Professional musician Shane Speal finished his set on a sweltering summer day, a satisfied smile forming on his perspiring face.
The applause was everywhere. But he couldn’t hear any of it.
The people watching his daily broadcast of “Cigar Box Nation TV” on Facebook Live were showering him with thumbs-ups and hearts in response to the two songs he had played that day: an eclectic mix, played on a cigar box mandolin, of “Lydia, the Tattooed Lady,” once performed by Groucho Marx, and Woody Guthrie’s “This Land Is Your Land.”
Not everyone can play like the 46-year-old Speal, who’s well-known in York as the “King of the Cigar Box Guitar,” and has performed with everyone from punk-rock legend Mike Watt to the fun-grunge band the Presidents of the United States of America.
But every business owner can use social media and video to promote themselves, Speal said.
“Any business can do Facebook Live,” he said. “If you have a flower shop, you can show them a behind-the-scenes look at where the flowers are harvested, or ‘how to arrange a simple arrangement of your own,’ that sort of thing.”
A live video creates a top-of-mind awareness, like a public service advertisement, Speal said.
“It’s a new technology, and businesses really need to hop on this, because it’s powerful.”
Such social-media outlets can be a vital component to a company’s brand and sales strategies, said Mandy Arnold, president of York’s Gavin Advertising. Gavin works with companies that use social media to advance their goals.
“The approach boils down to the client’s audience and how their audience consumes and engages with content, and it’s different for every business,” Arnold said. “But the conversation should happen in marketing meetings to either make it an element of your tactical plan or rule it out as not a fit.”
The second-generation owner of a manufacturing and installation company in Red Lion, York County, is a Facebook convert.
“For us as a business, social media is how we’re reaching the public. The biggest thing is not to bombard them with advertisements … and it seems like it’s working,” said Carmine Pantano of Frank’s Marble & Granite LLC.
Pantano, who said Facebook has boosted his business (the 39-year-old also manages Facebook pages for friends in business), uses both paid ads and “organic” messages on the social network.
“I try not to make it all about ‘me, the business.’ I try to use it as a platform to sell what we do, of course, but also to hopefully educate the people about other products as well,” he said.
“Maybe they don’t need a countertop right now, but maybe they need a window, and there’s a guy I know who did something nice in that area, so I tell people about that.”
Speal, whose company is called Shane Speal Music & Marketing, began his daily Facebook show this spring, just after visiting with clients at online music seller C. B. Gitty Crafter Supply, based in New Hampshire. Each episode lasts roughly 30 minutes.
Gitty owner Ben Baker “went all in” when Speal mentioned going on Facebook Live. Speal does the broadcast live from a shed in the backyard of his West York home, a space that also serves as his workshop. In addition to music, the broadcast features product demonstrations and promotions (facebook.com/CigarBoxNation).
“It’s a beautiful symbiotic relationship with the people who watch online,” Speal said. “Instead of us trying to do the old-fashioned marketing — the old hard sell — we are seducing people into one of the most-fun hobbies they’ve ever discovered,” playing the cigar box guitar. The gritty-sounding instruments were made originally by people too poor to afford real guitars, Speal said.
Speal uses his iPhone for the broadcast, using only an extra WiFi antenna (the shed’s too far from his house for reception) and a fisheye lens to create the right comedic feel, he said.
“People who watch (at noon on the East Coast) are eating their lunch, sitting at their cubicle. Quite honestly, we could probably get a bigger audience if we did this every night at 7, 7:30 or 8 o’clock, but we have families” and other commitments, Speal pointed out. The show is archived on Facebook on Speal’s page and people can watch later if they miss it live. “We have learned that the more we can teach people how to make these instruments, the more they’re going to be interested in making other ones. And where are they going to go for parts except to us?”
Speal plays a variety of instruments, but discovered his true passion when he picked up the cigar box guitar in 1993.