Not all viral attention is good attention.

You can attract actual fans by showcasing your music in a way that’s visually-optimized for social.

Or you can chase trends on Reels & TikTok that hurt your music’s reach in the long-run.

How exactly do social trends hurt musicians, you ask? Well…

Here’s one cautionary tale about a friend of mine who had a video go viral — all for nothing:

Social platforms have shifted from being follower-focused to recommendation-focused.

It used to be the norm that people who followed you were at least somewhat likely to SEE your posts. If they dug what they saw, they’d stick around and probably see your next post.

Facebook began shifting away from that dependable reach long ago. But the interaction between a creator and their community took a more drastic turn with short-form platforms such as TikTok, Instagram Reels, and YouTube Shorts.

I’m sure you’re well aware of this change, both as a creator and a user. “The algorithm” is now recommending a constant barrage of curated content, sourced from all the creators on the platform. This has made it more difficult for creators to reach their own following.

As Patreon’s founder Jack Conte said in a recent post:

The impact on creators, in many cases, has been catastrophic. Reaching your fans and building real community on the internet has never been harder.

You might think then, given this difficulty in engaging your community on social, that TRENDS would be the one way to actually reach people — since the trending concept already has proven viral energy, and you’re removing the specificity of your own music from the equation.

But the opposite is true: You need to lean even harder into what makes you unique — both on social and in your music. Every post should emphasize something important, fun, or moving about your artistry.

In other words, you can’t just be random entertainment in search of views and likes.

As I mentioned in the video above, “success” on social can be counterproductive for your music if what’s going viral isn’t directly tied to your music or musical persona. Here’s why:

    The reason the content works might not be the reason you want people to return.

    You’re a musician. You want someone to love your music and come back for the music. If you make them laugh instead, or stir up some outrage, or do a crazy stunt (assuming those things have no obvious connection to your music), viewers don’t know who you are.

    They’re responding to what you did in the video, nothing else. It’s unconnected to you.

    Your social efforts should be about building the right community. Actual fans. So if you have a knack for humor, satire, or stunts, incorporate those elements into content that is, in some way, ABOUT your music.

    2. Unfocused engagement “confuses” the algorithm

    I don’t mean the algorithm is actually confused.

    In fact, if your trend post is gaining traction, the algorithm knows exactly what it needs to know: Your post is great for some quick laughs, outrage, or wows. And it’ll show your post to people who want those things.

    But that may also make it HARDER for the RIGHT people to find you, today and in the future.

    3. You grow an audience of unqualified leads

    If you pay to advertise on any of these social platforms, the wrong kinds of attention can dilute your data, creating more work for you and driving up marketing costs.

    A social post succeeding for the wrong reasons may increase the size of the audience you’re advertising to while simultaneously decreasing the percentage likelihood that any of the viewers will click the button, care about your call-to-action, or end up purchasing/converting.

    Costs up. Morale down.

    4. It’s not what you’re meant to do!

      I saved the most important thing for last.

      Did you learn to write songs in order to be a content-creator or widget-maker, helping to keep random users glued to an app for another 15 seconds?

      No, the platforms should work for you — not the other way around.

      And the viewers don’t need trends from you, because they’re already struggling to keep up with the endless supply of trends in their feed every day.

      What they need is YOU. And you need your audience to need you.

      You have something to offer, something to say, some unique experience, perspective, or sound. Find it, and convey THAT with such focus on social that viewers instantly sense what makes you you.

      That’s what true fans will come back for.

      Should you NEVER do a trend?

      Never say never.

      If you can employ a trend to tell part of your story, great! But those posts should be the exception, and they should always relate to your creative life.

      Why do so many musicians feel the pressure to hop on social-video trends though? As discussed above, trends can seem like a growth-hack. Again, for all the wrong reasons.

      But there’s something else: Because artists wear both hats, we can easily confuse the creator experience with the user experience. When, in fact, those should be VERY different things.

      Here’s what I mean:

      Conclusion

      Have you struggled with this as an artist? I think it’s pretty common.

      And there is always gonna be some new trend tempting us to stray off the path.

      Hopefully this article gives you a little more confidence to walk the road you’re meant to be on as an artist and person, even if that means your social following and engagement metrics grow more slowly than they might otherwise.

      Tortoise and the hare. Quality over quantity. True fans over mere viewers.

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