The presence of social networks have changed the way marketers and marketing functions happen in the entertainment industry. However, the markers of success remain the same – popularity ( fan base) and sales – and the global presence offered by social media networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter presents a golden opportunity that many writers and musicians have exploited to their best advantage. Unfortunately, international artistes seem to be way ahead of their Caribbean counterparts, this is clear if you pay attention to their activities of both on Twitter and Facebook.
In the business of books Caribbean writers use the Facebook and Twitter sites in an intimate way, with the aim being involving readers in their lives by asking questions, sharing anecdotes, posting pictures of travel or of things of paramount interest to the readers For example Kei Miller, with less than a hundred followers on twitter, is a young Jamaican writer living in England who as of recently has been updating his page with notes on his journey throughout the United states. The more popular Colin Channer, who does not have a twitter account, relives his love for the reggae music industry daily, while keeping his fans abreast of the developments with Caribbean and International writers on Facebook – he has less than 1,000 friends. This niche marketing provides a more focused dialogue that is potentially a powerful tool, except both authors have only a small following.
In comparison, the Brazilian Paulo Coelho, in the same way Miller and Channer engage their audience also engages his audience in dialogue about the politics of his homeland daily, but he has over a million followers who share and repost his content daily. Coehlo maintains a blog, a Facebook Page and a twitter account, at the bottom of his blog are various links to all his online homes that make it clear he is intent on managing his following, and he takes advantage of this exposure to sell sell sell. On the other hand a visit to the pages of Miller and Channer show no merchandising and very little promotional push.
While I understand that Paul Coehlo has the advantage of being more established and has probably had the marketing machine behind him, certainly making the comparison and expecting more than 100 and 1,000 followers of Miller and Channer is not unreasonable.
So too local musical artiste irrespective of their street popularity have found themselves at the lower tier of the social media network. Wayne Marshall is presently a few followers shy of 20,000 on Twitter, while Kartel has almost 24,000 followers while Mavado boasts under 5000 followers and the internationally renown reggae star Shaggy has less than 10,000 followers – yes! Less than 10,000.
Conversely rapper Ludacris sets a great example with 1,908,458 followers on Twitter. His very active page is the hub of his Social Networking activity. He’s used it for Q&A interactions with his fans, and these days he uses it primarily to promote his new brand of Cognac known as Conjure. According to Flowtown.com Luda takes a very interesting approach to this promotion by posting pictures of celebrities and people he has seen drinking the Conjure in hopes that this will entice you to try the drink out. Aside from the promotion of his merch, Luda also uses Twitter to keep fans abreast of where he will be appearing for autograph signings and meet and greet sessions. Luda also sometimes uses his Twitter account to hold contests for fans to contribute most to selected causes he supports in order to win autographed merchandise from him. In a nutshell, he is present on the social networking scene and exploiting the hell outta of it for visibility and sales.
Caribbean artistes have the same opportunity as their international counterparts to exploit Twitter and Facebook sites to increase fan base and to interact with the fans in ways that they have not been able to do prior to now. Additionally, Reggae and Dancehall music have a strong following in the Caribbean and the whole world over. Bearing that in mind I am convinced we can do better than 10,000 followers for an artist like Shaggy.
It’s not that our artists aren’t aware of the opportunity, as in an interview with the Gleaner Wayne Marshall explained the reason behind the “My Heart” remix with Estelle is that he sent her a link to the song through Twitter. So Marshall recognizes the power of social media, why is it that he and others are not positioning themselves to take full advantage of it? Which means, building a strong fan base, interacting with them in a way that encourages expansion, and making them aware of and encouraging them to buy what they’re selling.
When will our local artistes recognize Facebook and Twitter not just as a hook up for lost friends and family, and a few die hard fans but a business venture, a key to record sales, the sales rep for merchandise and the way to expose reggae music uniting the thousands of fans they have worldwide? I find it ironic that I can cite the Jolly Boys Modern Mento band (cause they’re older) as an example of a Caribbean act that has the right idea as their Social Media campaign was a large part of what got them off the ground. However, they’re still quite a ways off from the ideal as to date their Facebook page has only a little over 5,000 likes. I’m hoping the rest of the Caribbean acts will catch on to the idea sooner rather than when the Jolly Boys can boast a couple thousand likes on Facebook and Twitter.