Escape The Feudal Lords of Social Fiefdom

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Not that long ago, MySpace was the de-facto place for musicians and DJs to build a fan base. Over the last few years, the focus turned to Facebook, with an increasing emphasis on building followers and growing your page Likes. With the long-term health of the platform and the value of Likes being called into question, we can’t help but ask: what’s next?

“Relying on social media platforms is like leasing real estate on the Internet – ultimately you don’t own it. It isn’t wise to rely solely on one platform because social networks are like parties on the Internet: like any party, once it dies down, people move on to the next one” – Hisham Dahud (Fame House)*

The online social media world is starting to feel like medieval times. Artists and individuals are subjects of a larger feudalist system where no one actually owns their fan relationships, pages, or even the content. Instead, we’re given permission to “farm the land” for a while, knowing that at any time the rules might change, taxes could be raised, or the entire kingdom might fall. Rather than asking where to move next, perhaps the real question is:

Should we stop leasing land from the feudal lords of social fiefdom entirely?

While there is still clearly value in leveraging platforms like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram – artists should not rely on them as the primary hub of fan collection. Today we will look at two of the most pressing issues with Facebook in particular, and suggest an alternative model for leveraging social media while building your own platform that will survive future shifts in online trends.

BROKEN LIKES

The bottom line is this: for those that spent years building up a Facebook “fan base” you now need to pay to reach those fans, and the return on investment for paid promotion is increasingly poor. Even worse, if you are paying to reach new fans, the Vertasium video above suggests that will shoot you in the foot long-term.

Facebook ads work when campaigns are set up and monitored correctly, but there have been growing concerns in the past few years when the goal is to increase page Likes. Facebook news feeds operate through algorithms, and illegitimate page Likes eat into a page’s reach by causing impressions towards accounts that may not have any real interest in you – or that might not even be real. This is of great concern as page reach has already dwindled substantially over the past year while Facebook aims to incentivize page users to promote posts to reach more of their fans’ news feeds.

A NOISY PARTY

social-media-noise

If you’re an artist promoting yourself on the big social media platforms, you now have to compete with the noise of everyone else trying to get their content out there. For example, put out a new video, and you’ll find your video gets pitted against new content from major pop stars in social media timelines. Want to access all of your fans? You’ll have to pay for that.

Ultimately social media is about real communication with real people, and not just about making sure as many people as possible hear what you have to say. Wouldn’t you prefer to have 100 people listen to, comment on, and enjoy a new mix that you made instead of having 1,000 people see that you made a new mix?

Here are two key things you can do right now to get off your dependency to Facebook and start proactively guarding yourself from the trap of “the next big thing”:

1) SELL YOURSELF WITH METRICS THAT REALLY MATTER

YouTube's location-based analytics
YouTube’s location-based analytics

Anyone that is evaluating an artist’s following based on Facebook likes alone is making an expensive error in judgment. Since Likes can be easily ratcheted up, purchased, and collected, it’s not how many “followers” the artist has, but how many real fans will come to a real show. Instead of throwing around your Likes as leverage, instead consider collecting and demonstrating some metrics that really work:

  • LIKES TO ENGAGEMENT RATIO: Do you have 1 million followers but get 5 comments on a post? Chances are all those digital clicks don’t translate into real ticket sales. Engagement isn’t only Likes, comments, or shares – it’s also also when people tag you in posts. Showcase how active your fan base is with the “Talking About This” metric and the Engagement analytics in your page’s backend.
  • GOOGLE ANALYTICS ON YOUR HOME PAGE: How many fans visited your site from a specific city in the last 30 days? Chances are very high this is a strong indication of intent. Showcase that you have people going out of their way and away from the convenience of social media to seek you and your content out. It’s a stronger indicator that they’ve displayed interest and their potential desire to spend money with you.
  • SOUNDCLOUD PLAYS COMING FROM A CITY: People that are actively playing and enjoying your music are real fans, not digital place markers or vanity metrics. It’s all about the music after all, and heavy music plays in a concentrated region is a strong indication that those listeners might 1) already be fans, and 2) will want to experience that live.
  • YOUTUBE PLAYBACK LOCATIONS: If you don’t have a YouTube channel, get one. YouTube is one of the largest music streaming platforms on the Internet, and the second largest search engine on the web. Put your songs up in any way possible, even if you don’t have a fancy music video, and start gaining plays that can be tracked.

Ultimately these metrics and sources of traffic are worthless if you can’t reach out and reliably tell your hard-earned fan base about an upcoming show. That’s why you need to bust out the internet carpentry skills and build your own wheel.

2) BUILD YOUR OWN MARKETING FLYWHEEL

wheel-spokes

SOCIAL MEDIA CREATES CONNECTION, BUT NOT IDEAL COMMUNICATION

Social media sites are all great at keeping yourself connected with fans on a regular basis with light consumable content. However, when it comes time to break through the noise and get out a key message to your core following, social starts to fall apart.

“Independent artists have the ability to create intimate experiences and relationships with their supporters by taking the communication away from the crowded parties on social media and onto their own platform or website.”

BUILD THE HUB: Social media should be like the spokes leading out to the fans, but they can’t be the central hub connecting everything. For that you need your own website and a database of fans that is truly owned and not rented from the feudal social lords.

DON’T LOSE YOUR LAND: By pointing all of your traffic to a website like Facebook and focusing on building likes, you run the risk of losing the plot down the road. It’s now very, very easy to build your own landing page and fill it with a few key elements in just a few hours.

  • Start with a site like Squarespace, Wix, Bandzoogle, etc. and link up your social feeds and SoundCloud accounts.
  • Install a program like MailChimp or Topspin on the homepage and start collecting email addresses (important to geo-target them).
  • Remember to continually remind people of your real estate and drive traffic from SoundCloud, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram etc. to that site.

COLLECT THE SUPER FANS AND GIVE THEM VALUE!: The fans you collect emails for are the real core following that will evangelize and spread the gospel of your music – treat them like disciples (except the washing feet part of course)! Make them feel special and important; that it was a good idea to opt in by offering exclusive content, insider /early access to things, deals on merch, etc. Reward their efforts.

“Independent artists have the ability to create something intimate with their fans by separating the experience onto their own platform. Social media remains one of the best ways today to drive traffic to your email list, just make sure to look ahead and plan for the future” Hisham Dahud (Fame House)

In closing, it could be helpful to ask the following question: Where would you rather talk with your fans:

  1. In a giant crowded room, where everyone’s shouting at each other all the time, and where the noise is so overwhelming that it’s a requirement to pay someone to pass messages.
  2. On a private island, where only you and your fans can hang out, quietly enjoying the sounds of the surf, a cold Corona, and great music, while never once bumping into Miley Cyrus or Grumpy Cat.

Don’t trust our social media: if you want to know what’s new with DJTT on a regular basis, sign up for our email list here

*This article is a collaborative effort between myself, Dan White (DJTT’s social media manager) and Hisham Dahud, the Digital Strategy Director at Fame House, which oversees online marketing efforts of some of the biggest artists, labels, and brands in world.  Header photo credit: http://enigmasi.deviantart.com/ 

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  • Hey guys, I’m involved in a project to help address this problem mentioned in the article. I’ve posted more details on http://www.reddit.com/r/DJs/comments/2m25f0/new_service_for_promoting_self_djs_what_are_your/

    We’ll have an early access beta available soon, check it out and get notice on release: https://www.creek.fm/dj

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  • scamo

    Nice article Ean. I’ve also questioned the Facebook likes we paid for through FB ads. Either it is Facebook fooling us, or there are people who actually don’t like a page or the project it represents, yet they still like the page. Go figure…

    But yet, something is awry. Why? Because every post we’ve made after we got our 500+ “fans” through the paid ads has received “0” likes from those 500+ “fans” (we’ve only gotten likes from “close” friends). And then FB says we need to pay again to get more “reach” for those posts? Say what? OMG! Needless to say, we stopped paying for FB ads.

    Mark Zuckerberg constantly says, “We work hard at Facebook to get people connected.” And he should end that sentence with, “so we can take monetary advantage of those connections.” It is sort of disappointing, isn’t it?

    As for the “feudal” aspect of social networks/ platforms, that is a very interesting take and perspective and actually quite fitting and an eye opener for me. Thanks for that! It gives me another view to avoid (and use as a sales argument), when my project moves forward to its second phase and we introduce our user network. Although Skooppa is also most definitely a platform, I promise it will NOT become a feudalist kind of platform like FB and I think it can, because, in the first phase, our customers will pay for the platform, for their “site”, upfront, just like they would for any other kind of hosting service. They will definitely not have to pay for any “likes”, which should, for the most part, be a clear result of their own hard work and not through any paid ad scheme!!!!

    scamo

  • Kali

    I wonder how many fake Twitter accounts there are. I know at LEAST twelve people who have made fake accounts and never gone back onto them…and are people really that desperate for attention that they need to pay $70 for fake people? SERIOUSLY people!

  • Great article. Funny thing is I’m in the midst of building something that over at afterpartie.com that might well do what you mentioned, “build your own landing page and fill it with a few key elements”.

    What I’m creating is a social hub and directory, but geared towards the electronic music industry. Its an exciting project that’s due to launch in a few months, and also has some well know names involved.

    • scamo

      But you are building just another “feudal area”, which I believe is what Ean is saying is the basic problem. Aren’t you?

      • I think you miss understood what I’m creating. It’s not a social network, so it isn’t a “feudal area”. If anything it will help to direct traffic to your own platform (aka website) which, if you know SEO (see back links), is a good thing.

        The problem is I’ve not released enough info or screen shots to fully explain what I’m creating, but needless to say those in the industry who’ve seen it, and I’m not going to be a douche bag and drop names, have given me positive and constructive feedback that is helping to shape the final product.

        Needless to say, I’m not a social network, it is aimed at the industry, but has a public front, and will be in beta and open to DJ’s come summer.

        Apologies if this comes across as advertising hi-jack, it wasn’t intended that way.

  • “of fan collection” and then: “It’s all about the music after all,”

    So is it about “collecting” fans or about the music?
    I’m in for the music part but not for fan collection. I collect analog synths 🙂

    I made sound cloud page for my new music project. Not gonna do FB page, nor old school webpage. IMO sound cloud is the thing. It’s only about music and nothing else. You listen and like it or not. Maybe you even DL the song if you like it a lot. Don’t get “enough” plays? What’s enough then? I write and release new track in SC every week. I have nothing to market. I just have my music.

    Most people worried about fans and marketing don’t even have songs worth of the effort.

  • jonahblock

    you go where there people are. what could be more simple then that? there will always be something

  • ill.GATES

    Great article Ean. The feudal imagery really helps drive the point home. Nice work! – Dylan

    • The Inconvenient Comedian

      ill Gates!!! I saw you open for Excision in Charlotte NC. A pleasant surprise to see you on the forums here.

  • my facebook page (www.facebook.com/1000cutts) was going great guns until they added the ‘promote page’ fees and now all my ‘likers’ don’t get to see anything anymore, Google+ is currently pants and although free they will do exactly the same in the long run. This means that smaller artists lose out to the big players…….

  • chris

    btw: could you please provide the Kerry quietly, every time opens his mouth, we have problems in Europe.

  • noxxi

    really nice article

  • iSOMA

    Check out Music Glue http://www.musicglue.com offering a lot of what is discussed above but the artist owns and drives the fan relationship!

  • andreas liffgarden

    Great article, nice to see that DJTT goes into the business side of things as well!

  • Sanaya

    I am a marketing gal. And this article has been quite useful to me!! Thanks a lot.

  • Djz4d

    Perhaps, the subheadline for this article should be called, “how to build your ego, even more”. It’s all about you, a diary of one’s own ego that is trying to capture the attention of the world and build “fans”. Better, yet, an opportunity to make money and advertise a business. Either way, people have fallen into an ego trip or the money making game. It’s sad, seeing a friend lost in his own world, a church advertising their services as a business, only to gain followers (fans) and money. I look forward to the day that people wake up from the illusion that was cast down from a corrupt system that promotes fear, lies, envy, lust and ego and in which can turn into hate. Denial, can be an easy way of hiding truth but can also lead suffering. For there are few that see with their eyes, and think with their minds. Stay healthy, and may the true holy god, bless you.

    • Anonymus

      I’m not saying all, but aren’t many dj’s surrounded by sin? which could include; drugs (alcohol being most common), sex (lust / sleeping around). Sometimes, certain club scenes remind me of the carnival scene in the pinnocchio movie. Everybody acts a jackass, has fun for a while, but eventually, turn into a jackass and lose themselves. I still like to dj, but most of the scenes today have turned me off. Night clubs, raves, EDM like scenes are full of all that which I don’t think god would be pleased with. You should know what I am talking about Ean Golden.

      • H7N9.

      • anonymous

        doing drugs and drinking alcohol isnt a sin man

        • Unknown

          Read again, COULD INCLUDE. But if anyone was to ask me if god is cool with alcoholics and druggies, then I would say we are living in a fallen world. Not to say, America is full of alcoholics anyways and It is seen as the norm. If only you knew all the chemical that they add to beer and what it’s actually doing to the liver. We live in an age of ignorance. May you have a lucid dream to wake you up to the reality of the world.

          • jonahblock

            you can drink and and not be an alcoholic. drinking isn’t new. even Jesus drank… maybe that’s why his dad killed him?

          • Kali

            ha, so true.

    • Chaser720

      So in your opinion what is the greatest achievement as a DJ? You’re saying you can’t have fans or make money. I would consider these my two greatest goals. I would love to do something I loved everyday, have no job and help other people have a great time. Without making money or having people that liked my music (fans) this would not be possible.

      Call me egotistical but I think I speak for a large portion of this community.

      • djz4d

        @chaser, you already have your fans. Your family and everyday friends. Why do you need more fans? How do you help others by Dj’ing? What are you promoting? Finally, what are you willing to sacrifice to achieve the dreams you have? Money, fame (recognition) and success are a common goal and practice for artists nowadays, hmm?

        • Chaser720

          Your family and friends are your fans because they know and hopefully like you. When a total stranger comes up and tells you how much fun they had tonight because of the set that you played… that for me is the ultimate.

          I think of acquiring new fans and being paid increasing amounts for gigs shows progress. Settling for your friends and family as your only fans to me is giving up on a possible career.

          What would I give up for a career as a mediocre DJ? Nothing. I’m currently in a better place because I’ve worked to get here and that would be a serious step backwards. What would I give up to be a big name DJ/Producer? You name it.

  • Remember not to skip over your 1.4 Billion possible G+ fans: http://plus.miernicki.com/
    They aren’t looking at ads and each post on this network reaches 100% of your audience for free 🙂

  • tetrix

    Im glad DJTT is the first site to properly register that facebook use is great but its becoming so over used that whatever you do just becomes melted into your friends updates and status’ rather than grabing their attention.

    Pro tip for anyone trying to get their content seen on facebook, post up your info (A url or mix) with a photo. They take up far more room on the facebook layout and promote better.

  • rob c

    Playing the numbers help too. If you post stuff to your fans when they are most online you reach a small % but repeat the message and a new small % will see it. Like advertising on TV, you know people are watching the TV at a certain time (Super Bowl) so you advertise at the right time to reach the most amount of people.

    Also a bunch of the click farms work by desktop, targeting your ads to mobile helps get your message seen by real people.

    • Dan White

      Multi-posting the same content puts you at risk of becoming very noisy. People who regularly engage with your content will likely see the second time as well and get frustrated that you’re taking up their time.

      If you do post content a second time, make sure to rewrite the text entirely, change it from a link to a photo, or do anything to make it unique and equally valuable.

      • rob c

        Yes agreed, or build some sort of algorithm that can build up different text each time? Be sure to follow me on SC, don’t forget free music on sound cloud, want a mix? free music check out sound cloud… add a few more of those and then automate it… have no repeat in content and something you said 2 months ago, won’t be remembered by a person who saw it.. word for word. #dje 😉

        • Kaspar Kondrat

          personal attachment is so very missed these days man. even in social media.

  • Brian Johnson

    Link each mix, release, Facebook event ect…With a unique UTM tag. This will alow you to use Google analytics to find your strengths and your largest areas for opportunities.

  • Taffi Louis

    MAN, it’s great to see this matter of Facebook’s rotten Edgerank/filtering scheme finally get talked about out in the open! Before Facebook introduced Pages and Sponsored Posts, we had Groups (they’re still there too, but they don’t allow you to just post and know your members get at least an ALERT that there’s an update posted. This worked GREAT for building a following and keeping them updated, sending invites to the Group as a whole (a feature they removed, temporarily, until they faced users’ wrath). Now, Facebook blames high traffic for diminishing reach of Page posts, but that wouldn’t be a problem under their old system (“If it ain’t broke…”), and even if/when you Sponsor a post (a feature they’re finally killing in April), you still only marginally increase the reach of that post … it’s not like you can just post to all the followers of a Page anymore … the same ones who signed up, y’know, to get updates. Admins know this dilemma all too well, because we had to first figure out what the hell was going on. The average user still has no idea this is happening, and I still get Page followers telling me I should be posting “all over Facebook”, and with diminished reach, they’re just setting people up to pump out more redundant posts to reach people. Why do you think Buzzfeed headlines set the current standard for content? Because Facebook judges the quality of your content by how viral it gets… not the same things at all, but if you don’t play the game, you get penalized and your reach is diminished. Forget about posting your own content your own way and having more than 16% of your followers (and that figure is dropping) see any given post from a Page you operate.
    Slimy.

    • Chaser720

      Good info.

    • DJ_ForcedHand

      Basically, they hooked us with something that was “the better alternative to MySpace” and then they did exactly what MySpace did. I find this practice rather nasty as you originally got what you wanted, and now you don’t even get the bare minimum… but you keep getting asked to join games and keep getting more ads… Is this daytime television or social media?

  • DJ Possess

    This is an eye opening article. Thanks very much!

  • Noise is the perfect descriptor. Twitter was the ‘wtf’ moment for me. Though Richie Hawtin and the RADR team really have turned tweets into something useful.

    • DJ Possess

      What do you mean about Twitter?

      • When twitter arrived on scene, I thought it was the most insipid application ever to rear its oxygen-deprived birdbrain into the interwebs cyber machine. I was not the only one…
        http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b5Ff2X_3P_4
        To me tweets are noise. There are a few golden threads that pop up, but thankfully someone else, who spends their day looking at a screen, smelts off the slag. I can then read these golden tweets without numbing my senses to the point where I pray out loud to the Hakaishin to please, please! mutate H7N9 to help clean house as the milk has spoiled and the cow has left to pursue a sponsorship for makeup tutorials. My vision blurs around the edges as my jaw clenches and the vein on the side of my head pops out like a weathered stripper on molly from an oversized birthday cake ready to cause a raucous. Then…I realize that I do not need to have another stroke and lose my sense of taste for another six months…I only need to put on some good tunes, or find out what other people are playing (RADR) and turn swords into ploughshares; take that tool of growing evil and give it to the forces of good. RADR the first saviour of twatter.

        • Good point about RADR, I use it when I play out on the radio every two weeks. I dont think it gets me anymore listeners but the fact two of my favourite artists (who have obviously been searching their own names – naughty naughty!!) have replied to my tweets thanking me for playing their tracks – that was cool shizzle!!

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