Social embeds, practically speaking

I saw a post on a listserv today. I thought I’d share my response to it here for our blog readers, too. In it a question arose about which widgets should be embedded on artists’ websites. I get that question a lot from clients and colleagues. It’s one I’ve thought a lot about, and am always working to stay on top of. At Market Monkeys, our recommendations are always changing as new tools emerge, existing tools are enhanced, and most of all, as our artists’/clients’ needs, devices, and behaviors change. Here goes…

Question: (I am paraphrasing)
What social media buttons and widgets should I embed and where? Which are more important? (and she listed a string of social/digital companies – to which I’ve replied directly to each below, and then added POVs on additional ones she didn’t ask about after that)

Whatever tool(s) the artist uses effectively! And make their favorite one most prominent.

If the artist doesn’t use a tool effectively, it’s best not to highlight that with an embedded button or widget. That might sound obvious, but you’d be surprised how many sites have links in their MAIN NAVIGATION to social media sites they never update, just because they think they are supposed to. This is not like a diet. You don’t buy pants a size smaller as incentive to work to fit into them. I can assure you – like with the pants, no amount of putting buttons on your site is going to make you a better social networker!

Put the artist’s best foot forward. If they are “better on Facebook” go with it. (Hopefully they aren’t “better on MySpace”…)

For some of our artists, the answer is Twitter – for some it’s Facebook – for some it’s YouTube – for some it’s Instagram – for some it’s their email or blog… SELF AWARENESS FIRST AND ALWAYS.

As for the specifics, I can tell you how we use code from other sites…

Facebook – we go with Like and Share buttons, not the feed/timeline embed. Recommend buttons confuse us. So Like button in the main nav, at least on the homepage. Share buttons on blog posts, or particular pages/content you want people to share on Facebook. If you use WordPress or a similar content management system, this might be a simple on/off switch and doesn’t have to be a manual embed everytime.
Customize Facebook buttons, grab plug-in widget code, and go >>

Twitter – we use both the embedded feed and the Tweet buttons, depending on where we are in the site. Twitter’s embedded feed widget is more fun to watch than Facebook’s – and can even be interesting for fans who don’t use Twitter. We usually have that on the homepage, and Tweet buttons alongside the Facebook share buttons described above. We don’t usually use Cards and embedded Tweets yet, but we can see possibilities for that, especially if WordPress integrates a plugin in the future that could automate the use of that code.
Get Twitter button code >>
Get Twitter timeline widget code >>
The latest on Twitter embed options >>

Reverbnation – We don’t use it much with our artists. But we do use other direct to fan tools, and embed their widgets – primarily the ones for music players, email capture, download giveaways, and digital and physical music/merch sales. Our favorite is Topspin. We actually spent years working with multiple partners, and found a lot of merit in tools like Nimbit and other kindred partners, but in the end Topspin was the most professional and aggressive with respect to its development pipeline. They built a starting-place platform with a vision for the future, and they have been able to best keep up with change as smartphones and tablets and WordPress and clouds and other 3rd party partner tools and technologies have become more and more popular for artists and fans alike.

Soundcloud – We use it in specific applications, like for promotional pages, or specific ad hoc one to one mailing. Some people use it for all the players on their sites – it’s more common for booking agencies, music production companies and bloggers than for artist fan-facing websites. We use the direct to fan tool widgets so they tie back to sales on artist sites. But Soundcloud is great. And people in the industry are familiar with it. Like with YouTube, best practice is for an artist to have their own account in their name. We originally started with all of our artists in our account to hopefully bring them cross-pollination, especially when Soundcloud was new and just getting started. But now we have found it more appropriate and advantageous for them to have their own accounts in their names, so they can build a following and analytical data that goes with them over time.

MySpace – We kept the buttons to MySpace on artist sites for a while. Justin Timberlake has long threatened to bring back sexy there, but maybe last year we finally gave up and started removing MySpace links from all our artists’ websites as redesigns were done.

What else??!!! The big one you are missing most here is YouTube!
With “watch consumption” on the rise, and the vital role that plays in discovery and sharing of new music, YouTube might be one of the most important social/user generated media sites to prioritize!! Your artists should have official YouTube accounts, and they should both “upload” their own official content and “playlist” videos others post of them that they like, so those are sure to be featured most. Whenever someone sends me a link to their website because they want me to hear their music, the first thing I look for is a link to live performance video. First. Before bio. Before audio. Because video tells me 10 things quickly. If I don’t see a video right out front, but I see a link to YouTube, I go there.

A couple others that are worth knowing about…

Instagram: A lot of artists like this because they can post photos and don’t have to write status updates. It feels more creative to some. We haven’t loved the widgets/embeds out there that we’ve seen so far, so we haven’t *quite* yet been embedding artist photo streams on sites. But we hope someone will develop a great Instagram embed, or that Instagram will become more embed-friendly in the future, and we have reason to believe they will… because some of our artists are very active and I know they would love to feature those images on their sites for their fans.

Pinterest: Still building following, unclear if it will reach critical mass. still baffles and befuddles many. but the numbers are clear – they had huge exponential growth in users in 2012, which came with it a natural level of “kicking the tires” style usage. 2013 will be a deciding year from them – will all those new users remember their login passwords 6 months from now?
Interesting research from Nielsen on Social Media with particular focus on the demographic that is using Pinterest >>

ArtistData and Songkick and GigPress, oh my…
These are all commonly used calendar widgets/tools. We currently use ArtistData for most of our sites, as the tool is sufficient and delivers all calendar data to other prominent calendar databases across the web, mobile, and local news outlets. We have been patiently awaiting further product development/enhancements by parent company Sonicbids. Virtually no development has happened since Sonicbids acquired ArtistData in 2010, but we are hopeful that Sonicbids’ recent acquisition by Backstage (Jan 2013) may change that. In the meantime, we continue to use the ArtistData tool, and use CSV exports and imports so that we can use site plugins like GigPress, to keep artist’s calendars look, feel and functionality up to speed with the ever-changing demands of mobile, tablet and digital browsers.

Hope this helps!