SMS marketing platform Community first made it onto our radar in January 2019, after Ashton Kutcher had invested into the company and a flurry of high-profile artists started using the platform (like Eminem, Paul McCartney and Jennifer Lopez). Since then, artists wanting to make use of Community have had to join a waitlist and little was known about the actual features on the platform – unless you were already using it. Now, the company is onboarding small businesses, creators and artists from across the entertainment sector. Here’s what we know…
Text-message marketing companies like Community have some pretty good arguments in favour of using SMS to communicate with fans. Artists spend a lot of time and resources building their audiences on social media platforms, but then must invest over and over again to make sure their messages reach a fraction of their audience – and fans can miss out on the news they crave. While email remains important for artist marketing – especially D2C – not every fan can be reached via email, and messages can get lost in inboxes. And at the same time, demand for personal video messages from artists and celebrities has been growing: Cameo sold 1.3m of these videos in 2020.
From a D2C perspective, a service that allows artists to send text messages (including video and voice) makes a lot of sense. Artists can establish a direct connection with fans, making sure their most important messages reach them fast – with tangible results. YouTuber and rapper DGG uses the text app to quickly drive viewers to his new videos to encourage them to start trending.
Community is most effective when you create… a community
Community shouldn’t merely be used for promotional purposes: the key to using the platform is to build a community of fans and engage them, with personal and authentic content.
And using Community doesn’t mean wading through a chaotic SMS inbox: all communication is managed from within an iOS app or a web backend, which also provides insight into clickthrough rates on a link or image in a message. Community claims an average click-through rate of 59%.
After that initial sign-up, every additional celebrity community a fan joins will be a one-click sign-up. Again, the baked-in aspect of SMS in our phones brings artist-fan intimacy: added artists get a dedicated spot in a fan’s phonebook, with an image of the artist, just like any other contact.
Segmenting, surprising and scheduling
Messages can be sent to your entire audience and audience segments – as well as messaging one-on-one with fans, which is something the Community team encourages artists to do frequently. Surprising fans every now and then with a personal message helps turn casual fans into superfans – and could even become a driver of UGC as fans proudly share their artist-fan interaction on socials.
Audiences can be segmented based on their date of birth, location, interests, age or gender identities: ideal for sending out birthday wishes, inviting fans to exclusive shows or fan engagement activations based on their location. This kind of segmentation can be used in more subtle ways, like asking fans for restaurant/bar recommendations in certain cities.
Up to 50 segments can be created, and fans can text words, hashtags or emojis that will automatically group them into a particular category. This offers some interesting interaction opportunities: an artist could ask fans to text them with a certain emoji to have a chance to win a Meet & Greet, or fans that buy tickets could be segmented on a city-by-city basis. This is also a more playful – and arguably more enticing – way to get people to sign up to an artist’s database than via an email or messenger bot.
Community has the kind of power-user features you’d expect, like the ability to schedule messages – and a soon-to-be-launched feature will group similar responses together, allowing artists to respond to more people.
Community claims that typically 5% of an artist’s social audience opt-in to text with the artist. As a case-study, Community points to DJ and producer ILLENIUM, who gave his Community a sneak peek of the cover art for his new single, “Nightlight”, and a pre-save link to the song on Spotify. “Of the 21,700 Members he texted, 10,395 clicked on the link to pre-save the song.” That’s a 48% click rate, and Community is understandably keen to stress the potency of its platform, claiming that even though the same image and link was shared to 1.7m of ILLENIUM’s social media followers, the SMS via Community accounted for 44.2% of the pre-saves, despite that segment being 1.3% the size of his total social audience.
Pricing and comparisons
Music Ally reported on a similar company, SuperPhone, back in January 2019. So how do they compare? One key difference is that of pricing.
Community’s pricing starts at $99/ month for up to 1,000 subscribers, and scales by the number of fans an artist has: for 10k subscribers you’d be charged $600 a month, and $900 for 25k. The company doesn’t charge per message and no extra costs occur.
SuperPhone differs in that it offers a lower tier of $19.99/month for artists with up to 100 subscribers, with their $99.99/month tier allowing for up to 550 subscribers. The number of messages that can be sent are limited, although extra messages, and messages including images or voice message can be bought as addons. SuperPhone is also available more widely around the world.
Right now, Community has partnerships with telcos in the US, Canada and Puerto Rico – with plans to expand to more countries in the future. That doesn’t mean it should only be used by established artists in those territories. An artist from abroad with only a handful of fans in the US could use Community to launch an exclusive club of early fans and make them part of the journey by capturing phone numbers in creative ways, or – when it’s possible again – after shows on tour.
Music Ally’s next Learn Live webinar will help you understand what’s required for artists to thrive in new international markets!