Below you will find an overview of social media and sales platforms commonly used by online entertainers, as well as popular sites specifically used by video producers, podcasters, webcomic artists, and musicians.
Essential Social Media Platforms for Entertainers
Though different types of entertainers settle in a disparate variety of online venues, nearly all online entertainers maintain some sort of involvement with major media platforms, especially Google+, Facebook, Pinterest, and Twitter. Instagram and Vine may also be worth considering, however their utility is by no means universal. For more guidance on platform selection, visit our guide to choosing a social network that attracts your target audience.
Google+ for Online Entertainers
Though not at this point known for being the most active social network, Google+ offers two noteworthy features that are not to be ignored: Authorship and Hangouts.
Google Authorship matters because it enables you to associate your Google+ profile (or page) with general websites. The primary benefit of this association lies in the likelihood that your profile photo will appear alongside content you have authored in search results. Other SEO benefits which may increase in strength and number over time.
Google Hangouts enable you to:
- Conduct free, live, face-to-face meetings with fans
- Easily meet with partners, sponsors, and collaborators
- Share videos, chat messages, Google Docs, and even your screen with collaborators
- Using Hangouts On Air, schedule and stream Hangouts live from your YouTube channel and Google+ page, then make them available for later viewership
Of course, Google+ profiles and pages may also be used to chat with fans, share updates, ask questions, and share insider peeks.
Facebook for Online Entertainers
Given that a signification portion of your target audience is likely to maintain a presence on Facebook, it may be wise to maintain a page on the site, if only to ensure that people who decide to mention your brand name in their Facebook posts can link to a presentable summary of your work.
Though many content creators invest a lot of time in their Facebook pages, it should be noted that the average Facebook page post only reaches around 16% of the page’s fans organically. If you are unwilling to pay for sponsored posts (and if you create great content and genuinely engage with fans, you need not bother), your Facebook posts' reach will be pretty limited.
That said, Facebook is still a favorable place to post the occasional update, share interesting content (not always your own, but always reinforcing your brand), and develop a deeper connection with audiences. Be sure to post different types of content to your page rather than a monotonous feed of links to your own work. The more original photos you post, the better.
Those who create highly visual entertainment would do well to actively post on Pinterest. When you post, share others' work in addition to your own. For many, the site has become a huge source of traffic, which makes Pinterest an excellent means by which you might reduce dependency on another avenue (such as Google Search).
Even if your content is not appropriate for Pinterest, you may still consider using the platform to:
- Solidify your brand by creating and maintaining boards related to your work (for example, if you are an online entertainer who shares celebrity gossip, you may maintain several boards related to celebrity homes, style, products, and vacations)
- Gain a better understanding of your target audience by studying their interests, desires, and aspirations through their boards
- Investigate content from your site that has been pinned by entering “http://pinterest.com/source/YourDomain.com/” into your URL bar (plus thank and interact with those who pin it)
Should you create visual content that might do well on Pinterest (or if you want to create content that will do well on the platform), read our guides to optimizing images for Pinterest and using the site to attract your target audience.
Twitter for Online Entertainers
Twitter should be seen not as a place to passively post content, but as a venue for actively interacting with fans and tapping in to live conversations. As an entertainer, you may use the platform to:
- Interact with fans
- Host live twitter chats
- Reach out to potential collaborators and partners
- Keep tabs on what your target audience is talking about
- Share behind-the-scenes insights, photos, and comments with followers
- Weigh in on a trending topic (perhaps using it to bring new relevance to your work)
- Monitor live conversation about a subject in which you specialize (by monitoring saved searches)
- Thank people for sharing your content
You will need a social media monitoring tool such as TweetDeck to create saved searches that enable you to monitor information related to a specific keyword or find instances of people sharing your content. To create a saved search using the tool:
- Click on the magnifying glass icon in the top right corner of the page
- Type a keyword or URL into the search bar and hit enter
- Adjust content, user, and engagement filters as desired
- Click the "add button" column
- Click the down-pointing arrow to the right of the new column's arrow to adjust filters and add/remove alerts
Platforms for Selling Merchandise
Because merchandise sales may ultimately comprise a significant portion of your income, you had best familiarize yourself with the major options available. Three primary classes of options exist:
- Platforms that create and ship products on demand
- Platforms that will host your online store on their sites and present its products within their marketplaces
- Platforms that enable you to create your own store
Sell-on-demand platforms enable you to apply your own design and art to things like shirts, throw pillows, mobile device covers, canvases, prints, bags, coffee mugs, hoodies, and more, then sell them through a personalized online store. When customers place orders, these platforms handle production and shipping while you sit back and make a portion of the profits.
While some sell-on-demand sites charge flat fees for different types of products, others enable you to charge whatever you like and deduct a flat fee.
The most popular sell-on-demand platforms include:
- Zazzle: A popular, well-established platform that offers hundreds of products you can customize and sell along with affiliate program that might encourage others to promote your products and boost sales
- RedBubble: RedBubble offers nifty additional features such as a blog that can run alongside your store and integration with Google Analytics
- Society6: Society6 great design and a hip feel with, however has limited product options and controls list prices for products that aren't prints (therefore limiting your potential income)
If you want to spend minimal time managing a store (e.g. fulfilling orders, ordering new stock, etc.), a print-on-demand platform is definitely your best bet.
Hosted Store Platforms
Hosted store platforms are typically well-known online destinations with large built-in audiences. In exchange for commerce tools and access to a larger audience, you must pay fees for things like listings and product sales. Unlike sell-on-demand platforms, hosted store platforms require that you develop, create, stock, and ship your own products.
Top hosted store platforms include:
- Etsy: This more intimate-feeling platform emphasizes handmade items, vintage goods, and craft supplies
- Amazon: Amazon is well-suited for sellers with a decent amount of stock and products for which people are actively searching
- eBay: This auction-heavy platform (with plenty of normal purchase options) works well for sales of highly discounted or unique items
- Storenvy: Though Storenvy doesn't offer much of a built-in audience of buyers, it charges no fees and boasts great design and customization options
Those who sell books through Amazon should sign up for Kindle Direct Publishing. You do not need a store to sell books through Amazon, nor do you need to maintain an inventory of books to sell physical copies through the site (Amazon's CreateSpace can help you on that front).
Independent Store Platforms
Your best bet as an entertainer may be to sell products through your own site, especially if you want to maintain your own inventory. Two popular website platforms with ecommerce functionality include:
- WordPress: Using free plugins (that offer paid add-ons) such as WooCommerce and WP e-Commerce, you can add a fully-functional store to your existing WordPress site
- SquareSpace: Should you want your own website, but not want to go through separate processes of purchasing hosting, setting up a domain, or working through a litany of themes and plugins developed by third party developers, SquareSpace is a great option
Major Platforms for Video Creators
Online entertainers who create video content often syndicate their work across several sites while also embedding video files (typically hosted on other platforms) within their own websites. Personal website platforms used by video creators are typically low-key, given that their primary focus lies in creating video content rather than elaborate digital properties. Popular options include WordPress, SquareSpace, and customized Tumblr and Blogger accounts featuring purchased domains.
Common video hosting platforms across which video creators host and syndicate their work include:
- YouTube: With over a billion monthly users, YouTube boasts an audience that cannot be ignored; content can be monetized through the YouTube partner program or a YouTube partner network
- Vimeo: Popular amongst the more serious filmmaker set, Vimeo limits the megabytes (and number of HD videos) non-paying members can upload per month; videos may be monetized through the site's tip jar or pay-on-demand features (which are also only available to paying members)
- Blip: Oriented around web series, Blip offers nice syndication and embedded player customization tools; content is monetized via ad revenue, 50% of which goes to creators
- Daily Motion: As the second highest-trafficked video platform after YouTube, Daily Motion videos make money from ad revenue, of which uploaders are given an unspecified portion
- UStream: Intended for livestreaming, Ustream offers live audience chat features; videos can be monetized through a pay-per-view feature
- Newgrounds: Created to host flash-based games and animation, content uploaded to the Newgrounds must have the .swf extension and be under 20MB; videos may be awarded cash bonuses for earning top rankings or draw in revenue from ads selected using CPMStar
- Justin.tv: With an emphasis on livestreaming content that has evolved into a broad focus on hosted video content, Justin.tv only offers monetization to a select few on an invite-only basis
- Vine: Should you be interested in making six-second shorts optimized for mobile devices and social media audiences, Vine might be a subsidiary platform worth considering, however it presently offers no native monetization options
Most online content creators stick with YouTube, Vimeo, and Blip.TV; the other options mentioned above are used in much smaller proportions. Given that we have a separate course for entertainers specializing in video games, we have chosen not to discuss Twitch, however the platform is well worth heeding if you intend to stream gameplay. For a more thorough discussion of major video hosting platforms and the monetization options they offer, stop by our guide to video hosting platforms.
Major Platforms for Podcasters
Most podcasters maintain their own websites through which they host podcasts. Using WordPress alone, you can upload and publish podcasts (visit the official guide to podcasting on WordPress.org to learn how). Special WordPress plugins such as Blubrry, podPress, and the podcasting plugin by TSG, offer additional features and functionality.
Those who host their podcasts externally typically use one of the following platforms:
- Libsyn: Hosting plans range from $5 to $75 per month; in addition to added hosting capacity, more expensive plans unlock features such as mobile apps and advanced analytics
- PodcastPeople: Free plans may be upgraded to fee-based plans costing up to $59 per month; premium plans offer added space along with support for multiple authors and an audio/video recorder
For more information on making the most of LibSyn, check out our interview with the platform's VP of Podcaster Relations, Rob Walch.
No matter how you choose to host your podcasts, it is important that you syndicate your work to iTunes, which is by far the most common means by which audiences discover podcasts. Only release content to the directory once you have a solid brand and plan in place as well as an arsenal of podcasts that are all ready to go. Podcasts under eight weeks of age may be selected to be featured within iTunes' highly-visible New and Noteworthy category, which can give you a huge subscriber and brand boost before you are forced to contend unassisted with the directory's entire body of content.
Major Platforms for Webcomic Creators
Most artists who share their comics online do so through personal websites or blogs. As with video creators and podcasters, WordPress is a popular option, as are customized Tumblr and Blogger blogs.
Platforms for Publishing and Syndicating Free Webcomics
In addition to publishing comics on your own site, you may reach additional readers by syndicating your work on the following platforms:
- Tapastic: Tapastic is a mobile-friendly online comic platform with an invite only #Primetime publisher program (available to publishers on the site who are over 18, stick to a consistent publishing schedule, and have gained a certain level of popularity) through which comic artists can earn a share of ad revenue
- ComicFury: This well-known platform offers an ad-free experience with lots of room for customization, plus the option to use your own domain and share management of your webcomic with multiple authors
- Smack Jeeves: Along with customization options, Smack Jeeves offers reader comment and rating features along with analytics; though basic plans are free, paid plans (which offer higher upload limits and support more types of files) range from $19 to $59 per year
- Comic Genesis: You must apply to have your webcomic featured in Comic Genesis; artists who offer comics through the site have the option to feature and earn from ads hosted alongside their work
Platforms for Selling Comics
Given that you may eventually sell your work as a book, familiarize yourself with Amazon Kindle Direct and CreateSpace. Amazon.com is by far the most common means by which independently-published books gain traction.
- ComiXology: Comic creators can submit work that, if approved, may be formatted, published, and sold through the site; authors earn 50% of comics' net sales through comiXology and 50% of gross sales through their personal websites
- Graphicly: Less of a publisher and more of a distributor and centralized sales tracker, Graphicly makes it easy to upload and format a comic that can be sold through a wide variety of platforms and viewed across many different types of devices
For more information on publishing and promoting books, take our authorship course.
Major Platforms for Musicians
Beyond personal websites, musicians benefit from sharing their brands, work, and music on platforms that:
- Offer exposure to a wider audience
- Make it easy to connect, monitor, and interact with fans
- Integrate well with major social media platforms and mobile devices
- Enable them to sell their music or earn royalties from music made available on ad-supported platforms
Some of the most well-known platforms used for such purposes are discussed below.
- Bandcamp: Bandcamp offers a customizable, mobile-optimized online music sales platform (they take a 15% cut on music sales and a 10% cut on merchandise sales) complete with high quality audio options, presale capabilities, Facebook integration, flexible pricing, and real-time analytics; basic membership is free and pro membership costs $10 per month
- YouTube: Music uploads have the benefit of gaining access to a huge audience of viewers while also making money via ad revenue earned through YouTube's partner program; for helpful tips on making the most of YouTube as a musician, check out The DIY Musician's complete guide
- MySpace: In addition to sharing songs and albums on the site, you can upload photos, interact with fans, and post updates to develop a closer relationship with listeners
- Grooveshark: Grooveshark boasts an audience of over 20 million listeners and enables you analyze comments, plays, shares, and favorites associated with the songs you provide through the platform
- Spotify: Using Spotify, you can connect with fans through customer-curated playlists, make your music available on a platform with over 24 million active listeners, and easily share your music elsewhere online; royalties earned through the site are contingent on popularity (Spotify pays 70% of its revenues to license holders)
- Last.fm: After joining Last.fm as a general user, you may then create an artist account and upload music; songs made available through the site can be monetized through Last.fm's royalty program
- Mp3.com: Mp3.com enables you to use Last.fm's Music Manager to offer free downloads to audiences (in hopes of growing a fan base)
- ArtistLink: An account on ArtistLink gives you a page on artists.MTV, widgets you can embed elsewhere online, the ability to collect fan email addresses, Facebook likes, or Twitter follows in exchange for tracks, albums, or videos, and the option to sell music (ArtistLink takes a 20% cut on sales under $6 and a 15% cut plus $0.30 transaction fee for all sales above $6)
- Ourstage: Though an Artist Account on the site, you can upload media and enter it into competitions, which may increase your work's exposure
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