Note: This is an option blog piece that is a bit different from what I usually publish. It is meant to be a complementary piece to go with my Tactics For Musicians To Beat Social Media Algorithms blog.
Whenever a musician posts about tickets to an upcoming show or new merch, there can be a noticeable dip in engagement and organic reach compared to other types of posts. I’ve seen it happen firsthand many times. Does this always happen? No. Have I seen sales types of posts do really well organically? Yes.
The commonly held belief is that social media platforms will intentionally suppress the organic reach of any posts that involve trying to sell something to force creators to buy ads to reach their followers.
I hear about it all the time within my circles. I’m no stranger to conspiracy theories myself but I also strive to be objective as a mediator-type personality and a professional in the industry.
Although this line of thinking makes a lot of sense and it’s hard to argue against this belief considering that’s their major source of income, there is also another major factor at play.
As much as we hate big corporations and the profit maximization motive that drives them, it’s also VERY possible that typical sales-type posts are inherently not as engaging. It’s also not something people will eagerly share with others either.
The algorithm wants to get posts and content in front of people that will likely engage with it so people continue to scroll and get bombarded with ads. If the initial response to a post is poor, the reach potential is going to be limited. Presentation can play a role in this as well, especially if a sales post comes off too much like an advertisement or busy flyer with a lot of text.
There are definitely exceptions like when an artist is announcing new music, a tour or even merch for the first time. If you’re announcing new music with the cover art, chances are that’s going to do well. These are definitely sales related things that fans typically get excited about from artists.
Not all followers are paying fans.
A big factor to consider is not all of your followers are paying fans, let alone super fans that will engage with everything you post.
Getting someone to start spending money on you is still a commitment not all followers are ready to consider. It is like expecting anyone who shows interest in dating you is ready to sleep with you or get married.
If you think of marketing as a funnel, the part of your fan base that is ready to buy or take action is generally going to be much smaller like the bottom tip.
On social media, you have to consider that all your followers are in different places of the fan journey. I follow plenty of musicians that I would never spend money on and have no problems scrolling by their sales related posts. While with some other artists, I will buy anything they release despite it taking me many years to get to that point.
It is your job as the creator to make and share content that helps them build a stronger affinity for your brand and ultimately care about what you’re selling.
We’ve been conditioned to tune out anything that looks like an ad.
Another angle to this is that the average user does not want to always be sold something on a social network that is often used as a form of escapism and social interactions with friends. The mindset or intent of the typical social media user isn’t to buy or spend money.
For decades, we know that people tend to tune out to anything that resembles an ad. We go out of our way to skip ads or fast forwarded through them. This behavior has been going on for decades on network TV and it has not changed online or on social media. Honestly, when was the last time you shared a regular ad post on social media?
So is it fair to say now that sales-related posts (with the primary goal of getting someone to spend money) are inherently not engaging? When ads are in the form of funny or entertaining commercials, we’re more likely to tune in. Maybe the lesson here is if you’re going to try to sell something, try not to make it look or feel like an ad?
At the very least, I hope that musicians will consider that the problem isn’t solely the algorithm looking for keywords in the caption to suppress the organic reach. The fact is, we will never know if algorithms have been programmed to de-rank posts based on certain words or intent.
If you can’t beat the algorithm, just pay!
The best way to get more reach for your sales-type of posts is to buy ads. Many artists refuse to pay to get better reach and engagement. The frustration is understandable but as musicians, there are some expenses you just have to pay to keep your business operating.
After all, the business model for social media platforms is to build a product that millions of people want to use and spend time on so they can gather all that data and charge businesses to reach certain people with ads.
Here are 3 situations where you want to pay for ads:
- You’re trying to sell something that would generate profit (shows, music, merch, membership).
- You have a post/content that is performing very well organically and you want to boost the success to reach more people.
- You want to test content that is meant to reach new people to grow your fan base.
If you really don’t have the budget or don’t want to pay, you’ll have to rethink how you approach sales post and be more creative with the content. The best type of ads are the ones don’t look like an ad. I notice more artists and entertainers will use short form video to disguise promotion for an upcoming show as a fun skit or funny bit.
At the end of the day, you don’t see Ford or McDonalds complaining that they have to pay money for ads on network television or social media. It’s the inherent cost of running a business when your audience spends time on property or networks that you don’t own.
Remember, social media is rented space even though you think you own your profile, the data and the right to reach your followers for free. These platforms have the ability to delete your profile and access to all of your fans. It’s more reason to build your email list or private membership community and take full ownership of your fan relationships.