Alternative Press: How They’re Conquering Social Media

by Justin Gamble

For a lot of people social media is just a way to stay up to date with friends and family members you don’t see regularly, but for professionals social media can make or break a company. A long time friend of mine, Anthony Lauletta, recently started a career in social media working at Alternative Press. If you aren’t familiar with Alternative Press (AP), it’s a print magazine that primarily covers bands in the alternative, rock, and hardcore music scene. Anthony began his journey as a social media intern at Alternative Press and was offered a job as a social media manager there when he concluded his internship. Anthony has always been someone that I’ve respected when it comes to his opinion on the current state of the social media industry and where it is headed. I wanted to interview Anthony to get his take on some aspects that a lot of people don’t really think about when they think of social media.


J: First question is what is one piece of advice you’d give to an aspiring social media professional?

A: The biggest thing is read all the time. Build it into your schedule for the day. Even on your busiest days. I use Apple News, which I like better than Flipboard, but the biggest thing is to find some really good publishers you like. I like The Next Web and Wired a lot for tech news. The biggest thing is try and spend about 30 minutes to an hour of your morning or night just reading all the news from the day. The social media industry, the media industry in general and the music industry too isn’t like being a doctor where you go to school for 4-8 years and you learn specific things that are static and don’t change very much. Those things you learn in school are very important but in the media industry you need to learn how to learn. So, yeah, the biggest thing I would say is to read everyday to learn about new tech and the social media industry.

J: That makes a lot of sense. Staying up to date with the current state of the social media industry definitely seems important. Next question would be: describe a recent successful social media campaign conducted by Alternative Press and why you think it was successful.

A: Sure, I’ll talk about my favorite one that I just did. I did a viral video marketing campaign and the video was on Facebook rather than YouTube. Every month we have a new issue of the magazine obviously and every month we try to do a unique marketing campaign for the issue and the cover stars on the issue. This month’s cover artists were the bands Neck Deep and State Champs. They’re funny guys and the first thing I did when I was thinking of the marketing plan was to think about the bands and their marketable traits. They’re really personable guys and were open to doing stuff on camera so I reached out to their management and we coordinated a time for them to visit our office when they stopped in Cleveland for their tour and we filmed a short skit of them interning at the Alternative Press office. It was a funny video that marketed essentially the awareness of the issue, it didn’t really sell like the hard sells do but it generated a lot of awareness about the product we were releasing into the world. I believe it was successful because we really honed in on what’s marketable about the bands themselves, which is a big part of our product, and the cover is a very important feature of the issue that sells it for the most part. So, it was successful because of the research we did on honing in on the bands marketable traits. We decided against YouTube and to put it on Facebook because social video on all social networks is increasing in reach and visibility to every user and its really battling YouTube’s video content. Facebook’s been doing a really good job in this battle so we utilized this battle and this allowed us to expand our reach to the over 1 million fans on our page and even beyond that because we marketed through State Champs and Neck Deeps pages too.


Photo of Neck Deep and State Champs taken by Kane Hibberd

J: I think that’s interesting you bring that up too because in one of my social media classes we talked about the same kind of thing, Facebook’s reach through video is almost surpassing the reach of YouTube videos in a sense that it’s a lot easier to share and people feel more connected to it when they can write their own post about it and I found that to be pretty interesting. But my next question would be, what do you think the most important up and coming trend in social media is and why is it important?

A: I would say social video. If you’ve read industry reports on the social media industry video content in general is huge on all social networks and every network is trying in their own way to boost video content. It’s a more immersive experience and its better for story telling in general. People can connect to video content a lot easier, especially when it’s so accessible.

J: How do you think that plays into networks like Twitter and Instagram where most videos are 15 and 30 second maximums? Do you think that’s something that would change in the future or is it something that will remain static just because of the type of social media that it actually is? Like, with Twitter being a micro-blog where people only have 140 characters, would throwing in an unlimited amount of video time throw that off or would it still contribute to it in a similar way?

A: I think it’s going to be changing really soon to be completely honest. I mean we utilize a lot of Twitter advertising for different videos and they’re extremely targeted which is the only way we see real results with Twitter video. For us, Twitter advertising isn’t really the best route. We don’t get the biggest return on investment there as far as social ads go. Our State Champs/Neck Deep video which was just under 2 minutes was put on Twitter as a full video and promoted as an ad so I do think that full video on other networks is going to be a huge thing in order to sustain themselves and to be able to grow.

J: Definitely some valuable insight there I could see full video being extremely valuable to advertisers and something that more social networks may have to look into incorporating in order to compete with powerhouses like Facebook. So this next question, the way I had it written was “Which forms of social media tend to result in more revenue for your organization?” and I don’t necessarily mean directly result in revenue cause obviously you guys aren’t making most of your money through social media as a magazine, but where do you see the most growth for a company as a whole?

A: That’s actually a difficult question because we monetize our socials in so many different ways. Facebook’s a big one. We have a lot of advertisers, for example for the Alternative Press Music Awards we have a bunch of sponsors, the two biggest ones being Journeys and Monster Energy, and we do different types of social advertising through the Facebook business manager interface where we can advertise through each other’s pages. The easiest way to answer this question is that all the networks are growing and changing constantly, but the one that I use most frequently with our partners is Facebook. The thing with social media and how it generates revenue is that it’s a very creative game and you have to utilize the technology to your advantage and see how that can help a partner. One of the deals I’m working on right now is with a gear company and they want to know how to inform our audience about all the artists that play Ernie Ball (guitar) strings. The best way to reach them is through social video and we put up twitter ads and target them to fans of those bands. We could do the same thing on Facebook, but they wanted to use Twitter because it’s short, sweet and to the point.

J: I mean its kind of well known that Facebook itself is, well its not exactly dying, but our generation and younger people are less prone to be using it now or paying attention as regularly compared to social sites like Twitter. Do you notice that has any affect on your advertising compared to when you post stuff on Twitter? Are you getting more engagements via Twitter even though it’s a smaller social media site as a whole compared to Facebook?

A: Different types of content do better on each platform. A good example of a post that did really well on Twitter recently that I put up was when Oli Sykes from Bring Me the Horizon performed at the NME Awards and he f*cked up Coldplay’s table I took a gif from the YouTube video and the caption was something like “When your band doesn’t get asked to play the super bowl halftime show” and posted it to Twitter and it went viral. We had tons of verified accounts and influencers re-tweeting it, which was great. When we put the same piece of content on Facebook, it reached about half as many people as the news post we posted to Facebook about the same event. So to answer your question, different types of content do better on different networks and it’s a lot of experimenting. Is that what you were asking?

J: Yeah, that more or less answers it. I was just curious because you guys tend to have a younger audience as a magazine as a whole, so I was just curious where that stood because younger people are using Facebook less and less. That’s why I was curious, but it definitely makes sense to say that different types of content will do better on certain social networks and you can see how that works but just looking at social network feeds. It makes sense that a gif would do better in a place like Twitter where its right there for a second and you view it, get over it, and move past it. Where as on Facebook you click on something to look at what it is and spend a little bit more time on it.

A: Yeah and I think the age gap does have a little bit to do with that too cause our audience on Facebook is a slightly older demographic than our audience on Twitter by just a little bit, so I think that may partly be the reason for that too.

J: Sure! So my next question is what is your favorite part about working in a career where social media plays such an important role in day-to-day business.

A: I like a really fast paced environment because I enjoy being not necessarily hectic but always going and I like fast paced environments. Everyday is something new and it goes back to point one that the industry is always changing and its always trying to solve a little bit of the puzzle which I really like. Everyday you have a new opportunity to experiment with what works and I love that part about social media. Experimenting and picking different variables with social networks and picking different key metrics to study for certain social posts. Almost every post that we put up on our socials, even if I don’t study it in depth I try to analyze why its doing well or why its doing poorly. Essentially it’s kind of like search engine optimization, but with Facebook key words will limit a posts reach so I’ll look at that to see why it didn’t do as well or I’ll look at a band that it’s about and maybe our audience doesn’t really care about that band so maybe we should cover them less. So it’s really just a lot of experimenting and it’s very fast pace and those are the two things I like most about my job.

J: Alright cool and the last question I have for you is what way do you guys analyze the engagements you receive across your social networks to determine if a campaign was successful or not?

A: There’s two key performance metrics we study at AP and they’re growth and engagement of social posts. Each campaign may have different key performance metrics based off the type of content were publishing. For example for the State Champs/Neck Deep video we did video views was a key performance metric. We choose it based off the type of content we have and what platform were releasing the content from. A key metric we analyze on Facebook more than we do on Twitter is total reach. Where a key metric we analyze on Twitter that we don’t really analyze on Facebook very often because it’s a lot more complicated to gain this metric is engagement rate. It has a lot to do with the types of metrics we have access to from the social networks themselves because we don’t really use a third party analytic source at the moment, but the two biggest ones are growth and engagement.

     Anthony’s interview gave me a lot of insight into what being social media professional is like. The creative freedom that social media gives to users is something that really interests me. Anthony says that’s one of his favorite parts of being a social media professional and I can see why. There’s no set formula when it comes to creating a successful social media campaign, there’s no way of knowing how it’s going to perform prior to the implementation of the campaign. That mystery makes social media marketing a challenge, but not knowing is also exciting because you get to watch your successes develop before your eyes and you can easily learn from your failures. Social media is constantly changing and it continues to open new doors for companies to advertise in ways they never even thought possible. Interviewing Anthony has created a new way of thinking about social media for me. Initially I never saw it as a creative process, but experimenting is really paving the way for professionals trying to master social media.

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