Facebook For Musicians: A Definitive Guide

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[This post by Bryan Kim (@freshbreakfast), Biz Dev master at Tracksby, originally appeared on his blog Trackswell. Thanks to Bryan for letting us re-post it here.]

Facebook is the largest marketing channel for most musicians and bands.  Surprisingly, it’s also the one they know the least about.  So in this guide, we’re going to breakdown why Facebook is important, how it works, and most importantly, the specific steps you can take to make Facebook work for you and your fans.

Artists, you can’t be blamed.  Many of you developed your social networking habits on Myspace, Twitter or YouTube.  These platforms are (or were) a lot more straightforward than Facebook.  In most cases you post it, forget it, then maybe check the #s later.  Not only do these inattentive social media habits fail on Facebook, they can actually hurt you in a very quantitative way.

Furthermore, Facebook largely ignored music for most of its existence.  By the time Facebook introduced musician/band pages and artists started amassing an audience there, musicians got dropped into an unfamiliar, fully-formed social networking culture – without any sort of learning curve, burdened with the behavioral baggages of outdated social networks.

But Facebook is really not that hard.  And if done right, you have a lot to gain.  By numbers alone, there are more people that regularly sign into Facebook than Twitter + Myspace + YouTube combined.  So it’s really important now more than ever to optimize your Facebook presence.

EdgeRank: What It Is, Why It Matters

Before we get into actionable tips, we need to familiarize ourselves with the concept of EdgeRank.

EdgeRank is the name of the algorithm that Facebook uses to determine how often your content appears on a user’s news feed.  This is key.  Most of your fans don’t explicitly visit your artist page, so the only realistic chance of reaching them on Facebook is to appear on their respective news feeds.   This is essentially what counts for “distribution” on Facebook.

EdgeRank’ algorhithm determines what a user will see on their news feed.  It attempts to filter out all the crap that gets shared on Facebook, and tries to predict what any given user will actually want to see.  To any given fan, your musician/band page is competing with thousands of other friends, pages and other objects to grab their news feed real estate.

So how does EdgeRank determine if your Facebook post is news feed worthy?  One word: ENGAGEMENT.  You need your fans to like, comment and share your Facebook posts.  Anytime one of your fans engages with one of your posts, they’re more likely to see your following posts.  Conversely, if a lot of your fans engage with your status update in the first few moments it’s posted, fans who sign into Facebook later are more likely to see it on their news feed.  So early engagement on a post can be proportionately more important.

Have you noticed how your most liked posts end up getting the most impressions?  Exactly.

There’s a lot of ways EdgeRank slices many factors that affect your news feed distribution.  If you’d like to dive into the specifics of EdgeRank, google it and you’ll get a wealth of detailed articles, like thisthis, and this.

No matter how facebook slices it, your actionable instruction remains the same: GET MORE ENGAGEMENT!  Get those likes, those comments, those shares.  Make it your main goal with Facebook.  These engagement points build on top of itself, ensuring better and better distribution on news feeds over time as your engagement improves.  It’s something like a credit score for your Facebook page, and the algorithm lends you more impressions the better you perform.

Now that we’ve established the importance of getting good engagement on Facebook, let’s dive into art of actually doing it.  Here’s how to get Facebook’s EdgeRank algorithm to work for you…

Posting to Maximize Engagement: A Checklist

Photos, Photos, Photos: Photos do well on facebook. Always consider a good and relevant image upload to accompany a status update.  This one tactic alone can multiply your distribution, so be generous with the photo uploads.

  • If possible, orientate a photo in square or portrait alignment (more engagement since it does’t get cropped in people’s news feeds).  But don’t worry too much about it, a good landscape orientated photo is better than no photo at all.

Geo-targeting: Does it make sense to geo target?  You can geo-target posts by city, state, provinces or country.  Geo-targeted posts usually reach a higher percentage of fans in the targeted location.

  • Consider geo-targeting for tour dates, radio support, local appearances, etc.

When In Rome: Are you geo-targeting a post to an international country?  Post in their language.  Seriously, you will get a ridiculously good engagement % from this.  Do it on your very next international tour stop.

Say More With Less: Shorter posts generally do well, so keep it snappy.  Exceptions: heartfelt, substantial, personal, emotional, soul-baring or narrative (story-telling) posts.

  • Avoid being too self-promotional.  Promote it gently.
  • Be funny!  Be surprising!  Be authentic! Show personality!  Dance on the line of what’s acceptable or not.  If you can elicit a guttural response, you’re more like to get engagement. (good example, George Takei: https://www.facebook.com/georgehtakei)

Mind the Time: If possible, spread out updates over time. Avoid overlapping peaks between 2 posts.  I would wait at least 2 hours between posts, preferably longer.  The lifespan of any given status update is a lot longer than a typical tweet, since EdgeRank can surface a post several hours and days after its publish time.  By giving any given status update enough time to engage, you avoid cannibalizing your own engagement per successive post.

  • Use the scheduler to queue up posts if necessary.

Interact With Fans: Spend a few moments after posting interacting with fans who leave comments on your status update.  Like their comments, and respond to them in your own comment box.  As your fans see likes and comments coming from your page, they’re a lot more likely to leave a comment themselves, hoping that you might see their comment.  And comments especially are EdgeRank gold!  Plus, it’s an easy and quick way to make your fans’ day.

  • Questions can work well.  Try ending any given status update with a Q that directly relates to your post.  It can help jump start the commenting.

Celebrate:  Holidays are the ultimate zeitgeist moments; they are a great opportunity to engage with your fans.  Put up holiday-themed posts on the day of, including unofficial ones like Valentines day, Mother’s/Father’s day, Halloween, etc.

Say It With a Lyric:  Are you a lyrical musician?  Spell out your own lyrics in a status update, especially if it’s relevant to whatever else you’re pushing in the status update (links, videos, pics, etc.).  Your lyrics are akin to a secret code language with your fans, especially if they’ve already emotionally connected with your words in song.  Fans like that.

  •  Format lyrics to imply that they are indeed lyrics. And make it easy on the eyes, make it flow like the cadence of the song.  The quicker the fan can recognize the lyrics, the quicker they will “like” the post.

In-Line Previews:  Are links properly displaying in-line preview?  You can adjust the image and description in the in-line preview before you post.  Make edits as necessary.

Pins + Highlights:  Pin or Highlight important posts

  • Pinning moves a post to the top wall.  To pin a post, click the pencil icon that shows up when you mouse to the upper right-hand corner.
  • Highlighting expands a post across the full width of the wall. To highlight a post, click the star icon that appears when you move your mouse to the upper right-hand corner of any post.

Milestones: Don’t forget to use Milestone posts for key moments from your life.  Milestones are distributed wider, get more engagement, and are automatically expanded.

  • Post milestones by clicking into that middle thread on the wall.
  • You can create milestones in your timeline after-the-fact. Tell a story of your career on facebook: Create milestones for album releases, chart accomplishments, signing to mgmt or labels, first sell-out crowds, etc.

Avoid Sloppy Auto-Posting Apps: Avoid auto-posting features, plug-ins and apps that don’t properly inline preview content to links.  E.G.: Tumblr, Twitter, etc.

  • Exception: Instagram.   One of the few auto-posting apps that properly auto-posts to FB, and gets good engagement.
  • If you’re a frequent Twitterer, do NOT have Facebook auto-post your tweets.  The Facebook audience and algorithm have less patience for frequent updates.  And if fans start choosing to receive less updates from you (which they can do with one click), your EdgeRank will suffer.

The Psychology of Click-throughs: Oftentimes your main objective in posting a given status update is to get click-throughs on a link.  In this situation, you still want to write to maximize engagement because that gets you distribution.  But you need to mind the goal of getting click-throughs as well.  To that end, write a message that gives your fans a really good, direct reason to click through.  Think like a fan, make them want it.  Think of how the most trafficked bloggers use headlines to lure their audience to click through: oftentimes they’ll tease you into clicking through to the full article.  They’ll appeal to your sense of surprise, novelty or exclusivity.  For example, a lot of them use the tactic of priming your curiosity, holding back key info to compel you to click-through to satisfy your itch (E.G. “Watch the surprising technique this ninja cat uses to survive a 100 story fall <link>”).

  • Check out Yahoo’s featured homepage stories.  They use the teasing curiosity tactic on almost every story they feature.
  • When sharing interviews with media, pull a context-less quote.  One that your fans would want to read through to figure out the context.

Good Musician/Band Facebook Pages:

These are but a few random examples.  Would love to hear your suggestions in the comments.

Facebook Feedback Fun:

I’ve re-hashed the above advice to countless artists and managers over the years, and oftentimes the last question they’ll ask me is what sort of engagement #’s they should be aiming for.  That’s easy: better than what you were doing before!

On a per status update basis, you should pay attention to all the obvious stats: likes, comments, shares and impressions.  You want to aim for better stats than what you’re used to seeing.  Over longer periods of time, check your Insights and pay attention to the “Talking About This” graph.  The “Talking About This” stat measures how many of your fans liked, commented or shared your posts — the exact raw materials needed to produce higher EdgeRank and distribution.

Engagement can be unpredictable, so embrace that failure will happen.  You might create the perfect post and still bomb.  That’s okay, it’s a great opportunity to think through why it failed, and cognitively earn your way to your own conclusions.

And last but not least, have fun with it!  Strategic Facebooking doesn’t need to be a sinister machiavellian, manipulative, marketing scheme.  Most of your fans actually want to hear from you and interact with you, and by employing the above tips, you are doing your part to reach them halfway.  As an added bonus, Facebook gives you real-time feedback on how well your posts are performing.  You’ll be surprised by the wisdom you gain into human psychology from observing your own FB engagement over time.  Personally, I find it intellectually stimulating.  Every status update is a creative, collaborative endeavor: put a little bit of yourself out there, and see how your fans respond.

Almost like dropping a new song.

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[Facebook Like picture from Shutterstock.]

In this article

Join the Conversation

  • This article is absolutely great, however I think Facebook Questions deserve to be discussed.
    A person's Facebook friends will know that he just answered a question, and may answer it themselves if they find it interesting, intriguing, etc. This may spread like wildfire.

  • I don't think there's necessarily a "best" way. Just depends on the goal. Posting a link to your site would be good, obviously, if the objective is to get people to your site. But many Facebook users are reluctant to leave Facebook, so a Spotify link (if you want to get paid for the stream) or SoundCloud link (if you want people to be able to interact and comment on the soundwave) would be fine. Also, remember CD Baby's Facebook MusicStore app lets people stream and purchase your music right from Facebook.

    • Great post, I like the relevance of posting an image with a short description…I think I need to get up on this…

      As artists, how can we post content on our Facebook Fan Pages without being spammy haha…

  • Awb28

    I love it. Every time I see one of these stories lauding Facebook and giving tips to get more fans and friends for artists there is always one thing left out, and for good reason. Nothing is ever said about generating SALES. That's always quietly side stepped. Truth is when it comes to BUYER motivation studies have shown that social media, and in particular FB, is the absolute least effective method of getting people to open their wallets and spend money. I mean it is so low on the rating scale it barely makes the chart at all. Why do you think General Motors recently quit using FB? The world of advertising and marketing, which is my world, is finally starting to figure this out after rushing to social media like lemmings. If having lots of friends and likes makes an artist feel good about themselves and that's the goal, go for it. If selling music and concert tickets and making money is the goal, engage with marketing and P/R professionals.

    • Some good points Awb. Facebook is more about building trust, recognition, and relationships with fans and customers then driving sales, but once you have built up trust, recognition, and relationships, you may find that the buyers come to you.

    • CD

      thank you Awb28! … I'm a recording & performing artist that has been around for quite a while, and I'm not about to waste anymore time on FB attempting to get fans to purchase my latest album. There are fans all over my sites who post videos and claim how much they LOVE the music and albums but one also wonders WHY they rarely respond to purchasing product? and we already know the answer to that— in general FB folk like to chat, share pictures and stories. One also wonders if those adverts over on the side produce any sales? where you pay by the click. It's too bad FB folks dont seem to be actual buyers, as it's tempting when there are so many potential customers out there….

    • AWB you are absolutely right. I am a singer songwriter learning the hard way that, despite all the hype, FB does NOT sell CDs. I have spent way too much time tweaking and messing around with promo ideas trying to figure out why my facebook site doesn't generate sales. It just generates a lot of wasted time. You just answered my question and confirmed what I already knew… that FB isn't the end all and be all to marketing. Thanks!

  • Witz

    Good stuff. Still wondering what the best way to post a song is? Soundcloud, url to my website, tumblr???

  • Teed Rockwell

    How do you create Edgerank for a very specific audience. I play Indian classical and popular music for Weddings and Parties. I want to reach Indians exclusively, and especially Indians who are planning their weddings. I have a site at http://www.bollywoodgharana.com that has videos of my performances of this music., and links to the site from my facebook page. But how to get Indians, and only Indians to come see it?

  • Dionysio Lazani

    Facebook cannot support musicians/artists when does not allow us to have many friends/fans. Simple

  • Awb28 has it perfectly — results for anything to do with SALES of your music are deplorable on Facebook. In fact, as many major advertisers now know and have pulled their advertising from Facebook in reflection of these newest stats, the whole Facebook reality is a lot of noise without much substance. Hey, sure — you want to have lots of friends and fans? Go for it. Knock yourself out and spend an expensive chunk of your time every day essentially prostituting yourself on social networks. But know it only offers dodgy results. Beg for Likes and post all day, but there still is no way to make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear. If your art or music is some of the best, people will find YOU as long as you stick it in places where it can be found. But if you are mediocre, no amount of pestering people online is going to do much. Truths as old as time still apply even with all the hype and high-tech packaging of the internet age. Most of all, have some self-respect for pete’s sake and stop the pitiful begging for attention online. It’s a total turn-off and people are getting fed up with it.

    • Branan Dubh

      Well said!

  • marc tilson

    thanks for pointing me in the right direction!! marc

  • Gavincoyle

    Any tips on what to do when someone you don’t know sends you a friend request on your profile instead of becoming a fan on your page? I don’t want to be rude and tell them ” I think you meant to go to my fan page.” But I don’t want to become “friends” when I don’t even know the person.

  • If you really are limiting your personal profile to family and close friends, I don't think you'd be out of line sending the person a message telling them so, but saying if they're interested in keeping up with your music– like your Page. I mean, it might come across as a bit one sided, but the other solution is to just outright deny the friend request and never say another word about it.

  • Slugs

    Some great points here. Thank you! It's tough for us 'small bands' to keep up with all the tech changes. These CD Baby articles really help.

  • Tomcoryell

    Facebook is just a useless waste of time so far. They don't help bands in any meaningful way that I can see

  • Bram

    Great article, thnx!

  • Very interesting and helpful!

  • Drewkohl

    I have a question that some people might relate too. What about solo artists? You can’t create two pages with the same name. Should you run all your music posts through your personal page? or is it important to have the band/musician page? I think most solo acts would like to keep them separate.

  • david bronson

    This was a very insightful article (with some very thought-provoking and downright colorful comments, as well). Thank you Bryan Kim as well as everyone else who’s posted their response so far. All food for thought.

  • TheIPOgoesdown

    Facebook is a useless waste of time for musicians. PERIOD.

  • Pencio

    Just a thing in my opinion.
    I don't agree so much with this new way to do marketing: "talking with fans".

    I think if a person starts to talk to the artist, this one starts to be a friend at the same level of another friend.

    I think this: did you ever talk directly with Michael Jackson or Whitney Houston or who you want?
    For me, that's a part to be a big artist, 'cause a I can't directly contact them.

    I know, that's the way of 80's and now we're not there, but, for me, the point doesn't change. …thinking to Alicia Keys, Pink, Maroon5, Rihanna, Beyonce or who you want.

    What do you thing about it?

    • I definitely miss that element of mystery, but, like you said, it's a different age.

  • I know plenty of solo artists who have a personal profile AND a band page. I think Facebook users are getting used to that when they search, too.

  • Wow–CAN NOT THANK YOU ENOUGH! Answered every question me and my boyfriend have been having and it came at just the right moment! I will have to reread many times because I want it to become second nature–a real gem of an article and I trust me I know as I have read hundreds of music marketing info in the past–this one rocks for real!

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  • hm..interesting indeed. what do you do when the edge thingie already filtered you out in the 'irrelevant junk' category and noone seems to see your posts?

    • Work extra hard to make engaging content that your Facebook followers (the few who are seeing your stuff) WILL like and comment on. Then build back up from there.

      • thanks buddy 🙂 do you think that it is possible to re-gain the ‘lost fans’? It’s seems like a one way avenue – once they are not able to see ur stuff, then they cannot like it or comment it..chicken and egg sort of thing 🙂

  • I think it is possible. You might have to do a little coaxing to get people to visit your Page on their own (like– close friends and family, or die-hard fans that you have frequent contact with), but once those interactions go up, your content is more likely to show in the news feeds of people who might not be checking your Page directly. Also, you could ask people on your email list to interact with some exclusive content on Facebook.

  • Bethbombara

    Personally, FB has been a really good way for me to get the word out about my live shows, which in turn makes me money, and generates CD sales.

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