Invest In Fan Engagement

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Ever since the likes of Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and YouTube have launched, social media has become the place for performers to build and engage their fan base. This has become the most efficient way to get exposure: performers technically “rent” their spot on a social network, just like a small clothing store would rent a space in the mall to take advantage of the exposure and heavy foot traffic.

As “brand pages” grew on social sites such as Facebook, they tracked volume metrics such as how many “likes” or how many “followers”, as well as the ability to have their own content shared and re-posted.

While a performer’s number of followers has value, and can predict the reach of their community, it doesn’t equate to true value. Many social media metrics are what they call “vanity metrics”.

“Vanity metrics” can be anything from registered users, downloads, page views, etc. They are very easily manipulated and do not really reflect the numbers that really matter, which is: active users, engagement, and most importantly revenues and profits.

The bottom line is its engagement that really matters. Unfortunately, performers have over-invested in social efforts on external platforms (Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, etc.) that are experiencing diminished organic engagement. In January of this year, the average Facebook post with more than 100,000 likes had a 0.14% engagement rate. And late last year, the top 25 most engaging brands on Twitter had a post engagement rate of just .07%. That’s not even 1.0% of your followers.

A major cause is this sheer noise. Social media platforms are so incredibly crowded, with high profile performers and new comers competing with each other for a user’s attention, as well as the flood of free content that gets generated by a fans personal network and by their favorite performers.

What’s even more worrisome is that performers (up to this point) have no choice but to accept the business decisions made by the social media platforms themselves. Analysts predict that organic reach (how many users will see a post at all, let alone engage with it) on social media sites will approach 0% as platforms make room for paid ads, which are now a $8.5 billion dollar marketing industry.

And look no further than the mighty Facebook, its track record for brand page post organic reach and its steep decline since 2013. Today, on average, Facebook pages only reach 6% of their fans organically (and a sad 2% for larger pages), which is half of the reach they had only one and a half years ago.

So even if a fan “likes” your Facebook or follows you on Twitter, and you count them as a fan, it’s becoming less and less likely that they will see the majority of your post. There’s no exclusivity on these platforms, and noise is inevitable, even for people who have asked to hear from you and have the potential to be paying customers.

In the early days, performers “moved in” to their “leased” social spaces, invested heavily in content creation to draw fans in and saw impressive engagement numbers. The original value proposition of leased social communities was clear: a trade of high-quality content for temporary exposure. But today, as organic reach evaporates, the high investment required to create unique content returns little to no value. In other words, as much as you show on your Twitter or Instagram, the ROI (return on investment) is just not there.

Ultimately, the social platform owner is in charge, and they can restrict organic reach and dictate branding guidelines just as a landlord can raise the rent and evict tenants. On top of this, all of the investments performers make on these leased social properties build no long-term equity for their brand, because the social sites own their fans’ user accounts, photos, posts and data.

Having a social presence is one of the most important parts of marketing for brand awareness (if you do not consider yourself a brand than you already are behind), discoverability, and developing your brand. Cultivating a following on these leased social platforms is sadly a necessary evil these days. It is important though to remember the value in investing in your own properties, the key word here is equity. You want equity and growth in value over time.

What can you do to break out of these “leases” as you participate in social media marketing? Consider investing in your own community.

An example of an “owned community” would be a forum on a performer’s website, which was popular some years back. But sticking with real estate as the metaphor, the mantra is the same: location, location, location. Where you invest in building your community is critical.

Be where your users are…mobile! A solid majority of all time spent on social media (60%) is on mobile, and 86% of that is on native apps. Capitalize on mobile today ladies for big gains in the future. Digital media engagement grew 24% this past year, driven mostly by mobile. Anyone want to guess where this is headed?

Now that we are mobile driven, owned communities can have homes that are real-time. It’s time to invest your efforts into ways to host your super fans in a dedicated space with no noise, give them direct contact to what they want…direct contact with you right from their phone.

This allows fans to take advantage of text messaging which will dominate our lives as the preferred communication method (we are well on our way there since 6 of the 10 most used apps on mobile are messaging apps).

You control the relationship, promotions, info, content, engagement rates and everything else when you own your own community. These are tools any brand (not just a performer) should be hoping for with the new age of mobile engagement.

More importantly, owned communities are a place for quality user engagement and community growth. Trust me when I tell you quality engagement is MUCH more powerful than quantity of followers. If you have 200,000 followers across all your social media profiles, you should be targeting the 1,000 – 5,000 super fans that are actually passionate about you and have a higher rate of turning into paying customers.

And that’s what it’s all about, targeting that small number of super fans who are actually going to spend money on your career to support you. And the only way to reach those fans is through direct engagement. Want a real life case study? I personally worked with two musicians; one signed to a major label spent thousands on marketing his release on social media platforms to his 4.2 Million fans, and an independent artist who engaged his fans directly via text to the 35,000 that were in his address book. And because of that straight line of communication to his super fans the independent artist earned 2.5 million in revenue which dwarfed what the major label artist made.

The moral of that story is provide a space for your super fans to engage with you directly, which is something they can’t do on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, etc.

Owned social drives high-quality engagement and loyalty with three special characteristics:

1. Authentic conversations. Conversations are the name of the game. Marketing is no longer about the simple broadcast of content, which already saturates every social media platform. Technology has moved on, and now it’s about the immediacy, intimacy and interaction that only conversation can provide.

Your owned community is focused on a shared interest…you! There is no noise from other performers.

Within your own community you are actually having a 1 on 1 private engagement with a fan, as opposed to social media where it feels like its “on display”.

2. User insights. When having a conversation directly with a fan on your own property, you’ll have complete insight into their data such as how long they’ve been a fan, how much have they invested in your career, etc. This data is key in targeting who is actually supporting you so you don’t waste your efforts on fans that are looking for freebies. You are in complete control of the communication between you and your fans.

3. Unique user control. You own it all! You want to have access to every piece of data for every single fan that is a supporter. How many of your Facebook fans can you call? How many of your Twitter followers bought your last clip or movie? This is the disconnect that happens when not having complete control over your fans.

Leased social communities have ruled because they are so easy to create. But as performers grow more and more frustrated with why their engagement rates are so low on social media it’s creating opportunities for them to find ways to own their communities.

It takes a lot of work to aggregate your fans to your “home turf”, but that foundation you build for quality engagement is immeasurable. And remember: “leased” social media platforms and your owned community are not mutually exclusive. They complement each other, so continue to use your social media pages to drive super fans to your “owned” community where they can engage you in a deeper way.

Don’t build your brand on rented land ladies. I know it takes vision and courage to break the norm but it’s time to take back control! It’s time to control your engagement and give your most devoted fans a home. Or get lost in the noise like everyone else.

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