Alex Wright is a senior digital professional working in the music industry. Despite being digital savvy she explains to Natalie Gormally why she is a “silent Twitter user”, the importance of having a social media strategy in place and how celebrities have benefited from digital platforms.
How do you use social media and what does it mean to you?
Social media means something different to everyone. I tend to keep my personal and professional social media presence separate. On a personal level, I mainly use Facebook to stay in touch with family and friends who are overseas or to share photos, music videos and funnies. I am on Twitter, but I only use it to read comments on things like major news events. I rarely post anything myself. I know a lot of people are using social media for dating and relationship purposes, but it is not something I would do. I also use social media to follow brands, mostly in the area of travel and film, where I want to know more information. As I work in music, I tend to ‘Like’ or subscribe to digital music platforms, major promoters and music news. This is probably the only way my personal and professional online activity crosses over. LinkedIn is how I get myself across professionally. I think it is a great tool for companies and recruiters. I was head hunted on there for my current role and have been approached several times via this network. I notice my clients will also look at my public CV profile, which shows my work history and past experience of the brands and events I have worked with.
How is social media impacting on your industry and your professional role?
The power of a music artist on social media is unparalleled by any other kind of celebrity, including sportspeople and actors. We know that seven out of the top 10 Twitter accounts in the world are music artists. Established artists are constantly using social media to promote their music, gigs and engage with fans. It has also changed the landscape for new artists. Music sharing and streaming is helping to create awareness and a fan base – which in the past depended on album reviews, purchases and gig attendance. Some artists’ success have been purely down to social media. Justin Bieber was discovered on YouTube when he was 12 years old. Six years later, he is one of the biggest artists in the world worth an estimated $80 million. Having a platform where fans can connect directly with the artist has created a more open and authentic relationship. But this can be a double edged sword as we often see artists fall foul to this level of exposure, so any label and artist should have a social media policy in place. Social media also provides us with masses of data. The success of a song or video is now determined by the number of downloads, views or shares as opposed to the old model of albums and singles purchased. This insight is unlike any information we had in the past.
How do you think social media is changing?
Social media has very clear, defined age distinctions for those who engage with it. For example, we know Facebook is being used less and less by younger users who are choosing anonymity from their parents, opting instead for private messaging apps such as Whatsapp, Snapchat and KakaoTalk. There is a constant stream of new and evolving social media platforms, so it can be hard not to get overtaken or forgotten. One example is MySpace. After Facebook was launched, Myspace felt a bit redundant. It might be the same way Google+ is pulling Facebook’s users away.
Are you signed up to social media sites that you do not use?
I’m definitely one of Twitter’s ‘silent users’ as, while I have an account, I rarely tweet. I do like Pinterest, but again I don’t share pins, I just browse other people’s. I recently downloaded Snapchat, but again I don’t use it. It is now so easy to download the latest social media app and see if you works for you.
What do you think are challenges women face on social media?
The problems women face on social media closely reflect the problems they face everyday in the real world. I have heard and witnessed trolling based on things like appearance and weight, which is definitely aimed more at women than men – especially female celebrities. As a female Facebook user, I am automatically inundated with suggested posts for sites about weight control tips and even diet pills, usually promoted using images of severely underweight women. I find this type of targeted marketing incredibly upsetting and have reported these posts to Facebook numerous times. I was fairly disturbed by the reaction to the video posted on Twitter of the girl in Magalouf (I haven’t watched, only read about it). The comments left by readers in news articles such as the Daily Mail were quite disturbing and demonstrated some pretty abhorrent attitudes towards women still present in society. I think it is worse when a troll is sitting behind the protection of a computer screen.
What advice would you give to someone using social media?
I always post sparingly and with caution. Social media use has become ubiquitous and people can easily blur the lines between their professional and social lives. It is important to remember that anything you type, anywhere, at any time, can ultimately influence you professionally. My rule is – never write anything you wouldn’t want your boss or mum to see. On a professional basis, if you are a brand or a business, it is vital that you think really carefully how you want to use social media and have some form of policy in place for your employees. I saw recently at the IAB Social Media conference a case study of a Twitter post from a small business in Hackney, which backfired dramatically. Even though they only had a small amount of followers, the negative backlash went viral and has had a detrimental impact on this business.
Natalie Gormally is one of Digital Women UK’s resident bloggers.