The Social Media Jungle: How To Get Untangled

Dear musician/storyteller/performing artist,

Do you have a bad feeling that you’re missing out on great opportunities to promote yourself using social media?

Have you dabbled but found little success on Facebook, or Twitter, or….?

I’ve got some good news for you.

The Social Media Jungle: How to Get Untangled

I’ve been studying the situation for years, experimenting with various platforms to promote my own programs, and listening to how the wider world of small business is using social media.

It’s not as confusing as it might seem.

If you keep the following principles in mind, you’ll be well on your way to smart and effective use of social media without spending half your life there (unless you want to).

Social media is not the be all, end all

If you’re not actively using social media already, it’s very possible that it’s just not for you.

And if that’s the case, don’t worry about it.

social media for musicians - dave ruchThink of social media as “a” channel (as opposed to “the” channel) for promoting yourself and connecting with fans and potential clients.

Depending on your goals, it might be far from the best channel. I know several successful independent musicians who do very well with little or no social media presence.

So don’t feel like you absolutely HAVE to be there. If it’s not your cup of tea, concentrate on powerful email marketing instead, or how about this – go really old school and pick up the phone!

Social media is supposed to be social

Assuming you do want to spend some time there, just keep this golden rule in mind at all times:

Nobody is on social media to be sold to.

how to use social media for musicians - dave ruchNot your mother. Not the guy who came to your last gig. Not even the person who books that major festival you’d like to perform at.

People are on social media to see what their friends are up to, to distract themselves for a little while, and perhaps to post some pictures of their breakfast. It’s absolutely critical to keep this in mind.

advice for musiciansFor performing artists, the most effective use of organic (unpaid) social media is to engage with people – to be social – rather than to sell or to broadcast to them.

Encourage two-way conversations, share things that are interesting to you, forward things that others have sent you, tell a funny story about something that happened on a gig, show some of your personality.

It’s about building your brand and your audience slowly over the long haul.

If that doesn’t sound like a great use of your time, I refer you back to the first point (or skip ahead to “Think about paying to play”).

You can’t be everywhere

Well, you can be, but you won’t do any of it very well.

Better to don timeecide on one or two networks that make sense for you, and plan to be there consistently. It doesn’t need to take more than 5-10 minutes a day, but you’ll want to show up regularly.

How do you decide which ones? Figure out where your potential audiences hang out.

(By audiences, I mean the people you hope to reach on social media – existing fans, new fans, people who’ve hired you and/or those who might potentially hire you for a gig.)

That’s a far more effective strategy than setting up a presence on twelve different platforms and then not having the time to do anything with them.

Here’s how I think of the main social media networks (would love to hear how you use them too – the “Comments” section is below):

My Standby Social Networks

Facebook – the world’s largest social media site. Pretty much everyone is there, including me. Great place to share photos and stories and interesting links and occasionally promote what you’re up to. Excellent opportunities for paid promotion as well (see below).

Twitter – not my favorite network. Hard to interact here with limits on characters and message length, but the real strength for me is the ability to reach out to – and reach – journalists and thought leaders in music and arts and education and all the fields I’m involved in professionally. The “Lists” function is great for keeping tabs on specific segments of the people I follow.

LinkedIn – considered by many to be “the Facebook for your professional life,” it does look and feel somewhat similar but works pretty differently in that people aren’t generally there to distract themselves. Separate from those searching for jobs, people tend to go to LinkedIn to network, make new connections, and learn about new techniques and trends. Posting gig announcements here is pretty much pointless (though many people do it). Try the “Groups” function to start networking with potential clients and/or fellow performers.

YouTube – I’m not exactly sure why this is even considered a social media site, but it is. Most people use YouTube to be entertained or to learn something. It’s a great place to park your videos (make sure to title them in terms people might search for) and to be discovered by brand-new (to you) people via the Google search engine (Google owns YouTube), the YouTube search function (the world’s second largest discovery engine!), and the related suggestions YouTube puts in the right column once you’re watching a video.

Youtube auto play

I searched for “how to play spoons” and clicked on the first result. Look what YouTube is going to show me after the current video plays (it’s one of my own videos on the same topic).

I Also Dabble With…

Google+ – this network never really took off, but it’s still around, and guess what? It’s a direct line to the all-powerful Google. I’ve noticed that when I post something new on Google+, and then do a regular old Google search for that topic, my post shows up immediately in the first page of the search results.

Pinterest – I can’t say that I use Pinterest much, but I posted a few things there for teachers months ago and one of them has really taken off, bringing me new website visitors every single day. Posts here can have a really long shelf life, which is rare in social media. Not a ton of interaction here – it’s more of a discovery network, and it’s not just for home decorations, crafts and baking. You can find anything on Pinterest.

I’m Too Old For These!

old musicianNot really, but I just haven’t invested any energy in…

Instagram * Snapchat * Tumblr * etc.

For the most part, they’re not where my audiences are.

(If you use any of the above, would love to hear what you’re doing and how it’s working.)

Stop talking about yourself!

As hinted at above, and discussed in detail in the article Want Better Gigs? It’s Not About You, people aren’t necessarily interested in hearing a whole lot about you (or me). That includes the vast majority of those who’ve “liked” or “followed” you on social media.

They care far more about themselves.

Shocking, I know, but that needs to inform everything you do in promoting yourself, both online and off.

Think about it this way – the people you engage with on social media are the very same people you might meet at a party or a gig. You wouldn’t (I hope) go on and on about yourself and what you’ve been doing lately and your newest show and your latest piece of equipment and everything else without asking about them, and listening to what they have to say, and responding to their comments.

social media for musicians - dave ruchMaybe you’d try to make them laugh, or share a funny story about yourself, or ask their advice on something.

Do that. Show them some interest, and entertain or educate them a bit with your posts.

Think about paying to play

This is really the subject of a whole different article (which I’ve already written! See the piece on paid Facebook advertising for performing artists).

For now, suffice it to say that if you’re looking for a way to more directly promote what you’re doing and reach a targeted group of people most likely to be interested in what you do, paid ads on social media are worth your serious consideration.


Well, the social networks know so much about what each individual user “likes,” where they live, what movies they’ve seen, even what they do for a living, so it’s easy and (for now) relatively inexpensive to put an ad or “promoted post” in front of just the right group of people.

Social media for musicians and performing artistsI’ve paid to promote some of my educational concerts just to first grade teachers in specific towns and cities.

I’ve found Grateful Dead fans who ALSO like banjo AND live within 20 miles of Baltimore to promote an upcoming concert with my band.

Same principles apply, of course – you’ll need to make it entertaining, or educational, or both. Don’t just “broadcast” or “sell” to a cold audience that has no idea who you are.

But I’m here to say that paid social media posts can catch the attention of your ideal audience as they wade through cat videos and political rants and everything else in their feed.

From there, think about how you’ll move them to your platform – get them on your email list, or to your website, or to an event you’re hosting.

Summing It Up

You really don’t need to be on social media if it’s not your thing. There are lots of other ways to promote your work, and you’re not necessarily losing out on major opportunities for visibility unless you plan on putting consistent time and energy (and/or money) into it.

For those who ARE there and using it “organically,” make “community building” and “brand building” and “listening” your goals. If you’re looking for immediate, tangible results from your unpaid posts, you will likely be disappointed. It’s a long game.

And if you’re willing to spend a bit of money to get your posts seen by a targeted group of people who might want to see you perform, or hire you, or sign up for a free download that you’re offering, social media can be a really effective and inexpensive tool for that.

Want more? Be sure to sign up for free delivery of each week’s post, sent right to your inbox every Monday.

How Are You Using Social Media?

Which platforms do you like? Dislike? Let’s get a robust conversation going 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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