Ever since Facebook came on the scene, making people in vast portions of the world up to 58% less productive in their lives, bluegrass musicians, bands, associations, and other related businesses have tried to use it for promotional and networking purposes, with mixed success.
When Facebook went public, the pressure was on to “monetize” their vast numbers of users, which gradually led to relying more and more on a “pay to play” system, especially where fan and business “pages” are concerned. I wrote an article quite a while ago about Facebook’s use of algorithms to choke off the audience for certain kinds of posts, unless you were willing to pay for them. I offered some advice about posting, and pointed out some words that might lead to having your “reach” restricted.
The problem with the tips I offered (leaving aside the fact that I’m completely unqualified to give any kind of social media or internet-related advice) is that they’re already obsolete. Facebook, in an effort to stay one step ahead of people who try to get through their clever algorithmic web, has resolved to change their formula as often as possible. They now change rules more often than the NHL and NFL combined, leaving us unsure what to post anymore, if anything. Most of us are just trying to tell our followers about our Friday night gig at O’Leary’s Pub. Should that be so difficult? The answer, apparently, is yes.
A good recent example is my discovery–quite by accident–that if you try to post a link to a YouTube video, whether it’s an inspiring Merle Haggard performance from the ‘60s, or a 10 second clip of someone’s yellow lab sliding across a linoleum floor, Facebook will make sure that only you, your Aunt Mary, and one obsessive stalker will ever see it. This is because Facebook hates YouTube now. Why, you may ask? I’m not really sure, but I think it has to do with the fact that YouTube is owned by Google, and apparently Mr. Google (we’ll just call him “Seymour”) neglected to invite Mr. Facebook to his daughter’s wedding or something. It’s one of those Silicon Valley in-fighting things I wouldn’t understand. Also, Facebook is trying to push it’s own video-sharing technology, which may be more to the point.
Anyway, don’t bother sharing a YouTube clip, unless you feel like paying to do it, and even then it may not get around much.
These are the other current trends in Facebook’s manipulation of your post’s audience, and honestly these are not all bad:
Because there is now an awful lot of information, misinformation, cat pictures, memes, self-promotion, etc. out there clogging people’s newsfeeds, Facebook is trying to make sure that users see more interesting content more often. They, of course, not you, are going to decide what’s interesting and what isn’t (this from a company founded and run by a guy who only wears grey T-shirts). They do this in a number of ways that stop just short of monitoring what you’re eating for breakfast just before you post something. In other words, it’s slightly creepy, but no creepier than large retail chains knowing that you’re pregnant, possibly before you do, and tailoring your advertising accordingly.
They’re also trying to clamp down on rampant self promotion by companies and individuals, and I’m afraid this also means bluegrass bands. This includes “click-baiting” (“Wow! Click here to find out just how much you can save on waxed dental floss”), and, closer to home, posts like this: “Please come to our concert this Saturday night at the Pig and Whistle, Man, are we good!! Please share and like this post, oh, and buy our CD, only $15!!”
Facebook’s on to this kind of post, and you either need to be more creative and more subtle, or you need to pay them for the privilege of blatantly plugging your business. The above post contained several words that raise red flags for Facebook and trigger it to throttle the exposure it might get: “concert,” “CD,” “whistle,” and possibly “Saturday.” Worst of all, are the words “share” and “like.” Facebook doesn’t like any effort to generate false post interest.
How then do you post something about your upcoming show and reach a reasonable percentage of your followers? Some of the fine points of using and posting on pages, and tracking your audience engagement are beyond me, especially since they just changed a lot of that, too, in recent months anyway. However, I can at least offer an updated list of dos and don’ts to help you give Facebook the impression that you’re something more than a self-promoting free-loader. You’re a savvy self-promoting freeloader!
- Post your own videos directly, as opposed to links to YouTube clips (see above).
- Post something other than self-promoting stuff now and then (would it hurt you to post one picture of a cat yawning?).
- Use (non-YouTube) links in your posts, but do it by pasting the link directly into your post. That’s all I know how to do anyway.
- Use photos and other media to make your post more interesting (I believe I recommended the opposite the last time we discussed this), but make sure there’s text to go with it (don’t ask me why).
- Engage with your followers, but bear in mind that it’s possible to lose years of your life that way, so create a cut-off point for it.
- Lower your social media expectations in general as a promotional tool, and spend more time building email lists, doing radio interviews, or advertising in Bluegrass Today (yes, I was paid to say that, but very little). You also might consider saving a portion of your merchandise sales and eventually sponsoring your own car on the NASCAR circuit (this could take 80 years, but it would be well worth it).
- Use text-only posts (i.e. without added media). This applies to fan pages and not personal profiles.
- Plug stuff without some other interesting content, like a picture of a snake, or your breakfast, preferably before you ate it (the breakfast, not the snake).
- Use any of the following words or phrases in a post:
“For Your Consideration”
“Rocked the house”
“I had the good fortune to meet Prince when . . .”
“Please, people, we’re desperate!”
Mandolin (Facebook just doesn’t like the mandolin, what can I say?)
Honey Pie Pony
As you can tell from this, the only solution may be to start writing posts the way mobsters talk to each other when they fear they’re being bugged: “Hey . . . Come on out to that place tonight, where the thing is going on. You know, the thing that’s right before that other thing tomorrow.”
If this seems confusing and overwhelming, the good news is that it will all change in a few months, and none of this will apply.
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