Marketing without Social Media

After reading a little further through the Quitting MW/Reddit/FB/Social Media thread, I started to think about the role that social media plays in commercial business.

I think about monome and how they grew in notoriety through attending maker faires, and doing small interviews on blogs. I’m sure having @Daedelus using the grid in a non-bedroom context helped a lot with visibility too. Perhaps @tehn sees other drivers for their (non-)brand recognition, but the point of this all is to say this was in the mid-2000s!

Whimsical Raps has been around for 3 years now. When we launched our first product it was just me in my living room tapping away at a keyboard. My marketing plan included a total of:

  • A very basic Shopify webstore
  • Demo video on Youtube
  • Picture on Instagram (with no followers yet)
  • Threads posted on Lines & MW
  • Emailed musically inclined friends (though most were from Australia & not into Eurorack)
  • Posted on Facebook through my personal & Galapagoose pages
  • Contacted Control & Control Voltage who quickly stocked the modules (thanks to monome connection)

I chalk up my success to a few different things – I had access to a small audience of fans through my music, had been an active member of monome/lines community for many years, plus I’d been working for monome for almost 2 years and @tehn & @kelli_cain were (and continue to be!) incredibly helpful & encouraging, not to mention the on-the-ground skills I learned about running a business. I guess my working for them might have added some sense that I knew what I was doing. The product was also good, but I want to focus discussion on getting the product seen at all!

Anyway! To the point of discussion – It’s easy for me to cut myself off from these social media platforms now as we have some basic brand recognition & people will talk about our products on social media / discussion platforms, even if we’re not involved at all. So…

What tools / techniques can a new commercial endeavour use to gain market visibility without using the “toxic” platforms of social media in 2018?

Or rephrased from the audience perspective: How do you find out about new and exciting products & companies, other than on social media, in 2018?


Email/Mailing lists is my preferred way of being contacted by companies hawking. I’ve usually consented, I can swipe trash away quickly and it isn’t in an offensive format. I respect people who put time into turning into something more, too.


I’ve also been thinking along these lines - I wonder about doing by more with email lists, directly owning the connection to customers and interested people - trading interesting content for attention. I was running Music Thing as a blog pre-social media, where it depended on links from like-minded people and subscriptions from RSS readers. I used to get 10k visits a day from people reading about weird music gear, so it should be possible.
Also, print! My Son (14 yrs old) is into playing cards - he does everything through Instagram, has 1200 followers, recently did a print fanzine, sold 100 copies at £5 a pop, sold them worldwide and made a small profit…


I’m going to be a bit contrarian and assert that social media need not necessarily be toxic. My wife has been doing a lot of illustration lately. She likes to draw flowers. As flower farmers we are part of the flower farmers Facebook group. She started posting her drawings there, just to share the joy of drawing a subject we all share a love for. People started asking for logo designs and she now has a flourishing side business with botanical illustration, mainly to assist other flower farmers with their own branding and marketing. It was all very organic and not sales like at all.

To make Facebook more palatable we long ago unfollowed anybody looking to pick a fight or get toxic in any way. In fact, the goal is to make News Feed mainly a series of photos of goats, dogs, cats, llamas, and flowers. We have largely succeeded. And this means we can continue to find organic reach through friendly interactions on social media.

I’m sorry, I know it’s not the answer you are looking for.



I know the subject of this thread is “marketing without social media” - so I beg your patience as I go slightly off topic.

I cringe a bit when I hear people equate social media with marketing. Social media is a communications channel; it is not marketing. Mailing lists, email, facebook, billboards, TV ads, trade shows, direct mail etc are also just channels. They are not marketing.

The channels you choose to use and how you use them is a function of your marketing communications strategy. That comms strategy is not marketing.

Increasing market visibility through investments in a communications strategy is not marketing. It is a tactic used to improve brand recognition, establish differentiation, and drive conversions. It on its own is not marketing.

Marketing is the discipline of identifying, sizing, evaluating and selecting a target market for a product/service, creating awareness of the product/service in the mind of a target market through a variety of means, and developing a selective preference for the product/service based on its unique selling proposition. Marketing sets up the shot, sales makes the shot.

An excellent marketer will be able to tell you whether certain target markets are profitable, what the impact of $x investment in marketing communications will be in terms of new prospects and conversions, and what related segments should be investigated for product development based on how well those segments are growing and how they relate to your current and planned product portfolio.

So to the question at hand.

If someone asked me to identify ways to reach your target market that don’t involve social media, I’d ask questions like “define the target market”, “what is the size of that market (total addressable market)”, “what are the demographics of that market”, “for those customers who have purchased, how did they hear about the product and what channels do they use the most”, “for customers who either did not buy or who do not display knowledge of the product, what channels do they use the most”. Once I learned about the product you are thinking of selling them, I’d ask questions like “how does the target market break down in terms of purchasing power, which tells you whether investing in reaching them will be profitable”, “how is the target market solving the problem your product addresses today”, “why should they switch from what they are doing today”, “why is solving that problem urgent”, and “is your product fully-developed or still in-development/prototype-level, which would lead to questions about whether you are selling to visionaries, early adopters, early majority, late majority or laggard buyers (see Crossing the Chasm)”, and a whole lot of other up-front questions.

If you are running a small boutique company without a lot of overhead (like payroll or debt related to capital or operating expenses), you’re probably happy to see a general increase in demand that comes from broader awareness, because you should be able to handle that increased demand without too much worry. All of what I’ve said will probably not really matter all that much. Unless you’re seeing demand for your existing products level off and you want to make more money by selling something new to your existing customers, in which case the disciplines of marketing start to matter very much.

So if you want to know how to build a marketing communications strategy that doesn’t involve social media, that’s an interesting question that a marketer could dig in to with some knowledge such as I’ve described above. There are generic answers, but the best answer is one that suits your products, target market, and overall strategy.

…unless this thread is a part of the effort to survey a small segment of the target market…

…as part of a market research effort…

…in which case, never mind, well done, carry on.



I have to agree with you on this.

I would like to think there is a correspondence between certain forms of social media and certain forms of toxicity but I may just be lying to myself. I like certain subreddits but find twitter toxic. But I think, following on what you say, I’ve pruned my connectivity in the one case and stalked away muttering in the other to the point that I’m largely insulated from the toxicity. Despite having been on Reddit forever I rarely stumble across anything toxic anymore. I’m just not subscribed to those subreddits and I hit unsubscribe pretty fast nowadays.

I think that that kind of pruning is the key, that and another one: as I’ve read more about the psychology of interruption and flow I’ve walled social media (and generally poking around on the interwebs) into a smaller space in my life. I’ve pruned it down to a manageable shrub. Or maybe weed.

I really appreciate a few places where the community is supportive, and a few media outlets where I consistently find interesting ideas that appeal to me (like CDM for example). Of course, those media outlets may be relying on Facebook and twitter and such…


haha! nice goal. i would add trees, butterflies and rivers :slight_smile:


Just grabbed this snip because I liked it a lot! Thanks for taking the time to outline some of the finer details – I know I’m pretty unknowledgeable about technical terms, and definitely about how the real world structures these kinds of things!

@saintcloud & @TomWhitwell
I have a love/hate rel’p with mailing lists, but I take the point. I would counter that this is a ‘2nd tier’ approach – you still have to get people in the door somehow to get their contact details.

@jasonw22 & @Random
Indeed I probably sent this discussion off the rails a bit with the focus on “anti-facebook” which wasn’t my intention.


For background my intention is some kind of ‘market research effort’ (sorry @bobbcorr!), but moreso I’m working to put together a set of materials to help creators turn their ideas into business realities. Trying to separate my personal experience & privilege away from the core ideas. Most existing materials are focused on VC money, and/or are expensive / part of a formal education course (please link me if I’m off-base here!).

How about a different question:
Which product / commercial announcements have you seen in the last ~4 years which captured market attention without big advertising budgets? I know this would be highly dependent on the product categories, but I feel there might be enough to tie things together owing to our collective participation in this audience (and how that binds us as a group to which to market)…


This is a question with teeth.

Be careful, grass-roots marketing campaigns often looks viral but they generally have a lot of quiet, methodical planning behind them. Take a look at this summary of the 31 most successful product launches of July 2017 and see if there are examples that fit your market profile, then let’s pick those apart.


FWIW promo emails to me just get filtered straight to nowhere, though that’s my own laziness. Keeping an email account tidy is such a chore these days and Gmail is so ruthlessly efficient at automatically pruning and refiling mailing lists, promo emails, etc. away from my primary inbox I never end up seeing them.

re social media being ‘toxic’ - I believe like many things in life social media is what you make of it, so just as there are some/many people in life that you would not want to be friends with, the same is true with social media. This is why Twitter has mute and block, and FB has block etc… I dont find Twitter toxic - i dont hang out with toxic morons IRL and I dont online either.

But as a part of marketing, surely social media has a role for recurring presence related to effective frequency, “the number of times a person must be exposed to a message before a response is made”

In an ideal world a potential supporter would see your product/thing, and be intrigued enough to check it out, and if it appeals, support it. But we are all busy, in different time zones etc so it makes sense that you might ignore or not even notice a first impression, and only after being exposed to it a few more times (or have a specific need arise) actually act…

Imho where social media fails is when it is mistakenly considered a primary marketing tool ie if you have a large following at FB/twitter/instagram then that is enough… when in fact it is just a small drop in an ocean of noise…

I know for a fact my email database is the most important marketing tool I have. Direct email marketing means no one else sees that marketing except the recipient, and results can be tracked. I also suspect the longer a business or entity uses direct email marketing, the more valuable data analysis will become, for achieving results.

Also related, for a non-US based person, the large number of unsolicited marketing emails I got during the Black Friday/Cyber Monday thing (it has no meaning in my country) last year meant I unsubscribed to a LOT of email lists, over half of which I never signed up to in the first place. Always amazes me how un-global some marketing is eg why not target your ‘winter sale’ only to regions that actually are in winter etc etc…

Also a great quote from David Lynch: “Fish where the fish are”

Haven’t read the whole thread - but replying to the top post, I worked for a company with a devoted following a few years back, and our number one revenue generating marketing channel was email. Consistently, hands down. That was almost 6 years ago (I think? time flies). So take it with a grain of salt. However, the brand had similarities to many here - if it came across as disingenuous, or “not cool”, or intrusive, it would suffer. That company scaled towards the large end of what would be considered a small / medium size business. When I left it was ~ 60 people, half worked in the warehouse shipping product.

Does youtube/vimeo count as social media?

In the sense of… Wow I really love this patch by @anonuser, what modules are they using? Then checking patch notes and actively seeking out info. I don’t think I’m going out on a limb to say a lot of people do the same. That’s why I love videos by @stripes, @whitenoises et al as the notes are very informative.


YouTube videos were the hook that caught me. For nearly all music hardware or software. Otherwise it was Synthtopia, CDM, or MatrixSynth.

@bobbcorr it probably belongs in a new thread but I’d love your thoughts on marketing music, as opposed to problem solving products.

1 Like

I was listening to a cassette review podcast once and there was an ad for a piece of gear at the beginning of it but it was just the hosts messing with the thing.

With the earned reputation and high resell rates of all of your products… I must be not the only one who believes that WR will be doing fine just releasing the new thing and the ball will roll on its own :slight_smile: (silly me?)

On a more constructive level: You don’t even have to post to social media yourself, but making a quick video that can be shared (or even just a well embeddable product page) is all you need to pitch the release. I mostly learn about new modular things in my feed from posts in the muffwiggler fb group (not a MF forum user myself) with titles like “opinions?”. People will share it, talk about it. Way harder to put out the first module I guess.

As much as I’d love to express an opinion, @ether I’m afraid I have no practical knowledge or experience in music marketing. My training and professional experience is in product management, marketing, strategy and operations. I tend to approach problems through a data-driven lens, which might be helpful in a discussion related to marketing music. Happy to contribute and happier to learn :slight_smile:

1 Like

Totally agree with @bobbcorr it’s important to correctly identify what marketing is about. I guess you’re mostly talking about setting up your communication strategy in a way so that you can do without social media.
My answer to you as somebody who makes music with the modular is basically that I rely on the following things to know about new stuff that is coming out: friends, lines, blogs, trade shows and occasionally youtube (but that’s a social media I know). Some more thoughts that might perhaps be of some use, if you pardon me rambling a bit about:

  • I agree with the people who say that social media does not necessarily have to be toxic, though I also can see how it often ends up being so even if one tries to avoid. It’s also a political thing and it can be a statement to not use any of it. Or let’s say it like this: social media was supposed to be about connecting people (ok it’s a bit of a lousy definition but please bear with me on this one), now it’s much more about making people buy stuff, but not in a good way – and of course about turning people into “marketing capital”.
  • Blogs like for example Synthotpia can just be as toxic as Facebook sometimes.
  • As bobbcorr already has pointed out very eloquently what marketing is about… on it’s evil side it’s basically about squeezing more money out of people and can be very toxic by itself, social media or not.
  • What you do as an instrument maker is making beautiful instruments both aesthetically and musically/functionally (which BTW. is already a very good marketing move, and I think you did a great job with it), to fulfil a series of mostly emotional desires, which can be very different in nature. The relationship between the instrument maker and the musician (be it somebody who picked making music as their final goal in life, or somebody who does it more as a hobby) is always very important… which takes us back to what social media was originally about. I guess your best communication channel is the direct, human one.
  • lines is a forum, a place where people talk, connect, have virtual social relationships, it basically is a social media, one that hasn’t turned bad. There’s a lot of independent little things like this on the net, and it can be a good strategy to use many of those instead of riding the giant’s back.

Thanks for reminding us it’s not so much about “without social media” as much as “without big corp companies who are not clear with their agenda”. It also let me point out that, of course Facebook doesn’t have to be toxic depending on how you use it but that’s if we only look at it from a consummer perspective. I personally tailored my facebook account so that it doesn’t mean much in my life in terms of time/influence and is just a very basic tool to keep in touch with a few people in a certain precise way for very precise reasons. Still, it doesn’t change that I’d like to be able to do all that without Facebook because the fact that I’m on it means I’m feeding facebook’s algorithms with data, knowledge, ever so slightly of course but I do, and the way they’re using, and conceiving the value of this data, of this knowledge, that’s toxic whatever I do on my end. So it’s still relevant to me to try and find other channels, other directions. The fact that we assimilate Google / Facebook and the few other major mainstream megacorp that are currently in control of most of the internet trafic to “social media” is kind of scary if I come to think of it… They’re just the big crowded, privately owned, virtual agoras of our times. Lines is a little street. People are sharing everywhere they can.

1 Like