Testing the Waters – Experimenting Without the Fear

By Posted in - Audience Research & Clearing & Content & Content Marketing & Experiment & Higher Education & Measurement & Websites on August 12th, 2015 0 Comments

Trying something new always brings with it a certain level of anxiety – and launching campaigns, trying out social media platforms/tools and website redevelopments are no different. The main concern is how it will be received by the audience you’re targeting.

There are ways of launching new experimental tools and campaigns without it feeling so frightening. In this post I will outline a couple of ways you can test the waters before you fully launch a new tool or a specific campaign.

User testing

How can you make sure your messages make sense in your new campaign? This can be a difficult thing to get right first time. User testing is a great way to test messages out on a small section of your target audience first and can also gauge some reactions, which will inform the overall campaign strategy further.

Try to get in touch with some students (current, prospective… whoever you are targeting) and see if they can spare some time to user test some of your messaging – it can make all the difference.

You can also test your new website or a new tool this way – there are services online that can provide this for you, and will be a great insight into how user friendly it is. Try out usertesting.com or whatusersdo.com.

Try something out internally

So, you’ve done your research and you have decided you want to use a new tool to reach your audiences. Problem is, you don’t entirely understand the tool yourself. How about trying to get your head around it within your own office? This can work particularly well with instant messaging apps. The Pickles recently tested WeChat out in the office to get a grip on the features and how users can engage with each other.

Another example of this approach comes from SawHorse media, who couldn’t understand Snapchat at all. To remedy this they decided to have their own ‘Snapchat Day’. During the day, they could only communicate with each other by sending self-destructing snaps. By doing this, they built up an understanding of the app so they would be able to explain its benefits and downsides with confidence.

This approach could also develop some creative internal communications ideas within your own office.

Soft launches

This approach works really well if you are working on a big project like a website redevelopment. You could develop one page or section of the website with the new design and/or branding, and see how it goes down with your current audience. There is no hype around a soft launch, and if you receive feedback, it will be an authentic reaction from actual users.

Facebook do this kind of thing when they make changes to their timeline or layout. They gradually launch with different users week by week, until eventually all users are migrated to the new version. This means Facebook can deal with the outrage over any big changes made to the social network in phases, rather than all at once…

Targeted Twitter or Facebook posts

Why not try paid advertising on social media platforms and target your posts at specific audiences? These posts will appear in your target audience’s timelines or in the sidebar of their Facebook timeline. This is a good way of testing out a new idea with a very specific audience and you can expand the audience out later if it is well received.

As education specialists, this promoted tweet popped up in a couple of our Twitter feeds from the University of Lincoln. With Clearing just around the corner, the decision to use a sponsored post to reach the target audience during this period is a great idea.



Hopefully your mind has been put at rest – there are many ways you can experiment carefully.

If you would like some more advice about experimenting with new content or tools, please get in touch.

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