Social Media ≠ Great Promotion

I hear it all the time. Maybe you do too.

“Well, we put it on our Facebook page, and I know Jenny sent it out on Twitter, so I think we’ve got our bases covered.”

Social media promotion is easy, it’s “now,” and everyone’s doing it.

But have you looked at the reach and engagement you’re getting lately?

Do You Work Too Cheap- (8)Today’s Educate and Entertain post explains why we shouldn’t be putting ALL our eggs in the social media basket.

When it comes to getting the word out about our gigs and services (and your upcoming block club meeting, for that matter), social media is best used as a supplemental strategy, not the primary one.

Everyone’s On Social Media!

We’ve been hearing the message for years now: we need to be on social media. It’s where everyone is.

And that’s become increasingly true.

Take a look at this chart from the Pew Research Center:

Fully two-thirds of American adults are now using social networking sites, an increase of more than 900% over the past ten years.

And Facebook, the undisputed king of social media, has over 1.6 billion monthly active users at the time of this writing; 65% of them are on the platform daily.

I’m one of them.

I use Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn just about every day to share (hopefully) interesting content and network with potential clients, friends, and fans. (I’m leaving Instagram, Snapchat, and the rest to the younger folk, at least for now.)

While we’re at it, why not connect with me! Here’s my Facebook page, Twitter account, and LinkedIn profile.

But the truth is, social media is not a great stand-alone strategy for creating awareness for our events and our services.

It never has been.

Why Not?

In the old days, there simply weren’t enough people on social media to make it an effective one-stop promotional channel.

Now, as we’ve noted, user numbers are through the roof! But something else has happened alongside that.

If you take a look at your “news feed” on your favorite platform, you’ll likely notice that it’s moving.

Almost continuously.

Unlike an email inbox, where messages stay put and wait patiently for us to deal with them, social media posts fly by, one after another.

In fact, let’s try something

Count to three with me, if you would.

2016-02-18_12-25-03Do you know how many tweets just got sent while we were counting?


The sheer volume of posts today prevents our messages from staying around very long, if they get seen at all. (More on that in a minute.)

So What Happens When I Post?

Let’s consider your latest masterpiece of promotional persuasion.

2016-02-18_11-08-45Perhaps you’re trying to get people to show up to an event, or you’re reminding venues of just how much they’ve missed booking you for a performance.

You’ve sweated over the wording, found the perfect visual image to go with it, and finally, you take a deep breath and hit the “Publish” button.

One of four things happens from there:

1. They’re not on the platform when you are

A 2013 study of Facebook post reach found that 75% of impressions occur within the first 2.5 hours. That figure is undoubtedly even less exciting in 2017 after numerous tweaks to the FB algorithm.

The average shelf life of a tweetis 24 minutesIn short, if your audience isn’t on the network within a few minutes or hours of your post, it’s unlikely that they will see it.

2. They don’t notice your post

Your audience member’s newsfeed is probably as busy as yours, if not more so, with tons of things competing for their attention.

So, even if they are online when you post, your message may not cut through the clutter.

2016-02-18_12-19-23(What? People aren’t sitting around waiting for my message to appear?)

3. Your post doesn’t get shown to them

Increasingly, algorithms are controlling what we see and don’t see in our news feeds.

(On top of that, users can control what’s appearing by filtering out any pages or profiles they no longer wish to hear from.)

2016-02-18_11-21-51Even Twitter, long celebrated for showing a live, chronological stream of everything to everybody (the “firehose” approach), recently rolled out a filtered feed.

Why do the networks control what I see?

Well, a couple of reasons:

The cynical will tell you that the social networks have done a “bait and switch” and are now insisting on a pay-to-play model. If you want to reach the audience you’ve built up on their platform, you’ll need to “boost” or “promote” your posts (i.e. spend money).

And certainly, these networks are businesses, first and foremost. They need to be profitable in order to continue delighting us with free cat videos.

You can decide how evil (or not) that is.

2016-02-18_12-05-53The less conspiratorial among us say (also rightly) that the “choking” of the news feed is simply an effort to keep us all from becoming completely overwhelmed and leaving the platform for good. (Which, incidentally, wouldn’t be good for profitability, would it?)

How reach works for Facebook “Pages”

If you’re a performing artist or a venue that hires them, chances are you have a Facebook “Page” for your business that’s separate from any personal profile you maintain.

imagesWhile it’s difficult to ascertain how many of our “friends” end up seeing posts from our personal account, the reporting on the reach of our Facebook Page posts is fairly robust, if more than a little depressing.

Facebook has been dialing back the organic reach of our Page posts for years.

(Organic reach = the number of fans or followers you can reach for free.)

Take a look at this ancient (2012) message from Facebook’s business team, along with a sample of comments from users (noting that the comments are from 2015):

Taken at their word that Facebook was showing our Page posts to an average of 16% of our “fans” or “likes” in 2012, the real-world feedback from 2015 is particularly illuminating. People were seeing reach of less than 1%!

Fast forward to 2017, and it’s a pretty dismal situation.

And now, drumroll please…the fourth possibility when you publish is that…

4. They see your post!

Woo hoo! Break out the champagne!!

8993690108_849c027108_z-minYour audience member, Sally Page-Liker, was not only on the platform when you posted (or shortly after), but the network delivered your post to her news feed, AND, she actually noticed it.

Maybe she even acted on it!


How Often #4 Happens For You

Here’s how to find out how many people are seeing your Facebook posts.

The quick method:

In the bottom left-hand corner of each post on your page, you’ll see how many people were reached.

2016-02-16_9-49-02For the 2016 post pictured above, 27 people saw my message. When divided by the 885 page likes I had at the time, that’s a whopping 3.05%.


This next one (also from February 2016) did a little better, with 150 out of 885 (16.9%) seeing the post.

2016-02-16_9-52-17The detailed method:  

To get a more complete picture of what’s happening with your FB posts, use the “Insights” tab on the top navigation bar of your business page.

2016-02-16_10-08-20-minFrom there, you can drill down into all kinds of reports, discovering things like which days of the week and times of day your audience is most active on Facebook (important!).

One section I like to look at is “All Posts Published,” which helps to spot trends quickly and gives a snapshot of which types of posts are doing well (those with images vs. links, etc.).

Your Results May Vary

I’ve been concentrating on examples from Facebook (and a bit from Twitter) for this article. It seems to be the one everyone uses.

Your results there, and on the other social media platforms, may vary.

So What Else Can We Do?

Are there techniques that can be employed on each of the networks to boost organic reach and get our messages out to more people?

Absolutely. In fact, an entire industry has been built around helping people do that, and much of the content is free. Check out Social Media Examiner for starters, where you’ll find hundreds of quality articles. 

sme_logo_brownIs it worth experimenting with some paid promotion on these channels?

It certainly has been for me. Check out the article on Facebook Ads for Musicians and Performers for some strategies and tips.

Bottom Line

Use Social Media as ONE Tool, Not THE Tool

Social networks like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and the others are great additions to your marketing mix, but they should never be confused with adequate promotion.

Publicizing an event?  A combination of email, social media and search engine optimization should do the trick on the digital side, along with lots of PR/media outreach and even some good old-fashioned flyers and posters where appropriate.

Marketing yourself to generate bookings? Email is still king in terms of online marketing, with creative use of social media supporting and feeding that effort. Getting found in the search engines for the right keywords can be very important as well, depending on your situation.

You might also think about adding some content marketing to the mix.

Go Old School Too!

There’s still no substitute for being face-to-face or voice-to-voice with your audience and those you wish to work for, building relationships through the original social channels.

As a matter of fact, maybe one of these days, I’ll even pick up the phone and try calling someone again…

What kind of luck are you having with social media?

Leave me a note in the Comments section below.

About The Blog

The Largest Online Gathering of K-5 Classrooms for Connected Educator MonthSince leaving a white-collar marketing job in 1992, Dave Ruch has been educating and entertaining full-time in schools, historical societies and museums, folk music and concert venues, libraries, and online via distance learning programs.

Along the way, he’s learned a great deal about supporting a family of four as a musician.

The Educate and Entertain blog provides articles, tips, encouragements, and how-to’s for regional performers (in any region) interested in making a great full-time living in the arts.

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