Unfortunately I was not able to make it in time for our discussion panel concerning buying fans, black hat vs white hat SEO, and social proof as it applies to online music marketing.
In an attempt to continue the discussion and contribute my 2 cents, you can read my thoughts below the video.
But first, here are the details about this week’s episode:
In this Special edition of On First Listen, sponsored by the Google Plus Music Professionals Community, we brought in a panel of music and video promotion experts and geeks to discuss the pitfalls and advantages of “black hat” SEO versus “organic” search engine optimization. “Social Proof” – the indication of value by follow and share numbers – also played a role in the conversation.
Mark Ferrasci, Debra Russell, Diane Cobb, Matthias Schaller, Richard Wildman, and Ronnie Bincer share their expertise and advice for the Mid Tenn audience.
I don’t know of any other video on the net that openly discusses these topics in a way that will be of value to independent musicians, artists, or promoters.
YouTube and Buying Views
Let’s face it. Majority of online marketers are buying views. What happens to your YouTube account depends on how you go about doing it.
In reference to the screenshot below – using Google Adwords I was able to generate 335 views at an average cost-per-view of 15 cents. The majority of the views which counted toward the total view count were delivered via YouTube’s in-stream ads (which play before you watch a video on YouTube – “you can skip this ad in 5..4..3…).
In other words, people (in our target market) were forced to watch the video for at least 5 seconds which YouTube then counts toward your view count.
Their recent move of suspending accounts and stripping views has as much to do with their profits as it does with delivering quality search results to their users.
Using Virool, I can purchase views for 9 cents each. And YouTube does not flag, warn, or block you for these.
With that said, buying views is not the issue.
How you buy them is the problem.
White Hat vs Black Hat
For clarity’s sake…
White hat leaves you in good graces with the gods of YouTube and the other companies currently upgrading their defenses against spam. This is known as following community guidelines and actually reading through the terms of service.
You can use Twitter Ads to “buy followers”. I need to clarify, you are not necessarily paying them for followers – you are paying Twitter to show your account to more people (in your target market) and label it as a Promoted Account. …but then again, since you are only charged when someone “clicks”, you are essentially paying for a follower. This is the same as running Facebook Ads. You are essentially “buying likes”.
Black hat refers to the methods and techniques used to “game the system”. Also known as buying views, followers, or fans that are typically not real people.
This comes in the form of buying 10,000 Twitter followers for $10 from a company (selling fake accounts) or purchasing back-links to your website in an attempt to rank on the front page of Google.
When this topic originally started as a discussion in our G+ Music Professionals community, the concept of social proof quickly became the focus.
At about 17:00 in the above video, Ronnie Bincer makes some great points about social proof.
Admit it. When you search for a video on YouTube and skim through the list of results; you naturally gravitate toward the one with the most views.
If everyone else watched this one, it has to the be the [best/correct] one.
I do it.
Social proof is how we determine the quality, validity, or popularity of music, products, or services.
This is what leads people to boost their numbers as quickly as possible. I have experimented with black hat services and other services I consider “gray hat” to gain followers, Likes, or views. I have even tried services that boost Likes, Favorites, Subscriptions, and Comments on your YouTube account.
Despite how many followers, views, likes, fans, or plays you have on your content – it means nothing if no one is engaging with you, visiting your website (repeatedly), or sharing/buying your music. 10,000 dead bodies does NOTHING for your music or building it into a sustainable income.
Spammers operate on the theory that if they can put their product in front of 1,000,000 people – 1% will buy. 1% of 1 million is a nice chunk of change.
This is a valid point. Performing at a music festival in front of thousands of people will help you find more fans quicker than playing a show at the dingy bar down the street.
Now let me make another point.
If you are a hip hop group playing at an americana festival – the likelihood of you gaining new fans is slim to none.
The issue then becomes relevance which is a significant factor in this discussion of social proof and online music marketing.
Black hat methods and services do not provide targeted marketing campaigns. They simply spam by any means necessary. Spamming annoys people, gets you ignored, or worse – blocked.
When you advertise through Google Adwords (Twitter or Facebook), you are able to precisely target your efforts by location, keywords, interests, and other factors.
This is possible because the one with the most data wins – Facebook knows everything about everybody and their pets so naturally they will use advertising to profit from it.
Specifically in music, you need to swallow your pride and do it the hard way like every other classic band that came before you.
Organic growth, grass roots movements, street team organizations, and simply busting your ass day and night to promote your next show. This is how you build a quality, worthwhile, engaged fan base.
Your metrics for social proof need to include the more important things such as 1) fan engagement – comments, likes, shares, RTs, 2) event attendance, and 3) album and merch sales.
Numbers do nothing if they are just numbers.