Designing multi-platform projects

Learn how to design a multi-platform project that has your audiences needs and interests at its heart.

Discover examples of great multi-projects. See what 'practitioners' and 'theorists' say about transmedia storytelling.

Read: Transmedia storytelling 101

Transmedia storytelling 101

Telling your story across multiple platforms has never been more possible. BBC CoP attended this workshop session from BBC Academy's Fusion: Future Fiction day, where Hazel Grian and Dr Tom Abba take us through what transmedia means and how you can use it to play out your story to potentially millions of people worldwide.

 

Transmedia - what does it mean?
- You're not just thinking about one platform, you're considering how your audience can have various points of contact with your characters.

- Commercially it gives you the ability to play with how people access your brand - how your audience can engage with it at different point in their lives.

- How does your story sit within the everyday world - what are people doing in their every day lives while interacting with your creation?

- Words like gamification - it's a way of getting big corporations and brand managers to understand what you're talking about.

- If you're writing or designing - think of it as 'experience design'.

Once you know you're not designing for a set time broadcast, it changes the way you approach your storytelling.

- Don't forget there's a contract between storytellers and their audience.

- It changes what marketing does when it does well - it changes things into a conversation.

If you're creating a live type experience, make sure you've got somewhere central that collates everything you're doing - a wiki page, for instance.

- See Star Trek ARG - it suited the audience, and went world wide.

- A small percentage get involved, a huge amount of people watch.

- The amount of content produced ABOUT your content should far outweigh the original content itself.

- Have your outcome written - don't leave it to chance.

"Transmedia storytelling is about transposition - it demands you consider the grammar of how to put lightning in a bottle."– Tom Abba

Audience and story
At worst, transmedia can be a cacophony. At best it understands several things:

- What are your audience doing?

- Where are they?

- How do they find their way in?

- What do you want them to do/feel/experience?

But how do you design for the whole experience? You need to know who your audience are. Know what the rules are.

- In the case of 2.8 hours later, it was made around zombies. People know what the rules are when it comes to zombies, so it was designed for fear. Others could be melancholy, joy, etc etc.

Transmedia storytelling is about transposition - it demands you consider the grammar of the medium, of a story, of how to put lightning in a bottle.

- Don't make assumptions about the audience.

- Don't underestimate how much they'll involve themselves.

Work on the percentage rule of 1:9:90. Out of 100:

- 90 are spectators

- 9 are reasonably active (casual)

- 1 is a major player (active)

It's about community management, but where to start?

- Where you start is not 'How fancy can it be?' Write it down as a short story so you have the essence of what you're trying to achieve.

- Create a story bible.

- Explore it all and have it all in one place to begin with. Then decide what appropriate form there is to communicate it.

Remember: it's still all about story and character!

Finally... here's something from HBO which encapsulates the idea of transmedia storytelling.

Dr Tom Abba is lecturer in New Media and Visual Culture at University of the West of England (UWE) in Bristol. He specialises in interactive narrative and wider narrative theory and application, and describes himself as an occasional designer, more frequent writer and illustrator.

Hazel Grian is an interactive sci fi, fantasy and comedy writer, and a resident of the Pervasive Media Studio. She was recently a creative director at Aardman Animations Digital. As a writer she uses new media and emerging technology to tell stories and is dedicated to developing innovative forms of entertainment and experiences for everyone.

Read: Make it bigger

Make it bigger

How can you make your show bigger than its original concept and connect with your audiences in different and deeper ways through apps, social media and games?

 

This masterclass, featuring Lucy Willis, Head of UK Factual and Multiplatform at Raw, Danny Whitfield, digital producer for ITV, and Nick Locky, New Media Development Producer at Maverick TV, examined how to make your show bigger than its original concept and connect with your audiences in different and deeper ways through apps, social media and games. 

As programmes like Embarrassing Bodies (Channel 4), Stargazing Live (BBC), Just Rosie (ITV) and Battlefront (Channel 4) have shown, it’s no longer enough to just have an idea for a single screen. Their success owes much to the producers and commissioners who thought beyond the small screen, using multiplatform elements to initiate, build or improve their content and make their shows bigger.

But where should programme makers start? The days of online being seen as a bolt on, a way to sweep up any cuttings not good enough to make the programme, are long gone, and the panel discussed how the evolution of their own programmes and formats owed much to being able to think about the online proposition very early in the production. As Lucy Willis confirms, "Multiplatform projects often work better when they're conceived in that way, and when the online doesn't feel like an add-on. You need to think about how the TV and web link together, and how one couldn't exist without the other." 

In the most successful programmes, TV and social media feed off each other, connecting with audiences by engaging them much earlier. For Battlefront, Channel 4’s youth campaigning show, this meant that social media was up and running long before the transmission, with its stars blogging, tweeting and participating in real world events to promote the campaigns before transmission. 

With multiplatform productions, producers need to mindful of how to move their audience from one screen to another. Simply having a presenter show a website on screen is a crude method, but one that the producers of Stargazing Live felt was incredibly effective in driving participation. The audience submitted photos to the Flickr account, viewed their pictures on their iPads, and were then able to see some of their own content on the live show. Having a multiplatform offering can also help can offload a lot of the heavy lifting from the TV programme to the website, which from a TV production point of view can mean that you can keep the TV narrative light touch and the format fast paced. This was particularly effective for Embarrassing Bodies Live, who were able to deal with more complex content online, giving the audience the power to delve deeper on the web after introducing content on the TV show. 

"TV is just the tip of a really big iceberg." – Nick Locky, Maverick TV

Clearly any multiplatform offering requires that producers understand the platforms they’re working on, so partnering with the right digital agency to steer TV producers through the digital maze will be crucial. The panel underlined that although you don’t always build it yourself or own it yourself, the programme and associated online content can still form a lasting resource with real world application. For Stargazing Live, this even translated into a 500% leap in the sales of telescopes on Amazon. 

Partnerships can also extend to working with other external agencies, such as the NHS, which enabled the team at Maverick to develop new tools and also to feedback data to the NHS, without having to replicate content. 

Maverick have an in-house multiplatform team, which means that they can think in multiplatform terms from the earliest development of their shows. Embarrassing Bodies evolved from its format as a documentary, to become a live handover show on the website, and finally into its latest iteration, the Embarrassing Bodies Live Skype show, making the programme a true 360 degree idea. 

Five tips for making your show bigger
1. Harness the power of talent to inspire story and action.

2. Think about the audience needs, and keep focussed on the big ideas that you want to communicate to them.

3. Try to connect linear, digital and real world experiences. Think ‘built in’ not ‘bolt on’.

4. Don’t limit yourself. Think big. Be realistic, but go wild, otherwise you won’t get to those big ideas in the end.

5. Even if the whole package isn’t interactive, create programmes where the overall effect is interactive. As stated by Nick Locky of Maverick TV, TV may be the tip of a really big iceberg, but the multiplatform elements of a programme can reach way more eyeballs than a TV show ever could.

Listen: Transmedia Storytelling - as it was in 2011

 

Listen: SXSW special

Transmedia was the buzzword of the festival at SXSW with many of the panels exploring whether the world of converged media would mean new creative opportunities for content producers. There was also much discussion at SXSW about how commercially viable such developments are, in anything other than a marketing context.

"I believe that any story will work, the key is building the world around it."– Mike Monello

Simon talks to two of America's leading exponents, Mike Monello and Noah Hawley, about creating transmedia experiences around films and TV brands, and their predictions for its future as a genre.

Mike Monello is a co-founder of Campfire. He got his break into the world of transmedia in 1999 as a producer on The Blair Witch Project. More recently Campfire has created digital marketing experiences around the hit US drama series True Blood.

Noah Hawley is a multi-talented writer/producer who has worked on BonesThe Unusualsand My Generation.

Consider: Why you want to make a multiplatform project? Transmedia storytelling allows me to...

  • use more than one platform.
  • play with how people access my brand.
  • use more than one platform to engage my audience.
  • tell parts of a story on different platforms, therefore draw my audience from platform to another.

Learn about your audience. Who are they? Is there more than one audience type? What are their needs and likes? What are their online habits? Test your assumptions and build a project that engages your target audiences.

Consider: Who are your audience? What are their habits?

Consider: How do your audience find your content? Where are they? What draws them to engage in your content?

Consider: How can you test these assumptions?

Read: How to Identify Your Online Target Audience and Sell More

What’s more important, traffic or conversions? If you send me 50k people from a classic tractor repair website and 500 from a prominent marketing site, which one is going to be better for my business?

Unless you’re in the pageview business, what you should first and foremost care about is conversions. Conversions take place when targeted traffic meets relevant offer. It all starts with knowing who is your target audience and what they need or want.

The aim of marketing is to know and understand the customer so well the product or service fits him and sells itself.

– Peter Drucker, influential business thinker of the 20th century

If you want to increase conversions, you have to figure out who exactly is your primary target audience, what they want, what matters to them and what are the sources of friction for them.

If you say your target audience is “pretty much everybody” or “anyone interested in my services”,  you don’t have much of a chance to boost conversions.

Why identifying your target audience matters

If you know…

  • who the people are, you know how to get to them (the blogs they read, the sites they visit, the stuff they search in Google etc)
  • how they describe the type of services they offer, you can word the copy on your site to match the conversation in their head (very important!)
  • how they choose and compare products in your category, you know how to structure and prioritize content on your site
  • what they want, your value proposition can state exactly that and the whole site can be 98% relevant to them
  • what they don’t care about, you can dismiss and cut it from the site
  • how their life is better thanks to your service, you know which end-benefits to communicate

… and so on and so forth. It’s all about relevancy – if what you offer and how you present it matches their state of mind, you have gained a customer.

If your customer is “everybody”, you’re making it extremely difficult for yourself – nobody will identify with “everybody”.

If you don’t have hard data, start with assumptions

If you have no paying customers yet, you’re dealing with assumptions and educated guesses based on your first-hand experience and anecdotal evidence.

Traditionally, defining a target audience involves determining their age, sex, geographic locations, and their needs. The data you need to know depends on the product and whether you have a B2B or B2C business.

This approach, however, is not very helpful. Online the location matters much less (if at all). Age is not what it used to be – fifty-year-olds get just as excited about new tech gadgets as twenty-somethings, and 30-year-olds may still be living with their parents. More than demographic data, you want to look at the lifestyle.

You want to have answers to these questions:

  • Who are the target customers? Describe their life (or business) situation
  • What do they want? What’s the pain?
  • What are their needs that aren’t being met?

In order to have a business case, you of course need to think about market size and disposable income as well. You might have a problem / solution fit, but it doesn’t necessarily mean you’re in the money.

Talk to people

There are no facts inside your building, so get outside,” is one of the mantras of Steve Blank, the father of customer development and author of The Startup Owner’s Manual. When I talk to people starting a new business and they complain about conversions, the first question I ask is “how many customers have you talked to?” Usually the answers is “none”.  Hmm?

Once you have your first customer profile written down, go out and meet these people or businesses. Talk to them, observe them in their natural habitat and learn all you can.

Image source

Austin-based startup Food On The Table started with a target market assumption, and found a mom who plans meals and uses coupons, and spent three weeks shadowing her as she made lists and pushed her cart around the local supermarket. Her feedback helped create the first version of the website.

They reached 1 million users last spring – talking to your customers pays off.

What if you learn that your current business assumptions are wrong?

It’s not uncommon at all that a company starts with an assumption of who the target audience is and what they want, and changes course once they learn more about the market. In Lean Startup methodology, it’s called a pivot.

Many well-known companies have changed direction, from Paypal to Groupon. Here’s a summary of 10 types of pivots.

If you’re just starting out and figuring out how to grow to the next phase, don’t do anything before reading this book.

Survey your customers

If you have paying customers, the best thing you can do is to survey them. What you want is to get in the heads of your customers, learn why and how they buy.

Don’t survey all of your customers, just the last 20 (minimum) to 100 (max) who still remember their purchase experience. If you ask somebody who made the purchase 6 months or more ago, they have long forgotten and might feed you with false information.

I recommend asking the following questions (adjust the wording as you see fit):

  •  Who are you? Get the demographical data and see if there are any trends (e.g. generational). If you’ve got a B2B business, ask about their industry and position in the company (and who makes the decision!)
  • What are you using [your product] for? What problem does it solve for you? Here you want to make sure you understand their problem. You might discover some unintended uses as well. 
  • How is your life better thanks to it? Which tangible improvements in your life or business have you seen? This will tell you the end-benefit your product provides in the words of your customers. If some say really nice things, hit them up for testimonials or case studies.
  • What do you like about our product the most? Learn what your customers think is the best part of your product, and mention it prominently in your copy
  • Did you consider any alternatives to our product (prior to signing up)? If so, which ones? You want to know who people compare you to. Next step is that you need to build a ‘compare’ page where you compare yourself to the competition and make a case for your advantages
  • What made you sign up for our product? What convinced you that it’s a good decision? Why did you choose us over others? You want to know what’s working for you in your current website + identify some advantages you might want to emphasize more.
  • Which doubts and hesitations did you have before joining? Identify main sources of friction, and address them (or fix them if they’re usability problems).
  • Which questions did you have, but couldn’t find answers to?50% of the purchases are not completed due to insufficient information. This helps you identify some of the missing information your customers want.
  • Anything else you would like to tell us? Leave room for feedback you don’t know to ask.
  • What else would you like to buy from us (if we were smart enough to offer it)? Ideas for new products or services your customers are ready to pay for,

+ feel free to include some that are specific to your business.

Tips for the survey

If you can, keep it short: the more questions, the fewer responders and poorer quality responses. Make your questions, then weed them out.

Make sure the information you collect is actionable – don’t ask questions just because your curious.  Once you have written your questions, go through them and ask yourself: “What am I going to do with this information once I have it?” Make sure each question contributes something unique and is necessary.

Keep it neutral: try to use language that doesn’t lead the customer any particular way.  Imagine that you are taking this survey as a person with a particular set of answers.  And then go through again with a different (or opposite) set of responses, and see if the question is easier or harder to answer – then adjust the wording so that it is neutral.

Avoid multiple choice

Note that all the answers should be free-form, not multiple choice. You want the customers to be able to express themselves without constraints. You don’t know what you don’t know, and multiple choice will never reveal those things.

Another thing you want to pay attention to is how they word things. Your website has to speak the same language your customers do. Notice how they describe the problem, the solution, the benefits.

Often I copy and use the exact wording from a survey answer in a value proposition or other key part of the website copy – and it works the best.

Pressure and incentivize

When sending out surveys, remember to put some time pressure on them (“fill this out in the next 3 days”) to get data faster and reward each and everyone who answers the survey (free product or service, Amazon gift card etc).

What you can discover from Google Analytics

If you have correctly set up goals and/or e-commerce tracking in Google Analytics, you can get some insightful data.

Below are some useful reports that show you stuff like which traffic sources convert the best. Invest more time, money and effort in high-performing traffic senders, ignore low performers.

If guest blogging is part of your content marketing strategy, pay attention to which blog send you the best-performing traffic and try to become a regular poster on those blogs.

Google Analytics custom reports are highly useful. Here are some reports you can plug right into your own analytics profile just by clicking on the links.

More great Google Analytics custom reports:

Test your assumptions

Learn qualitatively, test quantitatively.

Whatever you learn, your conclusions are still a hypothesis – you need test it in the real world. If your organic traffic is low, you can run a PPC campaign on Adwords or LinkedIn (or wherever is a good way to reach your target audience) to get enough people on the site for statistical confidence.

Speed up the time it takes to test assumptions, no reason to waste sales by waiting.

Conclusion

Remember, conversions take place when targeted traffic meets relevant offer. So your job as a marketer is to find the right sources traffic and to make sure your website is relevant for them. Relevancy leads to sales.

Use the findings from talking to people, surveys and analytics data to write the copy on your site and decide on the information architecture. Use it for your product development (and for deciding what to sell in the first place).

When your target audience arrives to your site, looks at the content and goes “Hey, this is exactly what I’m looking for”, you’ve nailed it.

Investigate different platforms types. Think about what audiences they are best suited to.

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Measure the success rate of your project. How engaged is your audience? How do you build towards a higher retention rate?

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