Digital Marketing Skills You Didn't Know You Needed
I recently streamed a 2018 documentary called Madonna and The Breakfast Club and while it seemed a lackluster devotional to Madonna's early years, it perfectly captured one career-launching aspect of the pop icon's rise to fame that has not been widely discussed: her unrelenting self-promotion. In 1983 Madonna spent hours on the phone with promoters trying to book her band and stalked DJ booths with cassette tapes trying to get her singles played in dance clubs. Some call it hustle, I call it marketing.
If she were just starting up today, Madonna would be using her impeccable personal brand, and her drive to be recognized, to great effect online. She would follow all of the best DJ's, get featured blogs in 'too cool for school' music publications, and she'd be an instagram influencer.
Digital Marketing encompasses all the aspects of your online presence. Cultivating some combination of the following elements will help you reach a wider audience:
Digital Proof of your Professional Reputation
As a performing artist you are an independent contractor - you are the CEO of an eponymous brand. With this is in mind, auditions become less like job interviews and more like contractor bids.
As a contractor you are responsible for:
Establishing a professional reputation, making it known in your network, and having digital proof of your credentials can help open doors to being cast in (and hired for) the kind of gigs that most interest you.
Beyond the Stage: Starting Your Own Business
In addition to an active performing career, many artists are starting to nurture other business ventures. Some are related to singing and performing, but many are not - either way, they are using their creativity and artistic instincts to cultivate their marketing skills. As an artist, you should focus on creating content that appeals to a dynamic audience. You should establish clear marketing goals that move you closer to economic freedom, and a flexible lifestyle that allows you to immerse yourself in your work.
Performers Ask The Experts Digital Marketing Questions
I sat down with the marketing experts at Scapi Mag to address some questions submitted by performing artists and small business owners. You can listen to the full podcast episode at Scapi Mag. For a complete summary of the digital marketing questions, check out our answers below.
Jump to a Topic
Managing Multiple Brands
Targeting Paid Ads
Daniel: I say use it! Considering how most people will interact with your site will be the most helpful here, because most singers’ websites don’t often rely on organic reach, most visitors to your site will be linked from other referrals anyway. You could also use this as an opportunity to teach folks about polish pronunciation in your about section!
Maureen: Absolutely use it. This presents you with a fun branding opportunity, actually. I recommend making a fun graphic that offers the phonetics of your last name. Big, bold font in a bright color that says “KREZZ-BIT” or something like that. A friend of mine has her name mispronounced often in her industry, and she had a pronunciation guide on her business cards for a few years when she was first starting. It was a) cute, b) helpful and c) a conversation starter. Also, most of the time when you’re offering your site, people are going to click a link: the number of times you’re going to be shouting your website URL at someone in a loud bar are few and far between enough that using your actual name is worth it.
Anna: Having a unique name is 100% an advantage and will ensure that when you are buying a domain name for your site, it will be available. If you did decide to go with a url other than your given name you can always consider combinations like Nikkiksings.com or Nickisingsmt.com as an alternative to Nikkikrzebiot.com.
Daniel: I personally don’t think you need a website unless you have a specific need for one. For individual creatives, until you have enough work that you need a place to house a portfolio of some kind just keep up with building your reach. Businesses should definitely have a website if they need somewhere to sell something, publish something, etc.
Dip your toe in with paid advertising slowly. It can change the way platforms interact with you and the way you interact with platforms. Start with a $5 ad to understand how the service functions and how it can work, for the most part that level of advertisement will scale up based on how much of a budget you set for it. Meaning you can expect a similar return on your investment: if your $5 ad returns you a dollar’s worth of sales, $500 is gonna likely net you $100.
Maureen: A website should be an aggregate of what you’re producing. It’s not necessarily a marketing tool, but more of a resource for clients with evergreen information. Basically, if people find your product through your social media, a good method of hook-line-sinker is “take a look at my site” where you share your story, client testimonials, fun videos, information on the program. That said, if you think your social media is doing it for you, it’s optional!
As far as paid advertising, I agree with Daniel: move slowly. Look at what other people in your industry are doing with paid ads, and *copy them* (obviously tailoring it to your branding) using small amounts of money at first, and then if it works, keep going!
Anna: I think it's always nice to secure your domain name so you have the option to set up a website in the future, but obviously there is some overhead involved with that. One option that might work for you would be to create a website for your performing brand and then include an internal page on that site that links to your coaching business.
I think paid ads could be really successful for you if you invested in some custom video content. Depending on where you plan to run the ad it's important to research the guidelines for the social platform. For example, an ad on Facebook feed will have certain restrictions and best practices that include but are not limited to the amount of text that can appear on the image. For paid video ads make sure you have a closed caption feature set up since most people listen to videos with the sound off.
“I want to build a website for my small business. I know there are a lot of DIY options like Wix and Weebly, but I also know that people spend thousands of dollars having agencies build sites for them. What are the advantages and disadvantages of DIY vs. having a professional build a site for me?” - Anonymous
Daniel: Scapi has done both and it really comes down to what you need from your site. If your business has simple needs from a website, maybe one store or to house a portfolio, you can absolutely use a DIY builder to make that happen. It can’t hurt to go this route first, as you will still need what you learn when hiring someone else.
Having someone design your site means they design the function, but you still have to use it day in and out. So you really need to know what it is that you need from this advanced infrastructure. You also obviously have to budget for it, implying that the cost of the site should be justifiable by the income you’re hoping to bring in. This doesn’t mean don’t hire someone, but maybe you find someone that’ll charge you hundreds instead of thousands.
I personally had to learn more about site building after having someone build the magazine for us then I did when I tried to do it myself through weebly. It works better, for sure, but there’s a lot at play to make every aspect function.
If you can’t afford to have someone on as a continuous site admin, when you build this giant site with different parts and pieces, one plugin can crash the whole thing and the next thing you know you’re down a spiral of trying to understand cpanel and downloading and uploading files of your website to get sections to play nice. Consider what that means for your schedule and current workload, and maybe you need to pare down your expectations for what you need from a website to fit what you can do with your resources.
Maureen: For me it comes down to how you use it. For a long time I had a website that someone else built for me on a platform that I didn’t understand how to use. And it was a *beautiful* site, that actually got me gigs, and that I got compliments on all the time. But I almost never updated it, because I was overwhelmed with how complicated it was. But I built a site for a non-profit I market for, and know all the nuts and bolts and variations and options for it, and feel much more comfortable updating it and altering it, but.. It’s a website that I built after I got off work. And while it’s pretty nice, it’s not very polished. If you’re looking for a digital portfolio that is beautiful and striking and stands out, go with a professional, and ask that they work with you to make sure you know how to use it. But, if you want something that is a sure thing that you’re going to be able to use easily and consistently, I’d try making it yourself.
Anna: A DIY website is a great place to start when you are on a budget, but it's important to understand that you will need to invest a sizable amount of time learning to use the dashboard of your hosting platform which includes installing apps and plugins. You'll also want to make sure you are up to speed on things like:
A Website Needs to be Designed with Marketing in Mind
Building a website is just the first step. You'll need to make sure that you are building something that helps you achieve your marketing goals with strategically placed CTAs and quality copy and content.
If you want to DIY a website but want some assistance with branding, design, and marketing, consider hiring a consultant who can help you on a hourly basis. Similar services are also available for developers (website builders). In the Wix vs. Weebly debate I am now solidly team Weebly as I think it is faster, has better templates, and is easier to use than Wix. Wordpress is still the platform that will get you the most cred with marketers, but it requires more chops when it comes to editing and customizing.
Social Media Marketing
Daniel: Find a popular hashtag in your creative area and comment on posts daily that you both find interesting and have some reach. If another creator replies, genuinely engage with them, throw them a follow, build meaningful relationships and see where that takes you. Spread a wide net, some folks that take this approach shoot to comment on 200 posts a day. You don’t have to do that, but find a comfortable, expansive approach for yourself.
Maureen: I completely agree with everything Daniel has said. It’s what I was going to recommend. BUT, I think varying the content of your feed will be helpful. You have a lot going for you on your feed: beautifully lit and framed photos of your pieces, thoughtful hashtags.. But video content does really well on IG. A time-lapse as you’re finishing a piece (doing a time-lapse for the whole thing seems like it would be very time-intensive) would be super cool to watch. Have fun, take risks with your content!
Anna: Growing your audience will depend largely on how much time you have to invest in engaging with prospective followers. As Daniel and Maureen have said, having beautiful and creative content is a must, but once you have that you'll need to make sure you are getting it in front of your target audience. I recommend spending 30 minutes a day liking posts and following accounts in your target audience and industry. Do some hashtag research and look for hashtag opportunities where you have a better chance of being seen. For example, make sure you include some niche hashtags that have fewer than 1M posts on Instagram. Going after a hashtag keyword with a lower post volume will help you find people in your niche but reduce the competition for views.
Daniel: Email marketing is all about what you put into it and what you need from it. Realize that your email will be one of a sea of many, so if you want to be a part of that tidal wave with frequent posts, go for it, but a thoughtful small-batch approach may make your name stand out to people that really want to hear from you.
Maureen: You can use email marketing to create a small community of your most devoted clients. Offering exclusive offers, highlighting aspects of your life that matter to them, sharing videos of short workouts.. That being said, if the exercise is frustrating or not delivering, it is totally optional.
Anna: It's great to have lots of tools in your digital marketing toolkit, but it's not necessary to use all of the them all of the time. If you see a lot of ROI with Social Media then it does make sense to continue investing more effort in those activities, with that said, you can always experiment with email marketing as a way to keep in touch with current and former clients. Consider setting up some automated emails to reach out to clients who have been inactive for a few months, or send exclusive content to regular clients all at once. You can keep the messaging personal by avoiding all of the trappings of typical email marketing campaigns. Ditch the fancy headers and lots of images in lieu of a short message that resembles a regular email from a friend (that's you!) but includes strategic call to action links or downloadable content. Always make sure that your "send from" field includes your name rather than your business name so that your subscribers know the email is from you. E.g. Anna Caldwell from The Peppermint Patties
Managing Multiple Brands
Daniel: Balance is key to any creative. Consider combining where you can, cutting where you can, and streamlining where you can. If it’s just not possible to reduce your workload make distinct compartmentalizations for the different hats you have to wear. Set Tuesdays and Thursdays for performance emails and the rest of the week for teaching or something similar.
Maureen: I’ve found that having recurring content across my multiple channels helps a lot. On Mondays you post an inspirational quote on channel A, and a practice video on channel B. On Tuesday, you post a photo of you in a cute outfit on channel B, and leave channel A alone. On Wednesday blah blah you get the point. If you have north stars for what you’re going to post, and not just days of the week that you post, it’ll help focus you and give you ideas of what to actually do instead of having to reinvent the wheel every single day.
Anna: Creating a content calendar and sticking to it is a great way to juggle multiple brands at the same time. There are a lot of apps for this, like monday.com, but a spreadsheet or white board calendar would work too! You can look at data for your social channels to determine when your audience is most active, and use that to inform your posting schedule. Also, don't be afraid to cross pollinate your audiences and share content from your performing brand on your teaching page and vice versa. Since your brands are related this is a great way to extend your content and share it with both audiences.
Maureen: Oh my gosh, what a wonderful opportunity to market a good that is TAILOR MADE for Instagram. Colored yarn? Yarnheads on Instagram go nuts for that stuff. Find a spot in your home that has good light, lay out your yarn, and go nuts. Using hashtags, and then liking posts from accounts that you believe would be interested in your product will draw attention to your yarn, and then also build a small community around it. Good luck!!
Daniel: Growing reach is all about taking advantage of how diverse audience segmentation has become. Meaning, you can customize what you share where based on how relevant it will be. Build a platform for your business, then share directly from there into online communities (facebook groups, subreddits, instagram hashtags, etc.) taking advantage of the fact that the only people there are already interested in what you have to say. Take the time to bring a genuine approach to these groups, too, getting to know admins or people involved in the community can help reach within the group and can also just help you enjoy the work a little more.
Anna: Daniel and Maureen's advice is spot on. I would add that it's okay to be proud of the work that you do and share it online. Even though you may feel like your are sharing too much or too often, in reality every post you share has a very short shelf life. Only about 6% of the people who follow you will see any given post. Of course that number goes up if your posts gets a lot of engagement, but not enough to become spammy. In any case, by targeting your content to a niche group you can ensure that your content is reaching an audience that has a vested interest in you and your work.
Targeting Paid Social Ads
Daniel: Don’t expect to hit every niche with one ad. Figure out what you want out of an ad and to which audience, and what that audience appreciates the most. You’re not going to be everyone’s taste, but you will be a few people’s favorite. You want to find those people, and targeted advertising or expanding into existing communities will be much easier than trying to appeal to everyone at once.
Maureen: I think knowing who the bulk of your audience is helps a lot. In the case of attracting new folks, take it one step at a time, on a case-by-case basis, and be ultra focused about it. Producing a comedy? Target an ad to folks who like The Second CIty. Producing a drama? Target an ad to folks who like Steppenwolf. Producing a new work? Target an ad to college students. If you think about who wants to see your work who isn’t already seeing your work in terms of what they like that’s similar, it could be easier to get the right eyes on it.
Anna: When creating graphics for different ads, pay special attention to resizing them for different platforms. To save time the safest size is square format as it tends to play nice across all platforms. I highly recommend leaving some room in your paid ad budget to run multiple ads to the same demographic and then gather data about which ad performed the best. Some A/B testing can give your invaluable information about what resonates with your target audience and can help you streamline decision making for future campaigns.
Listen to the Scapi Podcast