I saw a comment on Facebook today which said: "Facebook is broken, no one listens to my tracks, but if I post some stupid meme I get 200 likes!" (para)
It's a fair point, we can produce a killer piece of content from one of our blogs that has taken weeks to plan and produce, and it gets 10 Facebook Likes. If we post a picture of a cat sitting on an SSL or a funny meme about farting into a vintage microphone we get 1000 Likes.
QED, Facebook is broken.
This reasoning assumes many things including that Facebook is the right vehicle for the task, it shows a lack of understanding about how Facebook shares content and lastly the argument assumes we all agree on how we measure success.
I'm singling out Facebook here, but I'm generally speaking about everything including Twitter, Instagram and YouTube. I could write an entire volume on YouTube and its impact on the creative industry, but I'll save that for another day.
So let's take each argument and explore them.
A Hard Days Night
The first one is to assume Facebook (remember all social media) is the right way to try and get your message out there. Suggesting it doesn't work because your post didn't get traction is like buying a Ferrari for Motocross and suggesting it's a crap car and not fit for purpose. Granted a Ferrari is not fit for Motocross but it is not made to do that.
Social media can be very effective in getting news out about a band, song or gig. You can read plenty of stories about how someone made a track in their Mum's toilet on a ZX81 using just a dustbin, a tuba, and loop library then shared it on social media and the next thing they knew it had 40 million likes and shares.
These stories are the exception and not the rule, which is why people get disappointed and disillusioned when they spend six months on a track and share it and get 10 Likes, some of which are from their fellow band members, their Mum and the pet rabbit.
Lesson One of social media, there are no tricks.
Getting people interested in what you are doing creatively still takes a lot of hard work. We may have exchanged our cassettes for MP3s and our gigs for YouTube videos, but it still takes the same amount of legwork to become an overnight success... about ten years!
There are no tricks. If anyone tells you there are some tricks and cites the case of the man in the bathroom with the tuba. And his 50 zillion Likes (see how much it has gone up since I started writing this article), they are usually running an ad telling you how you can discover how to do it for just $99 a month.
Growing your studio, band, career, etc. is still hard work, don't let social media hype stories suggest differently.
We're Going Down The Pub
Secondly, it is also important to understand how platforms like Facebook share content.
An illustration to make the point. Imagine you have a group of friends and some of you like the Rolling Stones and some of you like the Beatles. Now you are all sat in the pub, on the TV comes a newsflash about a new Beatles album. But the thing is the only people who can see the TV are the Beatles fans, except one of them is in the toilet, so he doesn't see it. However, when he comes back from powdering his nose he gets told by all the Beatles fans about the new album - remember the Rolling Stones fans didn't see the news. Now, this is where it gets interesting; all the Beatles fans move to another part of the bar to start discussing how great this news is. Everyone is in agreement; this is great news and just proves how great the Beatles are. It's a big thumbs up from all of them. But of course, that's how the conversation goes because it's all the Beatles fans talking about it, the Rolling Stones fans don't have a chance to express their opinion. Then the owner of the bar gets his pet monkey out and lets him sit on the bar, and everyone in the bar, irrespective of what band they like is all over this monkey, after all, who doesn't like a pet monkey?
I hope that little story demonstrates the nature of something like Facebook; it delivers content to your page based on your interests, connections and previous history. In other words, you get a fixed world view - on everything from music to politics. This leads you to think that everyone supports your politics, your bands and likes your kids - in all cases, I'm sorry to break it to you, but it's not true, sadly not everyone likes your kids, even if you think they are amazing.
If you run any kind of Facebook page for your studio, band or business, then things get even more complicated. Let's say you have 100K of fans and you post a story you might think that all of them see it, nope! Here are the numbers, prepare to be depressed;
"A study from Edgerank Checker found that between February 2012 and March 2014, organic reach for the average Facebook Page dropped from 16% to 6.5%. Research from Social@Ogilvy, meanwhile, suggests that for Pages with more than 500,000 Likes, organic reach could be as low as 2%." You can read more about this here.
That means, of the 170K fans that Pro Tools Expert have, about 3,000 will see any post we make. If you have 1000 fans then do the math, it's not as bad but if 20 people see the post and you get 20 organic Likes then you are doing well.
The bottom line is that if you are going to run any page that has fans on it, then Facebook thinks you are running a business or cause that needs promoting, and for that, you are going to have to pay. Facebook started out as a platform where content was shared organically, as it has evolved and got smarter (for 'smarter' read 'into a sophisticated money making monster') it is now concentrating on maximising revenue from all posts. If you want a lot of people who don't like your page or share your world view, then you are going to have to pay.
What The World Needs Now
But finally, I want to talk about the real issue of using social media as a measurement.
If we are not careful, we allow social media to be used a measurement of worth, and it isn't.
Only an idiot would suggest that because an album you've spent the last year on gets fewer Likes or shares, or pissy YouTube comments than a post with a cow playing the bass guitar, then the cow post wins.
However, we seem to let this terrible reasoning prevail and think we should sell our studio and buy a cat. Now I need to be honest I've not heard your album, but the idea of a video of a cow playing the bass guitar may get my vote unless your record is outstanding.
But joking apart, it's time to step away from the endless need to get likes, shares and views and start considering what really matters.
What is important is creating art, of crafting great music, of sharing our talent with the world.
2017 is already proving to be another terrible year for us Brits, as in other parts of the world. In the UK we've had terror attacks, awful fires and an election that highlighted just how divided we are.
No amount of pouting selfies, pet shots or silly memes and believe me I've shared more than most, can get even close to the healing power of music when we need it.
Social media isn't broken, it's just not as important as we often allow it to become. It has a valuable role for connecting families, friends, pets, even for helping you to get people to find out about your business, your creativity or your cause - but it's not the panacea of the modern age - sometimes quite the opposite.
So my advice is please don't sell your studio and buy a cat, popularity is overrated - legacy is what matters.