Facebook has become an imperative part of the music business. It’s hard to remember what the scene looked like before 2009 when Facebook launched their modern-day business page. Since then, it’s become ingrained in every facet of marketing and advertising for musicians. But will it continue to be in the future? That question might be getting easier to answer…
You’ve likely discovered that the organic reach of your band’s Facebook posts has taken another hit; seemingly more damaging than the last. Your band’s Facebook page has 10K likes but a reach of 200 and it’s only getting worse!?!?
Is it ever going to get better, or will my reach become increasingly worse?
Let’s answer that question by telling you what Facebook is testing out right now. Currently the social media platform is experimenting with an “Explore Feed” in couple different countries. Basically, a user’s news feed would only contain posts from friends and family and posts from businesses (Facebook classifies your band as a business) and publishers, along with other content would be located in an “Explore Feed”….unless of course you want to pay for your posts to be placed in the regular news feed…..
The “Explore Feed” isn’t very easy to find and has already had detrimental effects on businesses and publishers in the countries it’s running in. While Facebook is claiming they don’t plan to roll it out globally (yet), or move all of business/publisher posts to a separate feed, one can read the writing on the wall.
Your posts will appear less and less in people’s news feed, and possibly not at all at one point.
But what if I’m willing to pay?
Right now, Facebook is still a great place for paid advertising, but since their ads work on bid/auction system, and the space is becoming more crowded, it’s becoming more expensive to advertise! Less user engagement and big businesses who have become dependent on Facebook willing to pay to advertise…you can do the math. So not only will you continue to struggle to reach a small portion of the people who like your page for free, it’s also becoming tougher to reach them even if you pay.
What about that Facebook fan base I’ve worked hard to build??? All those page likes???
In Facebook’s mind that’s not their problem. You don’t own the likes, Facebook does. Their number one concern is to keep people using the platform, and they feel the best way to do that is to keep user’s news feeds as relevant as possible. They feel that people have a better experience when they predominately see posts from their friends and family, not bands, businesses, and publishers. AND they know those bands, businesses, and publishers have grown dependent on Facebook, and are willing to pay to stay connected.
So from their perspective it makes no sense to make free exposure for your band advantageous. They clear up people’s news feeds and get you to pay, it’s a win-win for them. Facebook has no reason to increase your organic reach, but they have some pretty good ones for continuing to limit it; and that should scare you.
So what’s to stop them from moving my band’s posts to a completely different feed?
Well nothing. Here’s all you need to know, business page’s organic reach has never been more limited, and Facebook just turned in one of its most profitable quarters to date. It may happen, it may not, but what’s scary is that for the first time it’s an actual legitimate possibility.
So is it time to panic?
The first thing to remember is that every other band is pretty much in the same boat. Everyone has the same problem and the same resources to solve it. No one has an advantage, so you don’t really need to panic…at least not in regards to keeping up with other bands… Plus I honestly don’t know how much longer Facebook would be the best place for bands who are in young-consumer-driven genres (like ours), regardless of any algorithm changes. The younger generation (20 and younger) seems to opting out, and the first generation of Facebook users (30ish) seem to be getting burned out. Me personally, I’ve been on Facebook since 2005, and I spend less time on my personal page with each passing year (but I know I’m not everybody). My friends seem to also be spending less time and updating less frequently, and so I check it less and the cycle continues…
Facebook caught on so immensely, because it gave people a place to connect and keep up with what was happening personally in each other’s lives. Now it’s a place where people share 3rd-party videos, articles, memes, etc… that don’t provide any personal connection between the poster and the viewer. Plus, ever since the last election-cycle, people have grown weary of social media debate, everything being subject to public scrutiny, fear of inadvertent backlash, constant opinionation, etc… The Facebook news feeds is a far departure from what once made it so great, and it looks to causing an inverse effect –pushing people to become more guarded, reserved, and private (at least in regards to social media).
I don’t think Facebook is going to completely fade away by any means, but it’ll probably transition into being background noise rather than people’s biggest window to the world. I think they’ve already started their descent, and with fewer people investing, it’ll continue to become less interesting over time.
For musicians it’ll continue to be a powerful place for a while, especially when paying, but for how long is anyone’s guess. So while it’s not quite time to panic yet, the time could be approaching sooner rather than later.
What about Twitter, Instagram, and SnapChat?
Twitter – Twitter keeps steadily chugging along! It’s always been in the forefront of social media platforms, but never the very front….although that may be changing for musicians. This is where a big portion of millennials are (especially the one’s who have opted out of Facebook), your tweets aren’t under any restricting algorithms, and the user feed is in chronological order. Unlike Facebook, for every new follower you get, it equates in one more person who can potentially see your message. Pretty much all of the things that now make Facebook frustrating, are the opposite on Twitter, however it still falls short, compared to Facebook in many areas. Posts that do well, do considerably better on Facebook than twitter, especially video and picture content. Engagement is much scarcer on Twitter, a share is generally more valuable than a retweet, it doesn’t allow you to provide nearly as much information and content as Facebook, and the advertising system doesn’t work very well — but overall the platform has been consistent and reliably since it’s inception.
All we keep hearing about Generation Z is that they’re highly-visual, so will a text-based platform be able to survive this next wave of youngsters…I guess we’ll see, but I feel pretty confident that it will.
Instagram – Unfortunately from a band perspective, with Instagram being owned by Facebook, you’re going to run into the same issues: reach continually being more limited, not being able to reach your followers, a non-chronological feed, etc… You can only post pictures and videos and there’s no built-in function that allows people to share your posts. So while it’s not bad for posting a picture, there’s really not much else that you can do with it (for free). The biggest plus-side compared to Facebook though, is that this is where a large percentage of 18-24 year old’s are and it’s already crossed over into older demographics.
Instagram continues to grow, and doesn’t seem to be dropping in popularity like Facebook, so that’s a positive, but it’s nearly impossible to direct fans outside of the platform ( YouTube, iTunes, Spotify, etc…).
The cross-platform advertising that allows you to run Facebook ads on Instagram however, is becoming increasingly better and will likely become the best way to advertise to those fans 24 and under (but it still won’t be great). It’ll probably stay popular with the younger generations for a while, but comparatively it’s not nearly as powerful of a tool for musicians.
SnapChat – Of the three, SnapChat seems to be losing the most value in regards to a musician’s ability to spread the word about their music, mainly due to Instagram’s addition of their own “stories”. While still extremely popular with the youngsters, it’ll likely never cross outside of that demographic. Plus it provides the least amount of tools for customer/fan acquisition. It has a pretty strong foothold for now, but the future outlook doesn’t look to be very bright.
So what’s the verdict?
While some of these platforms may be helping you build your fan base, how successful are they in helping sell tickets to shows, directing people to download your music, or at least take a listen? Probably not as successful a you might think. They can help, but all three of them combined don’t come close to what Facebook used to be able to provide. They’re still worth the time and effort, but don’t think they’ll ever fill the void Facebook is leaving.
Facebook seemed to offer the big picture into people’s lives, and that’s what lead to its massive popularity, and is now burning people out. The other 3 platforms, will probably all stay popular for a while because they offer glimpses into people’s lives, rather than the big picture, and the short and sweet glimpse fits better with our faster-paced society. The shallower content however is also what will keep them from being as popular as Facebook once was.
Is there another social media platform on the rise?
As of right now, there doesn’t look to be. There’s a few smaller platforms that have a little momentum, but they’re either too specialized or not really a true social media platform; and nothing looks like a great place for musicians. We had MySpace, then Facebook, then Twitter, then Instagram, then SnapChat, so we’re about due for one, however I’m speculating that nothing monumental is going to come along for a while (maybe not until something truly revolutionary with a virtual or augmented reality angle).
I do think there is a new(ish) trend however, that’s been slowly emerging and taking the place of people’s desire for social media: group texts and texting apps. Instead of subjecting oneself to the qualms of social media, people just form group texts with categories of people (friends, family, co-workers) to pass around ideas, articles, memes, pictures, etc… You have control over who sees the message, you only communicate with people you intend to, you’re not subject to public scrutiny or constant opinionation, and it’s relatively simple. I know it’s not anything ground-breaking, but I think it’s having a big impact on people’s desire/need to interact with social media.
So is it going to become increasing harder to reach fans and generate revenue through social media?
I think that’s an obvious yes, but I also think it’s important to remember that social media will continue to have a powerful effect, even when (especially when) the content isn’t coming directly from you. Sure reaching fans directly through your social media page is the most efficient way to spread the word about your music, but it’s not the most powerful. Organic posts from your fans posting videos and pictures from your shows, sharing tracks, or talking about you is by far the most impactful. Peer recommendations (what one’s friends or acquaintances are saying about a product, service, movie, music, etc..) are much more effective than marketing coming from the source (you). So keep putting on shows and making music that cause people to post about it and advocate for you. That’s the real power of social media. If you look at the last surge of guys who have become popular in our scene (Koe Wetzel, Parker McCollum, Flatland Cavalry, etc…) it wasn’t because they were social media marketing geniuses. Their explosive growth wasn’t caused by the content of their social media pages, it came from their music and shows being content-worthy of their fans’ own social media pages, which in-turn spread the word through their circles exponentially.
A strong social media following is usually the effect of doing everything else right and not the other way around
So where do I go from here? How else can I reach my fans.
The most obvious answer is email. I wrote a whole piece on bulking up your email list in wake of Facebook’s algorithm tweaks. You can check it out here: http://www.texasmusicpickers.com/time-go-back-collecting-email-addresses/
I know that because I’m a publisher, I’m under some different circumstances than musicians, but I’ll tell you this, if we hadn’t been focusing on building email subscribers over the last year+, we’d be SOL in reaching our followers; and that will only become truer as time goes on.
Spotify has also become a major part in keeping artists connected with fans. People who are“following” you on Spotify will get your tunes added to their weekly Release Radar playlist, and receive an email on release day. While it doesn’t have a the connectability and engagement of true social media platform, it is a great, and FREE, way to get the word out to people who like your music. Plus getting on playlists, being a related artist, and Spotify Radio also provide powerful tools for getting your music discovered.
So what should be my game plan?
With people engaging with Facebook less, ever-increasing limitations for non-personal pages, the younger generation seemingly opting out and no new social media platforms on the rise or anything comparable, I would make sure I was focusing on everything else. Ultimately though, I would start embracing the shift that you’re going to have less control over your message, and consumers will have more. Organic and grassroots followings, especially vocal ones, have never been more vital. Win those fans over with your music and your shows, and then continue to provide them with music and shows worthy of posting on their own social media pages (which has really been the true recipe for success over the last decade anyway).
I would also focus on the two things that have remained constant, still give you the ability to spread the message yourself, and don’t seem to be in jeopardy of losing value any time soon: email-marketing and Twitter.
I would focus on your Spotify following as well. Spotify wants your fans to stay updated on your music and they have direct access to them. Who knows what kind of new tools they’ll unleash in coming years?
If nothing else comes along anytime soon, (and that very well could be the case) bands with their fans’ email addresses, a large and engaged twitter following, and a solid Spotify following will definitely have a big advantage over those that don’t! But keep in mind building those assets is a slow and steady grind; so the sooner you start the better.
If you don’t have an answer you like to the question “can my band survive without Facebook”, I would suggest you do something about it; and soon.
Don’t forget what happened to bands after the mass exodus of MySpace. They spent tons of time and effort driving people to their pages and then all of a sudden they didn’t have a way to communicate with them….