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West Somerset Railway General Discussion

Discussion in 'Heritage Railways & Centres in the UK' started by gwr4090, Nov 15, 2007.

  1. DragonHandler

    DragonHandler Well-Known Member

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    This is a common problem with websites, especially company websites where there is no one to take personal ownership of the site and make sure it's up to date. Most companies realise the value of having a website, but not all realise the importance of keeping it up to date. The company has probably designated someone to look after the website, but it's most likely to be one of their many jobs and the easiest one to overlook.

    Most visitors to a website will be quick to notice if the site is advertising bookings for an event that happened last month, but only those "in the know" will notice that the list of directors, trustees or committee members is out of date and the average website visitor probably won't look at that page anyway and even if they do an out of date list of the company's officers won't affect their opinion of the company.

    For myself, when I look at the website for any visitor attraction all I want to know where it is, when it's open, what special events are planned and, if it's a heritage railway, what the timetable is and if it's steam, diesel or mixed traffic. Nothing else matters to me, and I suspect I'm not alone in that respect.
     
  2. RailWest

    RailWest Part of the furniture

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    I suppose we all have differing views on this, but:-

    1. I find it absolutely infuriating that some heritage railways seem to have the basic idea that, having put up 'website', it can then be left alone and the public is expected to get up-to-date info from places such as Facebook.
    2. If you go to a website and find that it was last updated many months ago, that the last 'news' item is at least 6 months old, and the 'events' diary for the year is almost empty, is the railway even in business?
     
  3. 35B

    35B Resident of Nat Pres

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    I agree completely. As a non-Facebook user, the expectation that I'll use FB irritates the hell out of me, but I completely fail to understand why it's possible to maintain marketing information on FB but not on xyzheritagerailway.co.uk or wherever.
     
  4. goldfish

    goldfish Part of the furniture

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    Tricky though isn't it… in straitened times I expect that 'comms and marketing' is one of the first things to get the shove, and I also suspect that experienced web managers aren't exactly ten a penny in the heritage railway world. Organisations are caught between being supported and to an extent staffed by expert volunteers, but who get a significant chunk of their income through what is essentially more of a 'theme park' customer base.

    Add in the fact that I expect most railway websites are not optimised for low-skilled content editing, combined with the territorial battles and ego wars that seem quite commonplace, and I suspect that the confluence of 'they who have the keys to the website' and 'they who have the skills to update the website' is likely a bit skinny. Compounded when heritage railway X outsources production of its website to local digital agency Y who created a bespoke tool and promptly went out of business leaving the client in the lurch etc. etc.

    I have a lot of sympathy for folks who are trying to wear an awful lot of hats without necessarily having the skills to match.

    Simon
     
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  5. alastair

    alastair Member

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    Surely it's pretty simple. @goldfish has eloquently explained in the next post the possible issues and complications with updating a website. On FB, anyone with admin access to a group even with the most minimal knowledge can update anything in a very few seconds.
     
  6. 35B

    35B Resident of Nat Pres

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    Possibly - but in a different sphere, I've found that a couple of trained volunteers have been able to keep a "proper" website updated. The issue of information being available, though, I can sympathise with
     
  7. Pete Thornhill

    Pete Thornhill Part of the furniture Staff Member Moderator

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    The trouble is that generally you are in a minority. Websites while essential, are old hat now compared to social media. Entire careers exist solely based on social media (not just Facebook) marketing. The reason is the potential for incredible reach to your potential market.

    For example, the SVR has 55,000 likes on its Facebook account. If one of those posts reaches the news feed of 10% of those people then 5500 have seen the information you are trying to get out, they haven’t had to search anywhere to see that information as it has been presented to them. If a tourist visits a railway and decides to like their Facebook page, the channel is opened for the railway to communicate and able to keep the railway in the tourists mind. The same tourist is unlikely to constantly monitor the railways website to look out for the same information.

    Like it or not social media marketing is the now and a big part of the future as is the rise of smartphones and interactive phone apps.
     
  8. 35B

    35B Resident of Nat Pres

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    I can't "like" that, because I hate it, but I recognise the force of what you say.
     
  9. Jamessquared

    Jamessquared Nat Pres stalwart

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    As someone who is involved with operational management of web sites for a living; heritage railways as a hobby, including a bit of help with comms; and was a late adopter of Facebook, can I just say I see merit in all sides of this debate and am carefully maintaining my balance on multiple fences ... As with many things on heritage railways, an analysis normally ends up at the conclusion “I wouldn’t have started from here”.

    Tom
     
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  10. gwilialan

    gwilialan Part of the furniture

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    I would think the simple answer is a balance between faceache for your general punter wanting to know the where, when, how much etc. optimised for mobile use and then the www site for all the expanded details like what stock? who's running? history, photo gallery, etc etc.

    So if you want to know what's happening FA would work, if you want to know about the railway then www has the details... Maybe?o_O
     
  11. Bayard

    Bayard Part of the furniture

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    As far as I know, having been peripherally involved, at the time of the last sea defence work by the county council, it was accepted that it was the council's, responsibility as the local authority, not as the landowner, so they have already crossed that bridge.
     
  12. Bayard

    Bayard Part of the furniture

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    Then how do you account for the enthusiasm of the Board for purchasing the freehold to raise money against, or do you think they simply haven't bothered to do any research into the matter? Perhaps you should email them.
     
  13. 35B

    35B Resident of Nat Pres

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    I'd dispute that limited a view for the www site. For a non-FB user, the constant prompts about logging in are a real deterrent, and the static information should also be on the normal www site.
     
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  14. Bikermike

    Bikermike Member

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    What do you reckon the relative numbers are though?

    I'd guess a majority of the population are on facebook, so in terms of PR bang per volunteer buck, I'd say FB is the way to go. Also, if you have a website, you are in competition with the very big boys in terms of look and so forth. Everything looks pretty much the same on FB if you are ICI or the Dingley Dell railway.

    The bigger issue I think is going to be where the eyeballs go when facebook declines in popularity. YouTube? Snapchat? Pinterest? Instagram?
     
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  15. gwilialan

    gwilialan Part of the furniture

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    Sorry. I wasn't clear enough. I'm suggesting FA for the 'thumbs' generation with information that suits an attention span of about 20 seconds (watching my son typing text with both thumbs makes me wonder if we are going to get a generation of 40/50 year olds with arthritis in both thumbs?). And then have the same plus all the expanded stuff on the website.
     
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  16. MellishR

    MellishR Part of the furniture Friend

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    Although very many people use Facebook, is that where even those people would go to find out whether Railway X has trains running next Sunday, and if so the timetable? Never mind those of us who prefer to use Facebook as little as possible and don't have Facebook accounts. A website seems a more appropriate place for the kind of information that changes by the week or the month rather than by the hour. I have sometimes followed a link on here to some information supposedly on a Facebook page to find that it has either disappeared or slid miles down below the last ten minutes' postings.

    As for the complexity of keeping a website up to date, it ought to have been designed so that updating such information as timetables, refreshment room opening hours, loco rosters (and company personnel!) is a reasonably simple task, quite separate from the website design expert's responsibility for the overall "look and feel".
     
  17. Jamessquared

    Jamessquared Nat Pres stalwart

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    My own very high level view, FWIW, is that you need to differentiate what has longevity from what is ephemeral. So a stock list, or an event guide, or a project update, would all be on the main website; you could then use Facebook to draw people's attention to the main article. On the other hand, if you have late availability for tickets on your dining train, Facebook is probably going to hit far more people far more quickly than a website update. It is a powerful marketing tool, notably because of the ease with which material can be shared.

    There is a looming problem of institutional memory where people do updates (often for the best of reasons) on Facebook, which is you lose track of what was done, because Facebook is almost impossible to use to find out things from even a few days previous.

    As always - use the right tool for the job. You wouldn't fire a locomotive using a garden spade, though you could probably just about manage if nothing else was available. Using Facebook for content better presented on a website feels similar - but so does using a static website for material that would be much better presented on social media.

    Tom
     
  18. 35B

    35B Resident of Nat Pres

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    Well said. I do use Twitter, and find it excellent for the ephemeral stuff - I think the trouble with FB in this context is that it looks like a proper website and therefore people don't recognise it's weaknesses.
     
  19. Big Al

    Big Al Nat Pres stalwart Staff Member Moderator

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    What every heritage railway can do, including the WSR, is know what the 'strike rate' is on every platform it populates. If the human resource is slim then you focus on where most people are visiting.

    Obviously the most attractive site is the one that is likely to be most attractive and if the corporate pages are out of date without any current images or videos then it becomes a self-fulfilling prophesy.
     
  20. D1039

    D1039 Well-Known Member

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    Very much a coincidence but today's working from home volunteer action was a run through the public pages of the SVR's website and reporting any issues to the marketing manager, who was able to fix straight away those changes they can make. They were fairly minor things such as a discrepancy between menus on different pages, an update missed on another and the like. It's a monthly thing and as with all volunteer labour the costs are nil.

    Also coincidentally, some internal changes made this week will mean more news items being included on the website.

    I've always found @Steve Edge 's website to be one of the best amongst heritage railways for news.

    Patrick
     

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