In less than a decade, social media has revolutionized the business of art. On every major platform, selfies coexist alongside product launches, tour announcements, and album drops. Likes, followers, comments, and messages ultimately result in real money and real relationships. Entire empires have emerged from these interactions, challenging and outpacing the old guards of broadcast TV and print media.
In theory, anyone can share their art with everyone. In practice, it’s complicated. Artists have more access to more people than ever before, and vice versa. According to the 2018 Pew Research Center Survey, 88% of U.S. adults are active on social media. Everyday more than 80 million photos and videos are shared on Instagram alone.
With more access comes more content and more noise. It’s getting harder and harder for emerging artists to find a sustaining audience. Like the fading tactics of traditional advertisers, the old tricks of social media don’t work in today’s world. Anyone can have a presence. Not everyone is fully present.
Which makes sense. Many online relationships are parasocial, a tidy term for the kind of one-sided relationships that sustain artistic careers.
Even though most fans will never meet the artists they follow, they feel like they know them and, in a sense, they do. This dynamic creates lots of leverage for artists as well as serious communication challenges. How can an individual artist maintain a sense of authentic connection with millions of humans while still making art, going on tour, and having some time to themselves?
ONE-TO-ONE COMMUNICATION MAKES FOR STRONGER RELATIONSHIPS
It’s important to get clear about where we are before we talk about where we’re going. For one, many artists and businesses suffer from strikingly low engagement rates that reflect their mostly paid-for audience. Authenticity is more than just a buzzword. Direct connection is a necessity.
The last great shift in social media occurred when Facebook introduced the news feed structure and deemphasized the personal profile. Since then, messaging is arguably the most compelling technology to emerge from social media. As of April 2017, there are more than 1.2 billion monthly active users on Facebook messenger, a remarkable 20% growth rate since July 2016. This rapid increase of activity on Facebook messenger and similar apps reflects the special importance of messaging per se.
Whether it’s Facebook Messenger, Instagram DM’s, or Snapchat, the most powerful exchanges happen in one-to-one or group conversations, spaces where people can initiate and nurture connection. In both personal and commercial contexts, conversation is the arguable essence of relationship. The next wave of social media will not only include but actually focus on messaging technologies that support parasocial relationships.
This is a big deal. Until recently, artists and brands have simply not had access to technology that allows them to have one-to-one conversations with their audience at scale. For this reason, messaging is the keystone for significant shifts in the way business happens online. Especially the business of art.
AUTOMATED MESSAGING IS THE FUTURE OF SOCIAL MEDIA MARKETING
Although the field is in its infancy, there are some pioneers worth mentioning. One notable pathfinder is Stashimi, a platform that helps artists and brands launch their own messaging and voice channels. They’re already working with artists like Zedd, G-Eazy, Alina Baraz, and Kelly Clarkson to create media-rich Facebook Messenger assistants that automatically respond to fans 24/7 and provide a single touch point to find music, video, tour dates, merchandise and news.
There are many generalized messaging bots, but Stashimi is unique in that it’s founders (tech veterans Jurgen Kurz and André Rabold) designed the platform to meet the specific needs of artists and entertainment brands. Stashimi CMO Kosta Elchev was instrumental in developing the early digital strategies for major record labels, artists, and brands including Snoop Dogg, Red Bull, and a little show called Keeping Up With The Kardashians. Given their roots in culture marketing and music tech, it’s no surprise that that platform includes music specific integrations that many chatbot platforms lack. Ticketing and merch come standard.
While it’s true that email marketing affords a similar kind of scale when it comes to marketing communications, direct messaging far outpaces the efficacy. Average open rates for email hover around 20% compared to a whopping 60% or higher for direct messages.
And this is just the beginning. Technology that prioritizes parasocial relationships will go hand-in-hand with AR and VR experiences to usher in unprecedented interconnection between artists, brands, and audiences. As was the case on many of the original social platforms, early-birds tend to have a lasting advantage.