Despite various attempts to launch music or artist-specific social networks over the years, artists generally follow their fans when it comes to social media, rather than the other way around. Which is to say, consumers pick the digital channels that best meet their wider social and entertainment needs, and then expect to be able to connect with their favourite artists in those places.
With the youth demographic in particular having jumped from platform to platform over the last ten years – from MySpace to Facebook to Tumblr to Instagram and Snapchat – one message that we’ve always prioritised in our music marketing seminars is the importance of email. Having a fan’s email address and permission to send occasional messages has been a constant in fan communication, plus email gives back the best analytics.
However, in more recent years the new youth demographic have been busy shunning email too. They may have an email address for college or work, but social communications do not happen through that channel. Those conversations now more commonly occur on the messaging apps. Which poses the question: can artists start to connect with fans via platforms like Facebook Messenger?
Whereas email and social media are usually designed for both one-to-one and one-to-many communication, so that messages can be posted aimed at one person, small groups of people, or millions of people, depending on what is required, messaging platforms are primarily designed for personalised and interactive chat between a small group of individuals.
So how might artists infiltrate these platforms? There has been lots of talk about the potential of chatbots in this domain, ie AI technologies that can have automated but personalised and interactive conversations with individuals on behalf of brands, whether those be pop stars, festivals, labels, media or consumer brands. Though quite how effective those technologies really are at the moment is debatable.
There are nonetheless still plenty of opportunities for artists to be connecting with fans via messaging platforms. But succeeding in this domain often means experimenting with content and approach as much as it does honing and developing the technology.