Social media for grassers in 2019

It’s been a while since we discussed social media use by bluegrass musicians and artists, so I thought it might be a good time to reopen the subject, since so much has changed since the last time we did, or since last week for that matter.

It’s probably best to just forget everything I said before and start fresh. If you’re like me, you already had.

To begin with, what’s a professional or semi-pro bluegrasser to do in this ever-changing world? Unless we have people doing this work for us, we’re stuck promoting ourselves on social media, and naturally we want to find the most effective way to do that. Unfortunately, it practically requires attending a seminar or reading a “Social Media for Dummies” sort of self-help book in order to navigate this terrain. Then you find out six months later that everything you had learned no longer applies, anyway.

We remain baffled when a perfectly nice photo of our band with an announcement about an upcoming concert appears to have been viewed by three people and liked by two, one of whom is our mother, while the other may be a dangerous stalker. Meanwhile, another post with an out-of-focus picture of your bus going down a nondescript stretch of highway in Nevada appears to be going viral. Why does this happen, and is it even worth investing the time and energy to find out?

It’s easy to look back on the first generation bluegrass artists with envy: they didn’t have to deal with any of this. On the other hand, they often had to drive all night on two-lane highways, sleeping sitting up. Oh wait, we’re still doing that.

The following will be, as best I can manage it, a bit of updated social media advice for the bluegrass picker in the form of answers to FAQs. I may have to correct or revise all of this information later. I probably won’t.

We’re going to get to the FAQ (which stands for “False Advertising Quagmire”) in next week’s column, but for now, here’s an overview of the three social media platforms most often used in the bluegrass music world:

Facebook: It’s still the big one, and the one that may be hardest to keep up with, given the constant tweaking of their algorithms. If you’re not careful, it’s probably the time-suckiest, too. It’s known for cute memes, adorable cat pictures, bogus conspiracy theories, divisive political arguments, and yes, the occasional live music video. This is the most family and friend (and enemy) oriented of the social media. It’s also known for mining your personal information like so much coal, and selling it to the highest bidder.

Twitter: this is the social medium that’s more the domain of writers, comedians, pop stars, political extremists of all kinds, Russian bots, and the current president. It has a 280 character limit (expanded from it’s original 140), so all posts must be short and to the point, unless you do a multi-tweet series, which mostly just annoys people. I use it only because I like having my feed set to people, publications, sports teams, etc. that interest me, and I do tweet semi-regularly. I’ve never successfully promoted anything musical through this platform, and the one time I attempted to advertise on Twitter, they charged me for an ad campaign I didn’t want to run, but was powerless to stop. I never got a refund.

Instagram: this is, in my opinion, the “nicest” and least interactive of the social media (I’m afraid those two characteristics often go hand-in-hand). People post nice pictures of their pets, themselves, the landscape, their breakfast, their mandolins, etc. People scroll through and hit like (the little heart) or not. It’s less self-promotion oriented than either Facebook or Twitter, but having a presence there is a good thing for artists/musicians wanting to keep fans up on what’s happening on their tours or what kind of cereal they’re eating. It’s also owned by Facebook, so Instagram, too, is mining your personal information like so much coal and selling it to the highest bidder.

Next week I’ll answer some burning FAQs (BFAQs), including, “If I give up Facebook, how will I remember anyone’s birthday?” and “Is it wrong to quit a band via a tweet?”