The limits of organic communications
16 May 2021-
Ever heard of social media? We have too. Ever tried blogging? We did that. To some extent. And we're here to talk about our first findings...
First off, in case you would try to find a hidden message in us introducing this post with the Guns N’ Roses classic “Civil War”, we’ll be honest: our thinking didn’t go that far. The thing is, that song starts off with a quote from the equally classic Paul Newman movie Cool Hand Luke, in which a prison warden utters this terrible phrase: “What we’ve got here is failure to communicate”… What ensues in the movie is not exactly comic fodder. What ensues in the song either. What ensues in the case of Sondz, we hope, will be significantly more uplifting…
To begin with, our communication around Sondz, while arguably not (yet) at the level of a website like Pitchfork or Discogs, is already out there and has been steadily (although timidly) growing over the past few months. To no one’s surprise, as part of our effort to spread the word about our music information platform, the choice to put quite a bit of effort on communications was made early on, even before the actual launch of the platform. This post is essentially about taking stock of what has been done so far, the challenges we went through along the way, and how we envisage the next couple of steps…
Following: ~50 weekly users
While we launched Sondz’ Version Alpha in November 2020, the first public iteration of our project showed up during the summer of 2020 in the shape of a blog, which started chronicling music news and information around 3 main categories: news, reviews and trivia. These categories remain unchanged to this day, we only added the one this post falls under, “Updates”, to tackle the progress made on the project itself.
With those 3 categories, we hope(d) to encompass broad elements that are relevant to music both in its trends, key features and history. “News” follows the big stories in music, from key releases, awards ceremonies, (music) business announcements… Once a week, every Monday, we select what we think is the hottest, most relevant piece of information for our readers to know about — globally. Nothing all that surprising about this (except what may actually be featured in the news): you would expect that kind of information on a global music platform.
The next category is another classic: “Reviews”, and by that we mean album reviews. In many ways, this is a nod to the music magazines of our youth, which still translates to the digital age: although singles and track releases become increasingly frequent, we still believe there is value in analysing the artistic sum that is a Long Play record. And so, every Wednesday, we come up with our (personal) take on an album which was recently released, usually one we enjoyed, all the while trying to make that selection as stylistically diversified as possible. So far so good… we think.
The last category, “Trivia”, is somewhat more fun — at least for us. This one is about interesting bits of trivia, published every Friday and taken from the rich history of music and musicians, especially as the art form blossomed in the second half of the 20th century. While we sometimes talk about stuff we simply want to talk about, there is usually a link with the news, be it a release anniversary, new information relating to an artist or coming from the music industry… As it stands, this category is our attempt at adding a layer of context to what you may be listening to.
The purpose of this blog is twofold:
- Establishing the universe Sondz operates in, including the semantic register for Google to associate our platform with. We are about music, all types of music, all eras of music, all aspects of music… as long as it’s good 🙂
- Introducing key angles through which to embrace the art form, which are meant to become actual platform features in the not too distant future… stay tuned!
You will notice that we didn’t say our goal was to make the Sondz blog a Rolling Stone competitor. Because it’s not: we hardly publish enough content for that, and our purpose as a website is to provide global musical information rather than our personal take on the subject. As such, the blog is merely a way to enhance the platform by adding a hopefully interesting layer of content for our users.
Following: 98 to date (although we briefly hit 100 a few days ago :))
Twitter is a great social media platform to leverage if you are looking to tackle the media aspect of things. Although we are, once again, not a news organization per se, we do get involved in it and therefore view Twitter as an integral part of our communications. Not the easiest to leverage, but integral nonetheless.
Our use of the platform to date is this: a few months ago, we started introducing data-based posts. In other words, we would write about artist birthdays, release anniversaries… that sort of thing. By doing so, we essentially made the connection between music news and the data our platform is based on. Consequently, we typically post half a dozen data-driven tweets every day. For instance, today involved wishing happy birthday to the great Janet Jackson as well as celebrating the 55th anniversary of the Beach Boys’ classic Pet Sounds album.
While this arguably is a minimalistic use of the platform, we are still in the process of figuring out exactly what kind of information people would like to know about here and… we also more cynically use it as a means for Sondz to improve its SEO. As it turns out, Google is very keen on tracking links posted on Twitter (as opposed to other social media platforms), so this gives us a slight edge in our very much on-going Google/SEO efforts. You take what you can get.
Following: 206 to date
Although Facebook is a must for any digital product, it is not necessarily that product’s main priority. So is the case for us: our Facebook page was created early on, and is regularly updated, although we do not necessarily consider it to be at the absolute core of our digital communication strategy. Instead, we in the Sondz team use it to share content with our respective friends and communities rather than actively promote it.
The reason for that is — as is public knowledge at this point, although Facebook as a platform enjoys a truly massive number of users, they are not necessarily the most active, especially when it comes to music, as that sort of entertainment tends to be a young (wo)man’s game. Side note: you may take from this that our focus is essentially on young users. While they are definitely key in our mind, we do not however exclude more senior users, who tend to have more niche interests — and usually more thorough knowledge of said musical niche. And we technically address them with some of our posts: the point is, as the current maturity level of our communication efforts, we haven’t yet fully divided up postings as pertains to specific sub-targets. But we will, as we keep gathering more user information 🙂
These days, what we post on Facebook amounts to
- sharing articles published on our blog, every Monday (news), Wednesday (reviews) and Friday (trivia);
- posting a “Fact of the day” every other day, i.e. short posts on recent musical news, whether that entails a new release, personal artist information or industry reports.
For that is our rule: post at least one thing every day. Come rain or shine or, sometimes, both…
Following: 293 to date
We made the choice early on to start addressing the business community as well as music lovers (or, at the very least, listeners). For two main reasons:
- The music industry is very much part of the information we aim to showcase on our platform, highlighting facts about labels and label management for one;
- As one would assume, the industry is a key partner we intend to work with in our efforts to monetize the platform at a later stage…
As such, we started posting information on LinkedIn at the same rate we did on other social media. To date, we do not quite discriminate either: given the fact that we do not yet have comprehensive information about user trends to speak of, we publish the same type of content here as we do on Facebook. The difference is the target: business people, industry people and, hopefully, a few music lovers too…
Following: 421 to date
As one would expect, Instagram is key to our digital communications. As it is key to virtually any company’s communications these days, no matter how niche and/or B2B: the whole point of Instagram is that it can be leveraged in various ways depending on what your specific target is. And it currently sits as the most dynamic social media platform out there by most accounts. Also, music is an integral part of the platform’s activity: 4 out of the top 10 Instagram accounts involve musicians (Ariana Grande, Selena Gomez, Queen Beyoncé and Justin Bieber in that order) and another 2 are somewhat linked (Kylie Jenner occasionally features in music videos, while her sister Kim Kardashian is/was married to Kanye West…). While we contend this reflects the impact music has in general, it definitely means that Instagram is the place to be for us.
Having said that, we will readily admit that our approach is still very much a work in progress. While we post every day (based on the same schedule as our other social accounts), we also add a few stories for good measure. And the results are interestingly varied: we may get a measly 9 likes on a DJ Khaled release news, while Sir Tom Jones topping the UK charts brings 65… For the key factor we identified is the halo effect of an artist’s fan club, combined with said artist’s global appeal. In other words, because we are not Rolling Stone or Discogs (yet), global fan clubs may not focus on our post regarding the artist they love all that much. However, information on somewhat more niche artists is more likely to be picked up and generate many times more hits…
The last thing we’ll say about Instagram (at this point) and as it relates to our next topic (right below if you can’t wait) is that it takes a village to build an Instagram account. Meaning: that sh*t takes time. In our experience, you have to grind it out, post as regularly as you can, complement with as many stories as you can, adding an interactive aspect if possible (see: polls and questions), while working to make sure your layouts are appealing, getting the right hashtags out, literally working the platform and liking other users’ posts… When you do all that, your numbers are bound to rise. But, again, it takes a village. And by ‘village’ we mean time…
Followers: 578 and counting
Let us make a confession right off the bat: we didn’t start out using TikTok. Actually, that’s the last platform we eventually posted on, a couple of months ago. Yet, as you may have noticed if you have a basic knowledge of how arithmetics work, this also happens to be the platform where we have the highest number of users… That interesting fact can be attributed to a couple of things:
- Users on TikTok are somewhat more fickle than on Instagram: they may follow you more easily, but that doesn’t mean they will like or even check out your content. In other words, your follower count is less telling than on Instagram;
- TikTok is the social media platform for musicians, or at least it is becoming that. Granted, Instagram loves music, but TikTok is actually based on tracks you can add to any video you may like to post. And their catalog is quite remarkably diverse…
- TikTok is the rising social media platform — period: make no mistake, although Instagram currently sits as arguably the most important platform out there, chances are its main competitor in the years to come is indeed TikTok…
For all these reasons, and despite the fact that we cheat a little insofar as we don’t really post videos per se, rather animated pictures with sound, our TikTok account has been steadily rising using virtually the same content we showcase on other platforms — even less of it: there is very little space for text here… Going forward, we view TikTok as a key social tool for us to leverage the platform to new heights. Again, we hope.
All told, and despite the fact that we very much consider our communications to still be a work in progress, we can already see how different platforms can help in different ways, and how complementary the ones we have chosen appear to be. While results from any given platform are still very much linked to the effort we put into it, we can also tell that TikTok will do great to address the mainstream group of music listeners, while LinkedIn will help for business and Instagram still is unavoidable.
Our hope for the near future is to write another one of these posts with much higher figures and a few more insights. Perhaps ones that contradict what we wrote above. Perhaps ones that involve non-organic communications. Meaning, one day, we may start actually paying to be seen. Until then, we’ll keep building our story and trying to address our targets. Plural.