Part Three: Social Media

Last updated on: Sunday 2 September 2018

Social Media

Social media are the key channels for connecting with and engaging your fanbase. But which social media matter? And what other digital platforms should you check out? Find out…

As soon as start performing or releasing your music, you need to start capturing and talking to your core fanbase online. Your entire business will be built around this fanbase, and the sooner you can build a direct channel to your fans the better.

There are various digital channels artists use to connect with their fans, though the starting point is social media. Which social media you should use depends on who your fans are and where they live, and also which social networks you are most comfortable with.

‘Social media’ is a loose term used to describe digital tools that enable you to have an online profile; publish words, images, audio and video; and/or organise and communicate to a network of friends, fans or customers. Social media come and go all the time, of course, and some platforms have gained more traction than others.

For artists, there are probably six social media you need to be considering…

First Facebook, simply because it is by far the biggest social network. Though if you have a younger fanbase, there’s a very high chance they aren’t active users. But the industry will almost certainly check you out on Facebook and it will become more important as your fanbase grows. So you should set up an artist profile on Facebook and post at least occasional updates on what you are up to – include images and video, because these generally get more traction.

Remember, just because someone ‘likes’ your page on Facebook doesn’t mean all your updates will appear in their personal news feed, Facebook filters what everyone sees. Subtly encourage people to share and comment on your posts, as this will make future updates more likely to appear in their feed. You can pay Facebook to push your content into your fan’s feeds, and beyond, though it’s probably not the best use of your money at the outset, even though you can do Facebook ad campaigns for a few pounds.

Second Twitter, because it is quite widely used within the industry by bookers, A&Rs, journalists and other decision makers. This is for more regular shorter updates of course. Although users see tweets from everyone they follow in their feed, they usually only see those posted while they are online. Again photos and videos stand out better in a user’s feed.

Third Instagram, especially if you have a younger fanbase. With Instagram you need to decide whether you are going to use it as a snap-and-post platform, where you snap things you see and immediately post them, or if you want to use it more as a channel for your visual identify, posting edited photos according to some sort of organised schedule.

Fourth Snapchat, again if you have a younger fanbase. If you’re not a Snapchat user, experiment with the service before you officially start connecting with fans via the platform. Obviously Snapchat is designed for short-form, short-lived content, and unlike other social networks you don’t leave a trail of old posts behind you. The ‘stories’ feature allows you to share slightly longer content and those posts also stick around a little longer.

Fifth YouTube. When most people hear about a new act or a new track, they immediately go and look for it on YouTube. So you need to have a channel there! If you don’t have the budget or skills to make a video, it’s fine to upload audio with a static image, though proper videos are better.

It’s OK to just have a few tracks on your YouTube channel if you just want it to be a place people can check you out. But if you want to try and actually build an audience via your channel itself you will need to post much more regularly – though videos don’t need to be track-based, so think carefully about what kind of chat content you could create on a regular basis.

Whatever you upload, make sure you plug all your other channels in the descriptions below your videos. And become a YouTube content partner, that way if any of your videos do gain traction, YouTube will put ads around them and share the income with you. More on all that in Part Four.

Sixth SoundCloud. Industry people who hear about a new act or a new track are much more likely to go looking for you on SoundCloud. So make sure you have a profile set up there too with all your tracks available to stream (and possibly download).

Once you’ve decided which social media to use and have set up all your profiles, you need to decide what you are going to post and when! You might use some social networks to mainly make people aware of gigs and new tracks (eg Facebook) and others for regular chatty posts (eg Snapchat). Remember, you want to post content that people will like, share and comment on – interaction is key. Photos and video tend to gain more traction, and people always like cute and funny.

If you are in a group or band you need to decide who runs the social media day-to-day, and who decides what to post and when. As you start to get business partners in place, you might hand over some of the social media activity to them. If social networks are being used primarily to share content and promote activity, it’s fine for business partners to run them. Though if you are using social networks to interact with fans, it’s much better if the artist themselves is leading everything.

Social media doesn’t replace your own website and email list, and you should look to get both of these set up as soon as possible too. Getting an email address off a fan – and permission to occasionally email them – is really important, and you should give fans reasons to sign up to your mailing list, like discounts and extra content. Services like MailChimp can help you manage your email lists and monitor who is opening what and when.

Even though you will initially make much of your music available for free, you should also offer fans a way to spend money with you. Direct-to-fan platforms like Music Glue, Bandcamp and ReverbNation are great for this and definitely worth investigating. And once you have a engaged a bit of an online fanbase, it’s well worth checking out services like PledgeMusic, which help you come up with sales and marketing campaigns that give fans who might otherwise be happy streaming your music for free an exciting reason to spend money with you directly online.

And finally – as we said in Part Two – while it is important to get your music onto YouTube and SoundCloud, you should make sure your tracks are on all the other digital platforms too, like Spotify, Apple Music and iTunes. You will earn more money when your music is consumed on these platforms – especially on the paid-for streaming platforms – so it’s good to encourage committed fans to play your tracks via these services. Companies like AWAL, CD Baby, Distrokid, Ditto, EmuBands, Spinnup or TuneCore can help you get your music onto all the key digital services.

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Words: Chris Cooke – Last updated Sep 2018