06 Jan The State of Social Media in 2019 (and where artists can win)
Happy New Year, beautiful people!
I got relatively quiet over the Holidays (though I did host a Christmas Special on terrestrial radio), but rest assured thumbs were not being twiddled aimlessly! I took the time to do deep dives into the state of different social media platforms I had been using over the last year, in order to come back up to the surface with a treasure chest of insights, stats, and various tips that can help us bring our social presence to the next level in 2019.
This article covers the state of Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, YouTube, and LinkedIn at the start of 2019. I’m only talking about sites I use regularly and have the knowledge/confidence to speak about, which is why platforms such as Snapchat are absent, among others.
A key to getting the most from this guide is knowing in which mediums your strengths lie to communicate with fans. For some, it’s through text. Others excel in telling stories with photos. And others are extremely comfortable and effective on video, pre-recorded and/or live. I’ve evaluated each medium on each platform, to let you know where you can have the most impact by playing to your strengths, and where it may be worth stepping out of your comfort zone this year.
There’s no way to tiptoe around the elephant in the room: Facebook had a rough 2018. From leaders of the company testifying before governments of the world, to mountain evidence that a band of organized trolls across the ocean can change cause a chain reaction that changes how we perceive democracy forever, to it becoming common knowledge that if we are not paying for a service, we are the product.
However, it’s still the largest social media platform in the world, and its marketing features are incomparable to other sites’ at this point.
Text: Out of the main three social media platforms: Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter, Facebook is without a doubt the best place for long-form text… As long as your audience finds your content valuable enough to engage with.
Photos: Photos catch attention on the newsfeed, particularly with Facebook users who scroll quickly or don’t have the focus at this point for a couple long paragraphs of text. I recommend adding a relevant picture to text posts in order to stand out a little more, especially on bleary-eyed weekday mornings when people check their socials upon turning off their phone alarm clock.
Videos: Facebook Lives still reign supreme. Don’t forget that the longer your audience stays watching, the higher the chance they’ll see the targeted banner ad on the right-hand side of their screen.
Pre-recorded videos, however, are a different creature entirely. Over the last year, Facebook’s algorithm has put increasingly high rewards on how long viewers stay (will they click play? watch 3 seconds? watch 10 seconds? watch 75% of the video? play it all the way through?). Their reasoning is that if Facebook users watch as close to a video in its entirety, that page provides valuable content to he newsfeed, and should, therefore, be rewarded. This means that clickbait, and rambling long-form videos, and tutorials that take too long to get to the main attraction are being penalized, while shorter, lively, shareable videos or ones that ask questions are being lifted up… to the top of fans’ newsfeeds.
Organic Reach: Remember that Facebook’s goal is to keep users on the platform for as long a possible, and that won’t happen if their newsfeed is clogged with ads and uninteresting content. The more engaged the fans who see your organic content are, the more Facebook’s algorithm will open up your organic reach to others.
Paid Ads: Facebook ads are incredibly underpriced. In fact, their system for pricing is a snapshot of free-range capitalism in action: we are setting the market rate between us. If more pages start advertising, the price will go up. If more pages increase their advertising budgets, our reach will go down. If you live in a geographical region other North America, you probably have an even better rate than we do, thanks to Facebook ads being less common where you are.
One positive side effect of Facebook’s list of public controversies last year is that some big, multi-national corporations are hesitant to invest in Facebook ads due to possible negative bond association (they’re making the mistake of sticking with traditional TV ads, highway signs and magazine ads, but that’s another story). So as long as the fast-food companies, car manufacturers, and mall clothing stores put minimum effort and budget into Facebook marketing, we can still afford to reach a wide amount of people and build new fan connections on an indie artist’s limited cash.
FACeBOOK Best Tips:
If you schedule your posts in advance, try posting a photo as your first post of the morning. Have fun with Facebook Lives. Check out my own weekly late show on Mondays, if you’re searching for inspiration. Look into the analytics of a fan’s average watch time for your videos. Maybe experiment with making shorter versions, or multiple clips form one long piece. Learn how to run Facebook ads. Invest now. Don’t procrastinate.
Instagram has taken over social media with the younger Millennials and Generation Z. They launched IGTV in 2018 (and flopped) and reverted back to a chronological newsfeed (and crushed it).
Text: While photo captions have traditionally been overlooked on this platform, they’re beginning to gain importance in the collective user consciousness. We still can’t put links in captions, which makes things more complicated for smaller accounts.
Photos: The most popular accounts on Instagram are ones with a distinct brand. If you scroll through your feed you know whose pictures these are without having to even check the username. People know what to expect when they follow this account. You don’t need to do fancy nine-tile displays if that’s not your thing, but some consistent across themes and filters helps you carve out your distinct spot.
Videos: Here’s a theory as to why IGTV didn’t quite take off: people don’t like watching long-form videos vertically on a tiny screen. At least in my social circles and from the data I read through, Instagram is an app for when you have a short attention span or limited time – think, flicking between apps while waiting for an Uber, or when your friend is late, or when you can’t sleep at night. People (and their data plans) aren’t in the frame of mind for videos up to an hour-long.
Daily Instagram stories, however, are doing extremely well. For example, this fall I launched a daily 30 video series, with the idea of if fans know a new clip comes out every day, they’re more inclined to subscribe to keep up. It worked.
Organic Reach: As mentioned previously, Instagram reverted back to their chronological feed last year (from their Facebook-inspired one that showed the most popular images at the top, even if they were several days old). This means that while smaller accounts now have a better chance of getting the images seen by fans, they also have to post more frequently.
Paid Ads: Instagram ads (set up through Facebook) are one of the best ways to show links to fans on this platform. However, most younger Instagram users have developed a subconscious skill for identifying ads in their feed and scroll past, before even realizing.
INSTAGRAM Best Tips:
Take a little bit more time to write valuable photo captions.
Start up daily Instagram stories… Maybe playing music or songwriting?
Post more content, more frequently.
If you’re going to advertise on Instagram, aim for a slightly older Millennial demographic and up.
2018 saw a noticeable rise of brands using Twitter for banter (Wendy’s, Moon Pie…), as opposed to merely a sales megaphone or PR tool. Its user base is still growing by 9% annually, and advertising costs have recently gone down.
Text: Twitter is the playground for wordsmiths. No wonder songwriters are usually great at it. This is a chance for those of us who are awkward in person, but brilliant behind keyboards to share witty thoughts as they come to mind.
Photos: With the Twitter layout, photos are cropped into a rectangular shape. Unless someone is a super fan or the quality of the image looks hi-res enough to make the status important, busy users tend to scroll past – young female artists also tend to attract the wrong kind of attention when they post too many photos of themselves (made that mistake last year, and have to watch others make it too).
Videos: As opposed to other social media platforms, Twitter could not care about third party links. I would keep videos short though (or only link clips), due to the waterfall nature of the newsfeed.
Live videos on Periscope seem to have waned in popularity over the last year in the music circles, but Twitch streaming has risen exponentially (I plan to look into that).
Organic Reach: A couple of years ago, the lifespan of the common tweet in its natural habitat was 45 seconds. Overpopulation in the ecosystem has only caused a shortening. In all seriousness though, you have a short time to be retweeted, favourited, or replied to, so it’s best to be relevant, funny, or engaging.
Paid Ads: My personal view is that Twitter ads are overpriced for the short time they stay on the feed. Brands that have really succeeded recently have been ones that jumped into pop culture conversations with witty and shareable things to say. Take a leaf from their book.
TWITTER Best Tips:
If you’re in a band, put the songwriter(s) in charge of Twitter. Know what your photo will look like once cropped before you tweet it out… No headless, bandmates, please!Research what else your fans are fans of. Look at what’s trending in their worlds (movies, brands, sports…).
YouTube is another platform that faced user backlash last year, mostly in the form of uneven censorship – why some cover songs get struck but others are unscathed, why pop music videos can feature near nudity but not other channels, why famous YouTubers can be controversial and still monetize, the list goes on and on. Add to that its quiet war against the EU’s proposed Copyright Reform bill, and you have a mess on your hands… It’s still the number one place for discovering new music, though.
Videos: Their trending charts update at least daily, and if a content creator lands on one of those, it’s akin to striking gold. YouTube, therefore, favours more video creation, more frequently. That’s fine for professional content creators who have a machine for that (national news, late-night talk shows) or laid-back channels who don’t require much set up (daily lifestyle vloggers). However, many channels that take time to do research, write scripts, film, edit, and use effects on long-form videos have felt the pressure.
Organic Reach: Remember that YouTube is the second largest search engine in the world. If your original songs aren’t getting many views, that’s just because people aren’t searching for them (yet). That’s why cover songs make a killing on this platform (unless they get flagged for copyright, that is).
Paid Ads: People intensely dislike YouTube ads. Especially if they are in the pre-roll over and over again. This is why ad blockers are installed. I could perhaps see it working for original songs with catchy hooks, but honestly, I don’t think we’re there yet as a society…
YOUTUBE Best Tips:
Keep up with current YouTube news over 2019 (my late show certainly will).
Don’t worry about fancy setups. At this point, quantity (while still good) matters more than expensive quality.
LinkedIn has really come into its own in the last few months. While it’s no longer simply a place to post office resumes, you would likely only be connecting with other industry people here – artists, managers, agents, journalists, labels… – as opposed to fans. Your message should be tailored accordingly.
Text: Remember that you are talking to other people in the music industry. This is not the place to sell your merch. Get involved in discussions, share your successes, join relevant groups, congratulate others.
Photos: As long as they are professional (you winning award, yes. you drunk in bar, no).
Videos: This is an excellent place to share quality pre-recorded videos, thank playlist curators for featuring you, or filmed interviews.
Organic Reach: LinkedIn’s organic reach is similar to Facebook’s back before ads dominated the ecosystem. That is to say, it’s really good. Posts stick around in your connections’ newsfeeds for many days after you first post them.
Paid Ads: At this point, I don’t see LinkedIn ads as a good fit for artists. You want to reach music fans, and a more casual environment like Facebook or Instagram is a better fit for that.
LINKEDIN Best Tips:
Get involved in conversations. Keep your photos and statuses professional. Updated your music resume to showcase skills that can be brought to all sorts of projects.