How To Safeguard Against The Fast-Changing Social Media Landscape For Musicians
Vine shut down earlier this year.
Twitter has been on shaky ground for a while, and it may end up in the hands of Google, who appears to be buying it up in pieces. Who knows what will happen after that?
Instagram seems well-positioned to edge out Snapchat.
Some even call Google+ a failure (I laugh at them, because if you aren’t using Google+, your SEO probably isn’t as good as it could be – though as a social network it is partially a failure).
This is just what’s happening right now, never mind the collapse of MySpace, LiveJournal, Blogger, and other once popular social networks from the past (I say “collapse”, because these sites still exist – they haven’t shut down, but they aren’t prominent anymore either).
So, how can you safeguard against all these rapid changes? What can you do to protect yourself against potential threats and risks? How can you capture your followers before you lose them for good? Read on.
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Build Your Website & Email List
We’ve covered these topics elsewhere on Music Industry How To, so I’m not going to get into the specifics of setting up your website or email list. You can refer to past guides.
What I am going to talk about, at least briefly, is why.
The reason you need a website is because it’s a platform you control. If you keep making domain and web hosting fees, it will be yours to keep. You get to decide what you do with it (within reason), and no one else will tell you what you can and can’t do.
Don’t get me wrong – building out your website takes time. It doesn’t happen overnight. You’re not going to see a ton of traffic bombard it the moment you hit “publish” unless you already have a fan base.
But rest assured social networks took time to build too. Right now, many hopeful entrepreneurs and teams are trying to raise awareness for their new social network idea.
So, don’t worry about the time it takes to build. Just keep at it. A little bit of effort on a weekly or monthly basis is all it takes, and traffic will trend upwards over time as your career grows. But you will have to keep at it.
Will your website ever be as huge as Facebook? Probably not. But Facebook also isn’t interested in helping you generate sales or traffic, despite what you may have heard. They want to keep people on their platform. It’s easier to achieve your goals using property you own.
As for your email list, if you can get people to give you their email address, you can stay in touch with them regardless of what happens to your favorite social networks. If Twitter goes the way of the dinosaur, but you put effort into capturing the email addresses of your social followers, you could still communicate with them.
Just like your website, your email list is yours to keep and you can do what you want with it (assuming the people on your list opted in to be a part of it). Again, that’s not the case with social networks.
Stick To The Tried & True Social Media Sites
I will never tell anyone to dedicate themselves to maintaining a presence on dozens, or even half a dozen social networks. That’s madness!
I think the best plan is to focus on two or three networks and to excel at them. There’s no point in setting up accounts in places you have no way of regularly showing up on.
There’s just one problem – this is getting harder for musicians.
What are the essential social networks for musicians? Well, that depends on who you ask. But the following six have become staples for many artists:
- YouTube (Google said they were decoupling it from Google+, but it’s weird how this works – the profile you create for YouTube is still essentially a Google+ profile)
You could probably get away with eliminating Twitter and SoundCloud these days, but that still leaves you with four networks to create content for and keep tabs on. You must engage your audience too.
One way to solve this problem is by repurposing content. If you create a video for YouTube, you can also upload it to Facebook (video is huge on Facebook right now, particularly live video). That video could be cut into chunks and posted to Instagram.
I know the importance of sharing different content on different networks. You want to reward your followers for connecting with you where they want to connect with you.
If you repurpose the right way, you’ll still be serving up good, unique content for each platform.
But let me get back to the essence of the issue.
These sites may change over time. People are just going to keep flocking to the latest, greatest thing. Keeping up with these changes isn’t always easy. But most of your effort (70 to 80%) should be put into sites that are tried and true.
But don’t worry, if you want to experiment or create a presence elsewhere, I have some tips for you.
Don’t Overlook Secondary Options For Every Social Network
For every Twitter, there’s a Plurk. For every YouTube, there’s a Vimeo. Instagram? Flickr.
I’m not suggesting you maintain an active presence on every social network. It’s a good idea to register your artist or band with every network, in case you ever need it, but being active on each of them is a different endeavor entirely. Frankly, I can’t see you benefiting much from that anyway.
But it’s good to be aware of what’s out there. If Twitter is your jam, but it shuts down, you’ll be happy to know there are alternatives. There’s always the possibility that users won’t want a replacement and will refuse to adopt other platforms, but based on usage, that seems unlikely.
As a student of effective online marketing, I’m always researching what tools are out there. I’m constantly thinking about how to syndicate and distribute my content better and more efficiently.
And I’ve learned that getting it out to more places isn’t always better. Getting it to the right places is. That’s why I stick to the tried and true while experimenting with other sites.
Instagram, for instance, allows you to cross-post your images and videos to places like Flickr, VK, Ameba, and OK.ru. That’s handy if you want to appear in places you wouldn’t otherwise.
I think entrepreneurs like Gary Vaynerchuk have essentially proven that regardless of the social network, if you put the effort in, you can connect with people and increase your following. That’s good to know in case it looks like your favorite social network is about to shut down.
There are other great cross-posting strategies too. For instance, if you’re using WordPress, the Jetpack plugin has a “Publicize” feature that allows you to distribute your blog posts to Facebook, Twitter, Google+ (hmm…), LinkedIn, Tumblr, and Path automatically. Blog2Social is another one of my favorite plugins, because it gets your posts out to even more places (like XING, Pinterest, Flickr, Medium, Torial, Diigo, Delicious, Reddit, and so on).
But the tools don’t matter that much, for the same reasons I raised earlier – it takes too much time to maintain your presence across all these networks, especially if you’re doing it alone.
The point is that if you know what’s out there, you can safeguard against changes to sites you’re using right now. It sucks when a popular site shuts down, but if you’re prepared, you’ll be miles ahead of most.
Experiment With The Trendy & New Social Networks
Give yourself a bit of time to have fun and experiment with new social networks. Take 20% of your time to deviate from your routine, and do something different.
I think it’s important for us creatives to allow for space in our lives to just explore crazy, wacky, strange ideas. This keeps things fresh, helps you have more fun, and could even lead to some unexpected and surprising breakthroughs.
That’s why I’m not going to tell you not to try Snapchat, Shot, Musical.ly, or whatever else you find out there. Go ahead, have your fun. Just remember to do it in your spare time.
Musicians tend to be on the leading edge of the latest tech anyway. Plus, who knows what might happen? Early adopters sometimes benefit a great deal from jumping into a clear ocean headlong (as opposed to one that’s crowded and dirty).
So, there may be certain advantages to getting on these platforms early. I’m not promising anything, but they might be worth a look.
As you're exploring, a few things to look at are: a) Whether people appear to be using this network, b) if the people using it are the kind of people that would like your music, c) whether you have fun using it, and d) whether it gets you results.
A lot of people tell me Instagram is huge. Some of my friends have even told me they get good results with it. I have yet to see much ROI (return on investment) from it myself. But do I give up? No. I just keep experimenting. And my friends who are successful say it’s a great brand-building tool, so I’m changing my focus from just posting photos to sharing things that are on-brand.
No matter what you’re planning to explore, it’s going to take time to learn. That’s another reason why I like experimentation. You’re just there to try things out. There’s no pressure. You can do it on your own time. And, if you like it, you can keep using it, and maybe make it a part of your overall strategy, but only if it makes sense to do so.
Save & Back Up Your Content
If a social network shuts down, you don’t just lose your followers. You lose all the great content you’ve created for it too.
Your content is more valuable than you even know, because you may be able to reuse or repurpose it on your website, in your email newsletters, or on other social networks, for a long time to come.
You can reinvent the wheel and create something new every time, but that takes too much effort, and it’s something I avoid. If I have great content in my archives, I know that it can be reused. And, I also know my library will keep growing anyway. So, I will always have a ready supply of things to share with my audience.
But if you don’t save that content, you may not be able to get it back.
The good news is that most of what you create is probably stored on your smartphone, particularly if you’re snapping photos and shooting videos with your mobile device. So, if you’re backing up your smartphone every 12 to 24 months, you should be alright.
But you might forget to back up the content you create and share on other devices. So, this is just a friendly reminder to stay on top of what you create. You can’t get your time back, and everything you create takes time, so keep that in mind.
I know you think you probably won’t miss that 30 second video you shot for Snapchat, but you might end up missing it later.
It seems like every year people are learning the same lesson – that social networks get shut down, and it can happen abruptly.
So, even though I feel like I might be beating a dead horse when I caution people against becoming single-source dependent (in any capacity), I am also reminded of how important this message is every time I share it.
You can sidestep many issues simply by building your website and email list. If that’s all you take from this guide, you’ll probably be better off than 50% of people or more.
The other steps will require more work. But safeguarding against threats always takes work, so don’t despise the time spent on this. If you do it right, you’ll be quietly laughing in the corner even as others scramble around looking for solutions and alternatives while declaring the end of the world. And that’s the position you want to be in.
P.S. Remember though, none of what you've learned will matter if you don't know how to get your music out there and earn from it. Want to learn how to do that? Then get our free ‘5 Steps To Profitable Youtube Music Career' ebook emailed directly to you!