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Marketing the data

In order to give value to the open data that has been published on Open Kent, we need to let people know it is there. How do we do this? As a novice in online marketing, it is easy to assume that simply by posting information on a web page, anyone who is interested will find it. Of course, there is now so much information on the internet that any new addition will be lost in the maelstrom of virtual data with no hope of being found, even by someone searching for it, unless it is given direction in the form of links to other related data, important keywords and signposting from other web pages.

With the Open Kent project we started with a ‘soft launch’, emailing known stakeholders and interested parties. This resulted in a small flow of traffic to the website. We were able to look at the number of people visiting the site by using Google Analytics Dashboard. A quick look at the Traffic analysis showed that almost all visits were direct traffic, ie they were following the link we had sent to them.

After reaching the first circle of people who we knew would be interested to visit the Open Kent website, we needed to get the message to people who have never heard of Open Kent. Some interaction on the social media tool, Twitter, revealed that there are discussions about open data going on around the world. So by tweeting messages about Open Kent using ‘#opendata’, we were able to reach people who did not necessarily know about our project but were interested in open data. Analysis of the referrals to the Open Kent website showed that Twitter was supplying a modest number of visitors.

A press release seemed the next logical step to publicising the Open Kent website. Via Kent County Council we were able to target a large number of national and local media outlets with our press release. Shortly after the press release we spotted some growth in visits from search engines and direct traffic.

The usability of Google Analytics was very helpful in where our website traffic was coming from. By looking at the analysis we realised that we were not utilising all the external forums that we knew contained conversations on open data and people who might have an interest in what we were doing. We also realised that with a partnership as extensive as Kent Connects, we had a large internal audience that remained largely untouched.

Our next steps were to target online communities such as Communities Of Practise, Making A Difference With Data and Govloop which have a particular interest in open data. The project team produced a steady stream of blogposts on subjects related to publishing open data. These were posted on the website, and we then signposted these blogs on the online communities as well as Tweeting them in order to stimulate some general interest in the project and the website. Analysis showed these to be very successful. Visits to the website spiked and referrals from Communities of Practise went straight to the top of the list.

To tap into our internal audience we produced another press release tailored for our council colleagues, with slightly different offerings to those given to the general public. This resulted in a notable increase in website visits, all referred from our KCC intranet. We also attempted to encourage interest within our Kent Connects partner organisations by creating visualisations of data sets relevant to each organisation for them to post on their website. Again this has driven some referrals from the partner organisation websites to the Open Kent website.

We wont stop there though. we will keep looking for ways to reach a wider audience and to provoke interest in the data we are publishing.

Have you any advice you would like to share with us?

We would be very pleased to hear from professional marketeers and novices alike, on their experiences of what works and what has little or negative effect on traffic.

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