CMU Trends Digital Marketing & PR

Trends: Social considerations

By | Published on Wednesday 15 January 2014

Social media buttons

There was much talk about teenagers shunning Facebook in 2013, with the teens apparently moving over to social networks that offer more creative freedom like Tumblr, or more privacy like the instant messaging apps, or just any site where their bloody parents aren’t hanging out.

This development in the Facebook story was, in the main, exaggerated somewhat, mainly by journalists eager for the biggest social media success story to eventually fail (the IPO was bungled, but not so disastrous in the end). And the growing popularity of Snapchat and WhatsApp amongst the teen audience is possibly as much about the decline of Blackberry usage within that market, the BBM instant messaging system always being popular with the youth demographic.

But Facebook did admit to seeing a decline in daily usage amongst its teen users, and especially with younger teenagers, an admission that caused a share-price wobble. Though the uber-social network remains the biggest in the world by a long way, and still sits atop the ‘essential’ list for any artist’s social media plan.

Those social media managers in the music business altering the way they use Facebook are doing so more because of changes in the way the social network chooses what updates users see in their news feeds, and to respond to new advertising options on the site. And while it’s true that an artist’s actual Facebook profile, or timeline, is probably less significant than it once was, communicating and interacting with fans via the network remains an important part of the band-fan relationship.

Meanwhile, two other social media points that seemed to crop up with increased frequency in 2013 were as follows…

The Google-owned site has been the primary location for an artist’s video content in most markets for some time now, even if the Vimeo video player is way nicer to look at (you can use Vimeo in Germany where licensing issues stop YouTube being a music video hub).

For starters YouTube, unlike a lot of its competitors, pays royalties whenever videos are viewed, and for many artists and labels this is now a key revenue stream.

Meanwhile, for a lot of people, YouTube is now a starting point when looking for artist content. And an increasing number of people in the music industry and media take notice of those publicly available YouTube stats (yes, despite the reports of content owners skewing their play-counts).

So none of that’s especially new, but in 2013 it seemed that not only was it now essential for artists to put their videos on YouTube, it was essential to have a good, well-managed presence on the video site too. And for new artists with no videos to their name, there is still a need to get on the Google service as soon as possible, even if that means slideshow vids.

So, put YouTube on your social media essentials list, even if the bit of the video site that is proper social networking – viewer commenting – is still a bit of a mess and can probably be ignored (though Google has been trying to fix this).

And while you don’t need to worry so much about viewer comments, that doesn’t mean managing a YouTube presence is as simple as setting up a channel and uploading some videos. A lot goes on behind the scenes, with a stack of tools for content owners to manage their videos on the site, and the use of their music in user-uploaded files, and ensuring they get the money they are due.

It’s worth managing your YouTube presence well, and for smaller rights owners it’s worth checking out how digital distributors can help in this regard.

Again, this is not a new rule, but it seemed to be shouted ever louder across the music business this year. And the fact we are now contemplating the decline of Facebook within some demographics proves once again, social media should be a means to an end for artists and labels, and not their core online presence. Nothing replaces the good old fashioned band website and mailing list.

All online activity should focus on persuading fans to provide their email addresses and permission to email. There are various reasons for this. First, while Facebook isn’t going anywhere, social media do go in and out of fashion, and with email addresses you are not at the whim of those fads. Second, fan stats are starting to drive the music business, and the analytics you can gather from HTML emails are the most powerful.

And third, remember, the online fan relationship is not just a marketing channel – as direct-to-fan properly takes off it’s your sales channel too. D2F is always stronger via your own site and email list. So if you only take one thing from this report, remember, it’s the email list that matters, and whoever is in charge of that list owns the fanbase, and therefore controls the business.