Social media marketing is a beast of a task for a musician, or for any business or public personality. There's so much to consider: should I be taking out ads? What type of content performs best? What hashtags should I be using? How often do I need to be posting? And those are some of the simpler questions.
If you're intimidated by social media, I always advise to take it slow. Better to be on only one or two platforms with active, well-designed profiles than to be on all of them, but not be able to keep up and end up with them all looking bad.
So, the first and biggest question is, what should those one or two platforms be?
There's no definitive answer. Each platform has its specialty, and every artist has their own personality that may shine more on one platform over another. I can, however, give you my thoughts as to what social platforms are most important in the music industry and how to best utilize each one.
The Golden Four: Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and YouTube
These are what I would call the essentials for a musician. If you have to choose between them, consider the content you have to share and what you want to get out of your social media.
Facebook is the top requirement in my book because it is still the most popular platform across all ages globally, and it's the best place, aside from your website, to gather all your information together. Some artists even use it as their website and direct their custom URL to their Facebook - a strategy I would not advise, but if you don't have the means to build a website that looks good and keep it up to date, this is a simple, quick fix. Your Facebook page can include a full bio, photos, videos, your website link, events, contact information, and countless other extensions. Another perk: Google gives Facebook a high priority in its searches. If your website is new, it's very possible that your Facebook page will come up first. Also, Facebook ads are some of the most effective paid web promotions.
Downsides: It's hard to get exposure on Facebook pages. Facebook prioritizes people in their newsfeed, so if someone is your friend and follows your page, they'll see posts from your personal account first. No matter how many likes your page has, your posts will not reach all of your followers. Paying for boosts improves that exposure, but you may have to invest some significant dough. Also, if your fans are a younger audience, under 25 or so, they might not be very active on Facebook, if they're on it at all. The largest age group on Facebook is 25-34, according to Statista. The younger your fans are, the more likely they are to be on the newest social platforms, and Facebook is middle aged in social media years.
Twitter is key for interaction and discovery because users spend so much time retweeting and browsing trending topics. If you're going to use Twitter, make sure you're using relevant hashtags and posting things in real time. Unlike Facebook, Twitter's newsfeed is chronological, so the reaction time is quick: people will most likely see your tweets right when you send them and won't find them later. I've found Twitter to be the easiest platform to send out quick updates and to get attention from new people who aren't already fans. It's also a great platform for responding to your fans and sharing when they post something about you. Get into conversations on Twitter, but...
Downsides: Twitter is chock-full of opinions, and many of them are going to be negative. If you've seen Jimmy Kimmel's Mean Tweets segment, you know what you're getting into. It's great to share your opinions, too, but beware of picking fights. Don't fall into the worst of all social media traps. Many celebrities have removed themselves from social media altogether because of backlash on Twitter. You don't have to respond to every fan; engage people who are going to boost you up, not bring you down.
According to Smart Insights, Instagram now has more active users across the globe than Twitter and is a key platform for the 16-24 age group. If you're aiming for that demo, hit here. Instagram provides the same opportunity for users to browse by hashtags, and I've found I get a lot of response from people who don't follow me yet when I use popular hashtags. Of course, you need images or video for Instagram posts, so it's ideal for musicians who have great images and video to work with. Are you fashion-savvy? Do you have edgy designs in your photos and album artwork? If so, you definitely need to be on Instagram. You'll also get a lot of reaction to cooking, fitness, and pets - but then again, that's the whole internet - and photos and videos from your live shows.
Downsides: Instagram seems to be behind on a lot of convenient features. You can't schedule posts in advance, even from a third-party app - Instagram's API doesn't allow it. You can only post from your phone, and you can't put clickable links in your posts. That's why you see a lot of posts that say "link in my bio." You can't re-post others' posts in the app, though you can with third-party apps. It's a very real-time platform - one might even say instant - but worth investing the time.
Several sources say that YouTube is actually the most-used platform for streaming music. And no, we're not talking YouTube Red's music app, we're talking about the good old YouTube videos put up for free. For many music listeners, YouTube is the go-to place to search to find a song they want to hear or share with a friend. So you should not only use YouTube to share videos of live performances, but for music videos and even lyric videos to get your songs on the platform. You can also do behind-the-scenes videos and series that aren't centered around your music, but that enhance the message you're trying to send. This is actually our specialty at LRM: see Shea Rose's Warrior Wednesdays and D.T.M.A. video series as examples.
Downsides: The payment issue. When someone listens to your song by playing the video on YouTube, you're not getting money from it. However, if you grow a big enough following and allow YouTube to play ads before your videos, you can make money from that. Regardless, it's always worth having a YouTube account for musicians. Press, venues, radio, and fans will always want to find video of you, and YouTube will be the first place they look.
As an alternative option, you could upload your videos to Vevo and have them push through to YouTube. Vimeo is also another popular video platform, but again, most people still search YouTube first, so to be discoverable, you should be there one way or another.
Other Modern Platforms and Their Uses
Marketing on Snapchat takes some serious social media know-how, but the potential is huge. This is another place to target a young audience. It is not a casual platform. If you're going to use Snapchat to promote yourself, you need to be committed to it and invest time into gaining followers, keeping up your story, getting your snaps included in live stories, and maybe even creating custom filters. Sprout Social has a good beginner's guide on Snapchat marketing, and Sonicbids has some good ideas on how musicians can creatively use this platform.
Tumblr is a very unique community. You've probably seen a ton of memes and jokes that started on Tumblr and you might not even know it. This is another platform with a young audience, and a particularly devoted one. You'll see a lot of fandom posts. If you have a quirky, funny vibe, or if you really, really like Supernatural, you can find some fans here. It also functions as a blog, so if there's something outside of music that you like to read and write about - fashion, movies, TV, photography - you could find an audience in this space.
Messaging Apps (Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp, etc.)
Direct messaging is not a new concept in digital marketing; businesses and artists have been using email and SMS text to market themselves for years. Messaging apps, however, are a big developing trend. They're huge internationally. Facebook Messenger and WhatsApp have the second and third most active users globally (below Facebook) in a poll presented by Smart Insights. Click-through rates may be low, but you're more likely to make an impression in a message sent directly to a fan than in a post that they casually scroll by. Plus, direct messaging gives them the opportunity to respond to you. It takes more time on your part, and it may be best to get into these apps when you have a team to help you, but if you want one-to-one fan connection, this is it.
Periscope was a really cool platform when it first came out: an app that lets you livestream from your phone, and where anyone around the world can watch you. Perfect for allowing your fans to see concerts in different cities or exclusive sets that you play in your home. Then Facebook introduced Facebook Live, and that's how everyone seems to be livestreaming these days. Is it still worth being on Periscope? Maybe. New listeners are more likely to discover you on Periscope since anyone can browse streams in any area, unlike Facebook Live, which only broadcasts to your current followers. On the other hand, Facebook has more users, and it's easier to get your fans to tune in to a Facebook Live broadcast and watch the whole thing. Plus the Facebook Live video stays up on your page permanently; Periscope recordings expire after 24 hours. You could do both, but if you're going to pick one, since you should be on Facebook anyway, I would say try Facebook Live first.
We're getting to the bottom of my list here, which means I'm starting to talk about platforms that I wouldn't recommend for artists, at least not early on. Pinterest is great for DIY projects and weddings, but there's not a lot of music there. It is useful to be aware of Pinterest, though, to make it easy for people to pin from your website or other social pages, especially if you have good images. "Pin it for later" links and buttons are another way for people to share your work. There are some great Pinterest marketing strategies - see Social Media Examiner for a few tips - but perhaps the best way to learn how to promote yourself on Pinterest, if you want to, is to follow some artists who are doing it well, like Keith Urban and Lady Antebellum.
This is a personal preference and I'm sure some will disagree with me, but please, please never promote your music to me on LinkedIn. For me, LinkedIn is a strictly professional network. I use it to look for jobs, clients, and business contacts. Now, you are more than welcome to connect with me on LinkedIn - in fact I encourage it, here's my profile - if you want to work with me or ask for career advice. As a fan, I am not looking for music on LinkedIn, and even when I worked in the media, music sent to me on LinkedIn just felt like such impersonal promotion. Keep a professional profile to connect with industry people. It might eventually help you get a gig, a manager, a publisher, or some other important piece of your team, but build those relationships slowly. Don't expect a response from sending InMail to a label exec that you've never met.
I love Google for most things, but Google+ is not one of them. It just hasn't built up the active user base to be on the same level as Facebook or many other platforms that do basically the same thing. The key word here is active user base, though, because anyone who uses Gmail or YouTube has Google+ (you have to go through a few extra steps to create a profile, but it's all integrated). In fact, you can manage your YouTube account as a Google+ brand account, which means you can have multiple managers and it will appear separate from your personal account. There's plenty you can do on Google+, but the question becomes: is your audience there?
What social media outlets do you use? Do you think we missed an important platform? Let us know in the comments!