Social media Q&A for bluegrass artists

Last week I gave an overview of the social media platforms most often used by bluegrass artists and musicians. It was my hope that the information I gave was at least more current than The David Grisman Rounder Album, or if not, it was vague enough not to matter. I promised that this week I would answer some questions that came into my Facebook Messenger inbox. Too bad I don’t have Facebook Messenger, so Facebook won’t permit me to read these messages thru their app. Here are questions I imagined might be in that inaccessible inbox:

Why does Facebook restrict the visibility of certain posts, like YouTube video links?

Facebook would probably say they’re trying to provide the most interesting content possible for their users, and apparently the link to the YouTube video of your band performing a bluegrass version of Play That Funky Music (White Boy) doesn’t qualify, which just goes to show you how imperfect algorithms can be. What’s closer to the truth is that Facebook tends to quash posts that are blatantly self-promotional, especially on fan pages, because they want you to pay in order to reach your own followers through the “boosted post.” Also, Facebook hates YouTube because it’s owned by Google. One of these days someone should start an annual Facebook-Google football game, and they can release some of that competitive aggression on the field. Also, wouldn’t it just be great to watch pasty computer geeks playing football? Then when the game is over, they can go back to mining your personal information like so much coal (see last week) but perhaps be a little more friendly about it.

Should I engage in political discussions on Facebook?

As long as you view it as a hobby that you’re willing to devote time to, like collecting old tin model cars or making edible wind chimes, go for it. It’s also valid if you feel a need to blow off steam in a public forum, or you just want to go on record as taking a certain position. If your goal, however, is to convince people of a viewpoint or effect change in the world, it’s good to realize this is just never going to happen. There’s only been one documented case of someone getting another person to conform to their political opinion on Facebook, and that person was under hypnosis at the time. Also know that you risk alienating potential fans or even people who might have booked you for high-paying private parties (food included!). 

Here’s where it’s important to understand the difference between the public post and the post only friends (or any group you create and choose) can see. If the post has that little globe under it, it’s public and anyone can see your bluntly stated opinions about Brexit, Pope Francis, or the right way to play a G chord, even people who don’t have Facebook accounts. You can change that setting so that only your Facebook friends can see your post. There’s even a special setting of “Friends except . . .”, an option allowing you to decide who can’t see your post, and that can be anyone from your 4th grade math teacher to your crazy Uncle Charlie who believes the Dalai Lama was responsible for 9-11. 

The way you change this setting is simple, in Facebook’s characteristic way, though the method just changed five days ago: In your post, under your name, look for the box with the little globe, click on the arrow, which will bring up a drop box with a menu that says “Edit privacy”; scroll down to where it says “options,” click on that, then a new menu will appear, scroll down to “other,” then from the list below, click on “Friends,” then click on “Settings,” then select “Who Can See This Post”; choose the option that says “Custom,” scrolling down to “More,” then go back to your post, delete it, then close out of Facebook entirely, look up at the ceiling and begin softly humming Oh Death. These are the instructions for a smartphone. The method used on a computer is completely different, and slightly more complicated.

Are hashtags just stupid?

That depends on what your purpose is for using them. #evadingthequestion

Can you explain Instagram stories to me?

No I can’t.

At what point does self-promotion become bragging, and is that okay on social media?

Yes, we’ve all read these kinds of posts: “We CRUSHED it last night in front of yet another packed house!! Sometimes I can’t believe how good we are!” These are more than a little embarrassing, yet we’re all forced into doing this to some extent. It often comes down to method, though. There are ways to let people know you’re doing well without coming off as your own biggest fan. Try reworking the above post to say something like, “We had big fun playing to a full and enthusiastic house last night. Thank you, Pittsburgh!” (note: only thank Pittsburgh if you in fact just played in Pittsburgh). If in reality you had a lousy night in Pittsburgh, almost no one showed up, and the sound was a mess, you might try something like this: “We enjoyed playing in Pittsburgh last night. Thanks to all those who came out!” (even if “all those” amounted seven people, including three who were on your guest list). In a worst case scenario, put “enjoyed” in quotes. 

Remember that on all of these social media platforms, there’s an option to hide, unfollow, or “mute” people. Too much blatant self-promotion and people may turn you off. In between plugging your next show, your next record, or your bass player’s early release from prison, throw in some pet or food photography, or maybe some pet food photography. I’m told a picture of a snake usually gets maximum exposure. I don’t think that’s more interesting than your Play That Funky Music (White Boy) cover, but apparently Facebook does.