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“What I can do for you as a [digital] marketer”

This week we’re supposed to write about what we can do for potential employers as digital marketers, the spirit behind which obviously being why we should be hired on these grounds. The thing is, the skills we learned in this class I want to know as means to ends, but I don’t necessarily want to be hired for them in themselves. This is because I don’t like cut-and-pasting, crunching numbers, or getting lists of menial tasks to finish before the weekend… though dues are dues and I don’t expect to go from underground to the moon in one stroke. In this class we’ve learned a generally accepted method of attracting [customers], helping them find, remember, and talk about something, and how to measure the effectiveness of different executions of these concepts. I’m familiar with the topics enough to know that I’ve learned valuable things, but I want to execute them as part of a bigger plan.

This is because (in the loosest of definitions, of course) I like to think of myself as more of a visionary. You never have to tell me to think outside the box because I don’t know where the box is or how you think in one. I think where most of my teachers and peers go wrong is they try to formulate marketing, but it isn’t about following a set of rules, getting some position, or even keeping up on things. It’s about staying ahead of the curve – always defining new methods that the rest of the industry reads about. Marketing is about figuring out how people think and leveraging aspects of their tendencies that they wouldn’t change even when made aware of them (like how even after knowing they’re worthless, people still want diamonds.)

And I think this is where the music industry has gone wrong as well. Most of it has been consolidated into a few major players that have gotten comfortable with the way they conduct business and can’t imagine other ways of doing things to the point that new ideas seem dreamy or in need of too much restructuring. It’s the most cliché scenario in the book and I find that there are only 2 main possible outcomes; either one company will play to the changing tides and swallow the others, forming a virtual monopoly, or smaller and more nimble firms will beat them all at games they didn’t know they should be playing. And the games ARE changing. The market used to need help finding good music, but now it needs help sifting through the good music already out there and experiencing it to a greater degree. Labels are staying afloat with their ability to promote and control better than anyone, but as information exchange gains momentum and fewer people listen to the radio on commutes, this tactic will become increasingly difficult (and costly) to maintain.

And this is why I think people should want me on their team. I understand that [marketing] isn’t about the learning of facts (academia), it’s about the training of the mind to think. I think real marketers get good through a life of studying people and wanting to know what makes them tick. It comes from wondering why people say things instead of what they say, why certain people laugh certain ways when telling certain jokes to certain people, why Latinos, white people, black people, poor people, rich people, young people, old people, desperate people, confident people, disheveled people, teachers, cops, politicians, and every other whatever-a-graphic that you could construct share the tendencies that they do… and not just the qualities that come from being in the segment itself, but also vice-versa.

Anyone can understand the concepts I’m talking about in the same way that anyone can shoot a hoop; this is nothing special. But my point is that not everyone is born, for whatever reason, foolishly obsessed with their sport to attack it voraciously enough to become Michael Jordan, Phelps, or Tyson. Figuring out how people think and why is my sport. People can go to basketball camp or get certain grades at school all they like, but if their heart’s not in it, every day at work will be the inconvenient thing between their bed and a can of beer, and they will never be Michael anything. My value is in the fact that I’ll be thinking about how to do my job better even when I’m not being paid to do it… and not because of work ethic, but because it’s just how I am. Whether a passion is a good thing or a bad thing depends on how it’s used, but the first step is to use it.

The Changing Face of Online Consumption

This week’s material addressed the rise of mobile devices’ significance in the world of the wide web and came with some important but largely unsurprising data. Apparently as of a year ago, over 56% of U.S. web users interact via mobile platforms, and 8% of users use only mobile devices for internet connectivity (though of course the latter number includes the tiny portion of people that can’t be identified at all.) This data may seem unimportant alone, but the time spent on each of these devices follows a very similar pattern.

Now consider that though mobile’s portion of web consumption increased from 26% to 56% in the period of 2010 to 2013, time on regular computers did not decrease at all. It actually continued to increase.

The takeaways here are clear; digital marketing is continuing to increase in importance, and keeping mobile platforms in mind is becoming a more prominent component of this. If you’re in the DIY music industry (which virtually guarantees the poverty of those it rules) this most likely means making sure that your site is either mobile-friendly or is supplemented by a mobile-friendly version.

But if you’re one of the few that can afford an ad campaign, you should consider that consumers prefer to make purchases and commitments on their laptops over mobile devices, and that they also view ads less favorably when encountered on mobile devices (probably because of their intrusive nature.) So although I would recommend making sure first-hand that your ads appear in a way that wouldn’t make you hate the advertiser if roles were reversed, remember that mobile ads can be a great way to drive awareness if nothing else. And if this is the road you are fortunate enough to be on, consider focusing on the Facebook, Youtube, and Instagram apps respectively because they are both the most highly used for your purposes and because they are all prominent players across all platforms.

Troubles in the waters.

The cross-platform trends are exciting and offer many new opportunities, but they also pose problems for ad buyers… and the people who like to use apps for free… and everyone else. How can ad agencies properly charge for exposures if they can’t tell who’s on which device and how many people are exposed to each ad? (For example, there is often more than one person watching the same tv or tablet screen.) Of course they use log-ins, the cameras on your devices, and your usage patterns to do the best they can (like fingerprints, you have unique online behaviors identified by common locations, mixture of sites you visit, etc), but these sciences still need to develop a little more.

It is because of this effect that I doubt Facebook’s $19 billion acquisition of WhatsApp has more to do with making money from texts than getting user information. If WhatsApp makes a dollar from every download and by some miracle gets EVERY PERSON IN THE [FREAKING?] WORLD to download it, they will earn far less than HALF that price tag. Zuckerberg says they bought it because “it will help the social network grow globally”… but I mean… yeah right. Somebody’s getting boned here and it’s probably not the people with the money. It’s probably all the people who don’t have concepts of freedom and the poor saps who share race* with them… sigh… which brings me to an inescapable topic that deserves (somewhere near) the most attention but gets the least… the implications on freedom.

If you’re like most Americans you’re too busy forgetting Snowden to think about anything else, but keep in mind who all these information-gathering companies must forward their data to – the most powerful entity in the world, to which we are required to give more of our money than you’d believe. The small-minded are quick to label fact “conspiracy theories” so they don’t hurt their brains, but remember what we’re dealing with here in the U.S.A. – big companies that want power overseen by a republic prone to governance by those who want the same thing.

Remember it was Facebook from which the NSA archived everyone’s facial features so they could make arrests from street cams in public places. It seemed far-fetched at the time, but soon it will be mainstream. And it won’t stop there. The more “civilized” the public becomes the more immune they think they are to propaganda, and the more influential it becomes. Fear and cheap ploys will be used to make our passionate society of lemmings give up what remains of their freedoms, but make no mistake. The liberties we enjoy and are supposed to be able to enjoy were set in place to protect us from the governing body and those that occupy it, not each other.

FDD

*The human race… when did we start categorizing arbitrary physical attributes into “races”? No sense being made here.

The Future of Advertising: Historical Repetition

This week we were asked to discuss where we think advertising is going, specifically in reference to programmatic ad buying and “native advertising”.

What is programmatic ad buying?

It’s exactly what you’d guess. Programmatic advertising is simply where companies buy ad space through an automated system, much like buying stock instead of going through agencies or negotiations. Historically it’s been used primarily for buying space on smaller or unprofessional sites because it’s really the only way for them to get their fair share of business, but as time goes on, premium options are become more available. Sites offering premium space have always been reluctant to trust their revenue to automation since they like to maximize profit from each transaction by charging different organizations different amonts, but as they recognize the time they could be saving and the ad-buying trends, they’re becomeing more open to the idea. There’s nothing new in advertising methods to be found here, just how it’s purchased.

Overall this is a very, very good thing. As ad space becomes commoditized, pricing schedules will be more transparent and thus fair, inefficiencies and conflicts of interest will be eliminated causing reduced prices, and countless jobs will become unnecessary which will divert incredible amounts of manpower to (hopefully) more productive endeavors.

Where do I see this trend going? Further in its current direction. Just like stock trading I imagine a few dealers (equivalents of S&p 500) will rise to become the standards from which other companies (equivalents of eTrade) will help you buy ad space, and they will differentiate themselves based on assist servives and ease of use. I imagine ad space will be traded like much like options, and these brokerages will make their money by some quickly adding cents per transaction.

What is native advertising?

In traditional advertising there have been two polar opposite methods of execution with some grey area between them. On one hand (the type referenced above) you can buy space and say “Hey! You! This is our product we think you’ll like! Buy it!” On the other hand, you can type up information about your offering in such a way that it looks like news (called a press release) and try to get a publication to print it.

Native advertising is essentially the online equivalent of press releases, the shady side of advertising.

Just imagine yourself being a writer for a company using native advertising. You’re writing the content to make it look as much like news as possible, a headline so that it can be promoted and clicked on as if it were an objective article, and you’re trying to make the “sponsored by…” text as inconspicuous as you can. It’s leveraging the consumers’ trust for third parties (even worse, the press) to make them drop their filters and accept your inevitably skewed “information.” It’s true that people aren’t always misled by this tactic, but it only works when they are, and “public relations” professionals make their way in the world by perfecting this and related arts. No matter how you slice it this type of advertising is unethical.

(For some very funny and poignant examples of native advertising I take great pleasure in recommending this video.)

So where do I see this trend going? Nowhere until it’s illegal. And until big companies’ fingers are pulled out of the government and the government stops “dabbling” in the business of the press itself, I don’t see that happening.

And where do I think advertising will go in the future? Nowhere. It won’t move, it won’t shape-shift; it will be the same old beast with a different mask that likes to do things a little differently than he did before.

FDD

Should I pay for ads?

I know it seems like paid search results wouldn’t be effective because I never notice myself click them and I’m sure you don’t either, but the statistics say otherwise. I’m sure this data is somewhat skewed by the retail market (Zappos showing up when people search “shoes”) but apparently 30% of searchers end up clicking on paid-for results. And since I’ve heard positive things first-hand from people I know as well, my verdict is yes… if your shit’s tight.

First let’s get into an overview of how it works.

There are basically three ways you can pay for your ad to show up next to relevant searches: Pay per click, pay per thousand exposures, or pay per number of conversions (number of people that click on your ad and end up completing a desired task like purchasing merchandise or songs.)

The need for your landing page and site overall to be effective is obvious when you’re paying for exposures; if a million people see and click your ad but your page isn’t any good, you won’t benefit and it’s no real skin off Google’s back. But this necessity isn’t as obvious for the other two though it’s equally important.

This is because Google uses two parameters to establish where your ad shows up relative to others: How much you’re willing to pay per click or conversion, and the quality of your page and ad. How much you pay per click operates on an automated bidding system like Ebay’s so you don’t pay more than you have to in order to rank well, but the assessment of the quality of your ad and page is a bit more complex and equally important to your ad’s effectiveness.

The overarching concept you should keep in mind here is that Google doesn’t want to be associated with misleading or poor-quality sites, so they use not only their own subjective criteria, but results-based ones as well.

First, Google makes sure that the exact keywords you specify are present in the content on your page (so make sure you include these words early on in your landing page) and they factor in likely indicators of validity such as traffic and where your site’s hosted. Then they use their own metrics to gauge how well your site is performing (click-through rates associated with different queries, bounce rates, how long people stay on your page, how many people convert, etc.)

In the same way that they’ll never say EXACTLY how to make your page rank well in organic search results they’ll never disclose all the criteria and corresponding weights involved in their “Quality Score”, but know that SEO and Quality score will have a lot in common.

However, Google does offer the following “tips” on the subject

  • Provide relevant, useful, and original content
  • Promote transparency and fostering trustworthiness on your site
  • Make it easy for customers to navigate your site (including on mobile sites)

I know this all seems rather obvious, difficult, and airy, but it’s really the same things you should already be doing for SEO and optimization for users, and isn’t too difficult to measure. When you buy their ads Google gives you pretty good analytics to see what ads are working with what keywords or if at all, so over time you can hone your campaign into something that makes sense. You just have to be aware of the mind state of the searchers who would be open to clicking on your ad. For example, no one’s googling “new music.” But they are looking for artists “similar to so-and-so,” shows in different geographic locations, and budding genres (something you’ll always have to stay on top of, by the way.)

Luckily, this is an area in which Google is on your side. They want the smoothest search experience possible, meaning they want your ads showing up only when the users are likely to be glad to see them… plus they’re incentivized monetarily. (How much, I know you’re asking? Of course it’s subjective and difficult to say exactly, but you’d be hard pressed to keep your cost per clicks under $1 each. So make sure you’ve got it dialed.)

The bottom line is that Google Adwords takes some investments of time and money to make the pricing worthwhile and it doesn’t do a lot of good if you’re not showing up on the first page of your target searches to begin with, but once these parameters are in place it’s well worth the investment. So keep growing, getting better, and improving your sites, and when everything is plodding along smoothly and you have something specific to promote, pay for some ads.

FDD

P.s. Our readings only addressed Google Adwords, but Facebook, painfully may it die, is an absolutely viable option – especially for musicians. And to this end I highly recommend this article. Facebook is cheaper in general, and when people check out your page you stand a good chance they’ll “like” it, putting them on your mailing list of sorts. (Make sure that when you put effort into anything, whether it’s doing shows or other promotions, you have some way to retain the fruits of your labor. There are a million good artists out there and if you don’t have a way to stay in your audience’s minds they will forget you. I know a DJ who neglects this element. He’s incredibly talented, but by looking at his Soundcloud you’d never know it. Having bar owners know you get the dance floor moving is great, but that doesn’t pack any stadiums.)

Oh yeah, and here are the readings we were assigned if you want to take a look:

https://markstaton.files.wordpress.com/2015/02/fundamentals_binder.pdf

http://searchenginewatch.com/sew/how-to/2393525/4-reasons-you-should-run-a-paid-search-campaign-with-an-already-successful-seo-strategy

https://markstaton.files.wordpress.com/2015/02/the-beginners-guide-to-paid-search.pdf

How to SEO

This week’s main material: http://moz.com/beginners-guide-to-seo, http://moz.com/beginners-guide-to-link-building

SEO is a topic that can be as simple or as complex as you want to make it; you can stick with conventional wisdom, or you can dive into the infinite rabbit hole of trying to figure out what Google wisely conceals. Reading the preceding articles will give you most the understanding you need without having to become an expert, but this post will lay out the key concepts of the basics to get you on your way as well as a few more complex pointers you may need and some pitfalls of trying to short-cut your way to Google’s good graces.

Here is where I would normally bore you with statistics (some of which you can find here) vetting the topic, but I think it’s safe to assume we all know how important showing up on search engines is. For our purposes just know that showing up in the first 3 listings of a popular search will make you, the first page will help to a degree, and after that you need to either be better or make sure you have the basics down and move on.

How search engines work

Here’s a little video that will give you a birds-eye understanding, but the key takeaway is that search engines don’t search the entirety of the web with each new query. Instead they navigate via links to discover and then index sites based on relevance (appropriate keywords) and popularity (number and quality of connecting links.)

Improving relevance

The important thing to understand when considering any kind of optimization is the mindset of those determining its parameters. And the mindset of the people at Google is to understand the mindset of the typical searcher, so just skip a step and think about how people search, both through Google and when scanning a page. Google values some things (like the following examples) directly, but it also has provisions in place to down-rank sites that may look good on paper but are performing poorly by looking at metrics like bounce rates.

In short:

You want pertinent, popular keywords in key places, organized in such a way that people can see them (the higher up on the page the better, for example, and this goes for links too.) You want them in your URL, in your headlines, taglines, as subject headers, and within your content.

People like well-organized, clear content, and so does Google.

People like material obviously related to the headline, and so does Google. (A point of caution – even if not deceptive, incongruity can hurt your ranking. If you title something “The best music ever” as a plug that’s obvious to a human and start talking about how you make [your] music, Google won’t rule out foul play and you will suffer.)

Note – Google doesn’t see words you can’t hit Ctrl-f to find, so make sure your keywords aren’t stuck in a picture, java, or flash files. If you must do this, add captions.

Improving popularity

The main way that Google judges popularity is by the number and quality of sites linking to your page (and traffic). Again there is much to be said about this topic, but it mostly comes down to good-‘ol marketing. It may be tempting to crawl around begging for links but both the quality and quantity of the yield will be poor.

You’re much better off making your site valuable and something that others will feel helpful linking to and getting yourself out there. Social media is a good place to start for this, and having your link shared on these media will help your ranking to a degree (especially Google+) but it isn’t weighted nearly as heavily as having your site directly linked to.

So once again it comes down to building relationships, being helpful in general, and scratching other people’s backs hoping they scratch yours. And remember that the people you want to be friends with are the ones already successful where you want to be. So in the same way you look to snuggle up to people with lots of followers on social media sites, you want to search the queries you’re hoping to show up for and start talking to the people showing up at the top of the page. (Do you have anything they want?)

(For the specifics of how Google ranks pages, go here. Notice what’s riiiiight up there at the top.)

Pitfalls

In the same way that there is one commandment in the Bible from which all the others come, the no-no’s of SEO have their own master no-no; don’t try to get all trickydick with Google because it is the trickiest of the dicks. If you exploit a method google uses to rank pages, they will eventually figure out how to remedy the problem, and will screw you long time. And when they do blacklist you, it’s almost impossible to recover. You can submit an appeal, but you’ll probably be better off starting from scratch. This goes for obvious tactics like keyword spamming to more clever ones like buying links. (If those selling links get caught and you’ve done business with them, the employees who fathered the poor software you’re abusing will come upon you with great vengeance.) I don’t know if you’ve ever tried to get ahold of Google for any kind of support for which you’re not paying, but their staff literally could not care about you any less. They may exist to serve you as a user, but like government employees of virtually all stripes their money doesn’t come DIRECTLY from your hand, so you are seen as an unnecessary inconvenience. And since ego-stroking is out of the question, you’d better just keep your head down.

Also, you’ve probably noticed a downside to all of this is that Google is, in a way, forcing pages to have content in order to be indexed fairly, even if the owners don’t have any particular use for generating it… like… a musician for example. But the silver lining here is that you can get ahead of your competition by having it yourself. So if you can find a use for writing at all, try not to neglect blogging.

FDD

P.S. If this is a topic that you really want to dive into and stay up-to-date on, keep tabs on moz, which authored the articles this post is based on, http://searchenginewatch.com/, and http://searchengineland.com/.

How to get your emails opened consistently

Hello, children. Today we’re talking about how to be the proud owner of a successful e-mail campaign. (If you clicked because you thought this was about emailing to blogs, you probably won’t find this post very useful, but there’re millions of articles to be found on that bit, and if you start here you won’t need to look much further to know everything you need to.) You only care about this post if you have a long string of emails you’ve accumulated, probably from throwing free downloads, contests, and raffles around like an angry lion in a room full your favorite kind of puppies after having been taken from his pride and shocked on the nose repeatedly by one of those mobile electric chairs for flies.

Now, because you’re a reasonable person you thought e-mail marketing was dead, but unfortunately it’s still flopping around on the ground where we left it. So this is where I give you some not exactly fun, but slightly titillating facts (which I have verified) to convince you it’s not a grand plot of the evilest kind.

  1. 91% of online customers check their emails at least once per day
  2. 77% of consumers prefer email for marketing communications
  3. 66% of online consumers say they’ve made a purchase as a result of an email marketing message.
  4. Email has much longer lifespan than social media (though it’s less likely to be shared)
  5. Even cold emailing is somewhat effective (but don’t use it for reasons I’ll get into)
  6. 89% of marketers said email was their primary channel for lead generation in a pretty big study
  7. For every $1 spent on email marketing, the average return is $44.25
  8. E-mail still leads media in customer acquisition and secures nearly 40 times that of Facebook and Twitter combined (though I don’t know how much of this is causation by/correlation with statistic #5)

Now hopefully you’re convinced you should be putting some effort into the email list you’ve probably been sitting on or abusing, so now I’m going to hammer out some dos and don’ts for how to get emails opened and reacted to in case you’re like me and want to get in, get the gist, and gtfo. Then I’ll follow up with some sage-ass tips.

Dos and don’ts for how to get emails opened and reacted to favorably (in the short and long-term.) (Some of these are ripped off from the weeks reading and some are my own.)

General guidelines (to keep in mind)

  1. Focus your campaign on people who know you or at least about you.
  2. Anything you send should be adding value, not asking for it. People online are constantly deciding if content is worth to them the time it would take to digest it; they don’t allocate time to do favors. This is why posts and messages like “hey can you [give me feedback]?” never work.
  3. Tailor emails to the groups they’re going to. Remember from the last post to keep in mind that you will have different groups of people in different stages of awareness, liking of, or dedication to your material, so don’t send them all the same thing. (For example, if you have a list of people who have unabashedly promoted you in the past, you can send them information that most people wouldn’t care about, like show times, in an easily sharable format. And when they share it, those exposed will be much more likely to pay attention than if they were looking at a promotion sent by mine truly.)
  4. Remember that your audience will be a lot like you in more ways than one; is your email something you’d want to receive?
  5. Be friendly and energetic.
  6. Establish your usefulness with things like how-to videos, insider information (real “secrets” to the craft you don’t really feel like divulging), special offers, outside links, entertaining content, etc.) so that they are more likely to open the next email.
  7. Establish commonality with your audience “you probably love/hate ___ as much as I do”…
  8. Email regularly so you stay in the forefront of their minds, but if you’re as big as https://bassgorilla.com/, give options to tailor how many emails/week they recieve.
  9. Don’t spam because:
    1. It doesn’t work and is therefore a waste of time.
    2. The few people who recognize you or learn of you via spam will associate you with annoyance or illegitimacy.
    3. Your email will eventually be flagged and your messages will start going directly to jail (keep this in mind if you ever consider purchasing lists.)
Remember, anything visual or funny, even if it's not entirely related, gives the recipient's mind a break and a reason to stick around. (But try to make it related... somehow.)
Remember, anything visual or funny, even if it’s not entirely related, gives the recipient’s mind a break and a reason to stick around. (But try to make it related… somehow.)

Specific tactics (check-list kinda shit)

  1. Make the subject descriptive, non-obvious, and short. (Not only should it grab their attention in less than 3 seconds, but if you’re Hucci, the word “music” or even “trap” (or even “dope as all tits”) shouldn’t be taking up space.
  2. Pretend like opening sentences are tweets… or half tweets. (Keep the words “bing bang boom” in mind while crafting them. What are you offering?) You may have up to 5 seconds to get their attention here; they want to know the who, the why, and the duration of the proposed bothering.
  3. Unlike when emailing bloggers (who are looking for things to differentiate you from many others wanting the same thing) using a recipient’s first name or last name doesn’t significantly improve open rates, so don’t worry about this too much.
  4. Providing localization however, such as including a city name, does improve open rates
  5. Use action words. (Remember high school English).
  6. People like to know you’re real and honest, so open up to your recipients and be vulnerable whenever you can. It might be because of oxytocin, maybe not, but for some reason it works.
  7. Make sure you have links in the email so they can learn more, take action, or share your stuff. (Internet transactions are largely about leveraging impulse, so if they get a wild hair, make sure it has an outlet.)
  8. If you don’t receive a reply from a specific request, send a follow up email about 3-4 days later to see if they received it or if it went to the spam folder. (Don’t be afraid of this because the chances of them having missed the first are relatively high and this tactic’s effectiveness has been proven.)

Dos and don’ts which happen to be enforced by law (CAN-SPAM Act)

  • Don’t use false or misleading header Information
  • Don’t have a deceptive subject line (use a subject line that accurately reflects the content)
  • Include your Postal Address
  • Identify the message as an ad somehow
  • Tell recipients how to opt out of receiving future email from you (include a working “unsubscribe” link in every mail you send)

Whew. And that’s it! You now have a filtered, organized, and even embellished understanding of e-mail marketing from the following articles we had to cover:

http://www.createthebridge.com/blog/email-marketing-is-not-dead/

http://www.marketingprofs.com/articles/2015/26939/how-to-connect-with-email-fatigued-prospects-in-three-simple-steps

https://markstaton.files.wordpress.com/2015/01/email-marketing-essentials-from-constant-contact.pdf

http://academy.hubspot.com/inbound-marketing-certification/close/email

as well as a few points from this other random one:

http://blogs.constantcontact.com/build-an-email-list/?rmc=cnt_guide_EME

and some other one I lost track of.

And now for….

#Protips on using SM comments to get high-quality email contacts

If you have over 3000 followers (a rough number I just made up but =/- 0.5 of exact) most listeners will REALLY appreciate your validation. Respond to EVERY meaningful or thoughtful comment directed at you and try to respond to most feedback, even if it’s with a simple “<3”. I hate to say it, but this goes for messages too. Their finding of a response to a comment they left is like finding a $1 bill they didn’t know was lost, and getting a response to a message is like finding the $10 bill they’d been looking for. Do this just past the point of pain. This little step turns someone who might go to a show into someone who will go and who might bring a bunch of people, and it’s the same effect with sharing your content. Should you choose NOT to do this, you will be punished doubly by missed opportunity and making fans bitter.*

When someone, spammer or not, comments with “reposted @___” or “blogged @____”, respond with a “damn thanks, homie! Give me your email and I’ll send you (insert name of not usually free content/song) for free!” Obviously this gets them on your email list, makes them like you more, and incentivizes everyone else to share your content.

Maximizing conversions on your landing page

This half-week my classmates and I consumed the equivalent of 3 full pages of information craftily spread out over 40 full pages of text and its video equivalent. But don’t worry, I don’t hate you, so I’ll keep things a little tidier. Just remember to never, NEVER piss off your audience with shit like that* for reasons we’ve covered in virtually every other post. It may help your SEO, but that’s about it.

So what is a landing page?

It’s the page on your website people see after they’ve clicked something you wanted them to click (like in an email you sent them or from your ad.) Some people simply use their homepage for this purpose, but you don’t want to do this because the landing page’s job is to carry the trajectory of your clicker’s mouse to the natural destination, not to distract it along the way. (Mice have incredibly short attention spans and aren’t known for their cunning.)

One day, when you get enough moral support for your music, you’re going to need to pay for advertisements and email your listeners in a futile attempt to compete with the industry artists who are everywhere but make no money (otherwise you’d be one of them, right?) And when you do you (hopefully) won’t indiscriminately blanket the internets with ads saying “hey, everybody, come check me out and buy my music, come to a show, or buy my merchandise!”. You’ll be targeting current fans with stuff like “t-shirts 50% off!”, the familiar but not dedicated with “like my page to enter the sweepstakes!”, and the downright ignorant with “yo my nillas, peep game on this 1st-string bass-wielder from your mom’s favorite 40-string sextuplet”** or something equally awesome.

And once they’ve clicked your link, you need to get them to do the thing they came to do ASAP because it won’t be long before they’re all like “oh shit, I’ve been on this site 12 seconds! Gotta go!” Don’t shoot yourself in the foot; keep things moving.

Landing page to-do

  • Headline – Make sure it’s concise, attention-grabbing, and obviously related to the link they clicked on.
  • Attractive, consistent overall design
    1. Don’t let it be a standard template like the one for this blog
    2. Keep it consistent with the ad they clicked (images, syntax, colors, overall vibe)
  • Keep format stream-lined
    1. Have the content (which moves them in a single, logical pattern of thought toward the destination you desire for them) in a single column, panned left rather than right, with nothing on the sides to distract. (Testimonials on the side to reassure them, however, are encouraged.)
    2. In keeping with the single column idea, arrange material in the “F” pattern your eye naturally follows when scanning a page. To learn more about patterns eyes like to follow, go here.
  • Have attractive call-to-action buttons in front of them somewhere from beginning to end
  • Write effective copy
    1. Front load all the important stuff (50% of visitors don’t scroll down)
    2. Keep it in 2nd person
    3. Use speech your viewers use themselves
    4. Keep paragraphs under 5 lines each (lots of white space is good!)
    5. Make sure you don’t jet off on tangents in the middle of your pitch***
    6. Match length of copy with commitment you’re requesting. (If you want someone to give you an email for a free download, no more than “email for download” is necessary. But if you want them to be part of your street team, you should probably start talking.)
  • Look at your favorite artists’ pages and see what ideas and standards you come away with
  • A/B test**** your landing page

*Pro-tip for life: People don’t REALLY care about your stories or what you have to say unless it’s something they already wanted to know or they would readily die for you. They may smile or laugh because they don’t want to be hated or want a chance to talk themselves, but they don’t actually care about the hilarious***** encounter you had with so-and-so that one time. You know how annoying it is when someone interjects with a story of their own before you finish yours? Well… think about it.

What is the vice we hate most in others and recognize least in ourselves? Pride. And the desire to talk when it doesn’t add real value is one of its children.

** TM Free Dope Downloads… dibs!

*** I’m sure you were wondering why I’m doing all this asterisk biz. Well I figured in the name of not breaking the rules I’m telling you to follow (and blessed, blessed conformity) I don’t want to distract you with my incredible wit and satire.

**** You missed the whole bit on A/B testing because that day I posted on the wrong thing, but it’s very simple and doesn’t require an entire blog post to understand; it’s where you test the effectiveness of one version of a site against another by directing traffic to both and seeing which gets better results. Here’s a longer-winded explanation by a company that will automate the process for you.

***** Probably not very hilarious.

How to social media

Practical (as opposed to theoretical) Social Media strategies and tips.

Overview/Intro

This week’s material consisted of an ungodly amount of videos from Hootsuite (an integrated SM platform) and a few from Hubspot. There wasn’t much new material but I don’t re-hash things so don’t worry, that means this post will be relatively short. First I’ll go over general strategies you should keep in mind when developing your social media presence as a whole or on any single site, then I’ll go over tactics and pointers the material addressed for individual platforms.

General Do’s and Don’ts.

Make sure the stuff you share resonates with your audience – Is what you’re sharing the stuff your personas want to consume? To determine this, stalk them. Figure out what content they share with each other, what kind of language they use when doing it, and what kind of media they prefer to do so (picture, video, audio…) In general people like videos, so be sure not to neglect them. (Have you ever noticed how many videos you see in your Facebook stream and how seldom they’re actually what people have recently posted when you visit their pages? This is because posts with activity (or, frankly, which are visual) get indexed better and are shown more, which brings up another point… exposure is becoming less about shared content itself and more about the discussion it begets (think Miley Cyrus.) So try to make your posts material people are prone to discuss.

Choose the right SM sites to focus on – This gets back to your personas. Who are the people you’re trying to reach and where do they hang out? Are they lower-level producers or people in the craft? Go G+. Are they professionals like sound design freelancers? Go Linked In. Pretty much any tween? Instagram. As an artist you always need to have a foot or two in YouTube and SoundCloud, but for everything else peep this nifty article, which offers some helpful insight into what the general users of various SM sites look like. And don’t forget little niche sites specific to your location or sub-genre!

Include popular keywords in your profiles’ info – Remember this is especially true for G+.

Link your sites to each other and to your website. – This helps people find your content both while clicking through and while searching organically.

Use lots of flashy, attention grabbing headlines and photos – Remember everyone online has ADD.

Post regularly – This goes for both blogs and SM sites. Because sites with more posts get a boost in SEO you want to post as often as possible with 2 caveats. 1. Don’t annoy your subscribers. 2. Don’t devalue your material by having too much more than people want to get into or spewing obvious shit. Diminishing returns almost always rears its ugly head, and it’s often very, very quietly.

Curate other people’s content – In your case this will usually mean making remixes or mixtapes. DON’T THINK YOU’RE TOO GOOD TO DO THIS… but don’t over-do it either. Putting out remixes is like courting your audience. This is the stage where they click easily, but are stand-offish. This is where you gain their trust and get them used to your style, so when you put your own stuff out, which will hopefully be like nothing else they’d heard before, they will be able to accept it. But you can’t sit in this stage for too long either. Eventually your audience will be ready for the next step and will want to know the real you. If you don’t deliver, they’ll get bored and forget about you. TRUTH.

Focus on interaction – People aren’t following you to be spammed. It is suggested that 80% of your content be helpful (funny/insightful works too) and 20% is promotional. In Facebook and Soundcloud, pinning tracks to the top of your feed can be helpful here.

Get support from respected people in your genre – Stalk them, figure out what they like, connect with them on those issues, give them your support, then ask for theirs if they haven’t given it already. But make sure they have less than twice as many followers as you, or they’ll probably never reply. Climb the ladder, don’t try to jump it.

Find and interact with people actually looking for you – Who’s looking for obscure artists or non-obvious finds? Dj’s, music bloggers, and avid music listeners (routine festival-goers could be an example.) These people will make up your secondary personas, but they’re not to be neglected; go to them. (I should take this opportunity to say that the blogger’s role in promoting new artists is exaggerated. They’re the most obvious, and it’s true that they are looking for fresh talent, but their main tactic in generating follow-ship is consistency and general appeal, as opposed to DJs who are going for novelty. Bloggers try to be one of the first to catch the coattails of a song they know is going to be big in hopes that they will rise with the tide. DJ’s are digging through new and old songs alike, keeping their finds in secret stashes, and waiting for someone to ask “heeeeyyy what IIISSS this?!” Remember, the lifespan of a blogger’s find is about 6 hours, but DJs will sit on stashes they keep secret until the songs either get too well-known or their listeners have heard it too much.)

Keep the look and feel of your pages consistent across all platforms.  

Platform-Specific advice

Twitter

  • Keep posts around 115 to 120 characters for best optimization
  • The earlier and more often you tweet, the better (in general)
  • Use hashtags
  • Don’t start tweets with “@….” because that will keep non-mutual friends from seeing it
  • Use pictures! (They have a 50% higher click-through rate than text)

Facebook

  • Keep posts under 250 characters when possible, 1-2 sentences is best
  • Post early mornings and early afternoons when people are getting their coffee breaks or coming home from school
  • Keep things interactive (ask questions, take polls, get conversations going)
  • Use the milestones feature when something noteworthy happens so your fans feel like they’re part of the journey
  • Don’t forget about apps!

Linked In

  • Post to company or label pages and groups
  • Try to post before 8am and after 6 on weekdays, especially on Tuesday and Thursday
  • Keep your posts meaty and interesting

  Soundcloud and YouTube weren’t included because the world is apparently filled with music-hating Nazi’s, but you should…

  • Post as close to 3pm in your target time zone as possible.
  • The best day to post is Tuesday, and the rest follow in this order: Wednesday, Monday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday, Sunday

I hope this post was helpful! If you have any questions or comments, type away or email me and I’ll get back to you. See you next week! FDD

Social Media

Today’s blog is based primarily on this article by Moz, which I recommend. I will be discussing feedback, the importance of 3rd party advocacy, my pick for the social media site you should be using to do these things, and some other stuff.

Advocacy

The main point about advocacy in this article was that you will come under fire as surely as the US has the highest tax rate on businesses in the world. And when this happens, your word will not do a lot for you. And the word of third party advocates, likely via social media, will be your best defense. And why do I pick this point out of the thousand others to harp on? Because in your case they’re called Superfans a.k.a. your lifeblood. Without them, you will never get off the ground far enough to get shot down in the… second place. Imagine going to an opening act at a bar. Everyone kinda stands around, nodding their head, waiting for something to happen. This will persist until someone who digs the music and has a low enough validation requirement steps out and starts dancing. This will give other people the validation they need, enabling them to dance, and this chain reaction will continue until everyone’s dancing (assuming there are enough people and the music is… music). The same effect applies to music online. Each person needs to see X amount of people sharing a song or commenting for them to repost a song they like to X degree. I hate to say it, but the public at large is less than genius and is much more likely to like a song if it’s the cool thing to do. So cultivate those Superfans. Engage them. Ask artists (at your level or reasonably above) to collab or put you in mixes and have fans contribute ideas, critiques, or fan pics (which hey, I actually need btw.) Give them free merch, scrapped songs (which you will call secret), and open validation online. Trust me, this works and you should do it.
(Speaking of collaborating, DO IT. Cross-promotion for you is twice the marketing for less work.)

Feedback

The next point brought up I’d like to elaborate on was the whole paying attention to feeback thing that they supplemented with the following picture:

faster horses
While you may be an artist and crowdsourcing isn’t really something you can get away with on the creative side, you need to constantly check yourself by the reviews of other people. While your difficulty at getting songs off the ground may be due to the fact that it’s difficult to get songs off the ground, make sure your material isn’t glued to it. Every “budding” artist wants to go from underground to the moon in one shot, right now, but it doesn’t work that way. So get feedback and LISTEN TO IT. You don’t have to post on a bunch of pages with a “hey, give me feedback” (in fact I recommend that you don’t) but you can usually get a pretty good read from comments on your tracks. If you have a bunch of “cool man”‘s, or no comments at all, this could tell you something. If you don’t have enough followers to get enough comments to go off of, find people with similar tastes and message them expressing your respect for their opinion. If they’re not enthusiastic (or responsive), you’re wasting time on promotion you should be spending on honing your craft. “Carpet-bombing” the world hoping a cluster of people will see past your flaws and launch you to the moon is a… long shot.
You should note, however, that in the same way that you value feedback, others value it as well and giving others what they want is a much more sure way to get what you want than demanding it. So dedicate 2 or 3 minutes to listening to people’s stuff at your level and giving them thoughtful advice you don’t think they’ve thought of. More on this in a bit, but making a friend online who eagerly opens your messages is worth an easy 15 passive followers.
Placing your bets – G+

Now I want to take a little time to talk about Google+. G+ gets a lot of shit, but I’ve been an advocate for it for quite some time now and was happy to see this article take my side. My reasons for belief in G+ are two-fold. First, I like its focus on functionality and grass-roots support vs. the lumbering, top-down piece of shit twitter. Maybe I’m wrong, but it seems to me that celebrity endorsements and screams that we should use it can only carry it so far.

Second, keep in mind that G+ has the most powerful search company behind it. Google virtually defines SEO, and if you don’t think they are giving and will continue to give their little princess preference in more ways than we’ll ever know, you’re off your rocker. I pick this point on G+ because likely you are in the music business for the long haul, and the SM site(s) you spend your time on could possibly make, but will most likely break you. You stand to gain a little by being involved in the up- swing of a new SM site, but if the majority of your followers are on one that sinks, you’re in deep water… so always keep your eyes on the horizon and place your bets with sites that will be around for a while. About 2/3 of the effort in your music career should be going to promotion in the early days, and unless you just really, really like your mom’s basement, you can’t afford to be MySpace famous.

Additional thoughts.

When talking about the disconnectedness SM brings to the table, it mentioned that Facebook found that its users were 3.74 degrees away from one another. Now while it is true that SM brings a lot of power, the extent of that power is usually exaggerated in people’s minds. On facebook this emerges as the fact that a Facebook friend is more likely to be a friend of a friend than an ACTUAL friend, but on other sites where you have straight-up followers, you also experience a diminishing returns effect, because as you gain more followers, people don’t need to be as sure they like your direction to hit that follow button because they’re assured of your worthiness by virtue of you having X-many followers. So as you get more followers, each new one becomes less valuable. For example, when I first started my SC page I put several hours every day into selecting the best free songs out in the last (insert fluctuating period of time), because I knew people would really have to like me, were they to add my posts to their stream. And when I had about 200 followers, if I posted a song I knew I would be adding about 100 plays to its stats over a month. Now I have just over a thousand followers, but a post from me will only add about 300 more plays, even though I not only put EQUAL time into finding songs, but I have 4-5 people spending the same amount of time as myself sending me their picks as well.
The lesson: Don’t kill the goose that lays the golden egg. If you start pursuing one goal (followers) at the expense of the real goal (impact, however that may be), you’ll find yourself in a giant room that you own with no one paying attention to you… take the following paragraph for a further example…

Rant

Our teacher gave us this article as optional reading, but if you haven’t been spoken down to or been punished for doing what was right in the last 3 months, it’s mandatory for you ha. It’s about some guy named Emerson Spartz who runs a bottom-feeding company he unsurprisingly calls Spartz, inc. The gist of what his firm does is find “stories”, memes, or whatever else is trending at a certain rate, put a more alluring headline on it, and stick it on their site. The entirety of the firm’s focus is to figure out what makes people click things, and make them click them. If you’re wondering what value they add, the answer is none. He appears to be held by those around him as some kind of marketing genius, but his tactics are pretty obvious, saddening, and unamusing to me (ha).
Did you ever see Anchor Man 2? Well this guy is actively setting out to make the same mistake Will Ferrell’s overly-stupid (I’m thinking of the blind scenes) character did with the news, to the greatest degree possible. And In the same way ratings killed information on the news, clicks will kill information on the web. Soon enough there will be so many links, trails, and rabbit holes between readers and information sources that no one will know fact from fiction.
They call him “King of Clickbait” but I wish they’d call him King of everything wrong with the world. He starts out by saying he wants to change the world, then shows you how much of a
self-serving douche he is, then essentially concludes with “well… yeah… everyone wants to do good things at first… but.. eh fuck it.” Listen. Fuck your career. Say it ten times until it sinks in. Your career is a means to an end, and as soon as it becomes your end, you become an enemy to everyone who cares about other people and who hate people that suck. Your life is not about your future old car, your soon-to-be wrinkly wife’s looks/husband’s worthless power over others, or what future caskets with bones in them think of you. In 100 years everyone on the face of this earth will be dead, and only what was done because it was right will remain. To use your existence for your own gain is not just to be worthless, but is to cause more harm than good. Even worms do more good than harm.

Inbound (again)

You already know what inbound marketing is from the last post, but how do you make it work for YOU? This article’s first new(ish) point was that obviously you can’t just write a blog and expect a million people to read it and promote your music. Your future listeners are looking for the stuff you’re writing about (because, of course, you’re writing the stuff they’re looking for), but you have to help them find you for the strategy to work…

And the tactics for getting your content noticed are essentially two-fold.
1. Show up in their searches. The idea of SEO is in constant flux between art and science, but the aforementioned article and others had some helpful points.
a. Put yourself in your audience’s shoes and use the verbiage they’ll use to search. This goes not only for your headlines, but also for how you discuss your topics in your blog.
b. Use common words describing what you’re writing about, like “music promotion” in this case, as frequently as is comfortable throughout your post so Google knows it’s a prevalent topic in your soon-to-be-prevalent blog.
c. Go for length. This article mentions that longer posts are indexed better by Google, and an article has to be 2000 words to even make it in the top 10 of a SERP.
d. Constantly keep up on modern insights and build good general rapport online. This article brought good insights here, and stressed the importance of what the rest of the web thinks of your content. Having a few well-known sites posting followed links to yours will do a lot more for you than linking multiple second-rate sites yourself.
e. Oh, and #hashtags won’t hurt you… unless you hate them as much as I do.
2. Get conversations going and develop familiarity among your audience. Simply showing up in searches
won’t be enough. External (peer) validation of your authority helps them click your link when you show up
in searches, they need to have somewhere to talk about you and see other people talking about you after
they’ve searched, and Social Media sites are pretty much your only hope in the awareness phase for people who aren’t typing your keywords in any search bars (which is much of your audience.) We’ll be getting into social media later, but for now this means:
a. Being active on social media sites and building relationships with favors and helpful or simply insightful comments.
b. Paying SM sites to force your message out there (though I hate to say it.)
c. Carefully select the SM sites you use and focus them. It helps for people to see that you have a real presence in a few areas as opposed to just being around in many.

Note of caution when using social media I was reminded of from page 6 – MAINTAIN A COHESIVE IMAGE. Remember that as an artist you are a brand, and you need to protect it or your impact will BECOME decay. If people don’t know what to think about you, they won’t. Whether you make music like this, this, or this, act consistently with the image you portray. Are you a badass? Act and talk like it all the time. Are you an innocent Beemo? Show them. It usually helps, but this doesn’t mean you necessarily have to act like your music sounds. (Take IllEsha for example. She makes some of the filthiest beats I know of, but I can tell you she’s one of the sweetest people ever, and people love her all the more for it). However, acting inconsistently will get you labeled as fake or as a princess, and making releases of varying quality will get you labeled as untalented, whether you are or not (think of Borgore)…. Just don’t ever make the mistake of portraying an image that isn’t you or that you won’t be able to maintain…

Don't go for an image people won't buy
Don’t go for an image people won’t buy

Tangential advise for landing on an image – Remember that not only do fans want to like your music, but most want to live vicariously through you for a myriad of reasons I can’t get into right now. This is why people like to hear about their favorite celebrity wasting money but are disgusted when they see someone they don’t know driving too nice of a car. It’s why they feel like THEY won when some guy wearing a shirt with colors they identify with gets the ball across a chalk line and why they get in fights when the team they identify with is insulted. People are lemmings, even the ones that say other people are lemmings, and  even if you are it’s your job to think one step ahead of them and take advantage of this effect.This is what marketing is all about, afterall – leveraging the insolence of man. (Pro-tip on how to tell if you’re a lemming – If you’ve never considered yourself one before.)

Auxilliary points – All this being said, another article brings up the point that generating content isn’t the only way to go about inbound marketing. For example, if you gather a large group on G+ or some other forum, you will instantly be respected and your music listened to if you share it as the owner of the group or forum. And a fan that says “wow, this guy is a fuckin badass and can teach me a lot” is worth 20 passive followers.. easily. Take Forerunner for example. He doesn’t have many followers on soundcloud, but if you check his forum out, you’ll see he’s a god among men there, and for good reason.

I mentioned that blog posts should be longer than shorter for SEO purposes, but you have to keep in mind that everyone has a sort of internet-induced ADD in this age, so they have to think they’re going to be able to digest your content easily and quickly (especially in the case of music because they’re not paying anything.) So I suggest you front-load the interesting or grabbing stuff as much as possible and then blab on to your heart’s content… or from it’s content (sorry.)

Email marketing isn’t quite dead yet. There’re lots of ways to get listners’ emails, (think Bandcamp), so use it if you have more than 1000 followers or have distinctly good material. If you barely got someone to click on your song (the most likely case), requiring another click, and God forbid, actually TYPING, you will lose them. Guaranteed. You’re better off making the music easier to download, giving you a greater chance to be heard by more ears. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen too many clicks in my future and said “eh, more where that came from” and moved on so I didn’t have to type in my email address and get your spam emails. Realize that even in my tiny corner of the internet I go through about 50 pre-HIGHLYfiltered songs per day MINIMUM. And when you do that you really start thinking about how each second is spent.

And remember to PERSONALIZE YOUR EMAILS. This applies when emailing fans and when submitting to blogs. I don’t know why people care about their names so much, but when you use them in the greeting people are much more apt to do what you want them to, especially if it took you any trouble at all to find out. (Many bloggers will attach a certain degree of difficulty to running across their name to see if you even looked at their blog. Take the time. (As for me, call me George, I don’t give a fuck, names are arbitrary and I don’t have time for the meaningless nuances of ego-stroking. If it’s good I post it, if it’s not I tell you why. I wish this were generally the case but it’s not.) Most bloggers need you to grovel and tell them a nice story about how you came up with the song and how much it means to you… so… I’m sorry… but you gotta do that usually.)