The Future Tools of Social Media: Why Messaging Apps Are the Future of the Artist-to-Fan Connection

The Future Tools of Social Media is a series by Prescient Digital that provides insight into emerging online trends shaping the future of the music business.

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For the modern musician, a captivating online presence is no longer a choice. It is necessary to survive and thrive. Today’s platforms like Facebook, Instagram, and Tik Tok have become the entertainment marketplaces of the world, where savvy users can reach unprecedented success.

With the rapid changes in the social media landscape, however, knowing which marketing strategy and channels are the best investment of time and money is hard.

In this piece, we will explain why private messaging apps are poised to take over traditional social media and how this will shape the future of the artist-fan relationship.

“The Future of the Internet”

In March 2019, Mark Zuckerberg announced in a blog post that Facebook would be shifting its focus from the News Feed to its private messaging platforms Messenger, WhatsApp, and Instagram Direct Messages.

This is big news. Facebook announcing a pivot away from its traditional focus is big enough in itself for any artist or business to take note. However, even more noteworthy was Zuckerberg’s supporting commentary on how he sees the “future of the internet.” Specifically, he said: “I believe privacy-focused communications platforms will become even more important than today’s open platforms. Privacy gives people the freedom to be themselves… people prefer the intimacy of communicating one-on-one.” This is a significant change from Zuckerberg’s previous position, which he articulated in 2010 when he told the Washington Post: “If people share more, the world will become more open and connected. And a world that’s more open and connected is a better world.”

Zuckerberg’s intuition is backed by a heap of data showing that the use of messaging apps is rising fast, and so is the amount of time people spend on them. A few things to consider::

  • 63% of social media users prefer to share content via messaging apps (GlobalWebIndex)

  • U.S. adults now spend an average of 11 minutes per day using messaging apps, higher than any other mobile app (Emarketer)

  • Half of all U.S. residents are expected to use messaging apps by 2022 (Emarketer)

  • 89% of internet users between the ages of 25 and 34 use Facebook Messenger in the United States (WeAreFlint)

These data points tell a story of what most of us have already discovered ourselves: few people go to social media to connect with anyone or anything, anymore.

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Why this Matters for Artists

For most musicians, taking advantage of social media is a puzzle that’s hard to solve.

While social media seems to become more impersonal each day, over time these platforms have also created music fans who demand that their favorite artists be more authentic and available than ever before. Furthermore, there is the added pressure of how fan engagement with posts can affect an artist’s bottom line, and many promoters are still using Instagram and Facebook followers as a way to gauge fan reach and selling power.

Yet good content on its own (let alone good music!) is not enough to convert fans to followers. Without a sizeable marketing budget, it is hard to gain a social media following. As of 2018, organic reach on Facebook pages was recorded at just around 2%, and many predict Instagram will soon reach similar numbers.

Messaging apps average a 70–90% open rate and a click-through rate of around 30%. (ManyChat)

Building a dedicated following on these platforms and accessing those followers, will become more expensive. These social media platforms are like bad landlords; they own the real estate on which artists are setting up shop to run their business and are progressively asking for higher rent while shrinking the online community space they have invested in building.

Messaging apps are different. Similar to an email list, once a fan has subscribed, they will always see your messages in their inbox. Instead of fighting for space in the feed, an artist’s message will appear like a message from any other friend in their contacts.

What’s more important, however, is that you know your fans will see your content: messaging apps average a 70–90% open rate and a click-through rate of around 30%. Direct-to-fan marketing is the future of music and brand marketing.

Music Industry Takes Note

These data make a compelling case for messaging apps, but what’s really going to drive widespread adoption of this tool across the music industry is that it solves a problem. The connection between artists and fans has always been critical in the music business, and with Messenger, fans can now develop a stronger, more personal connection with artists than ever before.

“The value of musical work has always resided in communication and connection” — Nancy Baym

These platforms present an endless potential for those who leverage them creatively early on, but even basic usage could have an impact; whether thanking fans for attending a show or sharing personal thoughts about an album or a cause, messaging apps have the potential to delight die-hard fans written all over them.

Put in more eloquent terms by author Nancy Baym: “The value of musical work has always resided in communication and connection… No matter how commercialized it becomes, it can never be just a product.”

But you don’t have to take her word for it. Just follow the money.

Just last month, Amsterdam-based startup I AM POP secured over 2 million euros in funding for a fan messaging application, with clients such as BMG, Mad Decent, Elrow, Ministry of Sound, and MAMA festivals all joining the platform.

This investment is part of a growing sentiment in the music industry that fans are moving away from the news feed and that it is time to adapt. As Aaron Bogucki, VP of Digital Marketing at AWAL Recordings, said: “Fans are relying on closed group communications via direct messaging at an increasing rate…[messaging platforms] have helped us develop a valuable direct marketing channel for a number of our artists.”

Early adopters have already reaped the benefits of moving their marketing campaigns and online fanbases to Facebook Messenger.

In one case, Austrian band Bilderbuch converted 47% of local fans to private messaging in a single campaign by giving away tickets to a show. In another, pop superstar Imogen Heap scored a phenomenal 53% click-through rate for tickets on her album tour.

And this is before messaging apps have gained mainstream adoption! The value is there, and the time to mobilize is now.

How to Get Started

So what options exist? With a substantial lead in global users (outside of China), Facebook Messenger and WhatsApp are frontrunners in this trend, so we’ll start there.

Each platform has its benefits and drawbacks. Messenger’s interface is more structured and easier to adopt. WhatsApp allows data ownership and leaves room for more creativity in messaging format.

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There is no right choice between these two platforms. Each artist must weigh the pros and cons to determine what is the best fit for their marketing objectives and fanbase. Taking a deeper look at these Messaging Apps and strategizing how they can be leveraged will help any artist strengthen their connection with fans and effectively market their brand.

In our next piece, we will be zooming out from personal connection to community, discussing the rise of Facebook Group activity and usership, and the opportunities that arise for artists that thrive around a group identity or movement.

Be sure to sign up for our messaging list for our next piece!