Digital Trends to Expect in 2014 – ya know, focusing on the music industry

 The launch hardware product innovations that have monumental impact on digital seems to have slowed down since 2011/12.  In 2013 we saw more innovations playing around platforms rising to the top – think SnapChat or Next Big Sound.  Here we’re having a think about what we’re expecting to his us in 2014, from a Charmfactory point of view – what we’ll be pinning our eyes on in terms of digital trends that affect our work.  Check it out.

1)    Privacy – …is becoming increasingly important to the user, your fan (contrary to previous thinking that privacy will be blown open). What you’re allowed to know about someone’s phone in order to make the best campaign you can, is likely to become increasingly more difficult.  But it’s a tough issue, with no quick or easy fixes on the horizon.

2)    Google – have been beavering away with their music platform whilst under pressure from government to crack down on illegal download sites appearing in their search results.  They’ve already made changes to their music-term search results, with Google-owned music lists linking back to Google Play.  This also means musicians are going to have to start taking all other Google products more seriously as part of their marketing strategies.

3)    Tools That Help Organise – there’s sh*t-ton of information floating about online. Tools that are going be more helpful/successful are going to be the ones who help fans and musicians organise this information – so it can be actually useful.  This has already started with platforms like Next Big Sound and Bands In Town already proving their worth.

4)    Brands And Artists – it’s already been shown how music affects consumer behavior and in 2013 brands invested £104.8m into the UK music industry  – an increase of 6% on 2011.  We see no reason for this to stop, and have first hand seen the impact artists bring to brands, and vice versa (see our work with Jack Daniels).  The stigma of ‘selling out’ by working with a brand is old news.  Brands know better than dictating to musicians what they want, and bands are more comfortable asserting themselves whilst being commercially aware.  The final piece that we continue to push, is that all involved push for integrated but authentic collaborations between brands and artists… and the media.  There’s nothing worse than an obvious advertorial, ass-kissing, void of personality piece of journalism, for the sake of commercial interests. It’s also quite counterproductive.

5)    Engagement. SEO is continuously being rooted more and more in social activities – you’re relevant to Google when you are relevant to actual people online – makes sense.  Engaging and growing your online fanbase on profiles isn’t as easy as it looks however.  Artists are going to have to learn quickly the basics to improving their reach online whilst labels and management need to school up on how to effectively place sales messages. i.e. subtly – otherwise you start to cannabalise your reach to fans – capiche? Mainly because it’s so darn boring.

6)    Mobile – this was quite easily on a 2013 list, but the year of the mobile payment is finally upon us.  In addition to this, we expect to see more mobile led campaign initiatives – something we do a lot as part of our social campaigns and will continue to experiment with.

7)    Relationships – are everything – with press but mostly, with your fans. Positioning, combined with getting them tied into your socials through integrated marketing bobbins will be most effective.

8) Fewer Artist Apps – It’s been fashionable for artists to have all manner of apps under the sun, but there’s been a tendency for them to be designed for the short term (something we always advise against).  Whisperings along the chains of command suggest that this will become a thing of the past – the focus now it on how long these apps will remain relevant, and what they will continually add to the campaigns in order to get them commissioned. Which makes sense.

 

 

5 Things All Musicians Need Before Starting A Digital PR Campaign

Some info I picked up via Think Tank but have added some thoughts from my own experience in Digital PR/Marketing too.  Check it out.

For independent musicians, a digital publicity campaign can be a critical component to the overall marketing strategy that will help to:

1. Reach new fans

2. Increase online influence

3. Create new content that can be used to continue to build strength of existing fan base through social media

 

While all three of these are important goals for musicians to have, and there is no doubt that a PR campaign can help artists to achieve them, many musicians decide to jump into this too early. Without the proper assets, the likelihood that you will actually achieve these goals from a PR campaign are greatly decreased.

In order for a PR campaign to truly be successful, you must have the 5 following assets:

 

1. Music Ready For Release

Let’s get this out of the way right now. If you don’t have music ready to go, then there is no need for a PR campaign. No matter what direction or niche is targeted during a PR campaign, if you don’t have music available to be shared with media makers (bloggers, podcasters, iradio station DJs), then you’re wasting your time and money.

The ideal scenario is that you have at least an upcoming EP (containing at least 4 songs) that is planned for release around 1 to 1.5 months into the PR campaign. For the most part, bloggers don’t like to mention an upcoming release if there is any more than 1 month of lead-time between the feature and the release.

That said, it IS certainly possible to do a PR campaign for music that has been released previously. As long as the music is available and a unique story can be told, a digital PR campaign can be done effectively.

Bonus Note: Your songs MUST be professionally recorded. Live tracks are fine if you are promoting a live release, but even then the mix needs to be of professional quality.

 

2. A Professional, Compelling Bio

A professionally written bio that weaves a compelling story about who you are and what makes you unique is THE #1 asset that you need for an effective PR campaign (after the music of course).

While many bloggers still write their own content, it is often the case that a blogger will re-purpose the bio in order to create enough content for their blog on a consistent basis. This is bad news for you if you’re bio is one paragraph saying that you are a musician from so-and-so making rock music that will blow everyone’s mind.

This is, however, good news for you if you have a strong bio! That fact that many bloggers will re-purpose the bio means that you now have the opportunity to control the messaging of their features, telling their readers the important points about you that may stick out to fans as unique and intriguing.

A professional bio can run you a few hundred dollars, but it will not only mean the difference between success and failure of a PR campaign, but it will be a critical asset that you’ll be able to use long after the campaign has ended.

 

3. Professional Promo Photos

All bloggers (and even some podcasters) will want a photo to go along with their feature that includes your music. Many new media makers have a quality standard to uphold and poor photos of you and/ or your band could actually be a deal breaker.

On the other hand, unique, creative and well-shot promo photos can actually be the ice breaker needed to get new media makers to check out your music.

 

4. A Niche to Conquer

Identifying a specific niche to target is a critical component to any successful digital publicity campaign. Think about how to position your music, so you have a firm and credible foundation to grow from.

It is important to note that your niche does not, in any way, need to reflect your genre of music. Anything that you are passionate about, anything that has inflicted you as a person (such as a disease or disability) or any part of your upbringing that has helped to define who you are as a person and a musician can be a great niche.

The idea here is that on music blogs, you are just another musician being covered, however on, say a positivity blog or a yoga blog, you are the one, or one of very few musicians being covered making your story and your music far more unique which can help it to resonate with the reader-base.

 

5. A Social Media Presence

Too many musicians under-estimate the importance of a social media presence to a digital publicity campaign.

While the music, the bio and the promo photos are all critical assets to have when planning for a successful campaign, there are two reasons why it is so important that you also have a strong social media presence:

1. With so many musicians and digital publicists inundating the inboxes of new media makers, it is inevitable that they will check out the social media presence of each submission as a filter for who to, and who not to consider for coverage.

This certainly doesn’t mean that you need to have a HUGE social media presence with hundreds of thousands of fans, but it does mean that you need to be consistently posting to your socials, and engaging with your fans. Ultimately a new media maker wants to know that if they are going to take the time to cover your music, you will be able to return the support by sharing the feature with your fans, helping them to build their own following as well.

2. In order for a digital publicity campaign to truly be effective, each feature delivered within needs to be properly leveraged through social media to mobilize the existing fan base.

In other words, each feature is new content that you can use to engage your fans without having to say ‘listen to my music’… this form of sharing your successes is a much more subtle form of self-promotion than the much dreaded shameless self-promo that all too many musicians practice.

Again, having hundreds of thousands of fans isn’t the point here, but rather you need to have a consistent content strategy that covers all 6 rooms of your social media house, which includes (but isn’t limited to) Facebook, Twitter, Youtube, Pinterest, Blog, Newsletter, Spotify Profile etc.

Finally, the best thing you can offer is being as active as an artist as you possibly can be.  If you are paying for a 6 week PR campaign for your EP, this is your window of opportunity, so get out playing, meeting people, returning Q&As and thank journalists for their support – it goes a long way!

Getting The Most from Twitter Hashtags

I came across a strangely interesting article about the history of the Twitter hashtag, how to get the most out of them, and Twitter meta-data ideas that haven’t taken off, still could take off. Should take off because they’d be useful.  The original article is by Beth Belle Cooper on The Bluffer Blog, who I remember because she wrote another interesting article about completely changing her name… I can’t imaging disliking my name that much.

Anyway, her article is quite long so I’ve cut out the most interesting bit and pasted it below.  If you want to also read the full history, it’s here.

Getting the most out of Twitter hashtags

Although hashtags have evolved with the development of Twitter itself, we can gain some useful insights by looking at Chris’s original plans for the hashtag, and how it could be useful.

Adding context

For shortened URLs or ambiguous tweets, adding a hashtag can immediately provide context for other users, without affecting the content of the tweet itself (supposing we look at hashtags how Chris proposed them—as meta-data).

Joining a conversation

If your post is about a topic, but doesn’t reference it specifically, users who monitor that particular topic’s keyword or common hashtags may miss your tweet. Adding a hashtag to the end of your post can slot your tweet into those streams so it doesn’t get missed. I often do this when tweeting about startups, since the word “startups” doesn’t often fit naturally into the body of my tweet.

Collecting tweets about a trending topic

As in the case of the San Diego Fires, using one hashtag across all users who contribute tweets about a particular topic can help other Twitter users to keep up. Regardless of who you’re following, if you follow a hashtag, particular for a current event like a sports match or an election, you can see all of the tweets about that topic in one place.

In fact, it was a similar situation to the San Diego Fires that led Chris to the idea of hashtags to begin with. When he noticed people tweeting about earthquakes in the Bay Area, he started looking for a better way to coordinate these communications via Twitter.

Avoiding going overboard

I’ve mentioned social media stats and especially Twitter stats before that show using more than two hashtags can diminish your changes of engagement on a tweet:

twitter hashtags

It turns out Chris isn’t a fan of over-hashtagging either.

Already it’s been made clear to me that the use of hashtags can be annoying, adding more noise than value.

While he originally suggested that hashtags could be added within a tweet for emphasis, he later decided that approach was “gratuitous” and that “removing the hashes doens’t actually reduce the meaning” but leaving them out can make a tweet look much better. Here’s the example he offered:

With hashes:

“Eating #popcorn at #Batman in #IMAX.”

Without hashes:

“Eating popcorn at Batman in IMAX.”

The lesson here being think carefully about using hashtags—why are you using that hashtag? Will other users gain value from it? Or is it just cluttering up your tweet and making it harder to read?

Overall, I think the best advice we can take away for using hashtags comes directly from Chrishimself:

Used sparingly, respectfully and in appropriate measure, I think that the value generated from the use of hashtags is substantial enough to warrant their continued use.

What could be next after the Hashtag: Slashtags and more

Chris hasn’t been twiddling his thumbs ever since hashtags were officially adopted at Twitter. In fact, he’s gone ahead and invented some new tweet conventions, though they haven’t had quite the successful adoption that hashtags did.

Later coined “slashtags,” these are more ways to add useful meta-data to tweets in a consistent way, according to Chris.

By using a slash: “/” at the end of his tweets, Chris points out where meta-data begins and the tweet’s content ends. Considering Twitter’s original billing as a micro-blogging platform, it actually makes sense to include meta-data if you can squeeze it into 140 characters.

Chris has three new “pointers,” or meta-data terms he uses after the slash:

  • via to indicate where an idea came from (as opposed to a RT, when the entire tweet is forwarded on, rather than the idea in your own words)
  • cc to ensure a particular person sees a tweet, without directing it only to them with an @reply
  • by to give credit for a quote, for instance.

Chris set out rules for how these can be used by any Twitter users in the hopes that they might see wider adoption and create a more consistent, readable Twitter stream that encapsulates necessary meta-data as well as tweet content.

3 more ideas to perfect the hashtag further

As I was researching this post, I read several blog posts by Chris and other Twitter users from around the time hashtags were first seeing more adoption across Twitter. I found it really interesting to look at everyone’s feature wishlists and predictions for how hashtags might evolve in the future and wanted to share some to finish off this post.

Whisper circles
Chris himself briefly suggested the idea of a “whisper cirlce” or “inner circle” that would function similar to a private Facebook group or Google+ circle, letting you send tweets to a small number of users, while still having the option to post publicly to your standard timeline. He even suggested being able to post tweets that only you could see, if you wanted to.

Formatting multi-word hashtags
In this post by Stephanie Booth, she describes some possible ways to format multi-word hashtags so they are easier to read.

One suggestion was to use a plus symbol in-between words, like so: #san+francisco. Since Twitter’s “track” feature at the time (sort of like a saved search that got sent to your phone) didn’t index plus symbols properly, if you tracked the phrase “san francicso,” you wouldn’t see these particular tweets.

Another one I really liked was to use opening and closing hashes, like parentheses: #san francisco#. Obviously, that one never took off, either.

Hashtags from your followers
I’m sad this one hasn’t been implemented, because it sounds pretty useful. It’s another suggestion from Stephanie’s blog post, that would help with hashtag overload, especially at big events or during big news breaks:

Once “everybody” starts using hashtags, it will be very useful to be able to narrow down a collection of tagged tweets to “my followees only”; imagine I’m at LeWeb3, and everybody is twittering about it: I’m not interested in getting the thousands of tweets, just those from the people I’m following