If you’re a musician, artist, or content creator and you pay attention to what’s happening on Facebook and your page, you’ve likely seen your engagement and reach drop dramatically over the past several months. It’s no secret that Facebook has been reprioritizing the newsfeed to encourage more interaction from friends and family rather than pages for businesses, brands, and media.
Mark Zuckerberg recently posted his mission to “fix Facebook” as part of his New Year’s resolutions. We all wondered what that meant. On January 11th he posted specifically what those changes will be.
He stated that Facebook’s top priority is the user’s experience and well-being. Translation? Less passive scrolling and more meaningful conversations. In order to make Facebook feel like it’s time well spent, posts from pages will be demoted while posts from family and friends they feel users are likely to interact with will be promoted.
“The first changes you’ll see will be in News Feed, where you can expect to see more from your friends, family and groups,” says Zuckerberg. “As we roll this out, you’ll see less public content like posts from businesses, brands, and media. And the public content you see more will be held to the same standard — it should encourage meaningful interactions between people.”
Read his whole post here.
Facebook News elaborated on Mark’s statement:
“The impact will vary from Page to Page, driven by factors including the type of content they produce and how people interact with it. Pages making posts that people generally don’t react to or comment on could see the biggest decreases in distribution. Pages whose posts prompt conversations between friends will see less of an effect.”
Whoa, hold on. Does this signal the beginning of the end for artists, bands, and content creators who rely on organic traffic and engagement to spread the word about their craft? Already, people are alarmed and running to their Facebook bunkers with their marketing tinfoil hats.
As a fellow independent recording artist, I want to help calm the storm, demystify what this means, and share exactly what I’ll be doing to make this work for my music brand.
It also should be pointed out that if you have anything to sell — music, merchandise, art, etc. ––– it is still vital that you still use a professional business page to stay compliant with Facebook’s terms of service. Additionally, you need a business page in order to advertise, as well as get the benefit of Google’s SEO bots, which spider public pages, and in turn allow your page to be ranked in searches (unlike personal profiles which do not get spidered). So don’t think that you need to switch to using your personal profile to continue building your brand (which could get you banned).
Make no mistake: this change will certainly affect organic traffic on our Facebook pages and the type of content we promote.
Here are my “pay-attention” bullet points of what Zuckerberg is saying is important to Facebook:
- Meaningful relationships
- Friends and family
- Well-being and happiness
- Sharing personal moments
- Connection and intimacy
- Feeling less lonely
- Physical and mental health
- Conversation and discussion
These are words and principles I pulled right out of Mark’s post. These are Facebook’s “new values,” which tell us everything we need to know about the type of content and interactions we need to aim for and strive to create as artists and content creators.
What we want to focus on is how to make these changes work for us rather than fight against us. Instead of crying in our coffee over algorithms and reprioritized news feeds, let’s choose to say, “Ok, these are the changes. How can I adapt and pivot to make these changes enhance what I’m already doing?”
According to Facebook Newsroom, in order to have your page shown in the News Feed the page’s posts must “prompt conversations between friends.” That means between people and people they know — not people and the page. Posts that people don’t react to — even video — will see the biggest decline.
Facebook can afford to do this because the newsfeed is overcrowded and they can pick and choose what goes into the feed. So in other words, the cream will rise to the top. As I’ve been learning and experiencing and teaching fellow musicians — regardless of what the algorithms are doing –– the key to success on Facebook is to post better content that make people want to engage. This has never been more important than now.
What we should do
I’m going to share what you should stop doing and start doing –– effective immediately.
STOP scheduling every single post.
In the past it was well known that posting more times a day allowed more people to see and interact with our pages, since people are on and off Facebook at different hours. The standard social media recommendation was to post up to ten times per day, or every few hours. This became rather daunting for musicians and artists, so many of us turned to scheduling apps like Hootsuite, Edgar, Buffer, PostPlanner, and others. While it may still be useful to schedule certain posts, Facebook is hinting that spontaneous posts which elicit meaningful discussion will be shown in the feed. Take the hint.
START being more spontaneous.
I will schedule 1-2 posts per day (if that), and make sure that each post is more meaningful, entertaining, inquisitive, or somehow conversation-stimulating to my fans. Beyond that, I will post spontaneous “mini blog-type” posts, personal thoughts, more text, and photos that I think will resonate with the culture I’m creating around my music. I also pay attention to the pages I’ve liked in my own news feed, and whenever I find something amusing, thought-provoking, or entertaining, I often will spontaneously post that to my page on the spur of the moment. I believe this will really work well if you’re posting often, at least every day. If you’re only posting once per month, I don’t think anything is going to work for you. You must be present, and more importantly — you must be relevant.
STOP posting links to your website and music shop.
Anytime you post a link to your website, music shop, even iTunes — the reach is abysmal. Facebook definitely punishes posts that try to take people off of Facebook and try to get people to do something like buy a song. Even posts that are just a photo (which worked really amazing for a while) are being demoted. My best guess is Facebook sees it as self-serving and one-way. It’s almost the equivalent of walking up to strangers in a mall and shouting “Buy my stuff! Buy my stuff!” It just doesn’t go over well. Facebook wants their virtual community to be more like a real-life community. We would never normally walk up to someone and just say, “Here’s my website.” That would be weird and inappropriate. Instead, in real life, we get to know people. We find out what we have in common and develop rapport. Then later on, we talk about what we do for work and perhaps tell them about our website if they are interested or ask. That’s what Facebook is going for.
START doing more live videos.
Those of us who have already been experimenting with live video already know the power it brings along with the increased engagement and reach. Last summer I did a seemingly boring Facebook Live video from my home office/studio that lasted just over forty minutes. When I ended the video, I was shocked to see the reach was just over a quarter of a million people. This happened due to the simple and sheer fact that I titled my video as a specific question. By doing this, it elicited responses from my fans, and because my page is public, when my fans commented on my video, their activity showed up in the newsfeed of their networks. I hope that makes sense. You’ve probably seen this: you’re scrolling in your feed and see that your friend commented on another page. That’s all it is. But it only happens when the page is public, as opposed to when users comment on someone’s private personal page, which does not show up in your newsfeed or in the feed of their friends. So get people interacting with your live videos! Live videos get 6x the engagement of normal videos. You’re going see how much this helps. And when it comes to promoting our music and merchandise? Plug it in your live video. While there are several other ways that have helped me generate an annual six-figure income from music sales, this is one way I’ve found to be very effective.
STOP being a spectator on Facebook.
I get it: many of us creatives are introverts and not big risk-takers. We prefer to read and observe and carefully weigh what’s going on behind the scenes rather than be in the spotlight. It’s well known that artists struggle with the introvert/extrovert thing. Many of us have to force ourselves to get into character in order to pull off being the center of attention (and probably why many of the greats of yesteryear turned to alcohol and drugs to pull off things they did for years on stage). Fast forward to 2018: you cannot remain a social media recluse if you want to cultivate a fanbase and culture that results in a sustainable living. If you’re not willing to come into the spotlight just a bit — even behind a computer or mobile screen — and show who you are, what you stand for, and the kind of culture your music represents — then you’re finished. End of story. Good-bye.
START building a culture around your music.
This is something I’ve been working hard at for the past year with my own music brand. It’s a huge topic that many have not really tapped into yet. Whenever someone says the word “brand,” musicians tend to think of their logo. Not so. Your brand is what people think and say about your music when you’re not around. Your brand is essentially people’s perception, which often comes down to a gut feeling. That makes it sound kind of esoteric or mystical compared to what we’re used to, but think of it in terms of first impressions, and it starts to make more sense. Once on my Facebook page, I asked my fans what word first popped into their heads when they thought of me and my music. I posted it along with a photo I wanted them to associate me with. The feedback was the most valuable data I could’ve ever asked for. I was able to go out and build a music brand around their perceptions, which was based off of single words! When you have a culture, you have a community and this is exactly what Facebook wants. What’s a music culture? In short, it’s a common theme or idea that brings people together. Culture and community are synonymous. I like to think of social media platforms as my own personal magazine that you’d buy from Barnes and Nobles. Only my music is the soundtrack. So, picture the images, the articles, the opinions, the politics, the worldview that your personal magazine would have… and you’ll attract more people just like you. Your music becomes the soundtrack of their life.
A few other things to consider with these changes:
Start a Facebook group around your music culture.
Both Zuckerberg and the Facebook Newsroom mentioned groups several times, and that meaningful conversations happening within groups will be promoted to the top of the news feed. Make it a community-centric focus. I’ve already started a group for my page where people can post things related to my music and the culture that surrounds it. The nice thing is that when you do have something to promote (say, 10% of the time), your members will actually see it.
Train your following to click on the “See First” button on your page.
Create some screenshots or a 30-second video on where that button is on your page, and let your following know about the changes and that if they don’t want to miss important details from you, to make sure they click that “See First” button.
Building your email list is more important than ever.
If you thought email was dead, think again. It’s for reasons exactly like this that I continue to build my list year-round. Anytime I release a new single or have anything share-worthy — I make sure I milk it. I use videos, advertising, and my social platforms to get as many new email addresses as possible. That way, no matter what happens on Facebook or any platform — I can still communicate and promote to my own unique audience — and no one can take that away. I will still continue to build my Facebook page and other platforms as long as they are effective, but I will also be very aggressive in the coming year with building my list.
Learning how to advertise on Facebook will become essential.
Aside from learning to build a tight-knit culture and community around your music, advertising is the next, and maybe even more important, task to learn. You do need to know what you’re doing so you don’t waste your money. I always tell people though, that before you start spending money on paid traffic, master free traffic. If what you’re doing isn’t getting you any results with organic traffic, throwing money at it won’t help.
Thank you for reading this post, I hope it helps you navigate these sometimes scary changes. If you felt this was helpful or informative, please leave a comment and share this with your friends!
For more strategies on creating a sustainable living from your music, follow me on Facebook (and click the “See First” button!) where I do regular Facebook Live videos and share my journey with you.
Musicians, don’t fret: get savvy and let’s crush 2018.