6 social media lessons from Billy Joel

The singer doesn’t run his own social media accounts, but in his songs and in his public actions, he sets a pretty good social media example.

Billy Joel doesn’t manage his Twitter or Facebook page. His online team does. However, there are a few things the 65-year-old, six-time Grammy winner can teach about social media.

Joel’s songs and public persona offer a good example for social media manners. If the Piano Man’s music has you “feeling all right,” you can put your social media fans in the “mood for a melody” by following some of these simple tips.

1. Be humble. Nobody likes the friend who is always bragging on their Facebook page. A “big shot,” if you will. And nobody likes an organization that is arrogant. Be humble. Be honest. Be funny.

Billy Joel has said, “I’m just this shlubby guy who plays the piano.” He has also said, “I don’t walk around thinking like a rock star. I’m just this shmegdorf walking around and somebody confronts me and goes, ‘Billy Joel!’ And I’m like: Right, I’m that guy.”

2. Feature others. If your business is a restaurant, feature your customers on social media. If you do social media for a sports team, shine the spotlight on your fans. If you work for a business-to-business company, tell your clients’ stories. It’s not all about you. Feature others.

When he is on stage, Billy Joel has a bigger smile on his face when members of his band, like saxophonist Mark Rivera or trumpeter Carl Fischer, are performing solos than when the spotlight is on him.

3. Go behind the scenes. Your social media campaign must integrate with the rest of your marketing campaign, but t’s also nice when you can give your social media audience something they cannot get anywhere else. Billy Joel takes fans behind the scenes with his master classes, providing them insights into the meanings of his songs.

Your organization can do this as well. If you do social media for a bakery, take your Instagram audience into the kitchen for a 15-second video on how you make your signature pastry.

4. Be patient. You can get analytics on your social media campaign three minutes after it’s launched. While one of the benefits of social media is its real-time impact, it’s important to be strategic. Be patient. Not every post is going to be successful. And that’s OK. Make sure your overall strategy is strong.

As Billy Joel says in his song Vienna, “Slow down, you’re doing fine.”

5. Be original. Surprise people. Don’t be the Facebook page that posts the same, predictable social media content all the time. When you see Billy Joel in concert, you don’t know what songs he is going to play and who might join him on stage. He has different set lists and guest performers.

Also be sure to handle surprises correctly. An elementary school in Glen Cove, N.Y., invited Joel to their concert, titled “The River of Dreams: A Billy Joel Tribute.” They were shocked when he showed up. And he did so tactfully. To keep the spotlight on the children, Joel sat in the back of the auditorium and made an early departure after enjoying a few songs.

6. Tell a story. It’s easy to get bogged down in social media tactics, but social media is no different from the rest of your marketing campaign. You need to tell a good story. Good stories are what people want, more so than pictures of cats that have your company’s logo on them.

To quote Joel, “I love telling stories, and I love hearing a good story being told. Songwriting is fascinating in that it incorporates two things that I love to do: create a story and write the music to it.”

Jon Alhart is director of social and digital media at Dixon Schwabl. Jon is also co-producer and host of the Eyes On The Future, a news radio show about the Rochester, N.Y. region’s economy. Follow Jon on Twitter @JonAlhart.

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