Tuesday, 4 May 2010

Some tips on the use of social media by artists and musicians

I recently gave a guest-lecture at Liverpool's Institute for the Performing Arts (LIPA) for a bunch of under-graduates who'd recently returned from assignments working in and around the music industry.

One of the students followed up with some further questions to contribute to her work on her dissertation. Here are my responses. I don't doubt that she asked many others... I'd be very interested in their responses too.

What are your opinions on management using social networks to promote an artist?

I think that management using social networks to promote an artist is unavoidable at the moment for a variety of reasons. The artists themselves might genuinely be too busy, may be unfamiliar with social media etiquette or amy be something of a liablility... who knows what they're going to say next!?!

Do you think that on sites such as Twitter that artists should ‘tweet’ and blog themselves or should their PR take control?

The question is, is the management pretending to tweet as the artist, or is the Twitterfeed, Facebook page clearly seen as a place to go to for updates on the artist?

Management pretending to tweet as the artist might have some short-term advantages... it ensures that the artists doesn't say anything too controversial, tweets are aligned with any overall marketing, social media campaign, etc etc. In the long run though, social media users can be a pretty savvy bunch and will rumble a false popstar, which could dimish credibility and at worst result in a backlash.

My view would be that it's better for the artist to do it themselves if they can, provided they are aware of how it works and the security risks around location-based services etc.

Good advice for artists when chatting with fans is, yes do reply to messages, but no more than once or twice in any conversation to any unknown fan.
Remember, for a fan any response from an artist is exciting... a common reaction is for that fan to think they're your best mate and try to start an extended conversation. Limit the engagement. @jason_manford does this very very well - he asks questions of his followers, answers them and recognises and respects their humour, but limits any one conversation to a few tweets. It doesn't mean, he won't ever reply to an individual again - I'm sure he doesn't maintain a list of everyone he's spoken to, it just means you're not going to monopolise his time all day.

Do you agree that social networks should be used for direct marketing, if so, what are your opinions on people regarding this marketing as a form of Spam?

Yes they should, provided that users can turn it off or unfollow to avoid being spammed. Users may follow a news-source for frequent updates on a product... that's their choice. However, being spammed is bad news. I think using Twitter for Direct Marketing is like trying to squeeze an old world business model into the new social world... as a result it is something of a blunt instrument at the moment. Businesses will eventually learn how to use it more effectively, by listening to, reacting to and collaborating with customers.

What do you consider the dangers of using social media to promote an artist?

The artist's privacy and security can be threatened via careless use of location based services, giving too much information, etc. Can promote stalkers. Artists can also get in trouble with the law by defaming others with careless talk. That said, with some basic training and common sense, the benefits of getting closer to users can add real value to the artist over time.

What measures do you/would you put in place to combat these dangers?

Social media training for artists that need it from social media experts not run-of-the-mill outbound PR types. Proxy tweeting from social media experts as part of an initial coaching/mentoring programme... to be transitioned to the artist asap. Management access to the artists passwords at all times! Everyone can make mistakes... sometimes action must be taken in minutes.

Are there any circumstances in which you would not use social media to connect with fans to market directly?

In such a rapidly evolving environment, I think it's unwise to say never. However, right now I think artists, labels and brands need to take advice around any campaigns which might compromise anyone's privacy or safety, whether that be the artist or the customer. Data security needs to be a big consideration in any social media 'transaction'.

Here's an AudioBoo of the same:


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