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Do you remember Myspace? It was a popular social network that had bands staying up all night in the mid-naughties frantically clicking ‘send friend request’ to users that generally turned out to be bucksome ladies from Luxembourg who were more interested in selling saucy services than discovering new music. Bucksome ladies aside, there is a serious point here: not too long ago, artists invested a huge amount of time in building fanbases on a social network that nobody really uses any more – a couple of years after Myspace was hailed as the all-conquering social network, everybody buggered off to Facebook (perhaps to avoid all those friend requests from bands). Caveat: despite our irreverent tone regarding Myspace, it’s still important to have a decent following on there, as industry professionals and A&Rs continue to use it as a way to ‘sense-check’ your band and gauge its popularity before not listening to your music and moving on to something much hipper.

In a post-Myspace world, our obsession is now with Facebook ‘likes’. But getting a Facebook like is much harder than acquiring a Myspace fan. Generally speaking you can’t send random friend requests out or use automated friend adders in the hope that somebody will pity your band and like it; to have fans on Facebook you have to be (a) genuinely popular or (b) spend cash on Facebook ads that encourage people to click that lovely little ‘like’ button.

Let’s leave (a) to one side – if you’re genuinely popular, great (and if so, why the hell are you reading this?) and look at (b): that dosh that you are currently spending on Facebook ads. It’s probably costing you between 50p and £1.50 to get a new fan. Which is quite a lot of money when you think about it. You would have to spend anything between £500 and £1500 to buy 1,000 fans. Assuming 1% of those 1000 fans (that’s 10 people) buy your next opus for a tenner – a realistic industry percentage, sadly – that’s a loss of between £400 and £1400 on your investment (before you even consider the costs involved in producing, manufacturing and distributing your album). OK, so your Facebook fans might support you in other ways, like sharing content, or calling Ken Bruce demanding that your extreme metal track be played on Radio 2, but you get the picture - most of your Facebook fans won't buy your music. 

In addition to a making a whacking big loss, there’s another risk involved in spending money on getting Facebook ‘likes’. What if – and hence our opening Myspace example – people just move on from Facebook? Okay, it looks unlikely right now, with Facebook firmly established as the world’s leading social network, and having a userbase of 500 million+ people…but the list of hugely-successful internet/IT businesses that are now a shadow of their former selves is a long one (in addition to Myspace, think about what happened to AOL, Yahoo and Netscape – even Microsoft may currently be on the ropes). As big as Facebook currently is, with the web, there is always a Next Big Thing round the corner; perhaps it will be Google+, which is currently chomping at the bit. In short, there is a valid reason to be fearful that all those expensive Facebook fans of yours simply find something better to do online and stop logging into Facebook. This means that they won’t be able to see your witty posts (which thanks to Facebook algorithms, they don’t always see anyway – find out why here). Or more importantly, buy your music. You silly band! You’ve spent thousands of pounds cultivating a fanbase which isn’t there any more. You could have spent that cash on guitars. Or beer. Or bucksome ladies from Luxembourg.

As a bit of an aside, you have to take your hat off to Facebook. Every time a band or business pays the company advertising fees to generate ‘likes’, it means more data for the company – which it can then sell on to other bands and businesses. For example, if you set up a fan page for your act ‘The Joe Bloggs Band’, and spend money on ads which generate thousands of fans, another band can come along and buy the right to advertise to thosefans, claiming that their music sounds like ‘The Joe Bloggs Band’. There is nothing to stop them doing this – and it’s a bit of a reputational headache for you if they are crap.

Top tips for making the most of your Facebook ad spend

Given all the above then, should you be advertising on Facebook? Well, there are still definitely big advantages to it for musicians. Most bands compare themselves to other acts, and as highlighted above, Facebook is extremely good at letting you target people who are interested in similar music to yours. And it’s still relatively cheap – at least where CPM (cost per impressions) is concerned: if nothing else, you can get a lot of brand awareness for a low spend, with 1000 impressions of an ad often costing as little as 15p. The trick is to make the most of your spend, and here are our top tips for doing just that:

  • Always incentivise your adverts: when people click on an advert, there must be something for them to download or experience in exchange for a ‘like’.
  • Instead of pointing people towards a boring old Facebook page, create an attractive landing page which offers users great content after they like your band. You can still host this on Facebook, by using the customisable page tabs (and it's a good idea to, because users find it more reassuring when they click on a Facebook ad to be taken to a page on the Facebook domain).
  • Consider using Facebook ads to capture email addresses instead of asking users for a Facebook ‘like’. This means that you’ve future-proofed things a bit – if Facebook becomes a bit passé, your devoted fans can always follow you on Twitter, Google+ or whatever the social network du jour is. Or if you are adamant about going down the 'like' route, make fans periodically aware that they can sign up to your email list (don't forget to incentivise this too).
  • Test your ads extensively – create several different versions of your Facebook ad and spend a small amount of your budget testing the different versions before picking a winner. You’ll be able to pick the best performing advert using the fairly extensive reporting tools that come with Facebook advertising.
  • Keep a constant eye on your Facebook advertising reports, and be prepared to come up with new ads from time to time (and again, test everything till you are thoroughly bored of statistics but know which ads are performing best).

No article on Facebook likes would be complete without an obligatory plug for the Prescription PR Facebook page – do check us out at www.facebook.com/prescriptionpr and, for more stories like this, hit that ‘like’ button.

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