WASHINGTON, July 16, 2012 — There are 95 million country music fans in the United States, according to Billboard last year. That’s a number advertisers cannot ignore.
The genre is beginning to break through stereotypes and represent a key demograhpic in advertising. One in two people with an income over $100,000 or more likes country music.
Jessica Northey, founder of #CMchat, has been able to engage this audience and create a hub for all things country on Twitter. The result is a community that provides access every week to artists and celebrities to its audience on Twitter.
Twitter chats work because they provide access to celebrities/influencers, centralize discussion and keep people regularly engaged with a topic. They are almost an untapped resource for promoting to a targeted and engaged group of people.
I asked Northey to explain why she started #CMchat and provide insight relative to the future of both social media and country music.
1. What made you start #CMchat? What need did you recognize?
I have worked in and around Country Music, and Radio for many years and am also a huge Twitter fan. Just over a year ago, during a conversation with #BlogChat founder Mack Collier, we were discussing organized twitter chats with specific topics, and I asked him, “What do you think of an ‘entertainment chat’ specifically about Country Music?” he said “that’s a great idea…just do it!” This was on a Wednesday night. The following Monday #CMchat was born.
Every Monday I host a celebrity from the Country Music industry including Artists, Radio, TV and multimedia journalists. Throughout the week people now use the #CMchat (#) Hashtag to share information with each other about Country Music including articles, new music, questions or just observations.
The #CMchat gets used about 500-1000 times a day, and generates an average 20-50 Million impressions per week according to Hashtracking.com. Mondays generate at least 2000 tweets including retweets and interactions with guest depending on artist. The thing I can’t gauge is how many people are seeing the chat but not responding or using the #CMchat hashtag.
Most of my audience is just on Twitter to follow their favorite Country Music stars, entertainers, radio stations and a lot of them will just or @reply me, the guest and other community members because they aren’t Social Media experts or gurus, they are just users of the open source medium to have an entertainment experience. Not learn about Social Media dos/donts, so I don’t police them or try to tell them how to have a good time.
I just let the community be what it is to each person. The only thing I really ask is not to drop links into the stream during the one hour chat from 8-9p CT on Monday nights. I feel like that is the guest’s time and we should honor and keep the focus on them. I actively ask musicians to drop their music, video and website links all week long, especially right before and after #CMchat. In addition, I encourage them to put their music up on the Country Music Chat Facebook page.
What need did I recognize?? I was just thinking about my love of Country Music and Entertainment as well as Social Media. We could all use more of the things we love in our lives.
2. Why use a Twitter chat? What makes them so effective?
It gives artists and fans a leveled playing field. I think most people think there is a separation between them, and someone who is famous, but in reality, especially when it comes to Social Media they are as new at it as you.
They (or at least #CMchat) is effective because of the topic specific content, most people who attend are fans of country music, and as far as the celebrities everyone is learning how to do this together.
3. How do you create engagement in social media?
I spend a lot of time finding people, sharing content and looking for content and ideas I am interested in. I express this interest, share other peoples content and *try* to be interesting.
4. What is the future of social media? What will we be talking about 12 months from now?
You got me. I think we are headed in more of a “visual” direction. Citizen journalists creating multimedia content and sharing with the world IS the future. I also believe that (#) hashtag communities like Twitter chats or even Google Hangouts are still new and you can expect a lot more community building coming from the use of these organized (#) hashtag communities. Heck, even unorganized (#) hashtags can bring people together. Television and Radio are really, just now starting to discover and embrace the effectiveness of Social Media and integrate it into their programming. Everything is still SO new.
5. The Billboard Top 100 is about 15% country music right now. Is the fan base growing? Or are the existing fans that influential?
There are younger cross-over artists like Taylor Swift, Jennette McCurdy, Miley Cyrus, Lady Antebellum, The Band Perry bringing in a younger generation of Country Music fans. Then your popular Reality Show stars like Kelly Clarkson, Carrie Underwood, Miranda Lambert, Scotty McCreary, Lauren Alaina, Gwen Sebastian are showing the world that Country is pretty freaking cool.
Also I think Social Media optimization by popular artists like Blake Shelton, The Oak Ridge Boys (Joe Bonsall and Duane Allen), Charlie Daniels, Trace Adkins all getting on Twitter ACTUALLY interacting with fans and being so real gives you this insight to all the good country times we been having for years, but now you can see it in REAL TIME.
I also think a lot of people love simple verse/chorus/verse/chorus/bridge/chorus songs that are easy to relate to with lyrics about life, love, loss, family, partying, etc. It’s a little harder to listen to songs that are heavy on the instrument and less meaning in the songs. Pop radio isn’t the only one filling that need anymore.
6. Who is an artist or two to watch this year? What is the future of country music?
Keep your eye on Hunter Hayes, Jana Kramer, Edens Edge, Jerrod Niemann, Gwen Sebastian, Rachele Lynae, Kip Moore, Sunny Sweeney, Lee Brice, Brantley Gilbert for starters. They all have charting songs right now and in my opinion are the future stars of Country Music.
Personally, I am quite fond of Blake Shelton and Miranda Lambert and think they are just a super example of everything traditional, meaningful and real that I have loved about Country Music since I was a little girl.
I am really digging this “Hick Hop” coined by Cowboy Troy (can’t wait for his new album) and am loving artists like the Moonshine Bandits and Colt Ford.
The future of Country Music. I kinda see a Rock/Pop type split with different flavors of country mostly because of the internet, our ears are not “genre” specific so much anymore. You will have less defined genres as people are trying to make their way into the arena with their own styles. I also predict many more crossover “pop” artists collaborating on projects with current Country Music stars. Artists and fans will always want to classify and label music, but as influences and styles mix, I am just hoping we all get some really great music out of it. I am excited for the future of Country Music and the #CMchat community.
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