This semester, I decided to continue my existing digital artefact, a music blog called Listen Loud which features up-and-coming artists in the punk, rock and alternative genres. As someone who is extremely passionate about the music industry and digital marketing, I felt this was the most productive use of this opportunity, as it would allow me to further enhance my portfolio with the addition of a long-term project.
This is particularly useful at this point in time as this semester marks my last, and I’ve recently begun the search for full-time work following this very submission. With limited entry-level employment opportunities available, not to mention the competitiveness of the industry, I felt Listen Loud would be the best way to kickstart my career, as discussed in my original pitch.
Although my primary goal for the project was to enhance my employability, I wanted to ensure my content was catered towards a specific audience in order to demonstrate my ability to grow an online community around my brand. To do this, I first had to define my audience. Fortunately, I had developed a starter pack during the first semester of my digital artefact in BCM 206 which I was able to use as the foundation for my revised version.
As my project has changed considerably from its development sixteen months ago, and I have come to better understand my users with each iteration, I was able to develop a new starter pack that identified my users beyond their music preferences, including their favourite social platforms, preferred style, and other brands they frequently engage with. Both my original and revised audience starter packs have been included below to highlight this development.
When I first launched Listen Loud, my goal was to create a source of news and entertainment for like-minded individuals with a passion for punk, rock and alternative music. While there are countless music publications out there on the internet, I constantly found them to be visually unappealing – they were cluttered and uncoordinated, lacked a consistent theme, and were unclear as to what each post was about. Hence, I wanted to create a publication with a strong focus on the aesthetic elements to appeal to fans of a more minimalistic and consistent style, like myself.
In terms of the content, however, this would be highly dependent on the press releases provided by my existing public relations partners. With tens of emails coming in weekly, I had a lot of options when selecting the most suited artists to feature on my blog, however, these were being shared with countless other publications, too. Hence, I was relying heavily on my distinct branding and tone of voice to differentiate myself from the masses.
Originally, I had planned to share a single blog post each week on a new or upcoming release by an artist in the punk, rock or alternative scene. Once published, I would also share an announcement across the Listen Loud Facebook and Instagram accounts to reach a wider audience and drive traffic to my blog. The progress and relative success of each post would then be determined through the increase in my online following as this directly correlates with the growth of the Listen Loud community. Additionally, I would share each post on my personal Twitter page to engage the BCM community and report my findings to highlight any trends identified throughout the semester which would then influence future weeks’ content.
As my blog posts were short, content was readily available online, and no further investments were necessary for running my blog, my project was also in line with the FIST principle as it was fast, inexpensive and simple to produce, as well as tiny which allowed for rapid prototyping. In addition to complying with the lecture advice, this approach is also encouraged by Neil Perkin and Peter Abraham, authors of ‘Building the Agile Business through Digital Transformation’, who promote “more iterative approaches to solving problems … to focus first on the key problem you’re trying to solve, to test assumptions and validate hypotheses as you go, [and] to start small and scale fast”. Further, variations of this approach have been discussed in great depth in resources such as Dan Ward’s book ‘F.I.R.E. How Fast, Inexpensive, Restrained and Elegant Methods Ignite Innovation’, as well as Elizabeth Frank’s discussion on NASA’s Faster, Better, Cheaper philosophy.
As the semester progressed, however, I began to implement a number of changes based on the important learning moments experienced throughout the semester, as outlined in my beta and discussed below.
Important Learning Moment 1: Posting Frequency
Due to the newly enforced lockdown orders, I soon found myself with significantly greater time and attention to dedicate to my project each week, hence, I began consistently exceeding my original posting goal. Not having uncovered any reliable feedback from my users so early on, I took to Twitter to see what my followers believed was the ideal number of posts to share weekly. Unsurprising, over 68% of the nineteen responders voted for two to three, which was consistent with my secondary research.
Although there are countless factors which make up each account’s ‘ideal’ posting schedule, the general consensus was that two to three feed posts per week would keep your content in front of your audience without bombarding them. While this advice was applicable to both Facebook and Instagram, it’s been found that Facebook performs better on the lower end of the range, whereas Instagram benefits from the higher. As such, I decided two posts per week was a good starting point, and maintained this new goal throughout the rest of the semester. Fortunately, this advice was also consistent with the recommended weekly posts for a small blog, so this increase was well suited to each of my platforms.
Prior to relaunching my blog at the beginning of the semester, my posts had dropped off considerably due to a decrease in available time, and so I was unable to compare the results from my new weekly posting goal to those of the original. As such, I can not definitively claim whether this has had a direct impact on the success of my blog, and so this presents an opportunity for further experimentation in future iterations.
Important Learning Moment 2: Instagram Stories
My second learning moment and iteration involved an increased focus on Instagram Stories, something that had been consistently mentioned in peer feedback throughout the semester. As a digital marketing student, I’m very well aware of the importance of Instagram Stories in increasing an account’s reach, however, had never had any success with the use of this feature on my Listen Loud account. If I’d shared a post from my feed to my story, I would have no clickthroughs, and if I shared an engaging sticker (such as a poll or question box seeking opinions on different topics and artists), I would receive no responses.
This prior lack of feedback, which is feedback in and of itself, really discouraged me from continuing my efforts at the beginning of the semester as I felt this time could be much better spent elsewhere, such as engaging with similar accounts to that of my target users to increase exposure. However, due to the consistent feedback received on my project which pushed for more Instagram Stories, I finally decided to give it another go, adopting a FEFO mentality (Fail Early, Fail Often). This move was also strongly backed by many credible digital sources such as Later and Hootsuite, which often referred to it as an essential marketing tool for businesses.
Despite my best efforts, I’ve again decided to abandon regular Instagram Stories for the time being. In addition to my two weekly feed posts, I had decided to aim for one to two Instagram Stories also. However, these have continued to receive zero engagement irrespective of the content, type or engaging materials included. I have tried incorporating music, video and interactive stickers, sharing my own feed posts to my story, and sharing posts of artists, though each of these have returned the same result. Additionally, being a small account with fewer than ten thousand followers, I am unable to make use of the ‘Swipe Up’ feature to directly link blog posts and music videos for users to conveniently access, and so I have decided to shift this time and attention into enhancing other areas of my project.
Important Learning Moment 3: Spotify Integration
On a brighter note, I was excited by the third major development of my digital artefact: the introduction of a Listen Loud Spotify playlist. While this had been on my to-do list for quite some time, I hadn’t gotten around to it until my beta as I was previously unsure whether I could keep up with the frequent updates required. While it has taken some time to source new music to include each week, I’m excited about this new iteration as it offers users a new platform on which to engage with my brand. As Listen Loud is a music blog, it also seemed a fitting accompaniment, and could be embedded into my website to encourage further engagement.
Although my playlist has only received five likes since it was launched, I’ve received a lot of verbal feedback from a large variety of listeners. My peers commended me for the addition which added a new and suitable dimension to my project, friends with similar music tastes expressed their interest in the sharing of my music discoveries, I gained two followers shortly after sharing the initial announcement, and received a higher than usual reach and engagement on my Facebook and Instagram posts.
Since then, I have conducted further research into the importance of a Spotify playlist and how to best leverage it to support your brand. Sources such as Bunny Studio, Buffer and Entrepreneur have offered new insights into how to create and maintain a successful Spotify account, and it has revealed an opportunity for further social media content in new formats, such as video. Further, as encouraged by one of my peers, I have begun looking into the development of more Listen Loud playlists, though I feel these may collectively become too much to maintain and update regularly. This is, however, an area I can further explore in future iterations of my project.
Important Learning Moment 4: Quality Over Quantity
My final, and arguably most important learning moment throughout the semester was about quality over quantity. After spending several weeks obsessing over my blog’s social media following, I decided to shift my overall focus to its engagement as I realised this was a more appropriate and reliable indicator of the response to my content, and would allow me to assess the relative popularity of various artists and genres.
Beginning with the Building Digital Artefact Value lecture, I began reflecting on the most useful feedback source for achieving my project’s goals. Unsurprisingly, this included written and verbal feedback from my target audience, though all of my previous attempts at gaining this had failed, and the written feedback I did have was primarily from my peers who I was not attempting to target. Second to this was the engagement my posts received, which would indicate my target audience’s favourability towards particular themes in my posts, unlike a flux in my following, which I supported with extensive secondary research from Sensis, Milkbar Digital, Union Metrics and Brindle Marketing. Each of these articles agreed that, while a brand’s following is important for a number of reasons, your engagement rate should always take first priority, and while your follower count is comparable across channels and competitors, it only tells one part of the story – “How many are paying attention? … How relevant [and] interested [are they]?”
Of these metrics, I uncovered the following insights. During the month of September, I reached 42.7% more accounts than the month prior, with 1085 compared to August’s 760. Of these, 164 accounts engaged, an increase of 124%, and I gained an additional 12 followers. In the last 30 days, however, my reach has dropped to 697 accounts, a 35.8% decrease, though engagement has dropped by a mere 17.7%. I’ve also gained a further 6 followers since the beginning of October.
Although I may not be reaching as many people, I am engaging a higher proportion of my target audience, and have gained half as many followers in two-thirds of the time, despite a significant drop in reach. Additionally, my average engagement per post has increased since the beginning of the semester. While I can theorise why this is the case and test my hypotheses, it doesn’t give me actionable suggestions on how to improve any future iterations. Hence, moving forward, I want to uncover new ways of collecting explicit feedback from my target users, such as encouraging the completion of a survey for an entry into a Listen Loud giveaway, or arranging one-on-one discussions with members of my audience.
Ultimately, I feel as though my digital artefact has certainly enhanced my portfolio as intended, though there is still plenty of opportunity to grow my platforms and further engage with my audience. In the last three months, my understanding of my users has developed greatly, and my latest iteration is much more effective at addressing my initial problem than it had been at the beginning of the semester. While it is still too soon to comment on whether Listen Loud has helped land me a job in the industry, many potential employers have expressed interest in my work, so here’s hoping it pays off!
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- Building Digital Artefact Value
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- Faster, Better, Cheaper: A Maligned Era of NASA’s History
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