I was chatting with Todd Henry from Accidental Creative recently (okay, I’m spilling the beans; I interviewed him for an upcoming podcast episode), and I asked him about social media (as I tend to do with every guest). Todd is someone that has obviously given a lot of thought to every aspect of creativity and life so his answers are often insightful and thought-provoking.
The key takeaway from his insight into social media is that a high percentage of engaged users is better than a large number of apathetic followers. It serves to reason that as marketers (don’t be afraid of that term musicians, you are marketers too) we like to see numbers: ‘likes’, comments, shares, subscriptions… And yet, those metrics don’t come unless your users actually care about what you’re posting. It won’t come just because you have 1,000 Facebook ‘likes’ on your page.
I Love Everybody!
If you think back to the days of MySpace, you probably remember that you could ‘friend’ just about anyone. It wasn’t really hard to make it look like you were connected. And yet, many people who “friended” their favorite celebrities and famous musicians probably weren’t truly connected with them (although I actually had the chance to correspond with Ivana Santilli thanks to MySpace), even if they had them listed as their top friends.
Similarly, you can ‘circle’ anyone on Google+ these days. It doesn’t mean that the people you follow will actually follow you back, let alone interact with the content you publish. You might draw a small following from doing that, but repeating the follow-un-follow cycle is painstaking and kind of cruel.
There is something to be said about clearing out your ‘following’ list from time to time, especially if there are spammers and incessant self-promoters who do nothing but get on your nerves. In the case of Twitter streams, it can very quickly become a blur of activity that’s impossible to track; especially as you follow more users (creating categorical lists for the people you follow is a good idea).
I suppose I shouldn’t glance over those who artificially inflate their numbers by paying for them. Sometimes it can feel as though us online marketers are competing with businesses, musicians or people that have more ‘likes’ than us, and we wonder why we don’t have the numbers they have.
Sometimes that’s merely a function of time and effort; our competitors have just done more and been around longer. One might also argue that a particular social platform was less saturated when they first got started, although that always sounds a bit like an excuse to me.
At other times, however, your impatient “competitor” has actually paid for those ‘likes’ or follows. They haven’t created an engaged following, so while they might have a few general comments like “great!” or “terrific post here, it really helped me with my studies”, in the end it’s just a scheme to make themselves look more popular than they are. As result, they might appear to be more of a trusted source and get more ‘likes’ from curious onlookers, but it doesn’t mean those onlookers will stick around long-term, let alone be interested in the content.
Social Media: Don’t get too caught up in the Numbers
Having come full-circle in this blog post, the ideal situation is obviously to create an engaged following that is genuinely interested in what you are doing. Even if that number seems small at first, an engaged user base is likely to do more to spread word about you than people you invite to ‘like’ your page.
The reality of a site like Facebook is that your target demographic isn’t necessarily going to be your friends and family (let me just save you some time now and say that a very small percentage may be, but alas, by and large they aren’t likely to be the most supportive). And let me remind you that your Facebook ‘friend’ list really is just that… It’s a list of people in your immediate circle and casual acquaintances.
I have said that to a few people recently and they usually respond with a skeptical tone. Yes, some people use Facebook like they used MySpace, but really think about the last time you added someone on Facebook “just because”. You might do that occasionally, but for the most part your Facebook network is comprised of people you already know in some way shape or form. If they “know” you, they also know your weaknesses.