Opinion: Jay Islaam On Online Marketing For Comedians (And Other Creatives)

Here's a slightly amended version of an article by Jay Islaam which he posted last weekend. There are some very interesting pointers here for anyone dipping their toes in online marketing - and if you are reading this website that probably means you. BD.


I trained as a journalist with the BBC, and then developed my craft with British and American broadcasters. I’ve spent the last decade working as a marketing consultant. So I’m steeped in old media – print, radio, television.

And, if I’m honest with you, I hate social media. I pine for the good old days when marketing yourself successfully as an artist was all about talent and working hard on your craft. I’m sure many of you are nodding along in agreement. And that’s because you’re deluded. Marketing success in the arts has never been merely about talent and hard work. And never will be.

The truth is that the principles of marketing haven’t changed much. What has changed, thanks to social media, is the supremacy of the gatekeepers. The journalists, reviewers, agents and producers – who you had to win over in the past – can now be bypassed to reach and cultivate an audience directly. Creatives are cottoning on to this fact, and most of the comedians I know have established, and are trying to grow, their online presence. Sadly, the vast majority of them are doing so ineffectively.

As someone who specialises in building and protecting the online reputations of both corporate and non-profit clients, I’m well-placed to offer some guidance for my fellow comedians and other creatives on avoiding the most common mistakes.


1. Know your persona

Before we get to the nitty gritty of online marketing and social media strategies, there’s a more fundamental question you need to ask yourself: Who are you?

Or, more pertinently: “Who do you want to be… to the public?”

Who you are to the public is your brand identity.

Are you a cheeky Northerner? A quick-fire gagmeister? A prop-wielding punsmith? An out-of-touch Tory boy? A patronising champagne socialist? An abrasive perma-victim feminist/ethnic who won’t stop whining? Then that’s your brand identity.

“Hey, I’m complex. You can’t just boil me down to a handful of words. I’m so much more than that!!” many of you will protest. Sorry to break it to you, but to journalists, venues, broadcasters and, muchmore importantly, to the public you are just a one-line description. You are only complex, deep and important to yourself and to your mother. To the rest of the world, you’re almost certainly somewhere between a non-entity and inconsequential.

If you want to become more than that then you need to work out what your identity is all about, and then consistently behave accordingly in all your interactions with the online world. Many of you will be well versed in stage personas. This is about extending that same mindset over to cyberspace.

And stay consistent. Being happy-go-lucky one day but aggressive and miserable the next is not acceptable. You wouldn’t do that in your real life work (e.g. on stage). So don’t do it online. It confuses punters. And confused punters inevitably desert you.


2. Pay for a decent website

You should be paying a reputable company to host a quick-loading website for you. That will also make a huge difference to your Google ranking later down the line. So don’t scrimp here, especially as it costs as little as £100 a year. Your website is your shop window. Free wordpress sites or badly constructed Wix setups, in the eyes of the public, make you look like you have a shoddy product. And by “product” I mean you.

What you don’t necessarily have to pay for is someone to build it for you. If you have even average computer skills, and a little free time, then you can make your own simple functional website in less than a week. (If you absolutely don’t have those skills then you could hire me to do it for you.)


3. Yes, you do need a social media fan page

“But who am I to deserve a fan page? People will laugh at me for having one!”

It’s a common refrain I hear from comedians. Look, there will always be haters, loudly bitching from the sidelines about the people who actually get off their arse and do something with their talents. If you care more about their opinion than you do about your own fulfillment then you can stop reading this now. You are beyond help. This article isn’t for you.

Still reading? OK then. There are many reasons to create fan pages for your brand (i.e. yourself) on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram etc.

Firstly, it says that you take yourself seriously. Having spoken to veterans of the comedy industry – check out my podcast – an oft-repeated regret I hear is “I didn’t take myself seriously enough in the early days.”

Secondly, it’s the quickest, easiest, and most convenient way to have a dialogue with your existing and potential admirers. It also allows them to enjoy your latest output, give you immediate feedback, and share your content with others. Measuring the success of any engagement campaigns also becomes a doddle.

Finally, and vitally, it separates you, the private individual, from your public persona. Your fan pages – on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram etc. – are public. Using a personal Facebook profile to engage with punters is a rookie mistake.

Keep your private life separate from your public persona. If it’s not too late, use a stage name. I know of several performers whose naïve assumptions that their two worlds would never collide have damaged their respectable non-creative careers.


4. Don’t put “Comedian” in your fan page title, FFS!!

Or actormusicianmodelsatirist or writer. It looks amateurish and suggests a lack of confidence in yourself. Do you think David Beckham calls his fan page David Beckham – Footballer?? Of course not. And I can guarantee you won’t find an official Madonna the Singer/Songwriter page on Facebook.

We’ve all got that one friend who sticks “Doctor” or “BA Hons” in their Facebook profile name, which reeks of inadequacy. It’s no different for a fan page. Sticking a profession in the title is not just suggestive of limited career aspirations. It also implies you’re not very comfortable in your own skin.

Your name is your brand. It is an asset in and of itself. Treat it with the respect it deserves. Your profession / craft / talent goes in the description of the page.


5. #Learn #To #Use #Hashtags #Properly

The point of hashtags is to drive traffic to your content. That’s the one and only reason to use them. And that will only happen if you use hashtags that lots of people are actively searching for regularly.

Here’s an example of what not to do:

Hashtags Bad Example

How many people do you think are searching for the hashtags #FeelingBlessed? #HomeTownGig? #ImSoHappy? Almost none is the correct answer. So they’re not helping increase public engagement with you or your work. And since the likes of Twitter and Instagram limit your wordcount/hashtags, you’re wasting valuable real estate on worthless waffle.

Article continues here.


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