Everywhere you look, there’s another marketing guru telling you that you need to have a social media presence. They use terms like ‘fan engagement’ and ‘target audience’ and tell you that you need to get into marketing yourself via social media, and if you haven’t yet, you’re doomed to death by obscurity.
I don’t want to be that person. For one thing, I was never involved in marketing on anything but an amateur level, so I’d never call myself an expert or pretend that I know all the best tricks. I’ve got a lot to learn myself, and I like to think that I can keep growing that way.
For another thing, I don’t think social media is the be-all, end-all of appealing to your fans. But, if done right, it’s one of the easiest, cheapest ways to promote yourself and your shows, so it’s more than worth the effort it takes to get into it.
Later on, I plan on doing in-depth posts about each social media platform that I use extensively, including mailing lists. This post is going to be more of a primer that I hope you’ll find useful as a launching pad.
Why does social media matter so much? It’s pretty common knowledge these days that the world spends much of its time interacting on the internet. But the actual numbers, when put to paper, are staggering. More than one and a half billion people are active on Facebook every month, and YouTube has a solid billion users. More than 400 million people use Instagram. Twitter, which boasts users that tweet in over 35 languages, has 320 million users. Even Soundcloud, a relatively lesser used platform designed specifically for audio files, has 175 million users. These are huge audiences that you could be sharing your music with.
More and more, people are discovering new music almost entirely online, which means being disconnected can be a serious detriment to your potential as an artist.
If you’re still hesitant about diving into the social media sphere, or feel like you might be selling out by doing so, do yourself a favor and look up your favorite artists who do music for a living on Facebook, YouTube, etc. If they have a presence on these platforms, so should you.
Finally, even if you don’t like using social media, your fans do. They want to be able to connect with you there and check out your art, especially if they don’t live near you. Why deprive the very people who support your endeavors?
Branding matters. Social media is all about branding. What’s your image? One of the best things you can do to up your professional game is to hire an artist to create several social media related items for your band: a logo, a banner image (for your Facebook page and event pages as well as twitter and other platforms that have a rectangular banner), and a square image for Instagram and Facebook posts. These items are a part of a category of items called assets, and by definition assets are valuable indeed.
These assets can come from a photo shoot or some other image that represents your band, but whatever you do, make sure there’s a sense of cohesion and quality involved. The maturity of a group is often judged by the amount of effort they put into their online appearance, and unity goes a long way.
Being consistent also makes it easier for your fans to find you, especially if there are other bands out there with similar names. They’ll recognize you on Twitter because they know what your Facebook image is and vice/versa.
Obviously, these assets should speak to the art you create and say something about you. Sunshine and unicorns might not be an appropriate logo for a classic rock cover band.
Build your fanbase by starting with your friends and family, but don’t stop there. No one cares about what you do more than the people who know you, so be sure to invite them to like your page or follow your various platforms. Even as our following grows, our moms are still our biggest supporters, and they always share our music with anyone who will listen. (Love you, mom!) It’s important to invite as many people as you can to your pages because targeted marketing works best when you include your fans and their friends, which I’ll be getting into in later posts.
Tell people about your social media presence at shows, and give people incentives to follow you and sign up on your mailing list. It seems kind of lame to announce your Facebook page at a show, but it works to build an audience of people who are engaged in what you’re doing and already appreciate you. Have them tag you in their posts.
One of the best things we did as a band was offer stickers or buttons to people who took pictures of us on their phones and tagged us in them on Instagram. It makes people feel like they’re a more intimate part of your band, especially if you comment on their pictures later. This is especially true of younger fans. Once they start following you and engaging with you online, they’re more likely to come out to shows the next time you play. When you become a part of their online community, you’re showing them that you care about them outside of what they can do for you as a fan, which is pretty cool.
Don’t buy popularity. Buying likes and shares is pretty shady from a moral standpoint, but there are other reasons to save your money for something better.
There are lots of websites that promote their ability to bring millions of new fans to your page, but don’t buy into these scams. These likes might make you look good at first glance, but these bought likes and follows are almost always fake accounts, and they will never interact with you. Having thousands of likes and no interactive fans on a page is a sure sign the artist has bought fans, and venues notice the difference.
Also, once you get into buying ads (which we’ll talk about in later posts), selling ads to bots is a complete waste of money. You want your ads to hit audiences that are interested in what you do, and narrowing it down becomes impossible when these audiences aren’t real.
Make sure your posts are written thoughtfully. A lot of social media involves being able to communicate to people clearly, so having good grammar is helpful, but there’s more to it than just being able to string together a sentence. You also want to make sure you’re not sticking your foot in your mouth with posts that are aggressive, violent, or alienating to your fanbase.
I use my personal Facebook account for all kinds of opinionated posts, but I actively make sure those things don’t leak over to my professional page. There are always exceptions to this, of course – maybe you’re performing for a fundraiser of some kind or creating music that is already political in nature, in which case it suits your brand to further these agendas. Typically, however, sparking a debate on your band’s Twitter about who is the best presidential candidate is rarely an effective way to build an audience and might alienate more people than you draw in as fans.
It’s also important to not get too feisty with people who make negative comments about your music on social media. There are times when you’ll be deleting comments for being spam, but let your fans take care of the real haters. If you must respond, do so with good humor. For example, our Ms. New Booty video has a bunch of comments from folks because it was made as an April Fools joke, so I try to respond with the same humor the video was intended to exhibit.
Post regularly. If you’re anything like me, you’re doing all kinds of things relating to your art every day. Even the most mundane events can be interesting to fans who are trying to get a glimpse of your daily life, so take a moment to get a quick snapshot for your socials. This can be in the form of text, video, audio, or images. I find that I get the best engagement on photos that we take, but your audience might prefer to read what you’ve written or just listen to your songs. Make sure you’re sharing these things with your fans when you can, and that you’re not waiting weeks or months between posts.
Regular posts are great for your fans, and they’re also great for venues who want to book you. It shows them that you’re not neglecting to share events with your fans. If your audience is active on these platforms and they like, comment on, and share your posts, venues know your fans aren’t fake and are more likely to come out to see you.
Hopefully this will help you get your feet wet a bit! I’ll be sure to dive into more specifics when it comes to advertising and the various social media platforms. Is there anything specifically you want me to cover? Anything I missed? Leave a comment below!