Real conversation takes self awareness, confidence and faith.
When marketers advise large companies how to leverage social media, they start with brand essence, voice, and personality – searching for unique ways the company can carve an authentic presence. They identify the elements first, then who can best carry that message – in spirit, technical ability and practical availability. They identify key speaking points, topics of most importance, editorial schedules. They target and tag and create lists and offers and messaging. They create process, and measurement plans.
As music people, we think we are so different. That we know something marketers do not. Because the artists ARE our brands. Our brands ARE people. Who express themselves authentically on a daily basis – it’s what they do. We can’t help but do social media well.
Not so. Artists fall victim to the same temptation companies do: one way communication.
It takes SELF AWARENESS to realize you are the only one talking. That you talk too much. You don’t listen enough. Wherever you are – in person at a cocktail party, remotely on the phone, or virtually on social media – Talking is only one third of conversation. Listening and Thinking are also necessary for meaningful exchange.
And yet, how often do we prioritize Listening and Thinking in social media management?
Too often, music social media managers prioritize to-dos as follows…
- We focus on status updates, tweets, photos and tags first. We want people to see and share our content.
- We sometimes reply to comments and retweets. We think that encourages people to share our stuff more.
- We sometimes look at the things people write on our walls. We respond when something resonates with us, but not always.
- We don’t always reply to direct messages received. Nobody else can see, so these exchanges are lower priority.
What kind of way is that to run a business? Could a company get away with thinking of their customers that way? If anything, companies like Zappos and Amazon have taught us that every customer’s experience matters in an age where loyalty counts and word gets around.
It is important to take a good hard look at yourself, and how you prioritize communication.
Are you having conversation? Or are you just talking at people? At the end of every month, do you know more, the same, or less about your fans?
It takes CONFIDENCE in your work, who you are, and the fans you attract, to believe that if you open up conversation to include others’ voices, it won’t go wrong. It takes even more confidence to believe it will always go right. Marketers struggle with this, too. Inviting customers to say what they really think can be scary.
What if they don’t like me? What if they aren’t that committed afterall? What if the only ones who speak up are fanatical outliers – and they alienate my core customers and fans? What if I don’t like my customers? What if they say things about me that are not true? What if I don’t know what to say back? What if they have nothing to say?
The questions that plague marketers plague artists and music companies, too, whether or not they want to admit it.
Desire to control others comes from fear and insecurity. Companies want to control messaging because there are things customers can say that will hurt. The company has real traits they want to hide, downplay or change, and other traits they want to feature instead. They want to lead people to believe something.
How human is that? Sound familiar?
What are you afraid a fan will say about you? What would happen if they did?
What do you want fans to think and say about you? How do you get them to do that?
Is it working?
Contemporary companies embrace their weaknesses. They see customers talking as opportunity to learn and respond – openly and honestly. Discussion can change customers’ minds, empower other customers to voice alternate opinions, and shift the conversation to illustrate what really matters. This does not happen if conversation is one way or controlled.
Artists must do the same.
Where CONFIDENCE is derived from belief in ourselves, our team and our work – belief that we have done all we can do, FAITH comes from another level of belief. Belief in what we do not tactically control.
An artist must believe in their fans. An artist must believe they have attracted the right fans and that those fans will articulate. In the best case scenario, an artist is a fan of their fans, too. It is a mutual admiration society. (Companies strive for this, too.)
Fans are attracted by art, essence, inklings, commonality. They follow because they are like you. Or because they want to be like you. Or because they are glad someone like you exists, whether or not they are like you. These things can’t be predicted. They can’t be measured. Sometimes, in art, it is a collection of things.
Conversation is always better when we relate to the person we are talking with. The only way to have real engagement is if we also have FAITH that because we are just as we are, we are relevant. We will be seen and understood. And we will hear and understand.
An artist must believe that by making art that is true and quality, it is relevant. And worthy of conversation.
A TALE OF TWO PARTIES: ILLUSTRATION OF SELF AWARENESS, CONFIDENCE AND FAITH
Social engagement online is just like going to a party…
PARTY ONE: When we go to a party begrudgingly – heels dragging – out of obligation – forcing ourselves to be social – we never have fun. We shake hands, but we do not meet people. Conversation feels stilted and forced. We are thinking about other things while talking, and can’t wait to get home. We feel like we wore the wrong outfit, brought the wrong dish, said the wrong things. The party sucks. Because we go to the party without SELF AWARENESS, CONFIDENCE and FAITH.
PARTY TWO: When we believe a party will be fun, it is. We know we will see “our people” there. We trust the host, know we will meet people we like, embrace a sense of wonder about it, and are ready to enjoy ourselves. We look forward to the party all day. We travel to the party with a strong sense of self, knowing who we are, and why we were invited. We walk in confidently, knowing we belong – or if not, knowing we will soon, in some way. We have faith that other good people are going to show up, also sharing this mindset. And the party is awesome. The conversation is awesome. The Listening. The Thinking. The Speaking. All of it.
As an artist, yours is not to just think about what party you want to go to, but rather… Which party do you want to host?