Today we’re here with Jim Tobin, the President
of Ignite Social Media, one of the very first social media agencies. Throughout his career
Jim’s worked with all types of brands, from Kay Jewelers to Microsoft, and lots of small,
local businesses as well. Regardless of the brand he’s working with, he works hard to
tell the story of the brand and craft it to share through social media platforms. So Jim,
every brand has a story to tell, much like every artist has a story to tell. Can you
talk a little bit about how you go about uncovering that story and refining it for brands? Yeah,
a lot of brands make the mistake of starting with the story they want to tell and where
we start is, what do people want to hear relative to your brand. And it’s a little different
take on the same question, so if you know you have content around a particular topic,
that’s fine, but what is your target, what is your ideal fan in this case in a music
sense with fan in a social sense want to hear about and where do they align? Because if
you do something for a living, whether it’s music, or packed goods, you tend to be pretty
good at it. So, figuring out the alignment between the story and what people want to
hear and what people want to talk about is where the good answers come from. So how do
you go about figuring out then what that audience wants to hear about? Well we do a lot with
audience personas and with trying to figure out what part of their day interacts with
what you do for a living. So, to the extent that you can really understand who you’re
talking to and really understand what drives them, you can have I think better resonance
with them. So, if you’re trying to reach a young audience with an edgy music, you’re
probably going to have a similar kind of theme in social. If you’ve got a band that is really
about nostalgia and covering old music, you may have messages about nostalgia because
those support your overall, larger story. So let’s say that you’re a band and you have
this perception of who you want to be. You start out telling this story through social
media and it’s just not working out. How do you go about changing that message and can
you go about changing that message? Yeah, I think you do it gradually over time because
one of the things we do that’s most effective, we think we know what the messaging should
be for every brand we work on, but we have to adapt over time. Platforms change, brands
change, what people respond to changes, so you have to keep adapting and you have to
keep looking at what is resonating with your metrics. What’s getting the most engagement,
right? But, then gradually interspersing these new types of messages as a test as sort of
a gradual move and see if the audience is responding to that. The other thing that comes
to mind, particularly with newer artists, a friend of mine has a, her son has a band
and he’s on Reverb, and it’s been interesting to watch him from sort of playing guitar in
somebody’s backyard to now they’re recording, now they’re getting real gigs, and that sort
of behind the scenes sort of insider access can be tremendously compelling of seeing somebody’s
sort of struggle and success. That may work for some bands and other bands may want to
convey they’ve already made it. So, they have a different sort of…maybe their backstage
is you know green rooms filled with luxurious drinks and whatever’s back there. So you know
different messages for different parts of where you are in your career, where you are
on your continuum. That’s great, I’m so glad you brought up that point because I think
that’s huge. There is you know such a disparity between those “backyard” artists and the ones
who now are playing Madison Square Garden and it makes a lot of sense that they would
have different strategies. I do want to go back to, you brought up a great point about
how platforms change. And I know recently you released a book, and it’s called “Earn
It, Don’t Buy It,” and it’s all about this post-Facebook world. Now we’re living in this
post-Facebook world where all these other platforms are rising to the top and Facebook’s
lost a lot of its value. Can you talk a little more about how that has affected social media
in general and how it affects artists? Yeah, I think for a long time people thought of
social media as sort of an “embassy play.” We have our Facebook embassy, we have our
Instagram embassy, we have our Twitter embassy. I think if we think about it differently,
if we think about the content that we have to produce and then the various ways to share
that, we’ll do better. So, we work with large clients, typically we’re doing a lot of data
analysis and what we found is that Instagram engagement is sort of hockey-sticking up and
Facebook engagement and reach is curving down. But even so, Facebook’s still higher today.
So, what we’re doing is we’re doing more Instagram stuff, more Twitter stuff as they’re curving
up, but we’re still not forgetting Facebook for all it’s problems, it’s still got the
massive reach. And so what we think about is, what piece of content do we have, what
story do we have and then how can we share across these multiple channels and sort of
hedge our bets. Is this worthy of being pinned, is this worthy of Instagram, what do we need
to do differently on Twitter than we do on Facebook and how can we get this one piece
of content to sort of serve multiple purposes. So for a platform like Instagram, it’s so
visual, there’s not a lot of text to tell the story, whereas Facebook you know you do
have a little bit of room to do that. If an artist wants to tell the story about who they
are through something like Instagram, how can they really do that? Well, you could do
sort of like a some-E-cards thing, with imagery and text in an Instagram thing. You could
do Instagram video and Vine video, sort of quick snippets that are behind the scenes
and really make somebody feel invested in you. And you can think about it multiple ways.
The other thing that shouldn’t be ignored is, what do you own? So you don’t own your
Instagram channel, you don’t own your Facebook channel, you don’t control whether in two
years from now Facebook’s gonna take Instagram’s reach and kill it. So do you own something,
do you own a blog, do you own a website, do you own a place to house varieties of, this
variety of content that you can be growing during this as well? So you may have an Instagram
piece that goes back to a blog post, or an Instagram piece that goes back to a YouTube
video you know, or something. So you’re teasing and your cross promoting and you’re cross
pollinating so you’re building all these assets, so you’re not at the sort of whims of a Facebook
you know, turning off organic reach. So, going back to Facebook, you know you mentioned that
it still has a lot of value even though it is much different than it started out. How
can artists still use it effectively today? Well one thing we’re hearing people say a
lot is that every Facebook post should be promoted with advertising. I don’t buy that.
And everyone’s saying it and they’re wrong, unless you have money you just want to waste.
So the way to think about promoting Facebook content is taking relatively small dollar
amounts – it could be ten dollars, a hundred dollars, fifty dollars, whatever, depending
on your audience and your budget and all that kind of stuff, and share content and don’t
boost it until it resonates. If you boost within the first 24 hours content that performs
really really well, you can get great efficiency because in that paid boost you’ll get more
organic boosting and you’ll end up paying a lot less per action than if you take content
that’s just sort of bland and you boost it, you’re just wasting your money. You’re not
getting that organic side to bring down the total cost of your reach. So we promote either
content that performs really, really well with a mix of what we call “critical content.”
We really want someone to know this whether it performs well or not, we really want people
to know it. So, in that case it’s a brand message, we might promote that, but most of
the time we’re gonna promote content based on how it performs first. Sure. When you were
talking about that, that makes me think a lot of, I can imagine for an artist a piece
of critical content would be like, “I’m releasing my album,” or “I’m playing this really huge
show with you know a lot of tickets to sell.” And then the other content that they would
have in the mix might be those behind the scenes looks at things, the day-to-day you
know story of what their life is like on the road on tour. What should that mix kind of
look like for an artist? Yeah, I think it depends on where you are. I mean if you’re
getting a ton of accolades, you finally made it, you’re getting awards, you’re being asked
to play all these big venues, I would kind of keep posting all that stuff. So, it depends
a little bit on what’s happening, but, so the mix should be dictated I think by what’s
happening and by what people respond to. When an artist wants to share something with their
fan-base, one of the ways their going to get that message out is by getting other people
to share that message. There’s a thing called the momentum effect. So, going back to your
album thing, Beyonce released an album without a nickel of advertising, all she did at midnight
ona Tuesday I believe it was, was tweet or Instagram, I’m not sure which one she used,
that she has this new surprise album. And because of that, people felt compelled to
share that because they knew it, they discovered it. Right? Well think about why we share on
social. We share on social because it makes us feel smarter, or it makes us feel funny,
or it makes us feel in-the-know, or it makes us feel generous. Sharing is sort of a selfish
thing. It’s an ironic kind of phrase, but it’s true. We share for how it makes us feel.
So, even if you have a new album, maybe wait on the advertising side until you let your
fans sort of do the work because they feel like they know and they feel like they’re
insiders. So, that’s a big part of I think what makes content resonate. So, Google Hangouts
with artists that make you feel like, you know there are only one hundred people there,
I’m really close to this band, you know, I’m an insider. I had back stage passes to when
Collective Soul came here years ago and just hanging out with the lead singer of the band,
now I felt like oh, I’m an insider. Right? Now I’m gonna go share that content because
of the way it made me feel. And so, you have to think a little bit about that. Why would
somebody share this? And it’s a mistake that brands make all the time, like “I will tell
you this.” No. I don’t share because I like your brand. I share because I like my friends.
So what are you…And I stole that from somebody, I don’t remember who said, but I liked it.
What are you doing that makes it, “I,” “why can I share this.” So one of the things that
you mention in your book is that often a mistake that brands make is that they’ll share something
on social that they think is really funny, or very memorable, but it doesn’t always necessarily
match up with their brand. And it doesn’t really make people remember their company.
I see artists do this a lot too. Is this a mistake for them to do? Is it bad for them
to do that? Yes because it’s a waste of time and it’s a waste of exposures. I don’t know
that it necessarily hurts your brand. Now if you’re a death metal band and you’re sharing
funny stuff, maybe it hurts your brand. Right? It’s so off of what you’re supposed to be
about. A lot of times it just doesn’t help. And the famous part for this is the beer commercials.
You know, hilarious but you have no idea, was that Bud Light, was that Sam Adams, was
that Coors Light. Like I have no idea who that commercial was for. So, thinking about
what the brand stands for and what supports that. In some cases, humor may support it.
A lot of country songs are really funny and so if I’m you know kind of an ironic artist
I may share some ironic stuff. But, generally speaking people remember the comedy and not
the person who delivered it. So, so really, I’m not following a band generally speaking
because they make me laugh. I’m following a band because they make me feel cool, or
they make me nostalgic or they make me feel really, like relaxed or take me to my happy
place. Or however you want to phrase that, that’s why I’m into this band. And so that
content should be aligned with that. So for a lot of artists, and a lot of artists on
ReverbNation, they’re managing everything. From their tour schedule to sending out emails
to fans to running their social media. If they’re doing all of this and they have to
manage their own social media, where should they be focusing most of their time on? Yeah,
that’s a challenge even for large brands. They can’t do everything. We worked with one
brand, very well known, and they had forty one Twitter channels. I mean, even brands
with budget can’t do everything. So you certainly have to pick and I think most fans are smart
enough to find you on, you know, where you are and where you spend most of your time.
But I would do a couple things. Number one is, what am I doing anyway that I could easily
leverage in social. So, if I give a speech to fifty people, I try to record that and
just upload it to YouTube. And if I get a hundred views, I just tripled my time spent.
Instead of fifty people, I had one hundred and fifty people who saw the speech right?
And that was almost no extra time. You know, set up a tripod, upload it to YouTube and
you’re done. So can you do that with rehearsals or that kind of stuff. The other thing is,
put your fans to work. A, you want to get to their audience anyway and B, their probably
gonna create the coolest content cause they’re right there in front and all that kind of
stuff. So maybe just a hashtag on the sign in the back. And then after the show, you
take, you look for the hashtag, you look at the best content, and then you set up through
Buffer, or any of these other sort of social tools, a cadence of putting out these things.
One day you set them up to tweet or to whatever, for the whole week potentially. All content
created by somebody else. So, I mean mixing in maybe your stuff, so instead of feeling
like you have to write twenty five posts a week, you just take an hour to schedule 25
posts and maybe you wrote four of them. That can be an efficient time spend as well. That’s
great. I really like that idea of taking the hashtag or something that’s user-generated
that your fans can then serve as ambassadors for you. Is there anything else that you can
think of you know from an artist perspective that they could do to sort of mobilize their
fans to talk about them? Well there’s a lot of free aggregation tools. There’s something
called “Tagboard” for example. Completely free, put in any hashtag and it continuously
updates them sort of like a Pinterest kind of layout. If you have the ability to project
that during your concert, you’ll get quadruple the response because people want to see their
thing appear on the screen. And we’ve done that at parties for brands and things, and
just having it up on the screen, just completely…we were trending in Austin during South By just
because people wanted to see their stupid tweets go up on the screen. Right? So just
doing that, which you can do with a laptop and a projector and an internet connection,
I mean not big budget, you will get a lot more spread not only content for you to use
later, but more buzz during the show among their friends. So Jim, your book focuses on
how brands really have to earn that trust and that respect from their consumers. It’s
not something that can be bought. So for artists, what is the best way that they can really
create an authentic fan relationship through social media, through trust and respect and
not through using dollars? The thing I’ve found really interesting in my own sort of
life and my own marketing of my business is how much telling the truth and how much sort
of candor resonates with people because there’s so much bull shit and everyone’s tired of
it. And so when people are authentic and they talk about things they lost, and things that
were hard, and things they struggled with, people love them for it and they feel very
close to them. And I can’t imagine a music career is easy. You know, for everybody that
makes it a hundred struggle. That part of the story is really interesting and we’re
conditioned, particularly in social media, to only put that happy face forward. And I
don’t think you can be the morose, sad-sack kind of guy cause nobody wants to follow that
guy either. But, behind the scenes of how hard it is to you know try and get connected
to a label, or try to distribute electronically, or try to get bookings. That’s interesting
stuff. So, being willing to share what you wouldn’t be predisposed to share may work
for some bands. Jim thanks again so much for talking with us today. Pleasure. I’m really
looking forward to seeing how artists will use this to further their careers. Met too.