According to a recent poll by ReverbNation and Digital Music News, musicians believe Facebook “likes” are three times more valuable than any other social connection with fans, be it email list signups, Twitter followers, or Youtube subscribers. Facebook likes eclipse MySpace friends and Google+ subscribers by an even greater margin, though those statistics don’t seem to be as much of a surprise at this point—MySpace has steadily gone downhill in attention and Google+ has yet to make its definitive mark on the music world.
Based on the time people spend on Facebook, I am not surprised at the degree to which Facebook Likes beat Twitter followers. Twitter is a broadcast medium that doesn’t play as well with video, music, and sharing as Facebook does. But what about email list subscribers? Is an email address three times less valuable than a Facebook like? I’m going to argue ‘no’. Keep in mind, the poll was for what artists think is better based on their own perception, not a measured study on where value is created (be it in engagement or through monetary results).
My comment on Digital Music News for why email addresses beat likes goes as follows:
When you have someone's email, you have them for life (assuming they don't change their email address frequently or you manage to get unsubscribed/lumped into junk mail). With Facebook, if someone stops engaging with your page for a little, you'll quickly be replaced in the algorithm that determines someone's news feed. There are many liked pages that I never even see anymore in my feed. For email newsletters, I might ignore you for a while, but you might get me back a little later when I have more patience or interest to click on your email.
Even if your fans spend more time on Facebook than in their email inbox, you’re always going to be at the whim of Facebook’s algorithm for showing stories, the security of your Facebook fan page and potential spam, or worst case scenario Facebook could lose popularity over the coming years. Do you believe people will stop checking their email three years from now? Whose going to be around longer, Facebook or email? Maybe everyone will be using a Facebook email address eventually, although at this point, that’s a little hard to believe given Facebook’s track record of privacy concerns. I personally don’t have too many concerns with my own privacy on Facebook, but I generally like to keep my business email separate from my personal email and separate from my Facebook messaging. Each one has its own purpose.
If you want to have the closest relationship with your fans, with the least amount of competition from competing marketers, brands, and other musicians, email is probably your best bet. Coming from experience in the lead generation business, there is a reason brands are willing to pay more for an email registration than a Facebook like—in e-commerce, emails are more important. I’m willing to bet the same is true in entertainment, especially if as an artist you’re trying to sell music, tickets, or merchandise to fans sometime down the line.