Ariel Hyatt's cure for Musicians' Social Media Mania: the social media pyramid

As a follow-up to last week’s post on 5 Social Media Strategies, today I’m excited to introduce you to a concept I love. It’s a cure for the all-too-common Musicians’ Social Media Mania. For the confusion and overwhelm about what to post and how not to come across like a used car sales person online. It’s Ariel Hyatt’s Social Media Food Pyramid.

Instead of being ruled by our addiction to social media, and feeling “less than” as we constantly compare how we feel inside to the shiny outsides of others, here’s an alternative. A framework from the cyber publicist Ariel Hyatt who offers us an approach that lets us tame the beast.

Social media best practice

Music publicity expert Ariel Hyatt explains how best to use social media using the metaphor of the old fashioned food pyramid. Years ago, the food pyramid diagram was used to show how to eat a healthy balanced diet. It showed how many servings from the various food groups we should eat each day. Using the pyramid, people could easily grasp the relative proportions of types of foods needed for a healthy balanced diet.

To manage your social media “diet,” Ariel’s pyramid explains how to balance the various types of content you use in your social media interactions. And don’t worry: you don’t need to be on all the platforms.

Whichever channels you use, the important thing is to focus on the type of content that you’re sharing. The goal is to bring clarity and intention to HOW you use social media. That way, you can build a following,  be authentic and generous, and not come across as self-centered or only focused on sales.

The idea is, in every set of 10 social media posts or responses you make, that you create a balance and proportion of types of content. Note that the 10 should exclude the DMs you exchange with your closest friends and family. Instead we’re talking about social media use to hone your professional reputation and build a connected and engaged network of colleagues, mentors, and fans.

Let’s start at the bottom of the pyramid . . .

Social media pyramid Group 1: Direct engagement

Like: bread, cereal, rice, pasta
Servings (Recommended Frequency): 3-4 out of every 10 posts

As you see in Ariel’s info graphic above, Group 1 is the base—the foundation of the pyramid. This is where proportionally most of your special media activity should be aimed—direct engagement with individuals. So we’re not talking about all the exchanges with your ‘homies.’ We’re talking about exchanges with colleagues, mentors, and networking contacts.

Ariel says, make sure you’re in a two-way conversation with people consistently. Whenever you read someone else’s page and find something thought-provoking, don’t just “like” it. Write a thoughtful, concise response. No matter what channel, you want to comment and then reply—make a connection. The more people see that you care about them, the more they will care about YOU!

Now, moving up a level on the pyramid . . .

Social media pyramid Group 2: Shine a light on others

Like: fruits and vegetables
Servings (Recommended Frequency): 2-3 out of every 10 posts

Here it’s all about posting shout-outs and referrals to other people. Musicians and civilians who inspire and have influenced you. Ariel recommends quoting people whose work you admire. Share their profiles and videos on Facebook and re-post these on your page.

She says you can also “link to articles and interesting things that catch your attention.” Just Include why and how the posts or tweets influenced or touched you. This way you’ll come across as thoughtful and gracious—and build a reputation as someone who provides recognition and shares quality content.

Moving on up we come to . . .

Social media pyramid Group 3: Curate content

Like: meat, poultry, fish, beans, eggs
Servings (Recommended Frequency): 2 – 3 out of every 10 posts

Gather your favorite “finds”—from inspiring performance or master class videos, to quotes, TED talks, or other inspirations. These will most likely be of interest to your followers as well. Once you have a stash of these, you can schedule posts on the platforms you’re using (using any of the popular social scheduling programs). Just remember to include the credits: the name and the link to where you found the material.

Next, we have . . .

Social media pyramid Group 4: A picture is worth 1,000 words

Like: milk, cheese, and yogurt
Servings (Recommended Frequency): 2 out of every 10 posts

Visuals are extremely effective because our eyes are automatically drawn to arresting images. So make sure you post video and photos that communicate the authentic brand. The “you” that you wish to convey: your love of music, interest in the arts, and your caring about others. These might include shots or videos that inspire you as well as rehearsal, teaching, performance shots, or backstage with colleagues and fans.

And finally, at the very top of the pyramid, the least frequent type of content to post should be . . .

Social media pyramid Group 5: Shine a light on yourself (self-promotion)

Like: fats, oils, and sweets (use sparingly!)
Servings (Recommended frequency): 1 out of every 10 posts

Only 1 in 10: this is an important ratio, because you don’t want to come across as only interested in yourself. Effective use of social media is not about blasting people to come to your performances and buy your recordings. It’s about building real relationships.

But when you DO send a performance announcement or info about a recording or crowdfunding campaign, make sure you’re explicit about the offer—the call to action. Just do it with a welcoming approach—like inviting people to your party.

Now to be clear, if you’ve got a crowdfunding campaign, or an album release, or an important performance, you can’t simply send out 1 out of 10 consecutive social post on it. You’ll do more. But over the course of 6 months, your self-promotion posts should average to no more than 1 in 10. That means that the majority of your activity is NOT focused on promoting your work, but instead engaging actively and generously, cultivating a community of support and caring.

The lesson here is to be intentional in your use of social media—prioritize the sharing and cultivating of your community over the promotion of your music. Less ME and more WE.

Following Ariel’s game plan should cut down the confusion and worry about how you’re being perceived online. Here’s to curing more musicians’ social media mania using Ariel Hyatt’s Social Media Pyramid. Find more of her excellent material and resources at

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