IMS caught up with Sam Taylor, I AM POP CCO to learn more about how bots can empower the music industry.
What is POP?
POP is the easiest way to build and engage a fanbase using messaging and chat. POP sits on top of the Facebook Messenger API, meaning rather than only being able to message individually, you can use broadcast messaging (one-to-many) as well as automated and interactive messaging features. This means you can engage with fans using chat, which feels genuinely personal and which – unlike traditional social media – has 100% reach and huge open rates – often 95%. And almost everyone has Messenger on their smartphone – more than 1.3 billion people use Messenger regularly.
Why are bots such powerful tool for the music industry?
People use “bot” as a shorthand for what we do, but in reality it’s about more than that. Traditional algorithm feeds like the Facebook newsfeed, Twitter and even Instagram mean that content only reaches a tiny percentage of your audience – and engagement is even lower. This means it’s increasingly difficult to communicate with your fans through these channels. By using a tool like POP to offer powerful “bot” functions on Messenger, you can reach your fans directly, one-on-one in a channel where they actually see the content you send. The value compared to traditional social is really high. For example, Messenger is a great way to drive Spotify pre-saves and first-day plays of streams, with far higher engagement than any other platform – we’ve had hugely positive feedback from customers using Messenger like this, reporting huge spikes in pre-save activity compared to all other channels.
As social media becomes more of a “pay to play” environment, do bots present a big opportunity to reach your audience without large budgets?
Absolutely. The nature of feed-driven social media means that as they become more popular an algorithm MUST be used to decide what people will see. So now Facebook, Twitter and even Instagram sort what content will be shown to what users. That means that often your fans won’t see content you post – and if they do, it’s amongst all the noise of other brands, artists and so on. If you want 100% reach with your Facebook Page, you’re going to have to spend a fortune boosting posts and use adverts to drive engagement. With Messenger you’re cutting through straight to the fan. There’s no competing, distracting content in Messenger and you can reach 100% of your audience without boosting. With POP you just need to set up your account, and then from $29 a month you’re able to start connecting fans on a platform where you can communicate with 100% of those fans.
It’s clearly not just artists & labels that can benefit from bots but also events. Can you give us some use cases on how an event might use a bot?
We’re being approached by an increasing number of festivals and promoters who see significant value in using Messenger to communicate with fans or potential ticket buyers. Actually, often using chat like this can make a big difference; if you are an annual festival then waking up your fanbase on “traditional” social media is a big challenge, because the algorithms favour brands who engage regularly with people, so when your engagement falls away after the event, your content struggles even more to be seen. When you connect those people on Messenger there’s no drop off – when you have content to send, your audience will see it. There’s also incredible long-term value for events and festivals who connect with their audience using chat on Messenger. You can feed out content to take people on a journey to buying a ticket, and then hype them up for the event itself, and then after the event remind them of what a great time they had. It’s far easier to do this using the continuing narrative you can have in chat, than it is using traditional social media – and, indeed, because it feels personal, fans are more likely to be receptive to this sort of content.
Do you have any great case-studies worth mentioning regarding bots and their use in the music industry?
We work with a range of artists at all stages of their careers. The key thing we find again and again is that artists who launch on Messenger and are active in telling their fans to connect find that it’s a hugely successful way to drive people to content. For many of our customers like Armin van Buuren, Messenger is now a key channel and drives great engagement around streams, video views and direct to fan sales of tickets and merchandise. While a lot of people find it hard to believe that you can get open rates hitting 90%, we see it time and time again. Messenger is a hugely valuable platform because your content gets seen, and fans take action. So in many cases, we find that a fan on Messenger is worth hundreds of fans on algorithmically driven socials like Facebook, Twitter or Instagram. Messenger isn’t about one-off hits of content – it’s about a continuing narrative of engagement with your fans, and about driving long term value for both sides. Fans get more of the stuff that they want and their experience feels personal, while artists and their teams can drive transactions – whether increased streams, merch sales or an uptick in tickets for live events – without being overly “salesy” and in your face.
What are some of the key features of the POP platform?
We’ve focused on making it as simple as possible to begin chatting with fans. One big difference we have to a lot of other platforms is our team of template writers – they are constantly writing and adding to our library of pre-written chat templates. Got an artist going on tour? Use our pre-written tour diary template as a starting point – just sub in your own text and send to fans. Wanting to launch your festival on Messenger? Use one of our pre-written event templates, customise with your own content and images, and you’re ready. Alongside that we offer lots of rich functionality – when you release a new track drop a Spotify or Apple Music link into a content card and it will pull through the appropriate artwork… you can add a “listen now” call to action button and send to fans. You can use “quick reply” buttons for fans to answer questions – for example, “Are you coming to my show in London next
How quickly can someone get a bot setup with POP and what is the pricing model?
It only takes a few minutes to get started – sign up to POP, connect a Facebook page and then pick and edit a template – or make your own introductory chat flow. Of course, there’s no point in launching on Messenger unless you’re going to encourage your fans to connect, so it’s important to think about how you will do that. Every page has a direct link for Messenger
I assume tone of voice must play an important role when setting up a bot to make it feel more human?
Absolutely. In fact, with POP, we’ve focused on simplicity: we call ourselves a “write-first” platform – meaning that you can focus on things like content and tone of voice, rather than having to wrestle with how to structure the messaging experience. For artists tone of voice is so important – but also, if you’re a festival or event, it’s important to realise that the tone of voice you use in chat can really influence how people think of you. So we always encourage our customers to think about what tone of voice best represents their brand, and how they can articulate that not just with text, but also with images and other media. We’ve see some really creative uses of video clips and gifs, and because Messenger is such a great home for content like this, it can really add value to the relationship you have with your audience.
Once you have a bot setup, what would you suggest is the best way to promote it? I can imagine on-boarding can work really well around key announcements or when you can offer some value in return?
Without doubt, the best way is to use some sort of “hook” to get fans to connect with an artist on Messenger. Depending on the fanbase, that can be something simple – like a sneak preview of new music being made available only on Messenger – or something more tangible, like winning a pair of tickets to an exclusive show, where they can only enter on Messenger. Alongside this, it’s important to ensure that the first experience the fan sees works for the artist’s tone of voice and overall brand. Again, this can be as simple as a gif and a message thanking the fan for connecting, or it can be something more complex that engages the fan in a conversational flow of content, or even a quiz. Using key announcements is a great way to get people to connect, using other channels to drive people into Messenger so that they can hear the news – again, this can be as simple as saying “I’m excited to be sharing some big news tomorrow – connect with me on Messenger now to hear it first!”.
What does the future hold for POP?
We’re constantly looking at ways to make fan messaging better. That includes continually updating and adding to our library of pre-written templates. We’re also scoping out other messaging platforms so that when we are able to work with others, we can integrate these into POP alongside Messenger, offering artists and fans more ways to connect using chat.
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