Social media is an invaluable tool for folks of all creative walks of life. The various applications allow users to communicate directly with existing followers, develop new fans, expand your professional network, test out the effectiveness of different material, and log a (mostly) timeless snapshot of your brand that can be revisited, shared, and interacted with forever. Your social channels, together, will have all the functionality of a website, but the flexibility and approachability of a dialogic conversation.
In recent years, the rise of social media properties has saturated the internet and can often divide a musician’s fanbase as an unwanted consequence, rather than unify it. As an artist, you might be wondering where your attention should best be focused and how to use each platform effectively to grow, maintain, and service your community and their needs. There may not always be easy, direct solutions to selling more music through your social media channels, but it’s totally possible to build out a strategy that creates more trust, emotional connection, and qualitative engagement with your fans — all of which ultimately lead to more music sales indirectly.
Not every one of the hundreds of socially focused apps is necessary. Only a select few of them are really key to most long-term strategies, but depending on your needs, you can always extrapolate out to others. Below are the most widely used platforms — and probably the most notoriously misused by musicians of all stripes. I’ll outline each one’s key purpose in your development as an artist.
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Instagram – Your Brand
Instagram is the social media app with the simplest formula: photos and videos. Done. Its feed is streamlined and clean, and because of the inherent visual component, it’s the perfect hub for your visual brand. When used properly, the platform can adequately showcase who you are, how you look, even what you sound like, and your creative essence. So this is an application you want to polish and focus on leading up to big announcements, as its algorithm has the most impact on visibility and interaction.
There are tons of ways to increase your following on Instagram, and I’ll defer you to other peoples’ posts on that topic. But it goes without saying that since any new follower can see your entire post history, don’t wait to create brand-aligned content. Start working on building your visual style and messaging immediately. When the followers arrive, they’ll fall in love. Even press outlets are starting to offer artists visibility in the form of Instagram “takeovers,” and brands are paying public figures for product placement and sponsorship on the app. Due to its growth, it’s become a major discovery tool as well… yes, for musicians.
Facebook – Your News
Perhaps because of its age, Facebook is still the first stop for many fans. One of the most important and easiest gauges of an artist’s popularity is the number of “likes” your core posts have garnered. And the Facebook Business tools, although harsh at times, allow artists to advertise directly to people who have expressed interest in their style of music, creating easier connections for new fans.
As a platform that can be both interactive and informational, artists should use Facebook for announcements, basic information (label, agent, publicist, contact), and communication with fans. It’s the necessary evil of social media platforms and its permanence is the reason why bands still need to pay attention to it. In some ways, it’s become the new mailing list. Essentially, when fans “like” an artist’s page, they’re opting into updates from that artist and welcoming their news into their feed.
YouTube – Your Many Sides (fun, serious, talented, etc. = uniquely you)
YouTube is where you show ‘em what you’re made of. It’s often one of platforms that artists don’t utilize enough. Music videos, tour diaries, covers, live footage, interviews, reels, behind-the-scenes, and even giving music lessons or teaching parts to your songs all belong on your channel. YouTube is basically the new television. But you can turn your channel into a concert experience, a classroom, an intimate dinner date, or a press pass, and reach fans where they are at all times.
While I don’t think it’s healthy for artists to work towards overnight YouTube superstardom, there is something to be said about the fact that this platform is built around wanting to help you go viral (which benefits them as much as it benefits you). And since your YouTube channel will almost certainly feature your own work and music, exposure can very easily lead to dollars and cents in your bank account, too.
Twitter – Your Network
Even more so than the other applications, Twitter needs to be used responsibly. For starters, I often see countless musicians syncing their Instagram, Facebook, or Bandsintown profiles to create automated updates, which makes their feed look as if it’s crowded with spam, and the entirety of their account looks neglected on a personal level.
Twitter is best used as a way to contribute to conversations either happening on a small level — messaging people directly or showing people love — or using hashtags and trending topics to tap into larger conversations. If you’re particularly adept at linguistic puzzles or making memes (or if you happen to be a politician, athlete, or comedian), Twitter will work especially well for you. Try to tap into conversations on a daily or more-than-daily basis. It doesn’t take a ton of work to check what’s going on, post something, and go, but over time you’ll see your relevancy increase.
Many bands opt out of Twitter completely, cutting their social media losses, while others stick to the basics: major announcements, updates, and responding (positively) to fans.
Snapchat – Your “Now”
While fun and entertaining, Snapchat lacks many of the productive qualities of other social media platforms. Much like Twitter, I think the application is most useful when an artist feels comfortable. Due to the fact that your content is fleeting, and the primary age demographic of most of its users skews young (read: probably not your target music customers), it probably takes a lot more effort to get this platform working in your favor than you want to put in.
It’s okay for bands to opt out of starting an account. However, if you are committed to making use of Snapchat in some way, I’d recommend using the platform to test out content, create casual interpersonal connections with your superfans, and develop it as the only place for fans to hear snippets of future releases, or as a hub for time-sensitive discounts or other secrets.
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