I keep getting emails from readers asking me for opinions on "social networking." I have lots of thoughts on the subject, so I'm going to post a few things I feel you should consider before spending too much of your time, energy, effort, and money doing anything involving Twitter, Facebook, MySpace, or anything else that comes along.
First, let's talk about "old school" media...
The current issue of Playboy has an interview with John Mayer in which he refers to his penis as a "white supremacist" and spills the goods on his various romantic relationships and sexual conquests, among other things. What was published likely went through several filters, including the guy interviewing him, an editor, a layout person, and others...
In addition, to make the interview happen in the first place, there were likely several other things which had to take place. Something scheduled through a publicist, an editor, a reporter, etc.
In short, these things don't just happen; a team of people has to make them happen. It takes a team to actually get the interview and it takes a team to get the interview out to the public.
That's a lot of time for the person being interviewed to think about what he's going to say and to work with his team about the message which needs to be presented. There are also a lot of opportunities for somebody to catch a mistake, before it gets released to millions of people.
When is the last time you saw a typo in a magazine like Playboy? Probably never. That's because, like cellulite on a Playmate's thighs, typos get caught and fixed before they are printed.
A "bad interview" in traditional print media doesn't just happen. Lots of people were looking the other way for this one to be printed.
What does just happen, however, is artists going online and running their mouths without thinking about how the messages they send will be received or affect their careers. Often times, thanks to the combination of easy/instant publishing and no filter, what goes out is not focused enough, too frequent, or just plain crazy.
This is killing music careers. At least that's the opinion of La Roux's Elly Jackson.
"This new generation of pop stars are killing their careers with the social networking thing. They're promoting their careers in the short run, but in the long run they're telling people way too much about themselves and making themselves too accessible."
"I'm fascinated by artists such as Prince and David Bowie. Neither have Twitter profiles, because they're not stupid enough to be on Twitter. Prince doesn't like to have pictures on the Internet, let alone interviews. That's not by mistake or because he's an arsehole. It's because he knows the intrigue and mystery need to be upheld."
It's a valid opinion backed with solid arguments. Artist don't put the time or effort into social media like they would something like Playboy or Rolling Stone because it's too easy!
Artists like Prince and David Bowie came up in a different time though. Is it possible for a new artists not to be 100% accessible by social network services like Twitter? Will acts who aren't sending out messages every few hours be forgotten by a society that is easily distracted and onto the "next big thing" more quickly than ever before?
It's something to think about...and probably something you could convince yourself of, especially if you're somebody who is using social media as part of your music marketing strategy.
However, something else to think about is that John Mayer's success has, at least in my opinion, been due not to his use of social media, but instead to relentless touring, great musicianship, and catchy songs. Sure, he may have 3,000,000+ people following him on Twitter, but are those real fans or are they just there to see the train wreck?
I'll tell you... They're there to see the train wreck. Playboy wasn't the first time the guy ran his mouth and Twitter is the perfect outlet for him.
Don't confuse "fans" with people who are following you on Twitter. They're not necessarily the same thing. Fans spend money with you, buy your albums, come to your shows, and tell friends about you; Twitter followers simply click a button on their computers and add one more name to a list of "friends."
As a marketing guy, believe me, my company has tested Twitter and other social networks extensively. Seth Godin (listen to my interview with him) has tested them too...
"A lot of these fans and followers are faux. Sunny day friends. In one experiment I did, 200,000 followers led to 25 clickthroughs. Ouch."
That's clickthroughs, not buyers. And getting clickthroughs is easy!
So there goes the argument that you're "building relationships" or that anybody else is listening... Posting something via Twitter is less effective than printing up flyers and hitting random parking lots.
Feel free to post thoughts below. If you've done marketing tests using social media to sell your music or get people to shows, please post that information too.
Want more info on the subject? Be sure to look at more on the subject of social networking by Seth Godin as well as listen to my radio interview with him.