There’s plenty of chatter around tech and marketing circles about the future value of Facebook, plenty of commentators predicting the end of the social network as a valuable brand tool and given the heavy reliance many DJ’s, Artists and Labels have placed on building their following on there it’s a matter of grave concern for us all.
The glory days of 2009 to 2012 where Facebook really was a burgeoning community where Likes were easy to find and everything was new drew to a close with the floating of the business and the era of paid promotion over organic reach began. In recent months the algorithm Facebook uses has tightened their grip on your hard earned followers and even your friends. From an average organic reach (the amount of people that will see any post you make) of 16% the reach was recently cut to a mere 6-10%. So for every 100 likes or friends the system allows only 10 to see what you post. Their plan is to encourage you to opt for paid promotion at differing levels of financial cost. In effect you, the content maker is now expected to pay to let your friends see what you say. Sound a bit odd?
Meanwhile social media networks such as Twitter, YouTube and Instagram have flourished - especially YouTube where it’s estimate only 20% of their members are providing content and in the complete opposite model, they actually pay those people to create the content through advertising revenue. Twitter is growing up fast, with advertising being rolled out and even the profile pages adopting a Facebook-like design. But ultimately the end game is the same for Twitter - make money from us all and with a share price to worry about it’s only a matter of time.
Other successful networks (Snapchat springs to mind) are quickly bought up by Apple, Google, Facebook and co as they look to condense the social media landscape to their advantage. And amidst all this revolution, we the users are just the pawns of their master plan. Relying on their services and being held ransom to their price rises and rule changes under the guise of governance. Soundcloud’s recent price increase was a staggering 25% while other lesser services like Podomatic (serving thousands of iTunes podcasts) increased their fees by $20 this year. Products like Just Go Music, allowing you to schedule social media posts will cost you $15 a month - at the moment - and so it goes on. You are paying for the privilege of building these networks for their share holders and at any point they can take it away.
But what does all that mean for your Facebook page?
Well, it means all that effort and love you poured into building a following is actually built on someone else’s property, they can change the rules at a moments notice, charge you more rent or just stop people seeing you at any moment - of course they won’t do anything radical - lots of incremental changes are a better strategy to shift focus and not cause too much pain in one hit.
It means that audience you’ve come to rely on is as virtual and the networks themselves. And that is something you’ve got to think hard about right now if you want to survive the social media apocalypse.
The smart place to be remains in the real world being seen and heard in the scene, whether that’s DJ’ing or performing - that human presence is irreplaceable. But let’s stick to the digital space for now given that the deep house community is fairly small and spread across the globe.
The obvious answer is that all of us need to be in control of our own digital space, managing the relationships we have personally and building interaction are vital. That means you really need a website of your own, content that engages your fans, followers and friends, strategies to develop more visitors and to look outside the digital world for ways to develop your brand. (sorry there’s that word again ‘brand’).
Think of your favourite record label and go check out their website right now. Is it better or worse than their Facebook page?
Chances are it’s pretty poor, doesn’t work on a mobile device, uses a lot of flash (so doesn’t work on an Apple device) and is out of date. On the other hand their Facebook, Soundcloud, RA, Mixcloud and other accounts are updated regularly. Our efforts have been sidetracked into these social networks at the detriment of our own digital spaces. There’s a few exceptions of course and these brands are on the rise; OFF Recordings, Defected, XL, ReKids… these labels have clearly invested time and effort into controlling their user experience and it’s that that’s the post apocalyptic future.
So what does the future look like?
Given the amount of time a label needs to spend posting and preparing content the future requires a rethink of how we promote, engage and communicate. The one thing the examples given have in common is they have not just become a central hub for social media activity. It’s not just embedded feeds with a few bit extra. They are usually news driven, or release focused and giving visitors a variety of content - stuff to read, stuff to listen to and more and more video to watch.
For me, the way ahead is to use social media to direct fans to your own website - making that an attractive option is the thing to really focus on, especially given the convenience of Facebook has become part of our daily routines – on the bus, on the loo. wherever. Interestingly no label has yet moved into the dedicated Mobile App world as far as I can tell (note to self, start UM Records App) but that seems a natural progression for labels, DJ’s and artists in time - building the brand loyalty in that intimate world of the mobile phone - it also allows the potential of in-app purchases and the like, further embedding the fans in your world.
Services like MailChimp, JotForm and the rest are pretty commonplace these days, and a must for anyone looking to build an audience away from social networks - collecting those addresses allows you to step up your engagement, whether that’s exclusive member content, competitions, giveaways or just direct promotion. Building a following of people choosing to be part of it away from the constraints and risks of the social networks.
So, next time you log into Facebook to post that sound clip link, or upload the studio photo, or just to vent, think about whether that time would be better spent building your own digital space, where people come to hear you and only you. Where people aren’t being distracted by kitten photo’s or the latest whacky video from some pranksters. A place where people aren’t being filtered out of seeing you in favour of generic trends and a place you’re not having to pay just to speak to them.