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The Ins & Outs of Managing Social Media as an Artist

Social media might be a trip, but it’s also a necessary tool for any artist looking to build a lasting career. Along with using a distribution platform like Amuse to get your music heard, social media is effectively your megaphone.

For Digital Manager Olivia Shalhoup, which she explains as a mix of social media management and PR, social media is a tricky beast—one that she’s tamed across campaigns with Trippie Redd, Kidd Lee, Toro y Moi, and more.

Between wearing her many hats, Olivia Shalhoup shares her top five tips for standing out on socials with Audiomack. In addition to these tips, Shalhoup also breaks down her views on running social media campaigns, the value of social media managers, and more below. Our conversation, edited for clarity and length, follows the below suggestions. Enjoy!

Be yourself. Attempting to follow trends to the point where you lose your authenticity will always be obvious to your viewers. Viewers are getting savvier by the day, and there’s nothing they hate more than someone who comes across as using them for a “fan” type of relationship. Social media followers want to feel like they know you.

Show yourself. Acting like you’re too cool to be on social media is the fastest way to miss out on using the industry’s top marketing tool for free.

Be consistent. Create a posting schedule for yourself and stick to it. Use a queue, set reminders, do what you need to do, but don’t let too much time pass without being on socials. Your Instagram is your resume nowadays.

Ride the wave. Don’t be afraid to lean into trends, but always put your own spin on it.

Interact! You are not too good for your fans. I have never met an artist who is above interacting with fans. Leave no comment unanswered if you have the bandwidth.

Do you adapt your social media strategy per client, or is there a list of best practices you try to apply to everyone?

I am so glad you asked. I feel very passionate about this subject. I feel strongly that there is no “copy and paste” strategy that works for every artist. In the world of social media management for companies, I can see how this answer may vary. But artists are not a monolith, and their marketing strategy shouldn’t be either. The same strategy isn’t going to be successful for an up-and-coming artist as it is for someone like Trippie Redd who already has millions of eyes watching their every move.

Do you find people undervalue the power and work that goes into managing social media?

Hell yes! I think with any profession that is a result of the Digital Age, people are skeptical. I find that the music industry especially isn’t nearly as cutting-edge as we like to think it is, and gives a bit of a cold shoulder to work that isn’t part of the age-old strategy book. But as the importance of social media skyrockets during the COVID Age, and we move into a time where one social media app is thought to be determining the entire fate of artists’ careers, the general public has become more open to thinking of social media as a respectable and necessary profession rather than just someone who tweets all day.

There is also the misconception that social media management is just the act of posting, when really about 80% of what I do is analytics. Constantly staying ahead of trends, quantifying what does and doesn’t work on socials for each artist, measuring the success of campaigns—it’s all very data-centered work.

How has the pandemic changed your go-to social media strategies?

It has definitely made it harder to break through the noise. It has also, to the surprise of many, made optimized timing almost obsolete. Looking at data alone, where Friday-Sunday used to be the most widely used days on social media by far, almost every one of my clients has seen that viewership is steady Monday-Sunday now. I am interested in whether this will bounce back post-pandemic or if this will mean that socials are crowded 24/7 for the foreseeable future.

In an era where everyone and every artist is also a brand, how do we keep our humanity while also working our socials?

I’m definitely learning as I go with this one. But especially working with artists, I am learning to never push content creators to put out content they don’t feel is theirs. As social media managers, our job is to amplify our clients’ voices, not to speak for them. So keeping creative control in their hands goes a long way towards holding on to our humanity.

For anyone looking to use social media to build a career, what advice would you share?

Commit! Go all in! Set some time aside every day, week, month—whatever you can manage—and dedicate yourself to putting out good content. Don’t be afraid to repurpose content across platforms. Your audiences are more different on each platform than you think.

Best advice you’ve ever not taken until it was too late?

Great question that I really wish I had an answer to. I’ve never regretted not taking advice, but I have definitely taken some bad advice I regretted. I think “keep your head down” was the worst advice I ever listened to. We live in a time where keeping your head down often means you’ll get overlooked. In the music industry, you can’t always let your actions speak for themselves. Sometimes you need to be your own cheerleader. I keep the facts, data, and accomplishments to back it up, but sometimes I have to pop my shit. I’m thankful I now have mentors and peers who remind me of my worth, and I hope I do the same for them.

Photo of Olivia Shalhoup by Franky Ade.