While many artists are content to let their Facebook or Tumblr represent them online, doing so carries with it certain risks. In this excerpt from his book, Bobby Owsinski looks at why musicians should avoid limiting the scope of their online presence to social networks.
Guest post by Bobby Oswinski on Music 3.0
“Unfortunately, a website many times gets overlooked as an integral piece of your digital promotional life because there are so many other places that you can use as your online focal point. Having a Facebook page or Tumblr blog, or relying on another social network as your online central focus has a number of potential flaws, not the least is control of your message. Let’s look at three scenarios where relying on a social media site as your main contact point can prove disastrous.
- Scenario #1: Our first scenario is a real-life example of a band I’ll hypothetically call “The Unknowns,” since one of the band members asked me not to reveal their true name. During the heyday of MySpace around 2004 the band was hot and eventually developed a following of over 900,000. This led to a number of record labels becoming interested (remember that they sign you for your audience, not your music), with the band eventually signing a big deal with one of the largest major labels at the time. The label immediately told the band to suspend their MySpace account because “we can do all that better in-house than you can.” In typical record company fashion, the label ultimately did very little for the band’s online presence. They did create a new slicker label-managed MySpace account, but they were not able to transfer any of the band’s previous followers, thus leaving them with a presence that was far less than they had before they were signed. Of course, when The Unknown’s album was released they had no way to alert those 900,000 followers since they didn’t have any of their email addresses, and they didn’t even have a website where their fans could go in order to discover the latest news about them. Needless to say, the album bombed and the band was dropped from the label. They never recovered that massive fan base that they had before they were signed.
The moral of the story is that if they had redirected those fans from their MySpace account to their website in order to harvest at least some of the email addresses, things might’ve turned out a lot differently, since they could have alerted their fans when the album was released. And that’s the problem with relying on an external site that you don’t control as your focal point online.
It’s too easy for today’s artist who only dabbles in social networking to get complacent and comfortable with the abilities of a single social network, but that can spell disaster for maintaining your fan base if you’re not careful. As those artists who formerly depended upon MySpace now know, what’s hot today can be ice cold tomorrow. But other negative scenarios also exist that can be far worse than the network falling out of favor.
This scenario was recently played out again early 2013 in a slightly different manner when MySpace relaunched an updated version of their site. Every single artist lost all of their followers, and every MySpace user lost their previous settings, and any affiliation with the artists they were following. All users had to reregister again, and all artists, regardless of how popular they were (even owner Justin Timberlake), started all over again with zero followers!
- Scenario #2: Let’s say that you’ve cultivated a huge following on Facebook. What would happen if Facebook was purchased by EXXON (highly unlikely, but let’s pretend), who decides that all it wants is the underlying technology of the network, and shuts the rest down? If you didn’t capture the email addresses of all your followers, you’d lose them to the nothingness of cyberspace. Don’t laugh – a scenario like this could happen, but most likely on another smaller network.
- Scenario #3: What would happen if Facebook (I’m picking on them because they’re the big dog on the social block) changes its terms of service, and now charges you $.25 for every fan past 100? If you’re lucky enough to have 8,000 fans, it’s going to cost you $2,000 to continue. Or what if they decided to limit everyone’s fan connections to 100? Both are unlikely, but something similar could happen, where suddenly you’re unable to access that large fan base that you’ve worked so hard to develop.
The point of all of the above scenarios is that when you depend on a social network for your online presence, you’re ceding control to an unknown, unseen force that can change it’s will at any time with no regard to your online well-being. That’s why it’s imperative that you don’t count on a single social network for your total online presence or even your social media presence. If you rely on an external network, sooner or later you’re going to get burnt. It’s the nature of the Internet to constantly change, and it’s too early to get a feel for the life span of even of the largest sites and networks.
Just to illustrate the volatile nature of social networks, in 2005 MySpace was the most visited social network online with 100 million users. A mere five years later and it had dropped below 25 million, yet has recently doubled that number and is growing again. What this means is that you must pick and choose the social networks that you participate in wisely, and always engage in a number of networks in case one suddenly falls out of favor.”
An artist’s website is the only place online that you can control the look, feel, and information and never have to worry about it changing unless you want it to. Don’t trust your online presence to social networks.
To read additional excerpts from Social Media Promotion For Musicians and my other books, go to the excerpts section of bobbyowsinski.com.