Under The Hood - Martin Sexton Gets Social

Ryan Moede, Former Viget

Article Category: #Strategy

Posted on

Like all great musicians, Martin Sexton has a passionately devoted group of fans around the country. Blending soulful lyrics with a bluesy acoustic guitar, Sexton relishes the freedom to craft a unique sound that continually captures the spirit of the people he meets along the way during his epic tours across the country.

But being an independent musician means going it alone in today's already fractured music scene without any major label support to reach new fans. So to to help promote his new album, Solo, we worked with Martin to create a social media marketing strategy that helped Martin tell his story of life on the road and reach a new audience.

Building the Social Hub

Our strategy was to give fans more opportunities to connect with Martin and each other on social networking sites. To do that, we needed to establish a foundation - something that could serve as the launching pad for further engagement. We all decided a video blog would do just that - as well as provide a very genuine space for Martin to promote his new album and tour.

There was no shortage of Martin's fans online, but there was little consistency in the experience they were having. In addition to the launch of the video blog, we also redesigned Martin's MySpace page, updated his iLike and Facebook profiles and launched a YouTube channel and Reverbnation profile. We also initiated a Flickr group for fans to share their killer images of Martin in concert. (More on each of these in a moment.) Our strategy focused on delivering a consistent design, regularly updated content, links to other online Martin communities, as well as links to purchase albums and concerts tickets.

Launching the Vlog

Knowing that Martin's fans were eager to experience more of the music, we worked with Martin and his management team to develop a video blog. With just a few weeks before going on tour, the video blog was a simple but entertaining way to let fans go behind the scenes with Martin. After a training workshop to detail the content creation process, Martin and his team started filming each week. Whether it was giving a Cribs-style tour of his house or judging a costume contest at his Halloween show, each week's episode gave fans their own backstage pass to hang out with Martin.

Our plan was to use www.martinsexton.com and his YouTube channel as the digital hubs in for promoting the video blog and then push each video out to MySpace, iLike, Facebook and Reverbnation. At the start, we debated whether to use Vimeo or YouTube as the primary video blog (Vimeo's design and video quality being so much nicer), but ended up using YouTube  to leverage it's size, traffic, and the familiarity Martin's core fans had with the tool. In the coming weeks we will continue to expand Martin's community by adding more sites with a focus on strategically sharing his video blog and providing more options for fans to engage through contests and challenges.

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Building Community

While Martin had a respectable following on MySpace, we wanted to extend this presence by targeting a new group of listeners and provide die-hard fans more opportunities for regular engagement. The results to date have been interesting.

  • YouTube - The new video channel launched as one of the top 20 most-subscribed to artists.  Each week's video episode launched to more daily views than the week before.
  • MySpace - While the increase in fans stayed on track with it's earlier upward trajectory, the number of weekly comments increased dramatically within the first few days and has yet to subside.
  • Facebook & iLike - Partially because of the tight itegration of the iLike app with Facebook, Martin's Facebook profile had by far the best growth. We saw a 531% increase in the number of fans in one month. While MySpace has the larger music service, Facebook has nearly become his most active community, with more fans sharing videos, photos and messages than any of the other social sites.
  • Reverbnation - Launched mid-way through the campaign, Martin's Reverbnation profile is a complete music marketing site unto itself, serving as a robust hub of widgets, banners, videos and other Martin content available for fans.

Additionally, each one of these platforms provides a decent set of analytics reporting, which, coupled with our Google Analytics analysis of Martin's web site, provides a substantial blend of qualitative and quantitative data to assess the effectiveness of our social media marketing strategy. YouTube's new Insight dashboard was particulary valuable in giving us a clear picture into each episode's performance - even tracking "hot spots" in each clip that revealed which segment of the video was most popular.

Above all, the quality of the feedback on each of the social sites has been outstanding, with fans' daily participating on these social sites. The growth of his MySpace and and Facebook sites also led to each becoming some of the top traffic drivers back to Martin's official site.

New Music Distribution Tools

It's no secret that the record industry is dying, and along with it, the marketing model for musicians.  Album and singles sales are always important, but perhaps even more so is introducing new fans to an artist's music. We wanted to make it easy for Martin's fans to share his music with others, and so we leveraged a new widget service created specifically for independent musicians, Noisetrade. The basic premise is that a fan can either pay what they want for the music download, or simply share it with five friends to download the tracks for free. For Martin, earning either the revenue or fans opting-in was a win-win, and in just a few weeks,  we received hundreds of sign-ups and introduced Martin Sextons to thousands of new listeners.

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Getting Social Works

After just over one month since launching the marketing campaign, the response has been excellent. Big increases in fan participation, and most importantly, sold-out concerts at each stop along the tour point to a successful strategy. Advances in technology and the growth of social networks represent various challenges for the music industry; for Martin Sexton, however, engaging fans online represents and opportunity to develope a whole new generation of fans.

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