The evolution of social media from an entertainment tool to a powerful marketing weapon has rapidly transformed the relationship between industries and their unique consumers over the last few years. And in this past year alone, Instagram grew from 200,000 active monthly advertisers in 2016 to 1 million in 2017.
With these startling rates of growth, it is more important than ever for brands to understand which social media platforms are most optimal to use within their particular industry. However, while agencies and marketers hone in on industry-specific social media marketing trends, they should not overlook the overarching strategies that transcend industry. These should define the foundation of any social media marketing plan: the importance of visibility, virality, authenticity and potent storytelling.
According to entrepreneur, social media personality and renowned music critic, DJ Akademiks, who co-stars in Complex's Everyday Struggle, a show that squares off on the biggest current events within hip-hop and pop culture, social media has become just as important for artists within the music industry as it has for brands at large.
As an expert in the social media terrain (having nearly 700 million views on YouTube alone), DJ Akademiks spoke to me on how the music industry, in particular, has capitalized on the power of social media marketing. He shared some of his own wisdom on the strategies artists (along with any brand, agency or marketer) should be using to catapult to success.
Social Media Marketing And Virality: Which Platforms To Utilize
For artists and marketers alike, it is important to understand the power social media now has in exposing one’s brand to potential consumers, and thus growing one’s name within their industry. Social media virality has catalyzed the evolution of digital marketing, and, in particular, influencer marketing.
In our technological era, social media can now drastically expedite the process of going from a startup to a household name. A video that goes viral within hours can transform its creator into a celebrity overnight and suddenly provide them with a sizable platform that, in the past, would have taken months, if not years, to establish.
"For any rapper starting out, I’d say start with social media,” Akademiks said. “Especially if you’re a rapper whose music appeals to the social media generation, you’ll get popular and sell 50-60 thousand records week one without the mainstream audience even knowing about you.”
Along with virality, understanding which social media platform can most effectively benefit one’s growth within a specific industry can make or break you.
Akademiks spoke on how important it is for artists and their marketing teams to discern which platforms are the most fruitful within their industry. His advice for musicians in particular: Leave Twitter alone, and focus on Instagram.
“Instagram is the best place for feedback. If you’re a rapper, you’ve got to get some music up on Instagram. Through all the BS comments, you’re bound to find some good stuff. Not only that, though, but you can do so much more in terms of promotion as an artist."
With consumers wanting to be invested in a brand's image, this type of feedback is also important for marketers to know. Understanding relevant trends and data — like that most Instagram users are between the ages of 18-29, whereas Facebook caters to a wider age demographic of users — is also key. Another incredibly important matter to consider is visibility: understanding how to get your brand out there and seen by the right audience and focusing on engagement rather than immediate financial gains.
“For any up-and-coming rapper, I’m telling them to hop on SoundCloud,” Akademiks said of the online audio distribution platform. “From there, you move from developing a social following, start to give them a glimpse into your lifestyle, and so on. Billboard and radio will come later, but first it’s social media.”
Brand visibility on multiple platforms, no matter how big or small the immediate monetary value proves to be, will help you establish longevity in an ever-changing online terrain, and gaining traction on a small platform could eventually translate into growth over an array of others.
The Importance Of Storytelling And Authenticity
While virality can act as one’s ticket into the music industry, Akademiks asserts that the key to longevity still relies on an age-old formula: originality plus authentic storytelling, the same equation brands should be following to engage with customers and lure brand-neutral consumers like millennials.
People naturally align themselves with artists or brands that share their same value systems, tangent cultures and upbringings. Whether you are an artist or a brand, remaining authentic in the pursuit of finding purpose and growing a name will not only help you establish loyal relationships with your consumers but will also help you establish longevity within your industry.
“Historically, there are ways to map out how a rapper accomplishes longevity and sticks around for the next 10 years,” Akademiks said. “One of them would be not chasing a trend but instead being completely original. Bringing to the game rather than looking around at what’s popular and following that.”
For hip-hop in particular, Akademiks explains that authenticity and original storytelling are both essential to establishing a respectable reputation within the community. Utilizing virality without credibility can kill one’s lifetime value as a serious artist, as "people are trying to exploit their popularity through rap" without sharing a "real, authentic story." However, authenticity and storytelling are not only important for rappers alone but for any brand, influencer or entrepreneur wanting to establish and validate themselves within their niche market.
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