats - In recent years, many performing arts organizations have experimented with "tweat seats" - a section of the audience (usually the back row or upper balcony) where audience members are encouraged to converse with one another during the performance via social media.  The Social screen is a great tool for facilitating this form of interactive engagement.
    • Some organizations set aside tweet seats for each performance. Others restrict tweet seats to specific performances.  
    • Still other organizations like Opera Omaha offer tweet seats to the final dress rehearsal for a production.
    • If you are interested in trying tweet seats at your events, the Arts Management & Technology Lab published an article earlier this year highlighting lessons learned from their experiment with Carnegie Mellon University's School of Music.

Give Them a Chance to Win


  • Incentives - One tactic for spurring more participation in the Social area of your app is to include an incentive for patrons.  With an incentive, the patron becomes eligible for a reward by simply engaging in the desired behavior. 
    • For example: In exchange for sharing a selfie or submitting a question, participants become eligible to win two tickets to an upcoming show.  
    • Tickets are one possible incentive, but not the only viable one.  You could offer a chance to win a backstage tour, a free drink from the concession stand, , etc. Get creative!
    • Reward recipients are often chosen by pulling participant names from a hat or a similarly randomized process.
    • Another variation is to provide the reward to all participants.  For example: Everyone who submits questions to the event's hashtag is invited to a reception with the artist after the post-performance Q&A session.

  • Contests - Take things up a notch by including a contest in the Social area.  Contests differ from incentives in that they include a competitive element.  Contests may be formal or informal in structure.  
    • An informal contest has a subjective judging process.  For example: Audience members stop by the selfie station in the lobby before the performance and during intermission to take pictures of themselves with a violin.  Guest artist Joshua Bell selects his favorite selfie at the end of the night, and the winner receives dinner for two from a local partner restaurant.
    • A formal contest has more objective criteria for determining a winner.  For example: Patrons are invited to download the app and take part in a trivia contest during intermission. A staff member posts a series of trivia questions on the Social screen. For each question, the first app user to post the correct answer wins an invitation to a backstage tour after the show.

Monday, November 24, 2014

Tips for Promoting Your Mobile App, Part 2: Encouraging Downloads When Patrons Attend Events

In part 1 of this blog series, we shared some tips for encouraging your patrons to download your mobile app when they are not at a performance.  So what can you do to encourage your audience to download your app when they are attending one of your performances?

Curtis Institute of Music displays
this six-foot retractable banner
in the lobby at performances.
 

6 Tips for promoting downloads when the audience is at your event or performance


1. Spotlight your app on the back of tickets or ticket envelopes to be picked up on-site.
  • Include the app logo and a brief description of the app's value.
  • Highlight the Smart App Download URL.
  • Add a QR Code linked to the Smart App Download URL.
    [How-to video]
2. Display signs and/or banners strategically throughout the venue.
  • Include screenshots from the app, the logo, and a brief description of the app's value.
  • Highlight the Smart App Download URL.
  • Add a QR Code linked to the Smart App Download URL.
  • Consider placing signs in areas where patrons are more likely to congregate: seating areas in the lobby, concessions, coat check, merchandise table, etc.
  • If you will need to move the signage regularly, retractable banners are a portable, self-contained option.   
3. Pass out promotional cards to attendees in the lobby.  
  • Choose a strong screenshot for the front of the card.  
    • If you are promoting the overall value of the app, then highlighting the home screen may work well.
    • If you are promoting the special content available in the app for performances, then you may want to print small batches of cards.  With each new batch, the front of the card can be changed to the landing screen for that performance's At The Event content.
  • On the back of the card, emphasize the value of the app for patrons attending your event and provide instructions for downloading.
    • Include the Smart App Download URL.
    • Add a QR Code linked to the Smart App Download URL.
  • Encourage the card holder to opt-in for your push notifications by emphasizing how they will benefit from receiving those messages.
    • Partners who communicate the type of content they send via push notifications prior to the app download see a higher opt-in rate than those who do not.
Kennesaw State University's School of Music hands out
promotional cardsfor their mobile app.

4. Present slides on digital screens in the lobby or projected in the performance hall.
  • Include a screenshot or the app logo, as well as a description of how they will benefit from downloading the app.
  • Highlight instructions for downloading the app and/or provide the Smart App Download URL.
  • Since these are usually timed slides, there is no need to include a QR code.
The Ford Center for the Performing Arts projects slides on the overhead
screen in the performance hall to prompt app downloads.

5. Highlight your mobile app with an ad or an insert in your printed program.
  • If you are using a full-page ad or insert, include a compelling screenshot from the app.  If you are going with a smaller ad or insert, use the app logo.
  • Include a brief description of the app's value.
  • Feature the Smart App Download URL.
  • Add a QR code linked to the Smart App Download URL.
Austin Symphony Orchestra advertises their mobile app and its performance-specific
content with a full-page ad in their printed programs.

6. Mention your mobile app in stage announcements.
  • You can do this while simultaneously asking the audience to turn off their mobile devices.
  • For example:  "We hope that you used our mobile app to access the special content available for tonight's show.  If you have not, see page 5 in the program for information on how to download the app during intermission.  At this time, however, we ask that you turn off all mobile devices or set them to silent mode."
  • Don't be afraid to guide the audience's behavior toward acceptable mobile etiquette in your venue.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Promoting Your Mobile Apps - Partner Spotlight: Dallas Summer Musicals

Today we have the pleasure of highlighting one of our newest partners, Dallas Summer Musicals.  This is a well establish theatre organization with 75 years of experience which produces performances throughout the year.

They are also one of our newer partners, with their Apps being published just one month ago.  In this short time, they have seen an App adoption rate for both iOS and Android that is a factor of 10 higher than some other similar sized arts organizations, and even higher than some larger organizations. What is their secret?

Example: Android downloads over a one month period


The key is simple: Communication.

I reached out to them to find out what specific steps they have taken in promoting their app to their audience:

  • Promoted the App on Facebook, Twitter, and other social platforms.
  • Included links on the footer of their website and marketing emails.
  • Advertised along side of their Season Tickets.
  • Updated their previous App to promote the new App with download links.
  • Sent special email announcement to one of their audience lists with over 50,000 contacts.

They were also gracious enough to let us in on some of their plans for the future:

  • Remind patrons to download the app, emphasizing the At-The-Event content, when sending out performance reminder emails.
  • Planning to produce a one minute (or less) introduction video about the App that will play in the lobby and in the theater before performances
  • Offer business cards in the venue to further promote the app

Dallas Summer Musicals App Promotion Card


What we see is a comprehensive campaign to make sure that their audience is not just told, but informed about the App at every opportunity both at home and at their events.

When thinking about how to promote your own App, keep in mind that simply advertising that you have an App isn't necessarily sufficient.  Letting your audience know what the App can do for them will give them a reason to check it out.  A Mobile App can be an extremely valuable tool, but if you don't let your audience know all about it, they won't use it!

Friday, October 31, 2014

Tips for Promoting Your Mobile App, Part 1: Encouraging Downloads When Patrons Are Off-Site

One of the questions our partners frequently ask is, "How should we promote our app?"  To help you answer that question, we decided to provide you with some tips.  However, there is so much information that we had to break it into two separate posts.

We'll start with tips for how to promote your app when the patrons are not at one of your events.

8 Tips for promoting downloads when the audience is not at your event or performance


1.  Encourage mobile users who visit your website to download your app.  Makes sense right?  They are already on their mobile devices, so you should take the opportunity to direct them to your app.  Here are two ways you can do this:
Silk Road Rising uses the
mobile redirect script to
send mobile users visiting
their website to the mobile
web version of their app.

  • If you do not have a mobile responsive website or separate mobile site, be sure to use InstantEncore's mobile redirect script. (click here for how-to video)
    • This will redirect mobile users from your standard website to the mobile web version of your app.
    • It will also detect if the mobile user is on an Apple or Android device and present them with a prompt at the top of the screen to download your app on their device.
  • If you do have a mobile responsive site or separate mobile site, feature a notice for your mobile app on the home screen.
    • Provide a short message highlighting what additional features they will have access to by downloading the app.
    • Add the icon for your app to the screen.
    • Link the icon to your app's Smart App Download URL.
    • Instruct the user to tap on the icon to download the app.

2.  Encourage desktop/laptop users who visit your website to download your app.  This one might not be as obvious as the first one.  With the rapid rise of smartphone and tablet users, the probability is strong that people who visit your website on their desktop and laptop computers are also mobile users.  So why not encourage them to download your app? Here are two suggestions:
  • Add mobile app download buttons to your home screen.  
  • Austin Symphony Orchestra uses buttons on their website to
    encourage visitors to download their mobile app.
    • Add a button for both your Apple mobile app and your Android app.
    • Buttons for:  Android  |  Apple
    • Link the button to its appropriate URL.
    • To find the web link for each of your apps:
      • Go to www.instantencore.com
      • At the top where it says "Search or Redeem," enter the name for you or your organization.
      • "Search or Redeem" field on the InstantEncore site.
      • Find and click on your account name to go to your InstantEncore profile.
      • Clicking on the image for your mobile app gives you a drop-down menu with links to your Android and Apple URLs.
Links to Seattle Shakespeare Company's Android and Apple
apps in their InstantEncore profile.

3.  Create a video to spotlight your app.  While this may sound difficult, it really isn't.
  • Decide which features you want to mention and which ones you want to show in use.
  • Write out a script for the video.
  • Consider recruiting one of your artists to be video spokesperson for the app.
  • Practice going through the script while interacting with your device.  
  • Get a sense of how long it takes you to go through the script.  You should be able to highlight the more exciting features in a 1 to 2 minute video.
  • For example: here's an informative and funny video for the 2011 YouTube Symphony mobile app featuring flutist Nina Perlove:

  • At the end of your video, include the Smart App Download URL as the closing image.
  • Upload the video to YouTube - be sure to put the Smart App Download URL in the video's description.
  • Post it everywhere -- embed the video on your website or blog; share it on social media; link to it in email newsletters; etc.

4.  Feature the app prominently in your email communications.  
  • Spotlight your app in e-newsletters, subscriber emails, pre-show emails to ticket holders, etc.

    Email example from Curtis Institute of Music.
  • Be sure to mention your mobile app in confirmation emails for online ticket sales and/or reservations.
  • Include a brief description of your app's features as well as a link to the Smart App Download URL.

5.  Spotlight your app on the back of printed tickets and/or ticket envelopes.
  • Include the app logo and a brief description of the app's value.
  • Highlight the Smart App Download URL.
  • Add a QR Code linked to the Smart App Download URL. (click here for how-to video)

6.  Highlight your app on printed promotional pieces for your events and season.
  • Feature your mobile app and its features in your season brochure.
  • Mention your mobile app and its value in your event postcards, posters, and flyers.
  • Include the app logo, the Smart App Download URL, and/or QR Code.

7.  Alert your social media followers to your app.
  • On a regular basis, post screenshots from your app to highlight new content available in your app.
  • Include a link to the Smart App Download URL. 

8.  Use your App Store Description to highlight its features.  It's not enough to simply send patrons to your app's URL on iTunes or Google Play.  Once they are there, you need to communicate why they should download the app.


In Part 2 of this blog series, we will focus on tips for encouraging app downloads when your patrons are attending your event or performance.

Questions?  Contact us at support@instantencore.com

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Best Practices for Adding Images in Custom Tabs

As you customize your mobile app with unique content via custom tabs, adding images is a great way enhance the content so that your users have a more visually dynamic experience beyond reading a block of text.
An example from Silk Road Rising of how adding an image can enhance a custom tab.
Lets take a look at some best practices for embedding images effectively in custom tabs.

Where to Host Images

First, you need to decide where to host the images. There are a few options available to you.

Your Own Server: If you already have a dedicated server for your main website that you have easy access to, this would be a convenient place to host the images.

Third Party Server: Services like Photobucket and ImageShack offer reliable alternatives.

InstantEncore File Storage: However, we highly recommend hosting images directly on InstantEncore. Under the "Extras" menu in the Control Panel you will find a "File Storage" tool that gives you a quick and easy way to upload images you wish to embed.


Just select the desired file from your computer, provide a simple description and click "Upload".


We provide you with a convenient link to your image which you can copy and use to embed that image in your custom tab.


The major advantage of hosting your images directly on InstantEncore is that, if your website or third party server were to ever experience downtime, those image links would be broken in the App until that server came back online. Hosting your images in our File Storage area ensures that the images in your Custom Tabs will be visible whenever someone is using your App.

How to Embed Images

You can embed images in either the Design or HTML modes of the custom content editor.

Design Mode: The "Design" mode is the default mode when editing a custom tab, and a common way to make quick and easy edits to your custom content. Embedding an image is easy! First copy the URL of your image from our File Storage area (or from your own server or a third party service).

In the custom tab editor, click the icon in the toolbar that looks like a small picture.


Then paste the URL where it asks for the "Image Source". Click on "OK" and your Image will show up in the editor.


Some helpful tips for formatting images with this tool:
  • Depending on the background of your app, you may wish to set a Border Thickness of 2 to 3 pixels to provide some contrast between it and the embedded image.
  • Adding 5 to 10 pixels of Spacing keeps text from pressing right up against the image.
  • While you can set a specific width and height for your image here, with a mobile design in mind you may want to consider using HTML mode and CSS to achieve the most power and control over your custom content with percentage based sizing.

HTML Mode: Working in the "HTML" mode gives you much finer control over your custom content. To add an image in this mode, type <img src="IMAGE URL"> and paste the URL between the quotes.


Our example image is fairly large to accommodate larger screen sizes. This is important as we want to use large images that we can scale down, instead of small images that would look bad when scaled up. So in the preview it will look like this:



Using CSS to Fit Images

By itself, the image is very wide and goes beyond the viewing area of the app, causing the tab to do what we call "free-scrolling" where the user can scroll up, down, left, and right with their finger in order to see all of the content. You'll notice I've also added some sample text at this point to make this feel like a real custom tab.


For usability, in most cases we want to limit scrolling to just up and down, but as your app will be used on devices with different sized screens, we also want to make sure that this content will scale to those different sizes.

Lets explore what CSS can do for us and also take a look at another feature, the "Custom CSS" tool in the "Styles" area of the Mobile App Control Panel.


This tool lets you set custom styles that will be applied to the app. Because we don't want these styles to be applied to everything in the app, just our images, we first need to use a class selector when adding images to the custom tabs. This lets us set CSS for several images without having to type out the code over and over, which makes changes and updates effortless. If you want to have some images take on one style and other images take on a different style, just create a different class for each set.

The HTML for the images in the custom tabs will look something like:

<img class="custom_class" src="IMAGE URL">


And the CSS in the Custom CSS tool will look like:

img.custom_class {
CSS CODE;
}


The .custom_class can be any unique keyword you like and should reflect what the class is being used for. Examples might be .banner, .mapImage, .artist_photos, etc. Specifying img will make sure that other elements that might be assigned the same class aren't affected as well. This may not be needed in your case, but it is a good practice to observe.

height: In all cases, we want to set the height property to height: auto; to make sure that the image will scale with the width and preserve the aspect ratio of the image.

width: Setting the width property to 100% means that the image will take up 100% of the width of its container (not including other margins or padding that may be set by the app). This is good if you want an image to act as a banner that always stretches across the entire screen.

img.custom_class {
height: auto;
width: 100%;
}



One thing to be mindful of is that this can cause an image to scale beyond its original size and lead to reduced image quality, which is why I prefer to use the next option, max-width.

max-width: The max-width property will define the maximum width the image can be. When set as a percentage, this will cause it to scale with its container until it reaches the actual size of the image.

img.custom_class {
height: auto;
max-width: 100%;
}



You'll notice that in this example, the first image looks the same as before, however in the wider example, the image does not continue to grow with the app as it has reached its actual size. This makes the property useful for photos or other situations where strict formatting is not important, but you still want it to scale within reason and without sacrificing quality.

min-width: Very rarely will you want to use the min-width property, but there are occasions. If you find yourself in a position where you need to embed an image with small text or a map with detailed information, you may wish to prevent the image from becoming too small, but still have it scale at larger sizes.

The image will display at normal size unless the container becomes wider than the actual image size, in which case it will start to scale according to what percentage is set.

img.custom_class {
height: auto;
min-width: 100%;
}



Notice that I have included some "fine print" in our example image to help illustrate this point. While we want to avoid "free-scrolling" when possible, ensuring that text content in the image is readable is also a valid concern, and min-width can be used for these instances.


What Else Can We Do?

Play around with the percentages. Set the max-width at 80% instead of 100% to include more white space or a width of 50% to leave room for text next to the image. You might need some other CSS and HTML tools to help get the formatting just right though.

I've linked several times already to w3schools - an outstanding resource for HTML, CSS, and more. It lets you experiment directly on their website before bringing what you've learned into your mobile app.

If you have any questions or run into challenges, email us at support@instantencore.com.