Yes. I said it. Social media is a waste of time.
The web is a flutter with news and panicked updates on the decline of Facebook media reach. They saw organic reach drop 52% in 2016 and engagement for brands drop by over 20% from January to August in 2017. Add to that declarations of “Organic reach on Facebook is dead” from this year (2018) and you can see why anybody who’s not pumping copious amounts of cash into the platform’s paid reach and advertising system is wasting their time.
Twitter isn’t much better and run their own algorithm to show you what they think you want to see. Unless you’re getting serious traction with a tweet or two every now and then, you’re not going to be pushed up the timeline. This means you’re left with a fleeting post and to anybody following more than a hundred or so people, your update may very well be missed. This means constant posting and re-posting of the same stuff, or reliance on a completionist attitude from your followers.
Instagram (basically Facebook) saw a timeline change a while back which threw chronological order out the window in favour of something that would mean being able to charge you for traction, and in the wake of Facebook’s latest updates, some Instagrammers are running scared. If you follow the money, Instagram’s revenue hit nearly $7 Billion in 2018, so if an increase in advertising (up 28% apparently) isn’t an indicator of a decline in organic reach I don’t know what is. Combine that with 70% of posts never being seen, and it’s not looking great.
What was once something of a haven for smaller artists and musicians, Soundcloud is also going through what seems to be a bit of a crisis. 2017 has left them reeling, and it feels a little like the disappearance of the platform is only a matter of time. The more they focus on the listener market and move away from their beloved creator market, the more the platform seems to hit trouble.
What about chatbots, digital hangouts, ephemeral content, Snapchat, VR, AR, live streaming, influencer marketing and those bloody kids, Generation Z (presumably so-named because their reliance on screens renders them zombie-like).
You’re welcome to chase all of these dangling carrots and more. Be my guest — waste your day trying to up engagement, boosting reach, or encouraging people to like and share but I’ll be over here relying on something we’ve had all along, which hasn’t shown any sign of disappearing.
Everyone’s got at least one email address. In fact, you need one to sign up for any social media, so there will always be more people with email than any social media platform.
It’s personal, and direct — no money-hungry algorithm’s going to stop your email getting through (aside from relatively predictable spam filters).
It’s immediate, and people might not check it right away, but delivery is instantaneous, and plenty people can check email on their mobile devices these days — we don’t need to find the nearest desktop machine to do so.
It’s also got far more solid engagement stats than any social platform. Targeting, segmenting and dealing with your subscribers or email list is relatively simple.
Sure, email has downsides. Some people hate it, some people don’t want a cluttered inbox, but that’s fair enough. There will always be people resistant to any marketing method.
There are build limitations for things like images, videos and certain types of content. It’s also slightly harder to share immediately, and it lacks that community feel you might get with social media.
That said, I don’t see any decline in the popularity of email. The medium and format continue to grow. 3.7 billion email users worldwide is more than any other platform. Email has a median ROI (return on investment) of 122% — over 4x higher than other marketing formats including social media, direct mail, and paid search.
So why is it that so many musicians and artists have ignored email as a method of building a fanbase?
It’s the single most important thing you can do as a musician, and it’s a brilliant way to avoid having to deal with social media.
So, I say it again (but try to imagine I’m saying it with more emphasis):
Musicians are wasting time with social media.
The first step to getting yourself away from these time-vacuums is to get an email list set up and start collecting people’s addresses in return for something.
Use auto-responders to build engagement and to help these fans get to you directly.
Then you can find and target new potential fans with advertising, blog posts, content, forum posts, word of mouth, even social media (if you can get it working in a way that you want).
The long-term goal here though is the ability to have email marketing as your primary method and to step away from social and other methods. You have a core list, you create your music as you wish, you market it directly to you fans, and without even needing to mention it publicly, you could have hundreds or thousands of pre-orders on your hands from email marketing alone.
The comparative cost is also far better. At a low level, your first thousand or two thousand subscribers are free with some platforms (Mailchimp for example) and if you’re technically minded, or shop around there are self-hosted options like Sendy, or AWS-dependent services which cost literally a hundredth of what Mailchimp would.
With all of that in mind, (and having done most of this for myself over the course of a year or two), I’ve put together a course which covers all of this and plenty more (including profiling your audience and stuff on how the mechanics might all work).
IRONY KLAXON: I actually wrote this on a social platform of sorts, and shared it on Twitter. I dare say it will have insignificant impact on how many people read it.