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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13 Responses to The Social Media Jungle: How To Get Untangled

  1. Hi Dave, I agree with you about not broadcasting or selling your wares on Fb but I still do ‘broadcast’ my guitar pieces when I have something meaningful/interesting/funny to relate at the same time and thereby attempt to make the post not just about what i’m doing but how it might relate to the viewer as well. For example, I post up a brand new video performance of Bach’s Prelude in C Major that I’ve worked hard on over several weeks and include in the post a funny anecdotal story/tale from Bach’s life about him fortuitously fishing out a couple of gold ducats out of some fish heads (a native Thuringian’s delicacy!) tossed out of a restaurant window while he was on his way home from a concert! I find the hardest part about posting up on social media sites is making the post interesting and that’s usually because time is at a premium… better to give yourself some time to be creative; so that your viewer will benefit! Also, I like to post up pictures of our family’s vacations (once per year) and these always gain a lot of views – to that end, I did the same thing with my tours and the results were good! What did I learn there? Less is more (effective) some times…

  2. Hi Dave,

    I’m new to your website and got your name through a Bob Baker article.
    Your advise is fabulous, with great insight and practical uses!
    Thanks for providing such ongoing valuable information!
    Cheers • Richard

    • Hi Richard – Bob is great too. Glad you found your way here and I hope you’ll jump into the conversations anytime it fits.

  3. Dear Dave,
    I have a business page on Facebook and a business page on Twitter. I have a personal page on FB which I have all but shut down due to a scam artist that I let onto my page. Now no one gets onto my FB page unless I know them personally. Of course this has affected what is posted on my business page–most apps what to post to your personal FB page so that’s not really an option for me. I have over 1800 followers on Twitter and don’t know how to monetize that properly yet. I have found that social media is really not for me, most of my target audience, (activities directors, librarians, and programming directors at senior centers) are not looking for me on Facebook or Twitter.

  4. Hi Dave, Season Greetings to u’ n’ urs’ thanks for the info; t’was helpful, I’m being bullied on social media n’ I don’t know what to do about it, was thinking u’ might have some answers that can help, I’ m being blocked from posting on my profile on LinkedIn n’ blocked from getting direct mail on Twitter, my posts on Facebook is being removed as soon as I post it.

    • Yikes Beth – sorry, I don’t have any experience with this kind of thing. Maybe another reader will chime in.

  5. Great article, and spot on. I started with a blog on Blogger (Granny Sue’s News and Reviews) and 9 years later I’m still there and still blogging. It’s brought me a few gigs, spread the word about storytelling, and made me some very good friends. I also use Facebook extensively, both a personal page and a performer page. I boost posts on my Granny Sue page occasionally when I want to promote an event, or just get my name out there a bit more. It works. And then there’s Twitter, which I use to promote gigs, my blog and again, to keep my name out there. The rest–just no time for any more, and these three are effective so why do more?

  6. Thanks Dave! Great stuff as usual. Here is a pretty basic observation. When using Facebook, I “reach” a lot more people when I post a photo or video, rather than just text. But that means you need decent/interesting photos and/or videos to post. Not as easy as it sounds. And your suggestion to interact more with your followers is excellent. You’re right: they don’t want to just hear us boast about a new CD or upcoming gig. They want to see a photo, answer a question, listen to a story, or offer ideas and opinions. I haven’t done this enough, but when I do I get fun and interesting results.

    • Thanks Jamie. Great point re: posting photos/videos vs. plain text. That has been my experience as well, and for anyone who’s game to go “live,” Facebook is really rewarding live videos right now with extra reach..

  7. That’s amazing you would write about this Dave ! Justice very weak I’ve been going through questioning how valuable is any of this because it seems like when I get busy with my work (gigs and teaching) that this stuff takes very low priority indeed. I’m also angry how much time I spent on Facebook mouthing off about the election situation, as so many people did, and at the end of the day all the hot air did nothing to change anything really!! So I feel like that’s a clear example of how it’s just a waste of time. Anyway thank you again as always for you’re super post! Alexandra

    • Hi Alexandra – I think it CAN be a big waste of time, but I also think it can be a great tool, all depending on how we use it.

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